From Kitwanga, we followed the Yellowhead Highway eastward. In Hazelton, we passed the Hagwilget Canyon over an 80-meter-high iron bridge. The bridge and the canyon looked quite impressive. Most impressive of all was that while crossing, you could see right through the iron bottom 80 meters into the depths where the Bulkley River made its way through the narrow rocks. Unfortunately, we were quickly bored in Hazelton. The museum that could tell us more about the Ksan First Nation had no more tours on that day and all that remained was a look around the small museum.
In Prince George we left the Yellowhead Highway and the drive continued south on the Cariboo Highway. We soon saw the landscape change. The mountains were no longer visible even in the rearview mirror and had turned into rolling hills on which cows and horses grazed. We drove past numerous ranches left and right. We were entering cowboy country and far enough away from the highway we slept peacefully by one of the many lakes in this area.
We had decided to make another detour along the way. We were on our way to Baskerville. Also in this region gold was found in the mid-19th century which also triggered a mass movement of people here. Baskerville has now become a museum village. The last residents left in the 1960s. Not much later, renovation of the buildings in the village began.
The Chinese were also part of the Goldrush here.Chinese immigrants formed a large part of the community. Between 1874 and 1895, there were over 2900 miners of Chinese descent in the area. They had come from China hoping to work hard and earn good money for a few years and then return to their homeland. In the end, things turned out differently. The last Chinese left the country only 40 years later. Because of cultural differences, but also because of communication problems, they could hardly integrate into the local culture and created their own Baskerville Chinatown. In the end, they made their money not from gold mining, but from trade, restaurants and stores, and they stayed.
We were left with 700 kilometers to Vancouver. The highway here winds its way through the Cariboo Mountain Range and we passed many lakes as we have seen them so many times in the past three months. We drove past them faster than usual, but we couldn’t resist the clear green waters of Green Lake. At our private beach, we splashed in the water and let ourselves dry in the sun.
We felt it had been too long since we had ventured into the mountains. We were looking forward to just another long stretch of hiking in the mountains, and those mountains are found around the ski paradise of Whistler. We left the Cariboo Highway and drove straight into a ravine. The road meandered fantastically through it with the mountains getting higher and higher left and right. It is one of the drier areas of Canada, which on this late summer day was easy to see in the brown, parched grass. The mountain range keeps the rain clouds at bay so even grapes thrive here. In Lilliooet, we spent the night at a free campsite before making our way into the tourist buzz of Whistler.
On the hiking map, we knotted some trails together ourselves and walked silently and lonely through the forest mostly on a BMX route in the “suicide” category. Where mountain bikers can fly over the rocks, it still became quite difficult for hikers to pass some sections. As a reward, we swam in the quite warm waters of The Lost Lake where Whistler locals meet for a chat after work. We then quickly left the masses in Whistler again.
About ten kilometer further toward Squamish, deep in the mountain backcountry, is the relatively large and green Garibaldi Lake. It is a popular hike and to indicate how popular…on weekends, a permit is required to hike here. Despite the 18 kilometers, it doesn’t stop people from visiting Garibaldi Lake. The altitude meters are apparently not a problem either. In 9 kilometers one climbs 900 meters!
Relatively early we arrived at the parking lot which was not yet overly full. The forest was full of mighty cedar trees which immediately gave the forest a completely different look than the pine forest of the last months. These cedar trees were already substantial in size, but the really big ones we wouldn’t see until Vancouver Island. After passing the sign indicating the 2-kilometer point, it went up steeply and that wouldn’t change for a while. The trail was full of hairpin turns to gain elevation quickly that way. At kilometer 7 we reached Little Barrier Lake and shortly thereafter Lesser Garibaldi Lake. The color of the water of both lakes made us want more. That green, that clear…it never ceases to amaze.
We arrived at Garibaldi Lake and got an unexpected view through to the other side of the lake with, of course, the same green color with white mountains as a background that contrasted nicely with the clear blue sky. The high water level in the lake first forced us to take off our shoes as the path that ran right along the shore was under water. After a bit of climbing and scrambling, we had reached the end. After lunch we put on the swimwear and we dove into the water.
For the third day in a row we’ve put on our hiking boots. The hike scheduled for today is located in the town of Squamish which is nicely situated at the end of the Howe Sound. The unmistakable home mountain of Squamish is the Stawamus. A huge colossus made of granite that towers 700 meters above the town. This hike we started at Shannon Falls was only a total of five kilometers return which seems like a mere trifle with the 18 kilometers we had covered the day before. The “problem” at the Stawamus, also known as The Chief, is that the 700 altimeters must thus be overcome in 2.5 kilometers. The Chief consists of three peaks. If the trail map was to be believed, you could make it a loop of sorts if you walked to Chief 3 first and then ‘take’ Chief 2 and Chief 1 on the way back.
The climb up was one to remember. Over large rocks you scramble your way up. By now the sun was shining brightly and it was already starting to get hot. Fortunately we got enough shade from the forest and since we walked up via “the back” we had no idea how far we were already. So the surprise was even greater when we reached the top of Chief 3. The view of Howe Sound, Squamish and the mountains far beyond was fantastic. Atop the granite, we closed our eyes for 15 minutes and enjoyed being alone atop this granite mountain.
The connecting route to Chief 2 was partly through a narrow gorge where you had to pull yourself through via a steel cable. From Chief 2 you could clearly see why most people only climb Chief 1. Smooth as a billiard sheet the size of a handball court and at 650 meters, it is the highlight of the Stawamus. Unfortunately, we ourselves were not on top of Chief 1. To get to the top via our route, we first would have had to descend 200 meters and then climb it again via the other side. Our legs quit and besides, we were hungry so we descended to the car. After three days of hiking, a rest day was scheduled for tomorrow, we were heading to the Sunshine Coast.