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Sunday, May 26, 2019

More Bears Than Fish

Hi Blog!

We thought the bear photo would get your attention! However, our story doesn't start there. Sunday, May 26, 2019, was our last full day in Pink Mountain, BC. The day dawned bright and clear with light winds and expected highs in the 70s. We felt it would be a perfect day to kayak and fish.

One of our discoveries since getting our fishing licenses in BC has been Anglers Atlas. Published in Prince George, these little booklets cover all the fishing regions in British Columbia. While the booklets don't list every lake, they mention the good ones. We can also go online and check out all the other lakes they have information on. We found them invaluable in deciding which lakes to fish. Today's expedition took us to Inga Lake.

We were a little surprised when we arrived to see so much wave action on the lake. Apparently, the winds can differ from valley to valley. Not to be denied, we set out and pointed our kayaks into the wind. We paddled upwind with waves breaking over our bow. We then let the wind push us along. No need to paddle today.

It took a good hour or so for the winds to die down, but when they did, the fish started jumping. The far shore of the lake provided a little protection from the wind. It was fun to watch the red shouldered blackbirds fly around the cattails.

As Dave worked his way back up wind, Kathy hung out at the bottom of the lake. Kathy was the first to catch a fish.

However, Dave landed an monster 15 inch rainbow trout. Kathy did catch a second fish, but Dave insists it is quality over quantity!

Once the wind died down and the fish started biting, we completely lost track of time and each other. We forgot to make arrangements to meet up for lunch, so at 2:30 we both ended up at the boat ramp looking for the other. A late lunch is better than no lunch at all.

After lunch, we decided to call it a day. We had enough fish for dinner. No need to be greedy. We packed up and started our drive back to Pink Mountain. We noticed that all along the Alaska Highway the dandelions are in full bloom. Did you know black bears LOVE dandelions. We spotted one black bear this morning, but were not able to get a photo. However, on the way home, we spotted this mother and three cubs. We bagged four bears, which is more than the fish we caught!

However, we get to eat the fish. All we can do with the bears is admire the photos!

And so ends another adventure along the Alaska Highway. Our next stop is Summit Lake in the Stone Mountain Provincial Park. We're pretty sure there will be no cell or internet for the next five days, so don't be surprised if you don't hear from us for a while.

Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

All The Way to Halfway River!

Pink Mountain, British Columbia, is just a "stop along the way" for most people heading to Alaska from the U.S.  Don't accept that.  Blessed with about 100 full-time residents, many of its occupants are workers at local gas pipeline projects.  But the most permanent residents have been here for years.  This is what Pink Mountain looks like to the casual traveler passing through:

But there's much more than meets the eye.  Just for starters, there is a great swing next to the propane fill station that we love to sit on to watch "Roadhouse TV" -- all the people stopping at the Pink Mountain Campsites roadhouse for gas or other services:

Just behind the roadhouse is a small farm which is the residence for a few horses, a pony or two, and some VERY friendly goats.  There is a former barnhouse (now apparently used for storage) that tells the story of a history of farm animals:

Kathy herself preferred consorting with the outgoing goat (s/he might have been looking for food or treats, but nevertheless was very friendly):

Our campsite is further up the hill on the other side of the roadhouse.  We have a few relics of bygone days at Pink Mountain:

Today, our goal was the drive west to Halfway River and see the (as our campground host stated it) "pretty sights" it had to offer.  The highway sign told us we had a 23 km drive to the river:

We really weren't prepared for the views we had.  We knew about the forests, and the local pipeline projects.  But, once we climbed the ridge and descended into the Halfway River Valley, we first spotted a compound for the Halfway First Nations community:

A little further on, and down into the river bottom of the Halfway River Valley, we came upon a large ranch that had clearly been here for years.  Cedar Creek Road (otherwise known as Mile 141 Road) took us through an approach to one of the older ranches --

-- which had been started with older log cabins and modest homes:

The ranches in this valley are large and appear prosperous.

We never would have imagined, from the rough, industrial-looking stops along the BC section of the Alaska Highway, that such a tight-knit community of bucolic farms and ranches would lie just behind the hills, in the valleys of the Northern Rockies.  We were amazed and pleased that we had the time to discover these hidden areas.

We encountered a large population of calfs, which told us that there had to be a LOT of cows in the area:

We crossed Halfway River and climbed the hills to the west, getting panoramic views of Halfway River:

We had seen signs for Cypress Creek Cemetery, and finally found it, 23 km down the road:

The cemetery may have been used for hundreds of years; but only the most recent graves were marked with stones, indicating burials as recently as 2017.  We paid our respects and moved on along the river.

