Tatlayoko Lake Hiking Trip, Aug 19 - 26 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2014, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Prince George, BC, .
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Default Tatlayoko Lake Hiking Trip, Aug 19 - 26

Just spent a week hiking around Tatlayoko Lake and thought I'd pass along some info about this amazing area. I had just gotten a glimpse of the lake about 15 years ago when I was working in the Chilcotin and it's amazing how that quick visit can be the seed for a trip many years later. Well, that and friends who have windsurfed and vacationed there and raved about what a beautiful area it is.

It is a beautiful area, with the stunning Chilko and Tatlayoko Lakes along with innumerable unnamed alpine lakes. There is the gentle Potato Range to the east and the striking Niut Range to the West. The valley is home to warm-hearted, pragmatic folks and Chilcotin hospitality abounds. We saw some some big bucks, numerous ducks and five mountain goats. We saw plenty plenty of moose, bear and wolf sign, and heard the latter howling at night.

Tatlayoko Lake is a three hour drive from Williams Lake. To get there take Highway 20 about 220 km west from Williams Lake and turn south at the well marked junction, just before Tatla Lake. From there is it about 30 km on a good gravel road to the north end of the lake. From there it is another 25 km to the Bracewell Lodge, where we stayed the first two nights.

The first night we were welcomed to eat with the family, and feasted on fried chicken, biscuits, potatoes, corn and greek salad, then somehow fit in a delicious sour cherry version of strawberry shortcake. You will not leave Bracewell without packing on a little extra reserve before a big hiking trip!

Alex showed up half way through dinner, having just finished haying that afternoon. He was happy we hadn't crossed paths as he said his truck was “overflowing” with hay and he was taking up most of the road. He is full of great stories and is a wealth of knowledge about the area, in particular the approximately 160 miles of horse trails that they continue to (somehow!) maintain.

We also had the great pleasure of meeting Alex's mom, Gerry Bracewell. She arrived in the Valley in 1940, when the trip from Williams Lake took 3 days and the Fraser River was crossed on a suspension bridge. Poet, cowgirl and mother of four boys, she also lays claim to being BC's first female hunting guide. Now 92, she has handed over the reigns of the business to her son Alex, but certainly hasn't lost her ability to tell a good story. She regaled us with stories about her love for the land, run ins with grizzly bears, clever fixes and tactful guidance of her mostly male hunting parties.

She told us about how her deceased husband Alf used a rented D6 Cat to punch in the eastern end of the “Freedom Road” connecting Anahim Lake to Bella Coola, in 1953. The government felt the terrain was too difficult to build a road, so industrious local volunteers did it themselves. As the end of “construction” was nearing Gerry had the foresight to ride out with her two sons and a wind up movie camera to capture the moment forever.

Interestingly, both Alex and Gerry referred to the area as “Tatlako” Lake. The Tsilqot'in (aka Nemaiah) First Nation name for the lake was Talhiqox Biny (Biny = Lake), Lake of the Big Winds. This was phonetically anglicized to Ta tlah co Lake by Joseph Trutch on his BC map in 1871. However, when George Dawson put together his map for the Geological Survey of Canada he used the name Tatlayoko Lake. Unaware of the indigenous pronunciation for the lake, the Geographic Board of Canada officially adopted the name Tatlayoko Lake in 1911. It is remarkable, and heartening, that the original pronunciation persists to this day.

Day 1

Alex gave us directions for a great day hike up Huckleberry (aka Marmot) Mountain. This route was originally marked out by Gerry and she told us about using strips of plastic bags and toilet paper to mark the route, after she had run out of flagging tape. Just past their mill the trail angles up the hill at a very reasonable grade for about 7 km before reaching the alpine. After numerous false summits you top out after 9 km with magnificent views of Chilko Lake to the east and Tatlayoko to the west. We followed the same route back but they do have another trail off the west end of the ridge that would complete the loop back the lodge.

That evening our friend Matt arrived and we enjoyed a hearty dinner of meatloaf, potatoes, zucchini and melon, followed by a fresh baked brownies.

Days 2 & 3

The next day we headed up into the Potato Range. About 1 km from the Lodge there is a well established trail up to Potato Ridge. The trail gets regular use by horseback daytrips from the Lodge and is easy to follow. There are some impressive fir trees on the way up, the two largest of which were measured at 880 and 920 years old. A few kilometers in there is one junction that we missed on the way up. It is a very subtle 180' turn to the right. If you get to a very flat clearing overlooking the lodge you've gone about 100 m to far. We continued up what appeared to be the main trail (that then petered out) then took a steep B-line to the top of the ridge. The main trail is much nicer hiking, especially with big packs. We got some great views of Tatlayoko Lake and then hiked along the ridge towards Dunlap and Gillian Lakes. We camped at a nice little spot between Gillian Lake and the third, unnamed “Triangular” Lake.

