Hell’s Gate Gorge on the Frazer River

Along the Frazer River in central B.C. there’s a narrow gorge called Hell’s Gate. It was named by the man who first navigated it, Simon Frazer, in 1808. He and his group of men were canoing down the river and tried unsuccessfully to canoe through the gorge. It was too wild and deep. He said “Surely these are the gates of hell and no man should attempt to cross”.

Well, he did get past it by climbing along the sides, in some places by hanging a shelf of wood by ropes so they could pass the places with no footholds. He finished navigating and mapping the river.

It was still a most difficult part of the river, and caused many deaths and hardships. One man decided he could come upriver in a steamboat and get through the gorge in order to bring supplies to folks upriver. He tried several times and finally had to have Chinese workers along the steep walls of the gorge basically drag the boat through the gorge. If a worker lost their foothold and let go they fell into the river and drowned. He did that several times.

In the early 1900s a road was carved into the mountains past the gorge, and in the 1940s a railway line was built. While dynamiting the hillside above the gorge a large quantity of rocks fell into the river and the next year it was discovered that it prevented the salmon from getting past the gorge on their way upstream to spawn. This was a catastrophe! For several years, people who lived in the area would catch salmons in nets, transport them through the gorge and release them above the rockfall area. This helped but was not enough. So, the government devised a bypass for the salmon – sort of like a set of locks through the Panama Canal! The salmon swim into a narrow opening in a concrete bunker and are able to swim through it to an opening above the rockfall. It worked! The salmon have not recovered from their pre-rockfall numbers and never will, they now can swim upstream in enough numbers to preserve the species that instinctively swim up this river to lay their eggs.

Today the gorge is travelled by the TransCanada Highway and two railway lines, one on each side of the river. There is a tram that takes visitors from the TransCanada Highway down to the gorge for a visitor center with a restaurant and some hiking trails. People can hike down to the river and cross the suspension bridge to get to the visitor center as well – but we chose to ride the tram!

Here are pictures:

Lac Du Bois Protected Grasslands and our adventurous drive

While staying near Kamloops for a few days we visited the Lac Du Bois protected grasslands. This area, in central B.C. about halfway between the coast and the Canadian Rockies, is considered a semi-arid region, some call it a desert.

It does resemble southern California! Brown grass, sage and small scrub plants, gravelly soil. We were told it hadn’t rained for a few months, but it rained the day we arrived and we got soaked setting up.

The maps showed several roads running through the protected grasslands area. Although they were listed as dirt roads we hoped they wouldn’t be too rough and we wanted to see the area. The website for the grasslands area indicated that the area got quite a few visitors.

We planned to drive to the west part of the protected area and take a dirt road up into the hills and drive east to connect to the main road, Lac Du Bois Rd, and take that north. Then, we would hook up to another road going east that would take us to the major river in the area and back down into the city.

Well, on the western edge of the area we found the road listed as Red Rock Rd, but it was gated off and was a mountain biking or hiking road only. Oh oh!

So we backtracked and found the main road, Lac Du Bois Rd, and headed north on that. We went through some beautiful countryside and we were both reminded again of the southern Ca. area – maybe up around Julian in August or September.

We passed a few cars and trucks travelling on the road. We found the road that we planned to take heading east to the river, and turned. There were signs indicating that there was a camp area for local schoolkids nearby. The area quickly turned from open grasslands to forest with pines and other large trees everywhere. Very pretty!

Well, we drove and drove. The level dirt road got narrower and bumpier. After a while we started hitting potholes filled with water so we couldn’t see how deep they were. Some were very deep! I bounced up out of my seat several times and poor Laddy was just trying to hunker down in the back seat. We had to stop once as several cows were laying in the road; they did get up and move out of the way.

We came to an area with some slight switchbacks so we felt we were getting closer to the river. Down and around we went, bouncing around and scraping the sides of the truck on branches.

Then, we came to a washed out streambed. There had been a bridge at one time and it was gone. We looked around and found a place where someone had obviously gone through the stream but it looked like an ATV or maybe a dirt bike or mountain bike tracks. Not a large vehicle!

Dang, after all that we had to turn around and go back through all the potholes. But, we did make it back to the Lac Du Bois dirt road which by that time felt like a freeway! Backtracking all the way, we made it back to the city of Kamloops and stopped for lunch as the trip was a lot longer than we thought it would be.

