I see lots of people have had a great September long weekend,
we did too:
After a few years on our bucket hiking list we finally made it to Salal Creek and Athelney pass, it was amazing!
I will focus more on the routefinding than writing (not my forte), as we found that this caused us to lose a lot of time.
The area is simply amazing, go and explore and take your time, if you have it! But even for the 2.5 days we were there, it was totally worth it, I feel like we've been away for a week!
oh yes, and we rescued a lovely dog 3 weeks ago. he has been hiking with us at High Falls Creek and Tricouni but this was to be his first backpacking trip!
We left home Friday afternoon, and because of some routefinding I will get into shortly, we did not start hiking till close to 5pm. The original plan was to get halfway in, camp and then continue to the pass the next day with time left to do some scrambling. This is an area where you need a flexible schedule though......
but first: how to get to the trailhead:
drive to Pemberton, Pemberton valley road, Lillooet River FSR, through the carnage from the meager slide (impressive!), and up the switchbacks (the roadbed gets really soft and sandy here), drive through the creek flowing over the road around 42-43kms, and to the crest of the hill at marker 45.5km. This is where a road goes off to the right, signed with "Pumice Mine-no unauthorized access-gate can be locked at any time" etc etc.
Here is where it gets interesting: one routedescription we had said to turn at +/-47kms onto a FSR branch, another said to turn off at the crest of the hill (103 hikes).Neither mentioned going into an active mining site...!
So we drove further down the main FSR road, after driving a bit further, we came to the conclusion that this had to be the turnoff (the FSR goes downhill fast after this point), and went back and in, ignoring all the signs. This unnerved me a bit as I am usually a very obedient person...!
There is no gate. and we did not see anyone.
It seems like they are rapidly expanding the operation with spurs being made everywhere! Not sure if they are allowed to close off the access or if access will get harder in the future but for now, after quite a bit of trial and error, this is how we got to the trailhead, I hope it helps:
- at 45.5kms turn into Pumice Mine road
- ignore turn into active mining area to the left (it wa snot really a road but access to an area of soft sand which was taped off)
- after a few 100mtrs, at a junction, right is signed for Mine HQ, left is signed "Active mining area-no trespassing"- take the left
-continue on the 'main' road. Soon you get to another junction, keep left (straightish), do not go steep up to the right, this goes into the mining area again
-now you continue on this road, there was one more older spur to the left you must ignore, just keep going straight and up, getting closer to Salal creek and the valley. at this point we saw the start of lots of spurs being dug so in the near future this area will become more confusing. basically stay on the main/older road.
- after a few kms you get to a large clearcut. here is one more junction: right goes steeply up, turn left (you see a big rock on the spur to your left a bit further away), and after a few 100mtrs, keep right. drive till end of the road, this is where the trail starts.
-follow clrealy marked pink flagging to the river (maybe 30 minutes)
pfew! you are now at the river.
start hiking along the riverbed. you can round the corner either along the riverbed or by a shortcut (?not sure if its shorter, dont worry if you miss it, just follow the river). After you round the corner, the dry part of the riverbank has some very small (3-4ft) evergreen trees and some sandy spots, about halfway along the stretch between the first corner and the next corner you can see.we found a suitable camping spot after an hour and a half of hiking, and decided to set up camp, knowing that there were not that many spots to be found along the way..we set up camp, cooked at the river and left our bearcannister there. (note: the whole route, there are no real big trees to hang your food, so we took a bearcannister, highly recommended as there really is no good spot to hang food at the pass either, there are few trees but they are relatively small).then went to sleep with our furry new footwarmer!
woke up the next day and soon after leaving, the river butts into the riverbank, and the riverbank is full of alder and trees. we made the mistake to detour up the hill, and getting lost in the subsequent alder slide! I think we were in there for an hour and when we came out, I swear we could see the spot on the bank where we went in just a few 100mtrs back!
very soon after the wide alder slide that comes down to the riverbed, there is the big detour you will have to take to get around the next bend: look for flagging in the alder. the whole way is well flagged: first through a bit of alder, then forest, then two alder bits and finally though quite a long stretch of open area with small stubby trees, where we sometimes had to look for flagging (luckily our dog is a tracker so we just followed him!). keep following the flagging, its there!. after this you emerge at the river again and there are some sandy camp spots on the bank here. If you do not do like us and get lost alderbashing, but just stay on the riverbed the entire way till this final long cutoff and cross the river before this where necessary (very doable at least this year, right now, we did it on the way back), you can probably get here in 3-3.5 hrs from the car.
now you stay on the riverbed the whole way up. it gets really stoney. there is somewhat of a trail through the upper part of the moraine, but dont worry if you do not find it. We tried to stay higher on the way in, but stayed very close to the river on the way back, which we found easier. On the moraine, just when the very last of the trees are passed, you have to cross two tributaries. no problem at this time of the year, but you might want to bring sandals.
after this its still a ways up. but it is soooo gorgeous: glaciers everywhere, and chuncks breaking off, small lakes, and flowers!It took a long time to get up but we enjoyed every minute!
once you reach the pass, the terrain flattens out with less big rocks and you actually walk on dirt and grass for the first time in hours, which is nice. marmots and streams everywhere.
To get to the old cabin, you have to walk through the pass for at least 2-3(?)kms, but it is a really nice flat and soft walk after all the climbing and the stones.
we reached the cabin close to 5pm, and set up camp a bit away and cooked at the river and wandered around taking pictures. It was a bit too late and we were frankly too tired to go up onto the ridge.
around 7pm, another group of 7 arrived (any clubtreaders??), who did walk in in one day (in 7hrs, I guess it helps if you have been here before, and dont waste time getting lost :0!
sadly we had to be back home Sunday night becuase of prior commitments and an emergency plan we left with the neighbour. It would have been nice to spend another day exploring at the pass, but not at the cost of having search and rescue called out on us.... but we will be back, this is our new favourite area!!
the walk out went really quick, partly because its downhill, but also because we knew where we were going and were able to pick the fastest line. We only used the one detour to get around the North arm bend, the rest of the way we stayed in the riverbed, crossing the river multiple times as/when necessary. I think this is much more referable to alderbashing but thats just my opinion!
met two people going in close to the end. In 7 hours, including lunch, snack and photo stops, we were back at the car!
a lovely weekend, a beautiful area, can hardly believe how wild it is!
* this is a wild area, no trails so be prepared for routefinding and improvising
take a good 4wd, you will be driving up rough roads and soft sand, for the last 5kms on the main FSR and the for the remaining 6-7kms on the pumice mine roads.
* take your time to get to the trailhead and for the hike in/out
* take lots of pictures, this is one of the most photogenetic areas we have been to!
* take a bear cannister and make noise (we did not see any bears but we did see lots of prints)
* go in september: nights are cooler, but NO BUGS!!!, and the days were still long enough to make the hike in and out within one day, and the river is low.
* go soon? does anyone know if the access conditions because of the mining operation will change? it looks like the operation will become much larger and that soon you might have to drive through more of the active mining area, which might not be possible??