about the Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake region of the West Chilcotin,
this summer Wilderness Adventures will include the Alaska Journel
for 2006 since that's where I'll be!
Don't forget to roll over the pictures on the right for more
Wilderness Adventures - July, Week 5/2006
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you
at the bottom of this page. Check out the
of the Day.
From Little Atlin to Burns Lake
I have no internet connection tonite I'll catch up on
our travels in this last article. We proceeded on Saturday
to Little Atlin Lake, only a few miles from Atlin to friends
of Andy's. Jack and Beryl recently purchased an acreage
on Little Atlin that included a beautiful grassy meadow,
two creeks and frontage on the lake. We whiled the
afternoon away in terrific conversation and took the invitation
for a wonderful supper and to park in the meadow for the
night. Sweet, sweet silence. No highways, or other
campers, people talking or fourwheelers or motorbikes.
Only the sounds of whispering meadow grass, lapping water
and loons. What a great sleep!
Our hosts took us down to the lake the next day and showed
us how to properly pan for gold, using real gold nuggets
that they insisted we keep after successfully keeping
from losing them into the water. Since they've been gold
miners for years it was super to learn from the experts.
I was actually quite sad to leave that area because I
really liked the surrounding country. It reminded
me very much of Nimpo Lake with a lot of pine
forest and aspen, scarce cover on the forest floor, sandy
soil and lots of rock. I suspect the weather is very similiar
to ours at home with Little Atlin in the rain shadow of
the Coastal Mountain Range.
We headed to Beaver Post that afternoon and arrived at
a great new RV park there with terrific restaurant and
gift shop. Our hosts from Little Atlin had let us know
that the owners were from the same town as Andy and that
he would probably know them. From Beaver Post we made
our way to the Cassier Highway which is the alternate
route to the Alaska Highway. That way we weren't going
to be travelling over the same road as we had on our way
to Alaska. Unfortunately, that first stretch of
road is a mess and we finally landed late in the
evening truly exhausted. Where there is pavement there
are frost heaves, chuck holes and broken pavement. The
rest is gravel and most of it was a disgrace. Recent rains
had made even worse a road that hadn't seen a grader since
spring, I'm sure. The road was rutty and so full of potholes
there was just no way of dodging them all. Still, we weren't
making too bad a time and expected to be at our destination
by supper when we came on the local road maintenance crew
digging out and replacing culverts. Nice though
she was, the flag girl fibbed to us telling us
it would be at least a half hour, possibly more, before
the ditch would be filled in enough for us to cross it.
Had I known it would be well over an hour I would have
gone ahead and cooked supper there while waiting in line.
By the time we finally got into the provincial park campground
at Kiniskan Lake, we were dragging our butts. I
think even the dogs were tired of bouncing.
Kiniskan Lake is a beautiful little lake and I don't think
I've seen a campground better maintained. Even the wood
that I bought from the camp host for the standard five
bucks was a monster bundle that would normally amount
to two and a half bundles anywhere else. We had an awesome
roaring fire for the evening while we listened to the
loons sing out on the lake.
This morning I woke to the sound of a Beaver taking off
of the lake and literally thought for a moment that I
was home or was dreaming I was home. It took a few
minutes to realize that I hadn't, by some magic, been
transported to my bed in Nimpo Lake but that I
was still on the road and a few days away.
We tried fly fishing for rainbow trout off of the dock
in the morning because some young fellows got a few fish
there the evening before. No success but it was fun trying.
Judging from everyone's catch though, the lake doesn't
produce large fish but to hear my Mom tell it, they're
the best tasting of rainbow trout anywhere!
According to the MilePost, we had more gravel to face
today and believe me, we weren't looking forward to it.
