Welcome to the trail guide to places with no trails.
Tramping off in all directions from Valemount, BC is what this part of the site is supposed to be about - this page gets pretty literal about that. It's mainly a place to record geographic anecdotes that might otherwise not get written down. If you have the skills, knowledge and independence to visit these places without creating hazards and misery for yourself, you're probably going to want to invent your own trips, but these reports might provide some ideas. Know the basic principles of safety and of respect for the environment. You won't find them listed here.
This page has descriptions of places I've navigated to (physically) by topo map, gps, imagination - anything but a trail. Some of the day trips were done solo. Most are on public land outside of parks, and some of them are accessed by a bit of preliminary trail-walking. A criteria for inclusion here is the probability that no other description is likely to be available anywhere for the areas in question. Hopefully some photos will be included later.
For 1998 a number of day trips stand out - the first two I won't describe in excruciating detail since they were not too far off the "beaten track" - but then later in the season things got more like real exploring.
Moose River - above Rainbow Canyon but below the Gravel Flats - Mt Robson Park BC
In late May 1998 Lynne & I hiked a few kilometers up the Moose River Trail in Mt. Robson Park, to where it arrives at the open gravel flats of the lower Moose. I decided to explore downstream along the river and then ascend to the trail later, as Lynne returned to the vehicle by the trail. Hiking was easy along the Moose River thanks to large, quite flat ice pans still lining the shores. Presently I came to a waterfall in the river, not visible from the trail. Below it the river continued through forested valley floor toward Rainbow Canyon which was still some distance away and not visible (I later learned that at one time there had been a proposal to make a side trail to this waterfall, but nothing had ever come of it). Deciding to make a point of hiking the whole section of river from the gravel flats down to the Moose River Pit in future, I returned across limestone ridges to the trail and hiked out to the vehicle a few minutes behind Lynne.
Chamberlin-Goslin Ridge - Tete Jaune BC
In July of 1998 A group of people, mostly from YORA (the
Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association), myself included,
ascended a ridge of Mt. Chamberlin, starting directly across
Highway 16 from the Mount Terry Fox rest area. Arriving at the
ridgetop above the highway and just east of Mount Chamberlin's
summit, we waited out a nasty little alpine hailstorm and then
hiked the ridgetop west towards Tete Jaune Cache, at altitudes
generally around 7000 feet. On our left the view was across the
Fraser River, Highway 16, Jackman Ridge and the village of Tete
Jaune. To our right a major tributary of Swift Current Creek
descended toward us down a curving valley that began behind Mount
Goslin. Goslin itself presented a frigid, mist-wrapped pile of
rock and snow to the west.
We left the ridgetop above Little Lost Lake and contoured across the Tete Jaune side of the ridge, past a welcome trickle of water issuing from a cliff, and descended via a ridge and forested benchlands to Peterson Road where we had placed a vehicle for the return to the starting point. It was a satisfying trip for some of the Tete Jaune residents who came along - they'd been gazing up at that ridge from their houses for years and wondering what it would be like to walk along it.
Hugh Allan-Kinbasket Pass, Canoe Reach of Kinbasket Lake, BC
Wednesday, August 26th, 1998 found me on Road 332 off the Hugh Allan Forest Service Road, ready to find out what the pass looked like between Kinbasket Lake and the Hugh Allan valley at that point. At 11:46 A.M. I started out, following up along a creek that crossed road 332 at 4.1 km. Heading generally south, through north-facing slope bush that ranged from moderate to difficult, I eventually came to a recently built helipad in dense timber somewhat below the pass. Awhile later the pass was reached. It had strips of subalpine meadow typical of a pass at around 6100 feet in our area. Good crops of the tiny blueberry "Vaccinium caespitosum" were found in the meadows.
The pass contained several square kilometers of relatively flat land around 6100 feet above sea level. Only a small percentage of it was meadow, the rest heavy subalpine forest. As usual the meadows were aligned roughly in a strip on the axis of the bottom of the valley, with the forests on either side. There was a small lake adjacent to one meadow. The pass angled south toward Kinbasket Lake, and on one side of it was a ridge with dry pine forests and a good view of the lake almost down to Mica Dam. An old helipad was found on top of the ridge.
The other side of the pass, toward the Rockies, had some peaks and ridges and a dead-end valley that showed as being glaciated on the topo map.I found boulder fields in the valley instead of ice. On top of a ridge beside this valley I discovered some red-fruited berry bushes growing above the treeline at about 6600 feet. At first I thought they were Gaultheria humifusa, the small red-berried relative of coasal Salal that grows in the alpine frequently around here. However, they turned out to be Lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea), a common fruit in the valley bottom pine forests around Valemount. I'd never seen them in the alpine before.