Later I re-read the website material and still couldn’t see any indication that the roads were closed to vehicles/unsafe/washed out/whatever. Dang!

Here are a few pictures of the grasslands and the narrow road we drove down:

The Columbia Icefield – it’s huge but receding

One of the things we wanted to see while in the Canadian Rockies was the Columbia Icefield. It’s one of the largest icefields outside the Arctic Circle. It took over 3 hours to drive to it but it was definitely worth it. Visitors can park near the visitor center and hike out to the edge of the icefield – about 2/3 of a mile. Boy, it was COLD as you got close to the ice, I’m glad I had a jacket and hiking boots on.

It was very interesting and also sad to see how far the icefield has retreated though – 20 years ago the parking lot where we parked was right at the edge of the icefield, and 100 years ago it covered where the visitor center and highway are now.

We didn’t see any wildlife near the icefield or on the drive up or back. I’m told there’s lots of wildlife though. It’s possible the smokiness in the area has caused the animals to stay away from the roads, I don’t know.

It was very smoky in Golden where we stayed, and was smoky through the Yoho National Park. But, as we got closer to the icefield it wasn’t as bad. I think it’s because the smoke couldn’t get over the higher mountains in that part of the Canadian Rockies.

Beautiful area! Here are some pictures:

Canada has a Glacier National Park too!

Golden, B.C., where we stayed for a week, is just a short drive from Glacier National Park of Canada, so we took a ride there to see the mountains and glaciers. It was quite smoky due to all the fires burning in B.C. this summer, so visibility was not real good. Also, the road through the national park isn’t intended to allow visitors to see the best views and glaciers – it’s the TransCanada Parkway, Hwy 1, so it’s more intended to get people through the area.

But, we still enjoyed the trip and the scenery and glaciers. There were several that we could see from the road. There were also several “snow sheds” that are tunnels through an area of steep mountainside that, during an avalanche or heavy snowfall, would bury the road completely. The “snow sheds” allow travel with just a little bit of clearing away snow or landslide at either end. They are also for safety during an avalanche; we saw signs that said in case of an avalanche try to get to a snow shed.

Here are some pictures we took:

Takakkaw Falls in the Yoho National Park

While driving through the Yoho and Banff National Parks in Canada we took a side road to see one of the highest falls in North American, Takakkaw Falls. After driving about 13 miles on a narrow windy road with one switchback that was so narrow most people coming up (the tight side) had to make 3point turns, causing people coming down to stop and wait for them. With our big truck we had to do that as well, and even after making the turn we had to pull our mirrors in to squeeze past a big truck coming down with his mirrors pulled in.

The falls are magnificent! Not as high as Horsetail falls in Yosemite, but lots of water spilling over in a small crack in the rock of the cliff. There’s a short hiking trail to get right at the base of the falls where you can see it full length and feel the mist as well! Part of the hiking trail was a wooden bridge across the river and Laddy was real uncomfortable crossing it – but with some pulling and coaxing we got him across.

The cliff to both sides of the falls is almost perfectly vertical and was probably carved by the water spilling over the edge. As we looked at the falls and cliff we noticed movement on the cliff and saw a mountain goat and two climbers in fairly close proximity. We got a good picture of it and I’ve included it here.

Here are pictures we took:

Yoho and Banff National Parks in Canada

We’re in Golden, BC at the moment so that we can visit several Canadian National Parks in the Canadian Rockies. There’s been a lot of smoke as there are wildfires burning all over the region. But we’ve taken drives to see the sights anyway.

On the Saturday that was part of the Labor Day weekend (it’s celebrated in Canada as well as the U.S.) we drove through the Yoho National Park and into the Banff National Park. It was fairly busy, so busy in fact that we couldn’t find parking at a couple of stops we wanted to make. We’ll do another drive into this area when the weekend is over.

But, in spite of the busy weekend and smoke in the air we were very impressed by the Yoho and Banff National Parks. Beautiful country! Definitely part of the Rocky Mountain chain, the mountains were incredible! One difference between these Rockies and the Colorado Rockies is that in Colorado the drive goes up and along the very top of the range (at about 14,000 ft) while in the Canadian Rockies the drive goes through the range but not to the top. So the views were quite different. We saw several very large glaciers from the road and we know there are many, many more that cannot be seen from the road. We noticed that many of the glaciers are much larger than glaciers we saw in the Glacier National Park in Montana.