I headed up onto the Potato Ridge that night to look for mountain goats. Didn't have any luck but did see a spectacular view of a dark Tatlayoko Lake with beams of sunlight coming through the clouds.

The next day we walked about 200 m northeast from Triangular Lake, to a large fossil bed. We shared the usual awe at how the forces of nature can push an old seabed 2000 meters into the sky! We thought about wandering down to Echo Lakes to see the Bracewell Cabin there but the weather was changing for the worse so we decided to head back down the to the Lodge.

That night we camped at the Old Millsite, currently home to a baseball field, playground and several campsites near the lake. There is also a touching memorial to former residents of the Valley. It is just south of the Forestry Rec site and gives better access to the beach. Although the winds were down while we were there, this is the put in for windsurfers and kiteboarders.

Days 4 – 7

We then headed back up Tatlayoko Road to the turn off for Snoring Horse Ranch. Mike and Leslie kindly directed to this trail when we had driven in a few days prior. If you are approaching from the north, go past Henry's Crossing (to Chilko Lake), and it is about 1 km past the long downhill into the valley, on the right.

Drive about 2 km up their driveway. It is public land, but is maintained by them. Just before the creek/bridge, and a sign that says “No thru road” there is a little parking lot on the left, surrounded by huge fir trees. A small horse trail heads off to the left, but take the ATV trail the right. This is the start of the Crazy Creek Trail. It heads steadily upward for 8.5 km to Fox Rock, overlooking a beautiful alpine area, and the first views of the Niut Range. Take lots of water; there is a stagnant pond at 6 km but the water was pretty dodgy (even after treatment). Just after Fox Rock the ATV trail becomes faint and turns to the left down to a Guide/Outfitter cabin. If you lose the trail just follow the little creek down about 300 m. The cabin is privately owned, locked and not for public use. The creek has great water though, and a horse trail takes off from across the creek, to the east of the cabin. It doesn't start at the meadow, which you will likely be drawn to first.

From there it is relatively easy hiking on a horse trail marked with blazes. It is about 4.5 km to the first lake, which we called Sunshine Lake, because it was just beautiful there the day we arrived, and whenever we were looking down from the alpine, it was always bathed in sun. Between a small pond to the north and the lake itself, there is a very pretty little ridge of land, with a few flat spots for tents, and a beautiful south facing slope for food preparation, lounging and a swim. We all slept well, enjoyed a sunny morning and then headed off the next day.

The horse trail continues around the west side of the lake. It crosses a few marshes but isn't too hard to follow. There is one place where arrows carved into two trees indicate staying high above the marsh, but the trail continues straight ahead. We did lose it completely however, after crossing the first creek. We looked around for about 30 minutes and just couldn't find any trail, or blazes (though I'm told a trail does exist!). I took a bearing for the south end of the lake (made much easier by a big peak that is visible almost the entire way) and we bush wacked a direct route over the ridge to “Twisted Tree” Lake. The open lodgepole pine forest made for not too difficult travel.

There is a nice big open/flat area on the east side of Twisted Tree Lake and we set up camp there. Again, there was a great south facing slope for food preparation and relaxation.

There are no more trails beyond this point, but numerous good options for day hikes. Kathleen and I headed out that afternoon up the ridge to the east, crossed a large saddle and were rewarded with great views of two alpine lakes connected by a waterfall. This was one of our favorite spots of the whole trip.

The next day we did a leisurely hike up the ridge to the south of camp. We had lunch on a huge rocky outcropping overlooking the lake and then headed further up the valley to the base of Niut Mountain. It is a beautiful, barren valley that ends at the base of the mountain. I climbed up the terminal moraine for excellent views of the mountain. We hung out for a while and enjoyed the desolate serenity of the place, before wandering back to camp.

The next morning we did a short hike west from camp, to get views of the middle fork of Crazy Creek, and the lakes that dot that valley. We then headed back down to Sunshine Lake for lunch and to Fox Rock by early afternoon. Matt had to head home, but Kathleen and I camped near Fox Rock then enjoyed a beautiful, sunny morning, with some last views from the rock itself.

