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Spring trip to Bella Coola - Pt.1

I spent the long winter dreaming up plans for summer, pouring over maps, researching, and speaking with clients old and new. The previous summer, my partner and I tried to travel up to Bella Coola to scout for her business, Mosaic Earth Travel. I may write about that trip another time but in short, we never made it. We got across the Chilcotin Plateau and to our last lodge before heading into Bella Coola when wildfires closed the highway either side of us. We waited it out for a few days and went back the way we came, leaving Bella Coola on our "to-do" list for another season.

So, spring rolls around and Pam (my fiancé) plans her scout mission to Bella Coola. She was going to fly in and explore for a few days, have some meetings, and fly home. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to get some early-season camping in and take my time to explore the forest roads in the Chilcotin, while shooting brand imagery and being the most over-the-top airport pick-up service out there. I roped in a good friend of mine to explore the backroads with me and we had a plan. Pam was to fly into Bella Coola and I, having left four days prior, was going to be there at the Bella Coola airport to collect her, nearly 1000km away.

Winter '21/'22 in BC really dragged on, but the trip was going ahead and we just needed to dress warm and be prepared for anything. The last week of April arrived and we departed. Our first taste of what was to come was just up the road, on the Duffy Lake road. As we climbed the mountain pass the snow banks grew and the rain began to fall. Higher up, it quickly turned to snow and we had our reminder of what time of year it was.

We dropped back down through the mountains and into a hot and sunny Lillooet, ready to start the off-road portion of our trip. After a quick fuel up we hit the dirt. It began as dust but rapidly changed to mud, clay, and snow. This slowed our tracks a lot and we nearly had to bring out the tow straps, but in the end we powered through and got back to cruising the dusty logging roads.

We saw it all on the first day, rain, snow, ice, sun, hail, and dust. We had already seen some incredible sights and we topped it off by a steep descent into the Fraser Valley to camp for the night. When you see "23%" grade signs, you know it's serious. It was also such a beautiful evening it was easy to forget how steep and narrow the road was, and how tired and hungry we were. Some of my favourite images from the trip are of this descent, and having ticked that off we slept well, listening to the sound of the deer calling and the river rushing.

After a refreshing sleep, we were back on the road, now following the Fraser River banks north, towards Big Bar, Jesmond, and eventually Williams Lake. The road was tight and winding, with large drop offs the side, but absolutely stunning the entire way. It was a big day in the trucks, seeing the kilometres tick up. Podcasts, music, and radio chatter between us fulfilled the entertainment through the drive, though.

After being immersed in the desert-like conditions of the Fraser all day, we rolled into Williams Lake and had the obligatory stop at Fox Mountain Brewing, a personal favourite in Williams Lake after a friend showed me a few years ago. My buddy Allan had never been to this part of the world and he had to head home the next morning, so I was insistent he got to see Farwell Canyon. We trundled out of town towards Farwell and decided that was to be our camp for the evening. If you ever go to Farwell Canyon, be sure to do the hike to the top. The trail head is at the 19km marker, and the path snakes over the hills before arriving at the top of the hoodoos and steep rugged cliffs of the canyon. It's worth the walk. Farwell Canyon is also a frequent stop of a California Bighorn Sheep herd, so keep an eye out for them! We sadly didn't see any, but the dramatic canyon was enough.

The next morning Allan left and went back to Whistler. It had been an amazing few days cruising the back roads, seeing amazing parts of the province that are lesser travelled, and endless jokes and conversations. I, on the other hand, still had a lonely 450km to go to collect Pam up from the airport.


Pt.2 coming soon.


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