South Chilcotins Day 6: Taylor Basin to trailhead, 21 Jul 2018

Taylor Basin to Trailhead I: 15 km, +145 m, -945 m, 4h 30m

The rest of the night was just as quiet as the start. I stirred around 7 am and the quality of the light inside the tent had me thinking it was a cloudy morning. Sure enough I looked out to see leaden skies. Still, we wondered if it would stay dry. Perhaps we shouldn’t have voiced that thought as moments later we heard that familiar pitter-patter of raindrops on the fly. My heart sank a little at that sound, but I was determined not to let it ruin my mood.

We packed up our gear and put as much as possible into our backpacks while still inside the tent. Then it was time to put on our rain gear and boots and brave the elements for some food. Thankfully we found a sheltered spot behind a clump of trees that kept us out of the wind, and munched a quick breakfast in the light rain. Occasionally the rain eased and the sky brightened but the rain always returned, a the pattern that looked set for the day.

The clouds were drifting around the pass and ridge tops, and the valley below was filled with cloud drifting up to meet us.

It was decision time: do we stick to our original itinerary and head back to North Cinnabar or do we cut our losses and hoof it all the way out to the car in one go? The clouds were drifting around the pass and ridge tops, and the valley below was filled with cloud drifting up to meet us. Gaps in the mist allowed us to see that yesterday’s snow and hail had already melted. But it looked to us like the ridge option was out of the question – it would have been no fun to hike the ridges in the rain and with no views – and with the greatest reluctance we made the decision to hike out via Taylor Creek.

Having made the decision, we immediately felt relieved as the uncertainty of the day was removed. Of course, we still had a route ahead of us that we hadn’t planned and, as such, we weren’t sure what to expect. After all, it was going to be old resource roads the whole way back to the car. But we set off in good spirits, enjoying the meadows once again and watching the mist drift over the treetops. We paused briefly at Taylor Cabin to take one last look before crossing the creek and settling into our stride.

The hiking was easy – really easy – and, to our complete surprise, the road was lined with a multitude of flowers

The hiking was easy, really easy, and to our complete surprise, the road was lined with a multitude of flowers; indeed , they were some of the most colourful displays we’d seen on the trip. Gorgeous pale red paintbrush mixed in with white bog orchid and lupine to create rich patches of colour. We crossed several small running creeks where the displays peaked in intensity. Further down the trail we came to open meadows that dropped steeply from the road towards the creek and provided views back up towards Camel Pass, still enshrouded with mist and vindicating our decision to walk out on the road. Multi-headed Columbia lilies stole the show here.

Our pace was steady and we made good progress. Our packs didn’t feel as light as expected, but we felt good as we hiked. The rain was our ever-present companion, usually light and occasionally tapering off, but it never actually stopped. The forest thickened as we descended, which dulled our mood somewhat, but even here the flowers were abundant, offering some counteracting cheer. Patches of bright red western columbine lined the road, contrasting against the rest of the green, raindrop-bejewelled foliage. As before, crossing the creeks usually provided the best displays.

We began meeting a few mountain bikers on their ascent, and we stepped aside to let them continue on their way. Pro-tip: if someone steps aside for you, it’s only polite to say Thanks. Just saying… Despite the general gloom, the forest was lovely and not as dark as it could have been, the mist adding wonderful atmosphere. We stepped over many piles of bear poop, some fresh, some not and we made sure to make our presence known. At least down here in the forest, we’d be most likely to encounter black bears.

As we walked, we made up a song called the Taylor Basin Blues as we vented our frustration with the weather into song

As we walked, we made up a song called the Taylor Basin Blues – you probably already know the tune: ‘Woke up this morning…” duh-duuh-duh-duh-duh, Alas, the lyrics didn’t survive the trip but it kept us amused for a good few minutes as we vented our frustration with the weather into song. In case you’re wondering, we didn’t see any bears….

A short while later we emerged from the forest into a landscape of shattered trees, a vast open meadow swept clear by avalanches. We stood in awe at the sight around us. Across the creek to our right we could see the originating slope, and the slides that had flowed from it last winter had overshot the creek and swept up the opposite site of the valley, ripping up sizeable trees as it went. I think that was the first time we’d really thought about how far avalanches can swash up the opposite side of a valley, and I was once again reminded that I never, ever want to be caught in an avalanche. If it can do that to trees… Chainsaws had been used to cut through the trees overlaying the trail, and the scent of the fresh cut timber was intoxicating.

We emerged from the forest into a landscape of shattered trees, a vast open meadow swept clear by avalanches. We stood in awe at the sight around us.

We passed more mountain bikers, a group of about a dozen on their way up, and we were soon at Taylor Creek where we were able to cross easily on the collapsed bridge. We’d made quite good time so far, reaching the creek in under two hours, and had enjoyed this section far more than we expected, but we were not yet half-way back to the car. Once over the creek, the trail became a wider old road surrounded by dense forest with no views to be had, although we were a little more sheltered from the rain. There was nothing to do but knuckle down and hike and thankfully the surface was good and we found we were able to step up our pace a little, helped by being able to walk side-by-side.

The forest gradually gave way to logged cut-blocks which meant it was much brighter, though there were still no views plus we were fully exposed to the rain again, which – thankfully – remained light. This section of the road was rougher again and we had to dodge some pretty big puddles and squishy muddy spots. At one point I spotted some pinedrops in the regenerating forest at the roadside, impossible to photograph unless I was willing to fight my way through the numerous wet saplings.

The road curved around to the left and then abruptly switched right as we reached a large open area, surely one of the trailheads (trailhead J on the map). Surprisingly, there were no cars, despite it looking like a good parking area. (Checking the map and the route on Google Earth again, I think it’s because anyone who made it this far continued on a fork in the logging road to the next trailhead, K.) We’d now been on the move for over two-and-a-half hours and, with our recent increase in pace, we were beginning to tire, so we found a bit of shelter among the trees and dropped our packs for a short rest and snack break.

