My father recently reminded me that it is not a good idea to camp in dry creek beds subject to flash flooding. The thing is, the dry creek beds are usually composed of really well-drained soils so there are fewer instances of the ponding that leads to mosquito habitat. We love dry creek beds. We get pretty excited when we find a place that is cobbles and alders because we know there is a good chance we will not be bugged by bugs. We happened upon just such a place along a creek that we think was called MacDonald Creek.
This creek actually had signs posted about the propensity for flash flooding. That is precisely why we have 4WD. And the sense to camp on higher ground. We found a spot with a fabulous view of a mountain that I decided to call Stone Mountain and later found was actually called Stone Mountain. Good job naming that one, Canada! We intended to make it a quick stay at that site but we were both lured into staying the second night by its beauty and seclusion. I dug out some art supplies that have been languishing in the Catch-All Tote and did my best to render the landscape into two dimensions. Scott headed out to the river under the guise of filling our water jug and did not return for hours having been seduced by the abundance of beautiful and unique river rocks. Stacks were made. Peaceful hideaways like this one are one of my favorite things about the way we travel. We never know when we will happen upon a private piece of heaven.
Having spent the last few days lounging about navel-gazing we were looking forward to a fun hike. We had picked up some brochures on the northern Rocky Mountains that listed some good candidates for the exercise we craved. One, in particular, was rated as difficult, listed as 23 km round trip, and touted as being recently brushed and signed. Teetering Rock Trail. We have since renamed it Teetering Rock Fail. The trailhead should have tipped us off to the general state of the trail. It was completely overgrown except where it looked like someone had driven their ATV up to the outhouse. Once we successfully located the trail we were buoyed by finding official-looking metal signs tacked to some trees. We were a bit deflated when the signage degraded to plastic flagging of unknown vintage. It was a bit comedic to be clambering over, under, and around fallen piles of trees on a trail that was advertised as recently brushed. I wonder what year that brochure was published…
We finally escaped the dense mixed conifer forest and entered a beautiful aspen grove. We spied some of the official-looking metal signs and forged ahead through shoulder-high grass and berry bushes. Pretty soon we were off on a game trail eating wild raspberries and shaking our bear bells. Actual signage disappeared and the pseudo-signage flags were nowhere to be seen. There were plenty of berries though! Scott had his GPS watch on and it indicated that we were moving at about 1 mile per hour. At that rate, we would be returning through this quagmire in the dark if we were to continue forward. Considering all of the game trails we could follow hoping to be on the right track it was likely that we would be wandering lost in the dark feeling annoyed and fearful of four-legged berry connoisseurs. We gave one of the more trodden game trails a try before throwing in the towel. It smelled exceptionally gamey and all the berries were mangled. Time to turn around. When we finally emerged from the forest we jogged for exercise. We tried to do it in the shape of a heart for the sake of the GPS trail but it ended up looking more like a crooked oval. It is the thought that counts, right?
After accepting defeat on the trail, we tried to get some miles under our belt on the road. It looked like the major industry in the area is centered around gas mining. There were flaming chimneys to be seen by the sides of the road. We headed out to a campground for some free camping that was surrounded by gas wells and roads to gas wells. When we got to the campground it was completely full. This is not our typical experience but this weekend the local First Nation Tribe was hosting an event called Culture Camp. In the time it took us to ascertain that there was no space for us we got to see young people scraping hides that were stretched over frames made of local trees and saplings. It looked like most of the campsites had partially built shelters made of spruce and other vegetation. It was cool to see but we felt like uninvited tourists so we set out to find another spot to camp. We drove for a while along some mining roads but they just went straight forever and didn’t have any pull outs for camping. It is bad form to camp in the middle of the road so we drove on looking for our home for the night. Eventually, we followed a road up onto a hilltop to a giant clearing with a tiny gas well in the middle. Home sweet home. We were actually really close to a town called Pink Mountain. So close that we had full bars of cell phone service. Not typical for our usual boondocking campsites. It was pretty late so we just built our house and crashed out. In the middle of the night, Scott got up to answer the call of the wild and saw the sky dancing with color. He woke me up and asked if it was possible that he was seeing the northern lights. I told him no. It was too early in the year and we weren’t far enough north. I told him that when he sees northern lights he will know. Now come back to bed. I peeked out of the tent anyway and immediately took back everything I said. We were seeing the northern lights! It was so cool. Actually, so cold! I busted out the manual for my camera and googled how to photograph northern lights. We had some fun playing with the remote timer on my camera and actually got a couple of shots of the lights. Eventually, the light show diminished and the cold bore its way through all of our layers so we called it a night and huddled in our tent marveling at our luck. So cool.