It wasn't long before we reached Roberts Creek, a tributary of Halfway River:

We crossed Roberts Creek and drove along a small creek feeding it in turn.  At one point, a beaver's work (chiseled trees) revealed that the beaver had widened the small creek into a picturesque Northern Rock Mountains pond, which we marvelled at:

As we were about to leave the pond, a woman drove by who appeared to be a 70-year old local rancher.  She told us that she was a neighbor of the rancher who owned this pond and the land around it.  We exchanged personal information.  She related how much she likes to visit this pond to take photographs of the ducks, geese and swans that stop here on their seasonal migrations.  We gave her the personal information she needed to pass on to the landowner rancher so that he would know that we are no threat.

She said that she and her husband had ranched this land for 50 years.  We thought about what life must be like for local ranchers and farmers, and it became clear that it bore no relation to the superficial impressions that tourists get when they drive by on their trek from Fort St. John to Fort Nelson and beyond.  We felt repaid for our investment of the time to investigate a little further afield along this popular route to the Great North.

Then we continued along Cedar Creek Road until we reached a stream crossing that we decided would be our turnaround point:

We ate a scrumptious lunch, checked out the creek and the gorgeous hillside fields around the creek crossings.  Jumping into the Jeep, we started our return drive.  In this direction, driving north on the west side of Halfway River, we found impressive vistas of the ranch fields in this valley:

We decided to make a stop on Halfway River just on the east side of the river after crossing back across the bridge.  The river was impressive to the south:

We found numerous interesting pebbles and smooth, rounded stones that attested to the glacial and riverine history of this valley.  Kathy even found an old piece of wood that boasted colors of red and black.  It was wet and would have to be dried out before we preserve it with polyurethane; while its colors might dull with the drying, it was very colorful as we found it, and we hoped the colors would be preserved by the polyurethane:

We found a rocky shoreline with a wide variety of rocks of many geological origins.  We surmised that they were worn down into moraine by ancient claciers, and then smoothed by rushing rivers in this valley before being deposited or revealed along the shoreline of the Halfway River.  Kathy picked one likely flat stone to try to skip across the river:

Our trip was only about 100 km, which took us about 3-4 hours.  We returned to our campsite at Pink Mountain in time for the very predictable late afternoon showers and thunderstorms (no thunderstorms today, however).  Baxter got his afternoon walk in the campground, and we retired to happy hour and our blogging to reveal to you the amazing things we discovered in the valleys west of the Alaska Highway, here in the Northern Rock Mountains of British Columbia.

Sikanni Chief Falls

Hi Blog!

As some of you know, we lost a day in Pink Mountain waiting for the mobile RV tech to come and help us secure our leveling jacks. The computer controller that operates the jacks lost its mind lifting us high in the air. The controller had to be taken off-line and the jacks raised manually. It may be a while before we can get a new controller. Good thing we have lots of leveling blocks.

We are currently camped in Pink Mountain Campsites. The Pink Mountain area is the southernmost region of the Northern Rocky Mountains. The Liard River marks the northern end of the Rocky Mountain chain. Between the two points are 330 miles of opportunity for Rocky Mountain adventure and beautiful scenery like Mason Creek.

With the repairs to the motorhome complete, it was time to get out and explore. On Friday, May 24, 2019, we took a drive up to the Sikanni Chief River. Sikanni means "dwellers on the rocks." It was the custom of each of the separate bands of Sikanni to hunt on only one river. The rivers were named after the leaders in each band - Musquah (Muskwa, as our previous hiking trail was named), Prophet, Fantasque, as well as Sikanni Chief.

Our ultimate goal was the Sikanni Chief Falls located in the Sikanni Chief Falls Protected Area.  This BC Park protects a 100 foot waterfall on the Sikanni River. To get there, we had to find Mile 171 Road and follow it 16km to the parking area. There were no signs on the Alaska Highway indicating which road was Mile 171 Road, we had to trust our GPS. However, once we started down the road, there were plenty of signs pointing the way to the falls. Unfortunately, this area has received a lot of rain recently. The ranch trucks and gas pipeline work trucks have left the road a bit rough.

Just as we got to the trailhead for the 1.5km hike to the falls, a sprinkle cloud passed over us. We decided to leave our picnic lunch in the Jeep and just make the out-and-back hike before lunch.

The first part of our hike was thru an aspen forest.

As we approached the step cliffs leading down to the Sikanni River, we could hear the roar of the falls. The aspen forest gave way to a conifer forest. Unfortunately, the forest fires in Alberta are sending their smoke this way. The smoky haze is making sweeping scenic vista shots difficult. Here we got our first glimpse of the falls through the tall spruce trees.  

When a Canadian sign says a trail is steep, they mean it. If the trail was any steeper, we would have needed a rope to rappel down. Kathy stopped halfway down to pick out the safest route.