We were surprised to see that the first hour of road south
of Kiniskan looked to be brand new but according to the
maps, shortly after the Bell II Crossing we would hit
gravel. We stopped at the lodge there for lunch and then
braced ourselves when we headed out. Still new road! We
congratulated ourselves on our good luck so far (upon
which Andy hurriedly grabbed for our wooden toothpick
holder so that we had wood to touch so as not to jinx
ourselves) and Andy speeded up. The highway continued
to be in excellent condition clear to Smithers, and though
a little rough in spots after that, it was still really
On the way we saw some beautiful high valleys, higher
mountains with lots of snow on top, glacier fed streams
and not a few large rivers, including the Stikine. Either
yesterday or today, (I'm not sure of anything anymore)
we passed a gorgeous little lake called Aeroplane Lake
next to the highway. The colors are remarkable and be
sure to keep an eye out for it if you ever go the Cassier
We had chosen to stay overnight at Kitwanga but the going
was so good for a change that we decided we would go on
to Smithers. Again, the highway was so good and it was
early enough that we continued on to Burns Lake and a
KOA campground there.
Smithers is a neat looking little town and the surrounding
countryside is remarkable. Coming in from the north you
cross the Bulkley River and are torn between eyeballing
the massive mountain with glacier overlooking the valley,
and all the great farms and fields along the highway.
It was a nice change to see wide open farm country, cattle
and horses with freshly cut hay rolled up in tidy round
bales on the fields.
We stopped at a rest area on the south side of Smithers
and read an information panel there about the pine beetle.
We didn't see any sign of the infestation and kind of
wondered why they would have such a detailed sign with
pictures at that spot. Shortly after we understood why.
The further south you go the more you see the telltale
red trees. By the time you reach Burns Lake, whole mountain
sides are covered in beetle killed pine and I would say
the area has been hit as hard as we have been in the Chilcotin.
You can see how evident this is in the picture at top
right. The one saving grace for this region is that there
is so much deciduous growth at the lower elevations that
it camouflages the beetle devastation quite a bit. It's
only higher up on the flanks of the hills that you see
the pure, dark red of a complete kill.
My final word on the Cassier Highway is that it would
be well worth taking and probably nicer than the Alaska
Highway if the highway could be improved
from Kiniskan north to Watson Lake. It's a real shame
that the British Columbia government can't get off the
stick and put a little money toward tourism that benefits
the north rather than throwing every last dollar into
improvements for the 2010 Olympics.
We're parked in Burns Lake tonite and headed to Quesnel
tomorrow. By tomorrow afternoon we will have come full
circle by arriving at Bill and Anita's place, our friends
that willingly gave us a parking spot and a great supper
nearly two months ago when we set out on this trip. I'll
try to get this uploaded tomorrow or day after and then
it will be a day or two before you hear from me again.
I may do some side trip articles on our travels in the
near future. Cool things we saw or stories heard that
I didn't have time or forgot to tell you before. Or I
may just get right back into the Nimpo and Anahim Lake
area again. For right now, I just want to hear our
own loon calls and sleep in our own bed at home.
In Atlin, British Columbia
had a remarkable day today. It finally cleared up and
we started seeing more and more blue sky. By this afternoon
we could see the country around us. The Atlin area
truly is stunning...all of it! The lake is spectacular,
the mountains are spectacular and we really like the town.
We drove out Discovery Road to Surprise Lake and several
creeks along the way were the source of vast gold deposits
at one time. There are still claims being worked to this
day, albeit with pretty large machinery.
Along the way we saw a pretty little red fox cross
the road with a rabbit in his mouth but of course
I didn't get the camera out in time. On the way back on
a rutty, rocky trail from trying some goldpanning we saw
a nighthawk flitting back and forth on the road in front
of us and so we stopped wondering what was up. He would
perch on a branch then start flitting across the road
in front of us and then suddenly there was a second, smaller
bird. Finally, they both landed on a deep bed of moss
on the forest floor and she scooted around as though she
was sitting on eggs. I think the male may have been trying
to distract us and then gave up. Or maybe he was just
chasing mosquitos. It was nice to see them up close though
because although I've heard them at night all my life,
I have never seen one still or that close up.
At Suprise Lake you could see that a good part of
the creek bottom had been dredged a hundred years ago.
Much of the area was overgrown with aspen, willow and
pine so it was a long time ago but trying any goldpanning
under the circumstance seemed pointless. There's some
pretty big, expensive machinery reworking the old tailings
piles from the dredges and hydraulics because so much
smaller gold was missed back then.
