We got off the ferry in Prince Rupert, BC because the ongoing trip to Bellingham, WA increases the price threefold so it is worth driving the 900+ miles back south from Prince Rupert. It is also a very beautiful drive.
In the east we would have called this season mud season as everything starts to melt out, but here it should be called waterfall season. As you drive along the very full Skeena River, waterfalls are pouring off the mountains all around. I was not a particular safe driver as I was constantly trying to look around, slow down, or pull over to get a better look at the best ones. None of these great waterfalls even had a pullout to view them so either the Canadians don’t much care for falling water, these aren’t really the good ones, or they are only around for a few weeks as the snow melts. Regardless, it was an amazing drive.
As we approached Terrace, BC we saw the turn to Shames Mountain ski area. I had seen some info on the mountain and wanted to see more so we drove up the road to check it out. The drive itself was worth it as the road cuts back into a huge canyon with towering rock walls on both sides. We decided to just spend the night in the parking lot because it was getting late and it was a beautiful spot to camp.
The mountain itself is super small, only a double lift and a rope tow, but the wealth of Shames Mountain lies in the easily accessible backcountry. They get a lot of snow and have amazing terrain. (Of course they also have avalanche danger as this story from Avalanche Canada shows. Anyone serious about backcountry skiing should check it out.) There is also a fantastic backcountry map done for the area. Below is a small section, but if you are interested you should buy the whole thing. The guy has also made backcountry maps for the Whistler area and a few others in Canada.
I had originally hoped to be at Shames early enough in the season to get out and take a few runs but I wasn’t feeling as adventurous now. Fortunately, Sara was.
Here is some proof that it is possible to ski on a splitboard even while the skins are still attached!
It was a great way to [likely] wrap up the snowboarding part of our trip. It is also definitely a place we need to come next winter to explore more.
We continued along the Skeena River as the road loops north and then back south. Then the road follows the Bulkley River for quite a ways. Our guidebook again came in handy as it mentioned the Moricetown Canyon where the Bulkley gets funneled into a very tight channel. The Wet’suwet’en tribe gathered here for generations to fish for salmon jumping up through the falls and they still fish with dip nets or gaff hooks every year. Seeing the canyon while the river was flooding was quite impressive.
All of the rivers in the area here are world-class salmon and steelhead fishing and there are a lot of fishing lodges and fishing-related business along the way.
When the road turns south for good in Prince George, BC, you start following the famous Fraser River. The road also cuts over and follows the Thompson River for a stretch through the Thompson River Canyon. Regrettably, I did not take any pictures of the Thompson River Canyon, but it is absolutely amazing. It is a deep, rocky canyon with railroads on both sides and the road high above. I am not going to pirate this guy’s pictures, but take a quick look at this blog for some good pictures of his recent trip through the canyon.
On the drive I found a website describing the very few bridges across the Fraser River Canyon. One of those was a suspension bridge just north of Lytton, which sits at the confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers.
We found a great little forest road to pull off on for the night. Turning around was a bit of an adventure, but I didn’t get stuck or roll the van so let’s leave it at that.
Our final morning in Canada we headed down the rest of the Fraser River Canyon to Hope, BC. After crossing back into the U.S. we were scheduled for a TSA Pre-Check interview so we though it would be a good idea to grab a shower. Hope continued the Canada benefit of having a nice local aquatic center where we could shower and take a quick swim. (For those of you wondering, despite living in a van and showering only occasionally at local swimming pools, we were approved as “trusted travelers.”)
In our final installment of “small world,” the customs guy at the border in Abbotsford, BC grew up in La Grande and was in my Dad’s scout troop for a couple of years.