Working my way along in the woods above a cliff that separated
me from the dead-end valley, I eventually came to the end of the
cliff, descended to the valley and followed its stream to a
confluence with the one I'd ascended in the morning. Continuing
on benches and slopes east of that stream I arrived back at the
car on the #332 logging road at 8 P.M.
Mount Blackman area, Canoe Reach of Kinbasket Lake, BC
On Saturday, September 12th, 1998 at 12:17 P.M. I left my
truck at the highest landing on the spur road off Canoe East
Forest Road at kilometer 53, for a hike to the meadows north of
Mount Blackman that I'd flown over and had been quite impressed
Hiking up through mainly quite open forest I arrived at the top of the long slope above Kinbasket Lake to find myself on the edge of a great sweep of alpine country. I had reached the meadows about a kilometer north of Mount Blackman, at a point where they drained to Blackman Creek. Another kilometer or so in the opposite direction (north), the meadows could be seen curving over a pass where they begin to slope toward Ptarmigan Creek instead. Lakes dotted the meadows and cirque valleys adjoined it to the east. Fresh boot prints were seen following a goat trail along the ridge top above Kinbasket Lake, going toward Mount Blackman. I decided to go that way too.
Crossing a few rounded summits and one rather rocky one, I came to a remarkable place. A glacier on Mt. Blackman's north face ended in vertical ice walls that dropped into two lakes, both of them filled with huge chunks of broken ice. Following what appeared to be a peninsula that jutted into the lower of these two lakes, I soon observed that I had walked out along a gravel-covered ice mass and was actually on a domed, rocky island whose summit was perhaps 75 feet above the water. With the glacier and masses of floating ice chunks it was about the most arctic-looking spot I'd ever seen around the Valemount area. I had a fleeting thought about hypothetical film crews flying kayakers up there to simulate an arctic environment for some film.
As I sat and ate my lunch on the island, I suddenly noticed that huge blocks of ice were sitting on the shore around me, some of them as much as 20 feet above lake level. Since the lake outlet flows over the edge of a broad, steep bank, the water could never have risen that high unless calving of the glacier literally sloshed the whole lake back and forth as one mass of water. I didn't waste much time scampering back across the gravel-covered ice bridge and circling clockwise around the outlet end of the lake to some higher ground.
Visiting the other lake along the glacier's face, I found that its outlet was under the ice and it drained by way of a stream entirely hidden from sight under the glacier, into the lake I'd eaten lunch at. From there the milky grey glacial stream flowed down the slopes for a few hundred feet to an area of marshes and ponds and then into a beautiful alpine tarn. At the outlet of this lake, still just as murky, it continued on down toward Blackman Creek. Passing the third lake I began to explore my way up the centre of the big meadows. Suddenly there was a great roar from the glacier - however I was by then more than a kilometer away, below the level of the glacier lakes and out of sight of the outlet stream, so I didn't see what effect the glacier's calving had had on the lakes. The thought about film crews taking footage of kayakers paddling among the ice blocks at the foot of the glacier returned. I shall not be recommending that spot to anybody for that purpose any time soon.
I circled counterclockwise past some more lakes, past the
Ptarmigan/Blackman pass in the middle of the meadow, and back to
the point where I had originally reached the meadow. Descending
through the forest, I arrived at the vehicle at 7:47 P.M.
From time to time the Ministry of Forests in McBride puts forward proposals to work with BC parks to eliminate the Sunbeam Creek Ecological Reserve near McBride (of which I am volunteer warden) and establish one in its place in the Mt. Blackman area. No serious progress toward that yet.
Some day trips and backpack trips that might happen in1999*
-Dave Henry Lodge to Moose Lake via Rainbow Creek (6 hours of setting up the logistics and 5 or so of hiking) - 2 people take 2 vehicles and 2 canoes Moose Lake boat launch, paddle both canoes to Thunder Falls, leave one canoe in the woods and return in the other one, drive to Valemount and, the next day probably, drive up Dave Henry Creek, do the hike, return from Thunder Falls by canoe and vehicle, take canoe home, drive up Dave Henry Creek to get other vehicle. And the hike's just a woodland bushwhack. But it takes you "through to" someplace. Now isn't that exciting?
-Completion of the lower Moose River exploration described above. Best of both worlds - you get to hike "through to" someplace but end up back where you started with no nightmarish vehicular shuffles.
-End of Ptarmigan Creek Forest Road to Icefall Lake across the
upper, upper, UPPER Fraser River. From there who knows? Maybe
back to the Ptarmigan. But the area around the end of the
Ptarmigan road must hold some kind of a record for density of
young evergreen forest.
-The lakes behind Mount De Veber in the Morkill Pass area. A hike I've planned for years but not seriously enough to actually do it.