The next morning, we set our sights on a town called Tumbler Ridge. It was another inspiration born of a northern Rocky Mountains brochure. Tumbler Ridge is a UNESCO Global Geopark. It is on the map because a couple of young boys were inner tubing down a river there and fell out of their tubes. When they pulled themselves out of the water they looked down to find a series of depressions in the sandstone that turned out to be dinosaur tracks. Apparently, their discovery put the town on the paleontological map and kept them on the google map. Tumbler Ridge was on the verge of becoming a ghost town following the decline of its core industry, coal mining. It is now a bustling dino-geek mecca. We rolled into town pretty late as per usual and found free camping in a gravel pit at the trailhead to Bergeron Falls. We took that as an invitation to hike the trail the following day. The trail was supposed to be 11.5 km if you took all of the spurs to points of interest. It was supposed to take 4-5 hours. I think we finally made it on the trail at 2:30 in the afternoon. No biggie, except that it actually gets dark at night these days! Bergeron Falls is one of the tallest falls in British Columbia. The trail went up a hill and then followed an arrow-straight seismic line (a remnant of resource exploration in the area) for a while and then looped around to the bottom of the falls before swooping up to the top of the falls with lots of little side trips to pretty valleys and waterfalls. One of the side trips was to visit the bottom of the falls via a scenic slot canyon. Who could say no to that little jaunt? We got derailed by looking for fossils in the sandstone and may have spent a bit too long scouring the creek for evidence of life before we knew it. We followed the signs (this hike was VERY well signed) into the slot canyon until it led us to a deep creek-walk.
We didn’t want to swim as Canada is not the warmest place we have hiked. There was a trail that led to a vertical scramble up a rock wall. We thought about going up that way but it looked kind of steep, loose, and sketchy. I looked at the watery slot canyon a bit closer and we opted to try for the rock wall. Scott headed up first. I trailed behind. I got distracted by some raspberry bushes and suddenly started to run for it along the side of the steep, loose, and sketchy rock wall. I had angered a nest of meat bees and they were out to teach me a lesson. At first, I thought I was getting stuck by thorns on the berry bushes but then I was being stung in places that the bushes were not. And it hurt way worse than any thorn prick! Also, I saw bees swarming out of a pile of rocks next to the berry bushes. It was all very confusing. I was running and screaming and swatting. Scott was on my tail yelling at me to stop running and while swatting the bees away from me. He was afraid I was going to fall off the edge of the very steep side of the creek if I didn’t get my act together. We eventually outran the bees and I calmed down escaping with only stings on my knee, wrist, and bicep. We took that as a sign from mama nature that we shouldn’t climb up the steep, loose, and sketchy rock wall. We backtracked to the main trail and visited the bottom of the falls in the more conventional manner. It was lovely. There were many layers of sandstone with unique formations at the base of the falls to induce a bit of dilly-dallying. We finally had to quit looking down and keep our eyes on the task at hand which had become getting off the trail before nightfall.
Even though the sky was dimming we took three extra trips off the main trail. We visited Dipper Falls, home to a little bird that swims underwater to feed, Hidden Valley, a valley that is kinda hidden (and full of moss), and Scalpel Ridge, a remnant moraine that caused the creek to horseshoe around it. All very worthwhile.
We managed to depart the forest right before adult dark became actual dark. Once we pulled ourselves away from our gravel pit of the moment we explored the original dinosaur tracks right outside of town and checked out the visitor’s center.
There were so many more attractions to see in Tumbler Ridge but we are learning that we just can’t do it all and still stay on track with our southerly migration.