This week was probably the most unexpected part of the whole trip. Despite having what I thought was a fairly good knowledge of BC, I had never heard of Tumbler Ridge and knew nothing about the surrounding area. We ended up spending almost six full days here – the longest time in one place, with the exception of Dawson City (but you know, that’s just the way of Dawson).
There were three main reasons for this, the first being that the Labour Day long weekend was approaching and we knew we should probably bunk down somewhere until it was all over. The second is less interesting; we were tired of driving so much in recent days and JR was still feeling the after effects of his illness. The last reason however, is the best; quite simply, there was so much awesome stuff to do around Tumbler Ridge!
the northern lights
We hadn’t even been in Tumbler Ridge for very long before cool things started happening. Our first night camping next to Flatbed Creek, we saw the Northern Lights. This was my first ever time to see them and it really was amazing. We were celebrating having reached our wonderfully empty (and free) campsite and at first, I thought the green lights were an after effect of the cheap wine we were drinking. JR, who has seen them plenty times before in his home province of New Brunswick, confirmed that the illuminations dancing above us were indeed real.
The light show lasted around 10 minutes, but due to our excitement (not just me, JR said they were the best that he’d ever seen), we didn’t get our tripod out for a better photo. So this the best we could do to share the moment with you. We’ve had a lot of people assume that we would have seen the Northern Lights many times over this summer, what with being so far north most of the time. While we were definitely north enough, our days (20 hours of light and more) were far too long to be able to have any chance to see the aurora borealis.
frost in august
After the lights ended, we heard what sounded like wolves calling to one another a little distance away (as if they too were disappointed it was all over). I was reassured by JR that they were probably coyotes….until we found some very large paw prints not far from our campsite a few days later. The aurora was also followed by a hard frost the next morning. On the last day of August. We made a pact to drive as fast as we could to the Okanagan as soon as the weekend was over. Until then, we planned to do a lot of fishing and explore around Tumbler Ridge.
As it turns out, Tumbler Ridge is known as the ‘Waterfall Capital of the North.’ We chose to visit one of the largest, Kinuseo Falls, reached by one of the roughest industrial roads we have ever driven (130km return….but we did see a family of black bears and a wolf!) Kinuseo Falls really is spectacular; dramatic, thundering and breathtaking all at once. We followed the steep muddy path down to the bottom of the falls to experience it all from another angle.
To top that, we combined another waterfall visit with a walk with dinosaurs. No, really. Back in 2000, two young local boys discovered dinosaurs tracks while on a rafting trip down Flatbed Creek (the same one we were camping next to). Since there, hundreds more tracks and bones have been discovered in this area. I was amazed we could just visit some of the completely unprotected 75 million-year-old tracks next to the river. Very cool.
THe boulder gardens
Last on the list was the Boulder Gardens. Some 30km south of Tumbler Ridge is a dry valley filled with rock boulders, towers and columns, all seemingly tumbling over one another. It’s hard to really photograph this place well, with the trail leading past crevasses, over large rocks and right next to small caves. JR did a bit of scrambling around to try and get a better perspective, which also came with clearer views of the nearby coal mine. A strange juxtaposition.
heading towards the sun
Leaving Tumbler Ridge late on Labour Day, we set course for the Okanagan. As we regained phone signal, we discovered that the frost and low temperatures we had experienced in Tumbler Ridge were part of a wider cold snap which stretched all the way to Alberta. Some parts of the Rockies (Jasper, Banff et al) were covered in snow. If we hadn’t been sure whether to put off the Bowron Lakes (100km canoe circuit) and the Rockies for another year, we definitely were now. Our new destination: Kelowna. Only 1000km to go!
We started the next part of our journey with a quick visit to the ‘Chainsaw Sculpture Capital of the World’ (really!) – Chetwynd. I met some nice grizzly bears, the only ones I will ever get this close to. Week 20 ended with us trying to escape from a very scary-looking storm in Prince George, before stopping at Quesnel Walmart for the night. If everything had gone as planned, at this point we would have turned towards Barkerville and spent the next 10 days or so paddling in the wilderness. Next year!
Week 20: Dawson Creek to Quesnel
1192 kilometres driven
0km paddle (sorry canoe)
Money spent –$70 (back on budget!)
We spent five nights and six days camping at Flatbed Creek Recreation Site near Tumbler Ridge (left), followed by a rest stop near Chetwynd (right) and a night at Quesnel Walmart (no photo).