We toured the museum in Atlin this afternoon and that
was super interesting. Lots of great machinery and even
some inventions that I suspect are unique only to Atlin
sitting outside of the building (check out the picture
on the right for the snowmachine propellation invented
and used in Atlin) and some good photo displays with explanations
inside. I think that Andy's sister would have found the
extensive display on schooling in the area very interesting
I did find out that just before the turn of the century
there was an 82 ounce nugget found on Spruce
Creek, described as being about the size of half a loaf
of homemade bread. So I was wrong, the 36 ounce nugget
pulled out in 1981 wasn't the largest in the world as
I had previously thought.
There is a very interesting phenomenon just across
Atlin Lake from us. It's a light brown mass of
stone dripping down the side of Atlin Mountain like melting
chocolate icecream called a rock glacier and behaves very
much like a real ice glacier. This 'glacier' really does
have some ice in it resulting from refreezing of the melt
water from seasonal snow that percolates downward from
the surface and underneath the rock 'glacier' are the
buried remnant of an ancient ice glacier at the head which
has been covered with rock debris. Although there are
other rock glaciers in this area and southwestern Yukon,
this is one of the most active rock glaciers in
North America, and the long season of freezing
and refreezing continuously provides a source of shattered
rock fragments to grow the 'glacier'.
Tonite I managed to connect with a fellow across the street
that makes gold nugget jewelry and sells from his workbench
for half of what the jewelry stores sell his work for.
The man does awesome work with local Atlin gold and I
picked out a pretty darn nice gold nugget necklace whom
my Sweetie has purchased for me as a birthday present.
Overall, we've had a wonderful day and as I sit here by
the fire with the laptop and watch the awesome lemon yellow
sunset over the mountains slowly fading to orange with
only a ripple on Atlin Lake, I can't think of another
place we've seen in our travels this summer that's quite
so beautiful. There isn't a cloud in the sky tonite and
it's chilling down fast. This is just the weather
we were hoping for before leaving here and making
our way back toward Little Atlin where we'll visit with
a friend of Andy's.
Don't forget to check out the picture of the day for a
really nice shot of Atlin Lake. It can't begin to do it
justice because the lake is so huge, but here's a little
window on a piece of it at Picture
of the Day.
We got pretty lucky at this campsite out on the lake.
We managed to pick up a Wi-Fi signal last night and tracked
it down at the library. Judging from the four different
directional antennas transmitting the entire town must
have that capability, which is really awesome. However,
I doubt I'll be so lucky in the next few days so you may
not hear from me for a little while.
this afternoon we were back in British Columbia. Of
course we'll have to go back to the Yukon in order to
get to Nimpo Lake but for now, we're in our home
We left Carcross this morning heading to Atlin. We passed
Tagish Lake which looks like it would be an absolutely
gorgeous lake color wise if the sun had been shining.
Even so, the lake is very pretty and surrounded by high
hills and mountains. We turned just before Jake's Corner
and headed southeast toward Little Atlin Lake. It too
is a really colorful and beautiful lake that would be
outstanding if the sun had been reflecting off of the
water. The country began to change as soon as we left
Tagish Lake behind becoming more and more similiar
to our neck of the woods. Lots of open pine forest,
some spruce and aspen with a ground cover of kinnickinnick
underneath. Mountains, some of them very close, bagan
to rear up on the horizon and there were several lakes
along the highway
Atlin itself is quite a neat place. The little town sits
right on the massive 300 square mile lake, the largest
freshwater lake in British Columbia, with the Coastal
Range right across the lake from it. There is
a massive mountain rearing up just south east of the town
that you assume is across the lake. Nope, it's on
the lake! I believe our camp host told us that the island
was about 19 miles long and 15 miles wide and according
to the MilePost, Birch Mountain at 6755 feet is
the highest point on fresh water anywhere in the world.
Too cool! But for now, we're calling it Harold's
Island after a really good friend that told us
all about this incredible sight and you can see it on
your upper right.
