Eight of us along with eleven llamas hiked into the Warner Lake area. This is the trip wanted to do last year, but we were forced to change our plans as there was too much snow. This year there was still a bit of late snow but the llamas handled it admirably.
We left our vehicles at a ranch near Tyaughton Lake and headed up an old logging road in the sunshine. The sun didn’t last and it was raining a bit by lunch time. The good news was that the bridge that was broken three years ago had been replaced, meaning that the llamas didn’t have to splash through the fairly deep, fast running Taylor Creek.
The snow was late this year after a dry winter and it created extreme avalanche hazards throughout the province. There were a number of fresh avalanche tracks across our trail in the afternoon with tons of smashed trees lying everywhere.
We made camp in the Taylor Basin by the old cabin and in the morning the tents were five pounds heavier because of all the rain. It was pretty wet in the morning so we were in no hurry to pack up. We finally decided to pack up and by the time we left the sun was shining a bit.
It is a fairly steep climb up to the first pass where we stopped for lunch and let the llamas graze. Then the trail drops down into the Eldorado Basin and then climbs up a long way to Windy Pass which certainly lived up to its name. There were a few iffy bits crossing snow patches on the way up.
After a short rest, we headed down the trail towards Spruce Lake and make camp at the trail junction where there is a large meadow where we could let the llamas graze.
The next day no one was too energetic so we left the llamas grazing and took turns walking up to see Spruce Lake. This is a popular spot for mountain bikers who fly in with a float plane from Tyaughton Lake and then ride out. On the way in, the pilot would point out the llamas grazing and then of course, the bikers would have to visit us and have their photos taken with the llamas. We wandered around to the far side of the lake and investigated the fossil beds which rise above the lake.
On the following day we packed up and headed up Gun Creek and eventually reached the beautiful Hummingbird Lake. The trail runs along the side of the lake and affords some spectacular views of the valley and mountains beyond. After another hour or so we reached Trigger Lake and were told of a great place to camp a little further on. This spot is a horse camp with lots of grazing for the llamas and even a corral which meant that the llamas didn’t have to be tied up at night.
There was another group of hikers (who had flown in) there who recommended that we climb up Deer Pass. They had just come down from there and were raving about the views so a group of us made that our destination for the next day.
The altitude gain was several thousand feet but it was a wonderful sight, with the rolling mountains of the Chilcotin to the north and the more rugged snow-covered Coast Mountains to the south. The panorama photo below is nine separate photos stitched together showing the view to the south. (It wouldn’t quite fit on the page.)
There were lots of wildflowers in the alpine meadows and we were constantly being whistled at by marmots. We were certainly in no rush to get back down the steep trail to camp as the scenery made you want to stay as long as possible.
The following day we took the llamas further west along the trail to Warner Lake which is about a thousand feet higher than Trigger Lake. The trail is good even through a few areas where it crosses huge rock slides. After a leisurely lunch at Warner Lake, we headed back to camp, no one having the energy to go further up into Warner Pass.
The campsite had a big picnic table with some beams over it which I suppose are used for a tarp in bad weather. The beams were handy for hanging our food as we knew that there could be some bears around. That night a big grizzly bear came visiting, setting most of llamas into a frenzy of alarm calling. Marie and Monique were wandering around with flashlights for a while, but the bear had left by then. The panniers and buckets of food were hung as high as we could get them and they were not touched, but the small insulated bag that had our cups and bowls in was gone in the morning.
After breakfast (with borrowed bowls) we headed back up to the Spruce Lake campsite. Despite a bit of uphill this was a beautiful trip as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the views down Gun Creek were amazing. We camped again at the same camping area near Spruce Lake.
Jane wasn’t looking forward to the couple of thousand feet climb back up Windy Pass (and I suspect that she was not the only one). We took it slowly and eventually reached the top where we all paused for a group photo. We managed to get around the deeper snow patches on the other side of the pass and dropped down into the Eldorado valley. From here Marie and Monique went back up the way we had come seven days earlier, and over the pass into Taylor Basin, while the other six of us went through the Eldorado Valley. This is a really pretty valley with some nice views.
Late in the afternoon we stopped to check the maps and got the GPS out to find out exactly where we were. Bill was looking down the hill and said Something is moving down there. We all started watching through the trees and all of a sudden a grizzly bear appeared in the open a couple of hundred feet away. This, of course, started some of the llamas alarm calling, and had us grabbing our cameras and checking our bear spray cans. However, he was minding his own business, but was heading up towards the trail that we were going to be travelling on.
After a suitable wait we continued up the trail and found a nice little valley in which to camp. That night though, we listened for any sounds from the llamas as we were only about half an hour from where we had seen the bear. The next morning some of the llamas were alarming and looking up at the trail we were planning to head out on. Oops. We scanned the hill with binoculars and eventually spotted a deer. Whew.
From this camp it was not too much of a climb up to the pass where the trail dropped quite steeply into the Cinnabar Basin. This is as beautiful valley where there trail drops down into the forest and eventually meets an old mining road which seemed to go on forever. It was quite hot and the llamas were getting tired by now, Pizarro was getting reluctant but eventually we persuaded them to keep going.
At the junction of the mining road and a small road that parallels the main road, we met a couple on an ATV who showed us a trail down to the main road. This led to a lovely grassy area where we could graze the llamas while Derry and I tried to hitch a ride back to our vehicles which were about six miles away.
We left everyone else there and headed down a trail which led to a house with some very friendly people, Dave and Jill Gourlay. They had a large corral and said that we could could leave the llamas there. I went back to get the rest of the group and the llamas and by the time I returned, Dave had offered to drive us to our trailers. This was wonderful as there was absolutely no other traffic on the road. Naturally we accepted his offer and while we were getting the vehicles, Jill was pouring cold beer for the others! What a perfect ending to a nine-day hike.
Brian and Jane Pinkerton
29343 Galahad Crescent
Canada V4X 2E4
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org