Mid September, 4 of us ventured out to do a section of the recently upgraded 50 km cross over route that followed the old Hudson Bay Trail. Originally a First Nations route for hunting and trade, the HBC Trail played a key role in British Columbia’s early development. Completed in 1849, the HBC Trail was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company with the help of local First Nations. They built the trail to link the Fraser River at Fort Hope with Fort Kamloops and other important fur forts farther north to Stuart Lake.
After shuttling one vehicle to the Whatcom/Dewdney Trailhead on #3 Hwy, we started our journey from Peers Creek off of the Coquihalla. The first 6 kms are fairly easy and brought us to Manson’s Camp with overnight tenting pads, bear-proof food cache, toilet, fire ring, benches, and interpretive kiosk. Due to the lack of rain this summer, the water supply was limited. At km 8, we gained the summit of Manson’s Ridge before making a long drop into Fools Pass. Total gain to this point was 1120m.We then carried on another few kms to Colville Creek where we set up camp in less than level conditions. While tenting conditions were not ideal, there was a good water supply.
Now it had been planned that Mike and Alexis would share a stove. Mike would carry the stove/cook set and Alexis would carry the extra fuel. Unfortunately neither one of them made sure that the fuel was compatible with the stove, so when Mike brought out his white gas stove it became evident that the butane fuel canister that Alexis brought would not work. Ooops!
The following day we walked through several low sections of bog and skunk cabbage before coming out on the logging road where Sowaqua Camp was situated. There were a couple of dads with their young boys there and when one of the boys saw the size of Alexis and my backpack he looked at us with wide eyes and asked, “Why are you so prepared?” With the weight we were carrying, we asked ourselves the same question. Over the next 4 kms we gained another 720m in the heat of the day to Deer Camp. This was a bit of a slog up the exposed hot slopes, but the views were worth the effort. 2 hunters had pitched their tent on one of the wooden platforms, so Mike and Alexis used the other 2 while Dave and I put ours up on the unlevel ground. Now as luck would have it, there was a small amount of white gas left in the bear canister by a past camper, so Mike was able to top up his fuel. The evening was chilly but uneventful and the hunters manage to see several deer and a few grizzlies on the far slopes. This is a lovely area with as small stream located next to the campsite.
Day 3 was predicted as easy. We had a short 200m climb up the ridge before dropping back down to Conglomerate Camp some 3 kms away. Our intention was to setup and day hike to Mt. Davis. We all got a platform for our tent, and a series of small streams made its way through the meadows as our water source. The camp is situated at the base of an impressive ridge, and this was our favorite campsite. The hike toward Mt. Davis was steep and not a short hike as predicted, but the views were superb!
The next day involved a 2 km walk to the logging road (which goes to Jacobson Lake/camp site), another 3 kms along the trail to a newly flagged short cut that led us to the Whitecloud Lake deactivated road which would take us into Manning via the Warburton Trail. It sounded pretty straight forward…NOT.
Now, to this point the HBC Trail had been a combination of marked maintained trail mixed with a flagged route through unmaintained sections. Since we were venturing off on a trail with limited info, Alan had given the group his SPOT as a means of emergency communication. (Alan was off cycling in Croatia and missed this great adventure).
Once on Whitecloud Lake road the route to Manning was not that easy. We did not have enough information to direct us which way to go when the road suddenly split into 2 sections. We saw that all of the horse tracks followed the upper road, so we followed. After some time of walking in the heat the tracks ended and veered off to the right up a narrow trail. So did we. This flagged route brought us to an old cabin with a miners claim on it ( maybe a good place to top up with emergency camp fuel? ) and carried on into a broad meadow with trails going every which way. After exploring all possibilities, we came to the conclusion that we had gone wrong at some point. Really? So Dave made the decision that the only way out, which did not involve back tracking to the deactivated road and wasting a few more hours, was to bushwhack in the direction of Snass Peak. This would eventually bring us on to the Dewdney Trail, which was our exit route. So we spent the next several hours heading down or across the slope bushwhacking as we went. This was not an easy task with a fully loaded pack and thick brush. Around 5:30 pm it was obvious that we were not going to make it out, so we set up camp in a level blueberry patch which left some of our gear with lasting souvenir stains. Water had been located about 10 minutes back, so Dave and Mike flagged a route to the water source and this became camp 4. The SPOT was signaled that we were ok and we would tackle the remainder of the route in the morning after some much needed rest. Now I should mention that while this BP had a few glitches, we never went without dessert!
In the morning we packed up and set off on round 2 of our bushwhack. After not even 15 minutes we came across more flagging near an open section so we followed it. Soon after we saw the Dewdney Trail and Snass Camp, which was suppose to be out destination for the previous night. After assessing the water situation, and locating the “lost” Warburton Trail, we decided to head out via the Dewdney Trail rather than the Punch Bowl route. Once back at the vehicle we met a fellow who had just bought a selection of fruit in the Okanagan and offered us some after hearing of our adventure. It brought back memories of the guys who gave us a bag of cherries after finishing the Stein Traverse. What a welcome treat!
So we picked up the other vehicle at Peers Creek, stopped in Hope for tea, and made our way home. An adventure it was! When we got home I did some research on the internet and found where we went wrong.
Next group adventure for 2015….the Wonderland Trail!
Until then, Happy Trails, Dianne