Atlin itself should be a bustling little tourist trap
much like Skagway or even Dawson City but it isn't in
the least. In fact it's a very quiet little town where
the people are all friendly, and there are quite a few
old buildings here and there with discreet signs on the
sides describing what the building was used for at one
time. One was a grocer, another a morgue, a madame's house
of ill repute, etc. I haven't come across a 'trinket'
store or gift store yet, although I'm sure there must
be one somewhere. I wouldn't mind looking at some gold
jewelry, especially since Atlin was an extremely rich
gold producing area at one time, and in fact, a large
nugget was pulled out by a couple of fellows in 1981 that
weighed in at just over 36 troy ounces.
I think what keeps things so quiet in Atlin is the gravel
road to get here. The first 40 miles of the Atlin Road
is excellent gravel and the last 18 is chipseal, although
it looks like Highways is in the process of upgrading
the first few miles from Jake's Corner and our camp host
figures the entire road will be paved within five years.
From my point of view it will be a real shame. Suddenly
it will be wall to wall tourists with all the
locals catering to them, and the little town will lose
a lot of its realistic feel. On the other hand, I can
see the point of view of many of those people that live
here and rely on the scarce tourists.
We are sitting on a breakwater on Atlin Lake with the
clear, clear water only a few feet from the trailer door
and massive mountains rising straight up before us and
yet there are only a few of us with trailers here. All
of the provincial recreation sites we toured are devoid
of travellers. Selfishly, I would love to see it stay
that way forever, but guess that isn't to be.
(Thursday, July 27)
We woke to rain this morning and it's been overcast most
of the day which is a real shame because we saw enough
of the spectacular scenery yesterday to know we're missing
We checked out the real estate office flyers on the front
of the building today, and drove around a lot of streets.
The hillside climbs quickly behind Atlin and some
of the houses up there must have one of the most breathtaking
views in the world. We drove down Warm Springs
Road that follows Atlin Lake past the huge mountain island
where several lakes and a couple of gold bearing creeks
lay along the road. We also walked through an old cemetary
on Discovery Road and read the many fascinating epitaphs
on the old wooden grave markers and many of the graves
were surrounded by decorative and carefully wrought wooden
fences or 'cribbing'. One poor fellow pictured up on the
right was buried in 1909 died by accidental gunshot wound
on the SS Gleaner, a ship that plied the waters of Atlin
and on which he served as a waiter. Another poor kid,
only 16 years old was shot when mistaken as a bear.
He was buried in 1940. Too many people died very young
as well as many babies and children. Gold was discovered
in the area in 1898 and markers in the graveyard started
at 1902, probably about the time the settlement became
a more stable entity and an official cemetery came into
It's still raining tonite, something that we assume is
fairly unusual because the undergrowth would be much thicker
if this weren't normally a pretty dry area. Hopefully,
it will clear up tomorrow so we can go exploring again.
Goin' To Skagway
I'm back! We got lucky with the park in Carcross. It actually
ended up having Wi-Fi so I guess I'll be uploading much
sooner than expected. However, after this we're
heading for Atlin in British Columbia and I have
no idea how long it will be before I am back online again.
We left Whitehorse this morning and headed down to Carcross.
The highway follows a wide sweeping valley with scrub
and alpine hills rising up on either side. Trees consist
mostly of pine, spruce, aspen and willow with sparse undergrowth
and sandy soil. On the way we saw a very special
lake called Emerald Lake and it's very deserving
of its name. A multi-colored lake, the pale green areas
are caused by a layer of shelled creatures once living
on the ocean floor and mixed with clay, scraped from mountains,
and dropped by glaciers along the shores of this tiny
lake. The valley in which it sits is surrounded by towering
mountains and I envied the owner of the attractive log
house sitting on Emerald's northern shore.
A ways down the road we arrived at a desert designated
the smallest in the world. Once these fine sand
dunes formed the bottom of a glacial lake and now the
continuing winds from Lake Bennett prevent most plants
from taking root in the sand.
We dropped our trailer at Carcross and continued south
toward Skagway. Along the east side of the highway you
follow first Nares Lake and then Tagish. Both are mostly
just different arms on the same lake, as is Bennett. Bennett
is the lake that the Klondikers were attempting to reach
after they climbed White Pass with their ton of goods
required by the Northwest Mounted Police. If they survived
the climb, they then had to build rafts or boats of some
sort with which to cross the lake and then make their
way up the Yukon river.