The road, by the way, is Route 1, the TransCanada Highway that bisects the entire country!

We drove from Golden, BC to the town of Banff, Alberta and back home again. We saw different views coming and going so it was well worth the double time to drive both ways. Banff, Alberta is a small resort town that seems almost exlusively built for winter sports. It had a real Alpine feel to it.

We also stopped at the Takakkaw Falls (see separate post here) which was magnificent even in September because it’s fed from a glacier. We wanted to stop at two lakes, Emerald Lake and Lake Louise, but there was no parking so we’ll do that on a separate drive.

Here are pictures we took:

Front from our front door of the Canadian Rockies

While staying at Fairmont Hot Springs we had a gorgeous view of the southern end of the Canadian Rockies right out our front door.  When we arrived it was very smoky in the area due to the huge fires seemingly all over British Columbia so we didn’t have such a great view the first few days.  But on the last day we were here the smoke cleared and the mountains showed much better.

Here are two pictures – one when it was smoky and one when clear. WOW!

A beautiful area in Fairmont Hot Springs

We’ve been here in Fairmont Hot Springs for a few days.  We did go on one drive to see the countryside, but it’s been very smoky here and you can’t see much.  And, the smoke has been thick and you can feel it when you breath.  I’ve been leaving the trailer closed up with the air on to avoid getting a lot of smoke inside.

The hot springs are a real popular destination here in B.C.  The RV park is at the hot springs, with a hotel, spa, restaurants, zipline rides, bouncy things for the kids, horse rides and of course…the hot springs.

There’s a huge pool that is heated with water from the hot springs, and a very pretty waterfall a little away from the resort where there are natural pools that you can rest in like a hot tub.  We’re right up against the southern end of the Canadian Rockies and the view out of our front door is spectacular!  But, until the last day we couldn’t really see it.  See my post for two pictures of the same view – on a smoky day and a clear day.

Here are pictures of the waterfall and pools:

Crossing the border into Canada

We crossed into Canada today; I was really nervous about it based on the info I had been reading and stories online from other folks who crossed the border with an RV.  There are restrictions such as no fresh fruit or veges, no raw meat or meat products, no dairy, very small amounts of spices and herbs, a small amount of ONE kind of liqour (beer or wine or hard liquor), no dog food that isn’t in an UNOPENED bag and not more than 20KG.  No live plants and no soil.  Only an amount of prescription medicine that you’ll need for the length of time in the country (what?!?)  And, no guns!
So, we rented a small mini-storage unit and put the guns and ammo in that which means we have to come back to Kalispell, MT when we’re done in Canada and we hadn’t planned to.  We ate up all the meat and veges and fruit and did without for the last few days.  We drank up the milk and yogurts.  We did have more liquor than was allowed.  My plant wasn’t doing very well so I threw it out.  Jeff still had his little cactus and wouldn’t get rid of it.
I envisioned us getting pulled over for secondary inspection and having border agents go through our whole rig.  I read stories of that happening, going through cupboards and drawers and leaving everything a big mess.  UGH!  I envisioned forgetting about something or having them find the liquor and/or cactus and getting a big fine.  I even read one person who wrote that since they were from Texas the border agents wouldn’t believe they didn’t have a lot of guns and tore the whole RV apart looking for weapons.  YIPES!
So, when we pulled up to the border I tried real hard to be calm and relaxed.  It must have worked cause we got no hassles and just a few questions.  The man did ask what liquor we had, so Jeff said less than a fifth of whiskey, one bottle of wine and one beer.  He laughed and said “just one beer”? I think the border agent was able to pull up a file on each of us using our passports cause he asked our occupation and when we both said retired, he said what were you before retirement?  Then, he asked if we had any protection like guns, mace, etc.  We said “no”, so he asked if we usually traveled with protection.  We answered that we had 2 guns but had put them into a storage facility.  He asked for the receipt and I had it on my phone.  Then, he said “Have a nice time in Canada”.  Whew!
My advice to anyone travelling from the U.S. to Canada with an RV (or even for tent camping where you are bringing supplies) is to read the official website from the Canadian border on what you can and cannot bring, and be careful to adhere to that as well as you can.  Then, don’t stress and have fun!