Will keep ya posted. Or not. -Art
*Wow, is this page obsolete!!! 1999??? No, I haven't died. No, my eplorations in the mountains haven't ground to a halt. But my maintenance of this page ground to a halt a long time ago it seems. Guess I'd better provide at least a brief update on the specific "1999 ideas" above, from February 2012, 13 years later.
- Dave Henry Lodge to Moose Lake: did that, and it turned out to be every bit as logistics-intensive as described above. Participants: two.
- Lower Moose River exploration: I've done that also, and found some interesting areas such as a huge cutbank along the river. Participants: one.
- End of Ptarmigan Creek Road to Icefall Lake and back: This one grew into a multi-day expedition across the main ranges of the Rockies from Cavell Lake to Kinbasket Lake by way of the Astoria River, Penstock Creek, Simon Creek, Beacon Lake, headwaters of the Fraser, Cube Ridge, Silvertip Creek and Hugh Allen Creek to its mouth at Hugh Allen Arm. A great trip.Credit for making the Silvertip Creek section feasible must go to the local moose population. Their amazing ability to find the line of least resistance for their trails was highly appreciated, once we discovered the benefits. We eventually learned that a few minutes of searching in order to keep ourselves on the "moose highway" whenever it braided out was well worth the effort. Participants: three.
- Mount De Veber: I attempted to access this area from the east, via Smoky River and locally-named Boulder Creek. Ran out of time a few km. short of De Veber. Participants: one.
A few trailless trails I could mention from the last 13 years or so:
- In one long day in 1999, not long after the above entries were written, I visited the glacier at the top of the Swift Current Creek headwall in Mount Robson Park.It was a long day of hiking that began in the dark and ended in the dark, made even longer by the breakdown of my mountain bike that was supposed to carry me as far as the upper end of the Swift Current Creek flats and back. However I am very glad I was able to make it to the glacier and photograph it. According to Google Earth imagery the Swift Current Glacier has receded over a kilometre in the years between 1999 and whenever the current imagery dates from.
- Here's one from before 1999: I hiked with a friend up through the notch in the cliff above Whitehorn Ranger Cabin, and traversed across gravel-covered ice to Phillips Creek. We crossed Phillips Creek at the snout of a glacier and continued our traverse until we encountered the horse bypass around Emperor Campground on the Berg Lake Trail.
- Hiked once solo and once with a friend, from Kinney Lake Flats up to the col between Mount Whitehorn and Mount Cinnamon. At this point one is looking down toward the Swift Current Creek headwall although it cannot be seen from the col. Dramatic layers and cliffs of sheer rock march away across the Swift Current Creek valley from the col. A nimber of years previously, park ranger Chris Zimmerman had looped clockwise up Swift Current Creek, through this col and down to Kinney Flats. He says he saw no sign of the large lake that now occupies the valley at the of the Swift Current headwall. It must have been entirely under the ice at the time. Such is glacial recession. A trip up the headwall and out via Carcajou Creek is one possibility for a future hike in the area.
- Hiked, crawled, scrambled and wriggled from Highway 16 up the totally fallen-in and abandoned Meadow Creek Trail in Jasper Park with a couple of friends as far as Crescent Creek Camp and returned back to Highway 16, then a year later I hiked with a friend right through from Highway 16 up Meadow Creek and over Vista Pass into the BC portion of the Tonquin Valley. Continued to the south end of Amethyst Lakes and stayed overnight at the lodge there (arrived at the lodge at 9 PM - thank you once again Mr. Petzl). We hiked out via the Astoria River trail the next day. Although the Meadow Creek trail is fast returning to nature it was once a well-built major trail into the Tonquin Valley, and was the route of the telephone line that once provided communications to the Tonquin Warden Station. Insulators and wire from the old phone line can still be seen here and there along the route.
-Hiked up the Yellowhead Mountain Trail in Mt. Robson Park with 3 friends and just kept on a-goin' - along the continental divide in Alberta, then BC, then Alberta again until we arrived in the Miette Lake area where we spent a day or so hiking around in great weather. Then the weather turned rotten and we blasted back out the Miette River Trail in half a day. One of my suggestions for keeping happy on a cold, soggy day in the mountains: make distance.
- After hiking to the summit of Mount Trudeau near Valemount with several people, a friend and I split off from the group and descended to the alpine basin on the southwest side of the peak. From there we hiked west down to the treeline and bushwhacked down a sizeable creek valley to the West Ridge Forest Road, arriving at the road a few km from the Mt. Trudeau trailhead.
- I've been involved in several bushwhacks up to the treeline on the way to the summit of Mount Diefenbaker near Valemount. Trails are just now being built and I look forward to getting up there without wriggling and crawling. Various routes were used and on one occasion, 150 percent of the available daylight was used as well. Gotta love those headlamps...