We had just gotten by those first beautiful green lakes
when the highway started to follow along another lake
called Tutshi. It was fed by a green glacier fed river
and that color was reflected in the lake's waters. Soon
you begin to climb into some spectacular and unusual country.
The MilePost calls it a moonscape with stunted
trees spotted here and there. I call it beautiful
if nearly impossible to live in. Rugged, lichen covered
boulders lay everywhere after being split by glaciers
and freezing and thawing and tumbled down the mountainsides
into the valley below. Stunted trees, what I call
'shintangle' have found a foothold in the boulders
here and there and the whole landscape is dotted with
lakes from tiny to a reasonable size, most of them fed
by waterfalls tumbling down from the snow higher up. It's
very unique country and even before you begin to climb
you can see how difficult it would have been for miners
to walk over the boulders much less bring horses through
After passing the Canadian Customs building near the summit
you begin dropping down the rainy side of the mountains.
Here there are more trees and thicker undergrowth, sheer
walls of rock smoothed by waterfalls and deep valleys
with rivers gushing in the bottom. When we went to Skagway
we missed a lot because of fog but it was getting quite
sunny on the way back and the snowcovered mountains that
reared up behind the already steep walls were quite a
surprise since we hadn't even realized they were there
on the way down.
At one pullout Andy took the camera to the edge to catch
some pictures beyond the steep dropoff when one
of the White Pass passenger trains came through hugging
the cliff wall across the valley. It was quite
a sight and you could see why building the railway through
there would have been such a monumental feat.
At one point you cross a deep gorge over an unusual
cabled suspension bridge moored only on the south side.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the information on the
interpretive boards or in the MilePost but if memory serves
me correctly, we read about the Moore Creek bridge in
the museum at Faro. Loaded ore trucks left Faro every
20 minutes for Skagway for years. According to the signage,
a specially designed cable bridge had to be built over
the 110 foot gorge that would be strong enough for the
trucks and would stay where it was supposed to!
Apparently, that gorge is the dividing line between two
tectonic plates or faults and the land mass on the north
side is sliding along the land mass of the south side,
so the bridge is anchored entirely on the south side which
is considered more stable. Now, I never expected to see
that bridge in the picture at Faro and didn't pay as much
attention to the information as I probably should have,
but I think the above is correct. If it's not, please
don't shoot me for having a lousy memory.
We finally reached Skagway and just before we crossed
the bridge into town you could see towering cruise ships.
We drove out onto the dock adjacent to one of them and
let me tell you folks, those things are humungous!
I've never seen cruise ships up close before and certainly
never four at one time. They not only dominate the docks
with their size, they dominate the whole harbour! Unbelievable
looking things! Just to show you how much of a tourist
I am we counted rooms on each deck on the side of the
ship facing us as we sat in the parking lot trying to
estimate how many people one of those ships could carry.
It turned out we weren't too far off in our estimation.
When we went for a bite to eat the waitress told us that
there were about 9800 people in town that
afternoon from the cruise ships. And you can bet it was
packed. We must have arrived just before people started
to disembark because the town didn't seem at all crowded
as we made our way to the docks but once we came back
into the main downtown area it was wall to wall
people. There was no question of checking out
any of the stores in this touristy little town because
neither of us can stand to be around crowds like that.
It might have been a different story entirely had the
ships not been in and I'm sure we would have explored
the quaint town further but as it was, we just skedaddled
back up the hill after our lunch.
All in all, the drive to Skagway is a well worthwhile
one. If you're pulling a trailer I would definitely
suggest dropping it at the Carcross RV park just because
you'll find the drive down the Pass much more relaxing
if you're not worrying about your brakes the whole time.
We were down and back in less than four hours but you
can always book a hotel room, cruise, flight or ferry
trip in Skagway, stay a couple of days and then return
up the hill for your RV as many people do.
As you will probably have noticed, I had to start a new
week because of the picture overload so I guess there
really is going to be five weeks in July! If you would
like to follow last week's travels just go to July
Week Four and don't forget to check
out the Picture
of the Day. Don't
forget to roll over the pictures on the right for more
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!