North-America

Hiking and salmon spotting at Wells Gray Provincial Park

After a long and tiring drive from the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, we finally made it to Clearwater; the gateway to the Wells Gray Provincial Park. The evening of our arrival we just went to have some dinner and relaxed a bit in our motel room. We’d leave the exploration of the park for the next day.

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Since we only had one day to discover all the beauty of this provincial park, we got up at the break of dawn and were already entering the park around 7 am. Full of excitement we continued our road for the first trailhead: the Trophy Meadows trail. But after we took the fork from the main road onto the road leading to the parking lot, we weren’t all that happy anymore. The road was unpaved and full of rocks, holes and puddles. A 4×4 or SUV would have been a better option here. But we put trust in our Chevy and slowly moved forward. Seven heart attacks and nineteen shrieks later we made it to the parking lot without a scratch. Phew. So you don’t really need a 4×4 to make it to this trailhead, but it would have made the drive a lot more comfortable and less stressful.

Then our next obstacle arrived. The cold. With it being 7 am, it was only an icy three degrees Celsius outside. Brr! And knowing that by noon it would heat up to a really lovely twenty-two degrees Celsius, we had had to make a hard decision on our outfit that morning. It was either being cold in the morning, or sweating like a pig in the afternoon. We chose the former and were now out in the cold in our shorts.

But nothing a good hiking pace can’t solve of course. So off we went! The Trophy Meadows trial is about 10 km long, but we didn’t plan on hiking that entire trial. We just wanted to make it to the sub-alpine meadows. So we walked about an hour up and then figured forty-five minutes to walk back down to the parking lot. We spent a good  half an hour of that hour in the forest before we reached the meadows. And it was absolutely beautiful.

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Most of the flowers had sadly already wilted but the morning dew and ice crystals glistering in the sun gave the place a magical feel. We were also the only people on the trail so that also adds to the experience. Sad that we couldn’t spend more time in this paradise as there was so much more the discover in the park, we headed back through the forest and to our car.

To our relief, we once again survived the unpaved, bumpy road back to the main road through the park. Next on the agenda were two waterfalls; Helmcken Falls and Dawson Falls. Both very different and beautiful waterfalls, but the Dawson Falls were my favorite as we were also offered a beautiful rainbow with it.

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And then we continued to one of the spots I was looking forward to the most; Bailey’s Chute. During the fall, the Chinook salmon is battling against nature by jumping against the stream of the Clearwater river. At Bailey’s Chute you can witness this powerful and a bit heartbreaking event.

At first I was a bit skeptical about whether we’d actually see anything. But to my surprise, we saw many small ones and even a few big salmons. It was so cool! Apparently early September is the best time to see them, so we were also lucky with our timing. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to get a good picture of one of the salmons as it all happens so fast.

But we weren’t in a hurry. By then the sun was high in the sky and the weather was just perfect. So we stuck around that place for quite a while, just enjoying the sun and the atmosphere.

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After a short coffee break at the Clearwater Lake – which wasn’t all that special -, we started our drive back. Along the way we had passed a few viewpoints that we had skipped, but considering we had some time left we figured we might as well take a look now. And I’m really glad we did because we got some gorgeous views along Clearwater River.

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Our last stop in the park was the Spahats Creek falls. Once again a beautiful waterfall, but I was more enchanted by the view of the surrounding cliffs.

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For dinner that evening, we headed to The Painted Turtle in the town of Clearwater.  A beautiful restaurant overlooking Dutch Lake. Since we were early to arrive, we managed to secure ourselves a spot on the terrace and it was just such an amazing place to eat. And the food was pretty damn good as well, so I can only warmly recommend this place.

 

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