A little late posting, better late than never
As said in many other posts regarding the Wokkpash, “One has to do the hike to truly appreciate the beauty of it”, which is very true, pictures do not do it justice.
Leaving after work Thurs night, we drove 4.5 hours and stayed at a really nice campground just outside of Hudson Hope, Alwin Holland. It was quiet, being Thursday and not the holiday weekend yet. Friday, our intention was to stay overnight at Testa River Lodge campground or Summit Lake campground then start hiking Saturday, but both were full because of the long weekend. So we did the next best thing and hit the trail early.
We dropped our bikes off at the Baba Canyon exit, easily hiding them and locking them to a tree. Then drove to the Old Church Hill Road, 3 km down a descent gravel road and parked the van on the creek bank. As we were getting our backpacks ready to cross MacDonald creek on foot, two 4x4 vehicles came down the road. One of which was the YouTube Everlander. They were filming their adventures by drone for YouTube. They kindly offered us a lift across the creek. We gladly said “Yes!” What a great start! The other 4x4 vehicle with a snorkel (image) got stuck in the creek and the Everlander towed them out. After our goodbyes, we continued hiking down the road.
The road is in fairly good shape, other than a few badly eroded spots that definitely require a lifted 4x4 to cross.
We hiked 10 km that afternoon; setting up camp at a small lake by the roadside. This is the best opportunity for camping along the road. Late that evening, we heard two separate vehicles barrelling down the road. We weren’t sure what their business was in the area.
Early the next morning, we packed up camp and started down the road again. This section was more up and down than the first section, but the road was still in good condition. We finally arrived at the actual trailhead at 15.9 km (from the creek); 18.9 km from Hwy. From here most of the trail was well defined and easy to follow. We went quickly through the bedrock and alluvial fans because the trail for the most part was flat. Mushrooms of different shapes and sizes popped throughout the forested areas. And, as BillyGoat pointed out in his post the wild cranberries were everywhere. There are a couple of sections where the trail has been eroded that requires a bit of route finding, but there wasn’t any trouble reconnecting with the trail again.
The last alluvial fan is the very last source of water before entering the hoodoos. There is a little ‘stream’ before the cairn that enters the forest above the first sight of the hoodoos. Fill up here! Because it is a long way without water. The next water source is Forlorn Gorge creek.
The hoodoos are interesting and amazing; outlining the steep banks and canyon walls. Travel is high above the creek bed.
At one point we looked down on the creek bed and saw this guy! This caribou entertained us with its antics. We made our way above the hoodoos and Wokkpash Canyon to Camp 2 at Forlorn Gorge. It was a very rewarding, but long day. A porcupine on the trail blocking our way, indicated an end to day 2.
Our original intention for Day 3 was for a day hike up Stepped Creek to Blizzard Lakes, but crossing Wokkpash creek proved impossible. The waters were too fast and too deep at this time of year to cross. We chose a safer alternative of hiking to Forlorn Gorge lookout. A short and steep yet worthwhile hike.
After playing at the Forlorn Gorge waterfall. We then made our way to the south end of Wokkpash Lake for camp 3.
At the fork, we took the right fork that led us to a nice camping area on the bank of Wokkpash lake. There was a bear cache, privy and firepit. We even took a quick dip in the lake while the heat from the sun beat down. A few hours after we went to bed, a summer storm rolled in. Thunder boomed directly above us reverberating off the mountains; lightning flashed all around. Wind, channeled from Wokkpash Canyon, swept across the lake with such force it plastered Chris with the side of the tent. The storm died, as quickly as it came, only to revive itself shortly after, but with less force. The whole experience was quite intimidating!
The next morning we woke to a calm, quiet lake, no signs of the storm, other than our slightly shifted tent. It definitely pays to have a great quality tent. I think next time, we will choose the tent site just behind the trees. It doesn’t have the great view, but it is sheltered.
Retracing our steps back to the fork, we hiked up the left fork through forest and fairly level ground towards Plug Creek. Hiking a short distance along Plug Creek there is a cairn that leads left and straight UP! Up, up, up all the way. One spot that overlooks Plug Creek, is quite stunning. This is where a young caribou almost walked into us. He didn’t see us stopped on the trail taking pictures, right away. The look of surprise in his eyes was priceless. On this piece of the loop, the trail is quite visible. It is steep and slow going with a heavy pack. About 4 to 5 hours. Rewarding views of the south end of Wokkpash Lake and hanging valleys followed us up the trail.
After much climbing, we finally arrived at the Valley! It truly was an alleluia moment. The MacDonald Valley is an amazing sight to see, with views of Mt Sepulchre to the East. Travel is fairly easy in this open space. Enjoy it because after this the hiking is technical. We passed by the puddle which some maps called Last Call Lake choosing camp 4, by the real Last Call Lake which is at the entrance to a hanging valley and has one really great man-made tent pad available. In this part of the valley, there isn’t much for tree shelter until the horse camps.
Day 5 is where the real work came and really great trail finding skills are needed over land and water. After the long unnamed lake, the important note is to stay on the west side of the valley. We found that hiking through the ravine hopping back and forth through a stream was better than hiking through the tall scrub in the valley.
Although, some say to stay on the east side of this ravine and not enter. From the end of the ravine, we had to get across MacDonald creek to the East side, which brought us to the trail again and fantastic camp 5 at the confluence with MacDonald Creek.
We were glad to be back on the trail for Day 6. Stay on the East side of MacDonald Creek and follow the horse trail. The horse trail is easy to follow, travels through creeks and passes many horse camps. Keep following the trail until it crosses MacDonald Creek to the West side. It was from this point that the weather had started to turn and we had a feeling it wasn’t getting better. We needed to be done on this day. At the very last horse camp, we saw two people (only people in days) on the East side of MacDonald Creek, they were bushwacking on sloped ground. We tried to tell them they were on the wrong side, but the river was too loud for them to hear and too deep to cross. We continued on until we reached the creek drainage and braided streams. There is no easy way through this part, just pick the best way across and stay close to the west side, when you see Baba Canyon area try to find a way to make the final hike across the creek.
From here we celebrated our success, unlocked our bikes, locked up our packs and rode up the Alaska Hwy to our vehicle, then drove back to pick up our packs. Because we were out earlier than expected, we cancelled our next day cabin reservation and found a campsite with showers. The next morning, as we passed Stone Mountain park, fresh snow covered the mountains! Grateful, we said a prayer of thanks for listening to our inner voices.