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To go or not to go; that was the question....

Clearwater, Canada


Another wonderful breakfast courtesy of Kathy, with local fresh apple juice, a plate of fresh fruit and then a wonderful croissant filled with herbie scrambled egg. This set us up well for the day again. Today we were off to Wells Gray Provincial Park and our route took us back to Kamloops by a different way. The lush tropicality of the Okenagan gave way after passing Mount Tuktakamin to a more austere landscape with huge hills and scrubland. We travelled for some distance on highway 97 along the South Thompson River. The landscape here is impossible to accurately reflect in photos, it is so vast that it is like being in a Brobdingnagian landscape.

Just outside Kamloops we passed a stationary goods train; it must have been the best part of a mile long and had three locos, one at each end and one in the middle!

Shortly after leaving Kamloops on highway 5 we had our first wildlife encounter with 3 huge birds with broad wings circling about 50 feet from the car. I'm tempted to say they were eagles but I couldn't be sure; needless to say I couldn't take any meaningful photo with the lens I had on in the time before they disappeared. We changed drivers again at Barriere where we stopped for provisions for lunch. Some time later, as we were driving along the North Thompson river near Little Fort, I spotted a large black animal that at first I thought was a cat on the other side of the river. It was a black bear, roaming free and wild and very happy in his environment. Sue just managed to capture the magical moment; being in a stream of traffic I couldn't stop.

Shortly afterwards we stopped for lunch at the North Thompson River RV campground and picnic site, about 1½ Km off the road. It is just just downstream from the confluence of the Clearwater and Thompson Rivers and you could see the muddy Thompson on the far side had not yet integrated with the clear, Clearwater on the nearside. Lovely sturdy, clean tables and benches and unsmelly pit loos back up the track for relief afterwards.

Refuelled, we started out for Wells Gray Park, turning off the highway at Clearwater. We wanted to see three falls here and decided to go to the furthest one first and work our way down. The park is a true wilderness park and apparently relatively unvisited; when we were there there were quite a few people visiting but it could not be said to be busy, certainly no crowds. From highway 5 it is 36Km to the park's actual entrance with nothing other than the occasional homestead or farm and then another 12Km to the Helmcklen Falls, the furthest we wanted to visit.

As we drove towards the Main entrance, the sky became very black and while it started to rain, the wind got up and with tall trees either side of the road, we were conscious of the advice at Cathedral Grove. About 8Km short of our objective we had to stop, a tree had just blown down across the road, 2 cars in front of us turned around and were gone. We stayed with another couple of cars to clear the road of debris while a 4x4 from the other side pulled the tree off the road. While I was clearing the road, several more branches were blown down and another tree looked threatening so we turned tail too while the cars in front decided to brave it. We went back to the relative safety of the camp entrance and parked up while we thought about it. After about 10 minutes, the wind started to drop and the rain eased considerably. We decided that as we had come this far, we would carry on, so quivering like a couple of jellies, we gingerly drove back to find another tree had blown down just before the other but that a track had been made around it. The next 6 Km to the Helmcklen Falls were nerve wracking – a total of about 8 trees (I didn't count carefully) had been blown down across the road. Competent unfazed Canadians had just either moved them enough to get past or made a path around them. The falls were worth the effort; we have given a lot of superlatives on this trip, so I shall use a Morris favourite – they were fantastic! A fall of 141m into the gorge below thunderously reverberating in the amphitheatre the water had created and pillowing up a huge mist cloud.

We didn't foreshorten our stay but we were keen to get back to more security, so we didn't hang about for long and drove back along the trail across a perilously rickety single track bridge to the next set of falls at Dawson Falls. Here, the river tumbles across a 100m wide ledge of rock with a relatively modest fall but with great force and huge sound, again creating a mist over the falls. Again, we didn't spend too long and a newly downed tree along the path to the falls created a sense of some urgency, although the weather that had caused it had now abated.

Back in the car, we drove out of the park towards the highway and 10km short of this, stopped to see the Spahats Falls. Another stunning, mind boggling view.

The river falls from about 2/3rd up a vertical cliff face 61m into the bottom of a narrow gorge. Photographs just can't do the scene justice and the mind can't absorb the scale. The mountains here are created by volcanic activity, each eruption providing a different strata. Glaciers carved out the start of the valley and the rivers have done the rest. Ain't nature wonderful?

We got to our B&B in good time but were disappointed that this is the first place without wifi, so will not be able to do our blog tonight, although I have managed to pinch an illicit bit of bandwidth. We found a super place for dinner – a Chinese restaurant that offered a buffet for all you can eat at C$13.49! And very good it was too.

permalink written by  rickandsuejohnson on August 12, 2010 from Clearwater, Canada
from the travel blog: Go west, then go west some more.
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Happy Birthday Pops - hope you have a great day today. Look forward to catching up properly at the weekend. We're enjoying the blog - I can't believe how much you are both craming into your stay; you'll need another holiday at the end of it at this rate ;-) Take care B x

permalink written by  Ben Johnson on August 13, 2010

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