When we reached the end of the trail, we couldn't wait to peek over the edge of the cliff. The force of the water falling almost 100 feet created a whirlpool that undercuts the rock along the river bank creating a large bowl of water.

The rushing river has exposed dozens of layers of rock sediment. According to our hiker GPS, the falls were called the "Niagara of the North." According to Google, several other waterfalls also call themselves Niagara of the North. While Sikanni Chief Falls was not as large as the true Niagara Falls, we were nevertheless impressed.

Here's a close-up view:

As you'll see and hear in this video if you click this link, the Falls made a mighty roar and were impressive as they roared over the basalt ledge into an ice-lined pool.

While we did spent a lot of time admiring the falls, we also took a moment to admire the views downstream of the Sikanni River Canyon. It is reported that mountain goats like to romp and play along the steep canyon walls. We looked, but we didn't see any, although we saw their signs. The sprinkles may have forced the goats to seek shelter.

We had fun poking around the top of the cliff. The rocks layers have shifted and cracked, creating small caves where critters could hide.

Small springs seeped from the hillside, creating inviting pools:

To get the best views, sometimes you have to go out on a ledge.

Can you say, "Sikanni Chief Falls selfie"?

There weren't any photos taken on our hike back to the Jeep. We started to hear rumbles of thunder and didn't want to be caught out in the forest if a storm came through. We made it back to the Jeep without getting wet. Unfortunately the dirt road we dropped in on had time to turn to mud on the way out. As they say, adventure happens when your plans go awry.

By the time we got back to camp, Dusty was covered with mud. His new name for the duration of this trip along the Alcan is "Muddy"!

The weather is predicted to improve on May 26. If it does, we hope to get in some fishing. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Climbing Old Baldy and Ghost Mountain

When we stopped in the Visitor Center in Chetwynd, BC, our host recommended we try a hike up Old Baldy, which leads to a loop involving a further climb up Ghost Mountain, an old woods road around the back of Ghost Mountain, and a primitive connector trail back to where we started.  It would be about 5.5 miles, with lots of up and down.  That sounds like just the ticket!

Our trail started in a thick, young aspen forest.  Monday, May 20, 2019, was clear, bright and warm -- a perfect hiking day:

The sky was a deeper blue than we've seen for a while, and it formed a perfect backdrop for the white aspen trunks and their fresh, new spring wardrobe:

Partway up Old Baldy Trail, we came across a hewn log bench that had lost its back, which carried the legend, "Trails for Tomorrow."  David couldn't resist trying to put the bench back together:

It wasn't long before we reached the summit of Old Baldy --

-- which gave us expansive views of Chetwynd to the east, and the Rocky Mountains beyond Tumbler Ridge in the background.  Somewhere out there, we fished Moose Lake the other day:

Turning back to our trail, we didn't lack for signs to point us the way to Ghost Mountain:

The trail to Ghost Mountain was unique because it ran sidehill just parallel to a climbing ridge that formed a col between the two peaks.  If you look very closely at the top of the trail in this photo, you'll see little Kathy opposite that fir tree, quite a climb above:

From our open sidehill trail, the peak of Ghost Mountain beckoned.  We were warned that that final stretch beyond the aspen stand would be a very steep climb:

Here, Kathy makes the final push up to the summit of Ghost Mountain:

Here's a video from the top of Ghost Mountain, showing Kathy as she finishes her steep ascent.


There weren't too many wildflowers along the trail; we don't know whether that was because it was too early in the spring or too late.  But this one was a beauty:

From the Ghost Mountain summit, a connector trail took us along the top if the peak toward the Muskwa Trail --

-- and a huge sign told us we had arrived at the junction.

While the front slopes of Old Baldy and Ghost Mountain were dominated by aspen trees, the top and back were dominated by fir trees, along with what we believed to be ash trees.  Rains from a few days ago still hadn't dried on the trail, making it muddy and very wet in places.  The fact that a trail maintenance ATV had been through since the rain didn't help matters, because the ATV tires chewed up the mucky trail:

We saw some interesting fungi in the wet parts of the forest, including this unique little fellow:

Our hike along the back of the mountains and down topo lines to the viewpoint back on the Chetwynd side was a beautiful but muddy hike up and down ridges, and through and around drainages.  At the lookout, we were pleasantly surprised to find an informal hammock that someone had carefully constructed out of wood, rope and twine.  It was falling apart, but it still had enough life in it to give David a little rest:

Thus refreshed, we finished our circle back across the front of Old Baldy, found the trail back to the parking lot, and finished without incident -- other than meeting and socializing with many locals who were taking advantage of the glorious weather of the last day of their long Victoria Day weekend.  It was a cheery way to end our own outing.