- A tributary on the south side of Thunder River north of the town of Blue River, BC turned out to have a moose trail just as well- developed as the one along Silvertip Creek (see above). Hiked in the footsteps of the four-legged trail builders with a friend to within sight of a waterfall at the head of the forested valley. According to maps this waterfall descends from several large lakes.Another destination to keep in mind for future exploration.
- Mining exploration on the North Thompson valley face between Gum Creek and Bone Creek, also near the town of Blue River, resulted in some roads approaching quite near the treeline. A couple of hikes were done along the alpine and subalpine ridge between Gum Creek and Bone Creek which I tend to refer to as Gumbone Ridge.
- Hiked with a friend from the end of current driveable road
up the Holmes River Near McBride, BC, into the Small River
watershed via a pass that is only 2 hours of relatively easy
bushwhacking away from vehicle access. Parking spot was at a
small private rock quarry up a tributary on the southeast side of
the Holmes, not far downstream from the great bend in the Holmes
where it turns from northwest to southwest on its way to the
Fraser. Once in the Small River watershed we hiked upstream and
over the pass at the head of the main branch of Small River, to a
glacier flowing northwards from the Mount Longstaff icefield.
This glacier drains into the Holmes River not far downstream from
the interesting area at Carcajou Pass where Carcajou Creek and
the Holmes can't seem to make up their minds whether they want to
be part of the Arctic or Pacific watersheds.
An old sketch map drawn around 1909 by well known early-day guide Curly Phillips shows a trail he has labelled as the Selmo Trail that appears to cross a pass above the rock quarry we parked at. Another subject for exploration. I have found no other mention of a "Selmo Trail" anywhere else to date and have no idea what the name refers to. It is shown as crossing the Holmes and contouring up into Moose Wallow Creek on the other side of the Holmes, arriving at treeline in Moose Wallow Basin where there are known remains of old horse camps.
- Bushwhacked with a friend into the alpine basin of a tributary on the southeast side of Dave Henry Creek, one basin upstream of a watershed I had visited twice in the 1970s. A lake in the basin is roughly "C" shaped. About a year later, with another fiend, I hiked up into the basin I had been to in the 70s. It has a pleasant alpine tarn, below which is a waterfall plunging directly into a small traingular pool. From there we ascended to the ridge between Dave Henry Creek and Yellowjacket Creek and hiked northeast along it, descending into the basin with the "C" shaped lake and returning to the vehicle that way with a berry-picking stop at a fine huckleberry patch.. Large, impressive rock cairns on the ridge top were probably built by surveyors establishing triangulation points in the early days.
- Explored the basin in the southern corner of the Rainbow Creek (old local name) watershed near Dave Henry Lodge with a couple of friends on a 3-day trip - one day in to the lodge, one day exploring and one day back out. A quick ascent to a small mountain pass gave us a view into the Sleeper Creek watershed. Another pass a short distance away provided views into the broad basin of an unnamed creek. This creek is the source of much of the water in Moose Marsh.
- I split off from a group of hikers intent on doing a counterclockwise loop from Valemount arond the Swift Creek watershed to Mount Terry Fox, a fine backpacking route in good weather. Our weather on this hike was somewhat rainy at times. I hiked down the west fork of Rainbow Creek and then the main creek to my canoe that was cached in the woods by Moose Lake at the foot of Thunder Falls, while the rest carried on with their hike. I heard when I got back that the rest of the group had decided to cut their trip short due to the wet weather, and had bushwhacked down to the Fraser River at the old Red Pass townsite by way of a stream that flows into the Fraser River a few km. downstream of Moose Lake. They reported a very miserable bushwhack from the treeline down to Red Pass. My own wasn't bad but was a bit wet - on a north facing slope in cool, cloudy weather in the fall, things do not dry out very fast after a rain. Although it did not rain while I was bushwhacking, I was a more than a little damp when I paddled in to shore at the Moose Lake boat launch.
- Intent on seeing a large lake at the head of the east fork of Nevin Creek near Dunster, BC, I hiked with a couple of friends northeastward along the ridge between Nevin and Holliday Creeks. The next day we dropped into Nevin at the forks, but never made it to the lake due to time constraints. We spent a day ridge-walking further to the northeast along the Nevin/Holliday creek divide before heading back out. Although we did not reach our objective of the lake, we saw a considerable number of mountain goats and one big grizz. The bear panicked completely on picking up our scent from more than a kilometer away. It then proceeded to give us an amazing display of how much alpine terrain can be covered in three or four minutes by a grizzly bear in a hurry. We were quite happy that it was heading away from us rather than toward us. We suspect the bear had in the past visited a few farmer's fields around Dunster and found out what a human being is capable of when provoked. It probably had to devour squirrels, marmots and huckleberries for several days just to make up for the energy it burned in those few minutes.
That latest adventure took place in September 2011.
My apologies in advance for forgetting about this page for the next 15 years.