Part 1 in a two part “Escaping the Smoke” adventure
In case you haven’t heard, BC had it’s worst fire season on record, surpassing last year, which had been the worst fire season on record. The money spent on firefighting alone is 4x the annual budget and we are still not quite through the season (close…but some of these fires as massive). Alas, this blog is not about climate change (although even the most conservative of outdoors person has to admit that the frequency and intensity of fires destroying our local environments is a new phenomena and shouldn’t continue to be ignored). This post is about how we tried to escape the smoke and find time to get some fun in (spoiler: we failed on escaping smoke…the whole province is smoky).
In early August, we packed up our camping and biking gear (and, of course, our laptops for work) and decided to hit the road! We started in Kamloops, went to Wells Gray Provincial Park, then to Valemount, continued up to Prince George, and swung through Revelstoke before returning home. (Oh, and in that time, we also picked up a truck camper! You may recall we had Penelope, the 1996 Vandura, but we sold her earlier this year and have replaced it with a truck and slide-in camper to give us some much-needed clearance on BC forest roads.)
We had very loose plans; simply wanted to do some biking and day hiking in new areas and attempt to lose the smoke. I am still working on recovering my strength and stamina from my lupus flare of the past two-ish years. One factor I have to learn to accept is that sometimes my body will, for seemingly no reason, decide it’s tired. A simple ride or hike one day may become an epic test of stamina and energy the next. This has made trips more difficult to plan as, quite frankly, my plans constantly change. Nonetheless, I have made dramatic improvements and feel I can generally balance my energies quite well, allowing me to still get out and enjoy on most – if not all – days. Another tricky piece for me is the smoke. I 100% recognize that there is no direct, causal link between lupus and fire smoke (I doubt that’s been studied!). However, I just intuitively feel that fire smoke must interact for those of us with autoimmune disorders in, perhaps, a more intense way than the average, healthy adult. Basically, I’m hyper-aware of any little, potential trigger that may exist. Considering I did have lung issues related to lupus, I just don’t think intense outdoor exercise is super smart for me at the moment so modifying my exercise is key.
Our first stop was trusty Kamloops – it’s always a delight to hit the trails there! We hit up the Pineview network and I have no idea how many kilometres our ride actually was. We kind of just turned left and right and up and down and…I’m going to put it 10 km but I really am not sure. What I can confirm is a couple of hours of fun, under an actual blue sky.
After Kamloops we headed to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Wells Gray has intrigued me for awhile. Go do a Google Maps search and zoom out, noticing how large of a green area is takes up on the map (are you back?). Also, if you took a few minutes to scroll around, you may have noticed how few roads are in the park. It appears to be a backcountry-ers paradise and I’ve been keen to go up and get some intel on the park. 4 nights in the area and we did the Clearwater hike (12 km round trip), Whitehorse Bluffs bike (12 km), and Trophy Mountain meadows hike (10 km). Although the smoke blew in for Trophy Meadows, it was still a lovely vista to behold, one that I’d love to come back and explore some more. The largest, non-motorized fresh water lake in North America is found here, creating an amazing draw for canoeists. There was also a delightful surprise of Helmcken Falls, one of those very short trails off the highway that literally had me exclaiming “holy shit!” due to its breathtaking beauty. The 141 metre high drop makes Niagara’s 51 metres look puny.
My interest was piqued. I hope to get back to do a proper backcountry trip and/or a backcountry ski trip as Trophy Meadows/Trophy Mountain is a well-known for its amazing backcountry skiing terrain, including a hut. A book exists Exploring Wells Gray Park, which I actually picked up and held in my hands multiple times but neglected to purchase, a decision I regret now. Luckily, it is a fairly accessible book (MEC has it) and, from an acquaintance’s review, a highly recommended purchase.
While in Wells Gray, we received a notification that the slide-in camper we have been searching for came up. We did a u-turn back south and made that purchase! We are the proud owners of a new (presently unnamed) truck + camper combo. Alas, we can no longer use #vanlife…but there has to be another, appropriate one, right? Here it is:
Stay tuned for Part II of our trip: Valemount, Prince George, and Revelstoke!