The road deteriorated (from a hiking point of view, at least) into a bit of a muddy trudge and we were constantly switching sides of the road to avoid puddles or mud holes.

After what felt like too short a break, we reluctantly hoisted our packs onto our shoulders again, and continued on our way. The road deteriorated (from a hiking point of view, at least) into a bit of a muddy trudge and we were constantly switching sides of the road to avoid puddles or mud holes. We passed a small opening at the roadside where we spotted a mother grouse hunkered down among the flowers. With caution, we stopped for a closer look and noticed a couple of small heads poking out from under her wings: she was sheltering her brood. We hadn’t seen a grouse do that before, so that was a bit of a treat, and not wanting to stress her out any more, we resumed our plod along the road.

More mucky puddles, including one so large that it filled the entire road. The only way to get around it was to get wet by pushing through a small patch of alder at the edge of the road. At, the joys of hiking… One feature of the muddy road was that we could see plenty of animal prints, including some deer and at least one bear, probably a black bear based on the size and the lack of claw marks. About half an hour after leaving our snack spot, we passed a larger area where four pickups were parked, all with bike racks that could take multiple bikes. Another ten-fifteen minutes brought us to another open area and we paused again for another break. Definitely feeling tired now, and ready to be done. Alas, we were not done, with still at least 3 km back to the car and the prospect of another hour of hiking this road was not very appealing.

Alas, we were not done, with still at least 3 km back to the car and the prospect of another hour of hiking this road was not very appealing.

A bit further and we reached the Tyaughton Lake forest service road. Yay! This meant we were close to the car, although at that point we didn’t realize that we weren’t as close as we would have liked. We discussed the idea of dropping our packs here and hoofing it to the car without the extra load on our backs. I decided I didn’t like that in case they were picked up or animals got into them so we kept them on. This turned out to be a big mistake.

We descended to cross North Cinnabar Creek again (hello creek from our first day!), and we startled a deer that crossed the road and sproinged up the slope, disappearing into the trees. Now we had to start climbing. Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad? It looked like we climbed a bit and then levelled off. Or maybe that was wishful thinking? We gritted our teeth and dug deep to push up the slope in anticipation of the gradient easing off to allow us a more relaxed finish. But the uphill kept on going, and going. Crap.

For the better part of the next forty-five minutes we continued to hike uphill. Uphill! At the end of a hike! Ugh. A single vehicle passed us, the driver waving as he drove by. I wished I’d noticed it sooner and stuck out a thumb. Unfortunately we were stuck with leg power and we slogged on. Eventually the gradient eased and we levelled off, allowing us to relax our stride and walk with a little less effort. The rain had finally stopped but we were still decked out in all our rain gear. Of course, with the uphill effort we were steaming and it was with a relief you wouldn’t believe when we rounded a bend, descended slightly, and spotted the car not too far away.

For the better part of the next forty-five minutes we continued to hike uphill and it was a relief you wouldn’t believe when we rounded a bend and spotted the car.

Our first reaction was joy at reaching the car, but of course returning to the car meant the trip was over. As we put away our gear, laying out the sopping wet tent in the vain hope it might dry, and changed into dry footwear, we couldn’t help but feel that our six days had gone by so quickly. We were glad to be done, and yet also sad to be done. Our first trip into the South Chilcotins had been an amazing one, and we’d experienced so much in those few days.

We drove the couple of kilometres back down the road to Tyax Lodge where we were fortunate to snag a campsite for the night. We set up the tent again, and laid out our wet rain gear. Remarkably, the sun even came out and we soaked up its warmth. Most luxuriously, we could get a shower to clean off the week’s grime, which felt so good! Our gear dried quickly in the sun and, come the evening, we wandered in to the lodge for a well-earned burger and beer, and reminisced about how the past few days in the South Chilcotins had totally won us over and how we couldn’t wait to plan a return visit.

As night fell, we walked down to the edge of the lake where the haunting call of a loon echoed across the water. The bright moon, reflected in the lake, lit our way without the need for headlamps, and we watched bats skimming the surface of the water, either picking off insects or snatching laps of water, we couldn’t tell. It was a beautiful sight and a wonderful way to end our trip. Time to crawl into the tent.

And six days go by just like that…

And six days go by just like that…

Epilogue
We awoke to the sound of loons again, which somewhat made up for the noise of the departing float plane. Breakfast was a filling buffet (and quite good value for our $20 each) which really set us up to make our next move. You see, this was only the first trip of our vacation; we now had a couple of rest days before setting off on a new adventure!

The day was warm and sunny, and we explored a bit more of the area, taking in Gun Lake and Mowson Pond before making our way back over to Pemberton where we checked in at Nairn Falls to camp for the night. We timed it perfectly as one of the park rangers mentioned a site that was just vacating if we’d be willing to wait a few minutes. No problem! It turned out to be a wonderfully secluded site. We unpacked and set up the tent again and went for dinner at Mile One (of course), gazing out at the three-quarter Moon over Mount Currie.

Since we’d ended our trip a day early, we found ourselves with a full day to spare, and we spent it relaxing at the campground. We took the time to wash some clothes, reorganize and repack our food, and do any last-minute research on the road and trail conditions. All in all a wonderful rest day! We enjoyed dinner at the Portage Station restaurant and a warm night at the campground. The following morning, we collected breakfast burritos from the Mount Currie Coffee Company and headed up towards Birkenhead Lake provincial park, excited to begin a four-day trip to another long-sought after destination, Phelix Creek.

Stay tuned for that one!

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