It took less than two hours to hike back down from there. We stopped at Dorothy's Delights on the way out of the valley and bought some jam. You could also get a meal there. We headed a little further west to Tatla Lake to check out the General Store then hit the road, enjoying the rolling Chilcotin countryside and grasslands dotted with duck filled ponds. We stopped for the obligatory slice of pie at Lee's Corner in Hanceville and then made our way back to Prince George.

Parting shots

There are all sorts of options for hiking around Tatlayoko Lake:

1) Potato Range
-Can be hiked end to end, with a daypack, in a long day; the north end access is from near the Old Millsite, the south end access is as described above
-Also warrants one or two nights of camping (or you could arrange to use the cabin through Alex) and exploration of the lakes, views and fossils

2) Huckleberry (aka Marmot) Mountain
-A great day hike, with amazing views on a nice day
-I would suggest considering a night on the mountain. In the Green (aka Cheshi) valley they have seen goats, wolves and grizzly; with a bit more time, and the lower temperatures of morning and evening, there would be a good chance of seeing these from the ridge above

3) Stikelan
-There is a horse trail up this valley. Alex said it is about 8 hours of hiking to the end of the trail, and another 4 up into the alpine; this is an excellent trip report from a few years ago

4) Jamison Creek
-The BC Backroads Mapbook shows a hiking trail looping up the Ottarasko and down the South Fork of the Jamison creeks; this is not accurate. The Bracewells do have horse trails in both of these areas, but they are only cleared in the fall if/when hunting parties are taken up there
-I got one report of a group who hike up Valleau Creek and then down the north fork of Jamison Creek, the latter part was described as “misery” because of all the blowdown
-Alex does have a barge and you could arranged to be ferried across the lake to the start of his Jamison Route (south fork of the creek), he said it is beautiful up there
-One other rule of thumb he gave us was to avoid bushwacking north facing slopes (thick balsam, lots of blowdown) at all costs, and if you do have to bushwack try to stick to the south facing (open fir/pine) slopes

5) Crazy Creek Trail
-We really enjoyed this route. It gets very little use and gets you into some beautiful alpine, do keep in mind that it was built and is maintained by the folks who live nearby
-If you continued past Niut Mountain, there is a steep scree climb at the end of the valley that I think you could get over …. this would open up loops out Valleau Creek, or Jamison Creeks. The possibilities are endless, as always!

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2014, 10:25 PM
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What a wonderful TR. Lots of detailed information for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps, and eye popping photos. Thank you so much for sharing this.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2014, 11:31 PM
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This is how to do a Trip Report. Nice
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2014, 11:45 PM
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Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. Thank you for this TR! Amazing area.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2014, 12:16 PM
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It's nice up there, for sure.

I spent a few days in the Potato Ranges and I kept looking at the Niut Range and wondering when I will get to wander in there.

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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2014, 12:58 PM
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Your TR is an outstanding resource for all of us CT'ers who will surely explore that area. The Chilcotin presents some of North America's most beautiful outdoor opportunists. In a way, compared to areas such as the sea-to-sky, it's almost undiscovered.

We spent much time in that region in years past, at the Elkin Creek ranch. At some point, I'd so like to climb Mt Tatlow at the head of the Nemaiah valley. We're so longing to go back there. Next year, maybe... but so many places to explore!

If you're keen on pioneering stories, have a view of the BBC documentary "Billy Connolly: Journey to the Edge of the World" about a magnificent 10 week trip around the outer edge of Canada from the maritimes to Vancouver island. The latter episodes have fascinating tales of pioneer folk in the Stikine and other places, who live much like the Bracewell's
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2014, 01:36 PM
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Pretty awesome. All my Niut trips have been further west, but Niut itself looks good, and from what I hear it's granite too.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2014, 08:57 PM
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A useful and interesting TR. Thanks!

Do you think the folks at Bracewell are open to discuss hiking options even if you aren't staying there?

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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2014, 09:39 PM
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Your beautiful pictures nicely illustrate your epic adventure, sweet shots of many things. The fossils are amazing.

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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2014, 01:22 AM
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Nicely done!
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2014, 02:20 PM
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Great TR and useful information - thank you! My hubby and I were there in 2012 and were so impressed with the beauty of the area. We want to go back and explore more trails.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 09-05-2014, 04:14 PM
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Awesome report that I will keep for future reference. Thank you!
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 09-15-2014, 01:40 AM
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Fantastic report and pictures as well!
Love the Chilcotin area!!!
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2014, 12:04 AM
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Fantastic report on under-reported part of Chilco area! Thanks.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 09-20-2014, 03:28 PM
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Nice TR and great fossil find.
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