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04 October 2009

Bull Canyon Caves, BC. Canada

Early morning on the 24th of September 2009 we decided we wanted to back track and go back and climb up to the caves at Bull Canyon Provincial Park (123 ha). The park is 9km west of Alexis Creek.





We left the Chilcotin Lodge and drove for about an hour west on high way 20. The park itself was closed, otherwise we would have stayed there the night before. The caves are high up above the park and highway in what is called the Bull Canyon Mountain. It is a steep hike to get up there. A lot of loose rocks, gravel etc. make it pretty though in places. Caution must be taken.





Bull Canyon Mountain is part of a Volcanic Plateau called the Chilcotin Group. More on the Chilcotin Group at Wikipedia.



Climbing down from the caves is at times not that easy, but it makes for a challenging and fun hike.



These caves are considered sacred by the local First Nations People. This should be respected when visiting. Archaeological sites exist throughout the park and are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. Please do not disturb these sites.







Bull Canyon is also the site of an historic battle between the Tsilhoqot'in and Secwepemc First Nations people.





If you are enjoying the countryside around Bull Canyon Provincial Park, please remember this is Bear Country. Try to avoid the rivers during heavy salmon spawning times (probably why the park is closed from the 15th of September till spring) unless you feel comfortable with bears around, and please take the usual precautions.... that means pepper spray on your hips and the bear bells ringing, and hoping that the bears are friendly that day. There are also the possibilities of encounters with wolves or cougars so please play it safe.  Here is a video of the caves.



After the hike we headed back to the Chilcotin Lodge and hooked the trailer up, and then we drove east to Williams Lake. There we stocked up on some supplies, food, fuel and a part for the 5th wheel trailer. After that, we headed south on Highway 97 then east on Highway 24 to Cariboo Bonanza Resort on Horse Lake


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More on Horse Lake and Cariboo Bonanza Resort in our next blog.

Cheers,

Liz and Anders



01 October 2009

Junction Sheep Range in Chilcotin, BC. Canada

1st October 2009

23rd September 2009. We left Nimpo Lake and Vagabond RV Park. We stopped at the office and said by to Cora and Sid and picked up a latte. We headed east and pulled in to Puntzie Lake and stopped at Howdy's Resort and RV Park.


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It is on the south side of the lake and it is very pretty. When we were there it was very dry and windy. Hardly any rain all summer.



Next day the 24th of September, we started off east again and stopped and had lunch at Easter Restaurant in Alexis Creek, 


 

 



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great food and the desert was fantastic. Liz had buffalo burger with home made fries and I had also a buffalo burger and soup. The soup was enough for a whole meal. But since I pig out, I ate it all and had the lemon cake for desert. The owner is German, rest assured the food is wonderful and the dessert is to die for.

We had planned to stop in Bull Canyon Provincial park, but it was closed :(   It looked wonderful right on the Chilcotin River. Just above the park is some caves that the natives use to live in and we wanted to climb them, but it will have to wait till next time.

We ended up stopping for two nights at Chilcotin Lodge that is run by a Dutch lady and the lodge looks really nice but rustic. 


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The RV park is OK but you can only dump your gray water. The view is fantastic over the hills that Cilcotin is know for. We drove around the country a bit before "Happy Hour" and then BBQ some sausages with a bottle of 2007 Malbec from Casa La Joya in Chile. Great wine.

On the morning of the 25th we headed down south from Hwy 20 on Farwell Canyon Road to the Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park, 14-15 km drive. Here is some history about the Junction Sheep Range from the Chilcotin Coast Tourism:



"The Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park (JSRP) was originally designated as a Wildlife Management Area in 1975 to protect critical California Bighorn Sheep habitat. In 1995 the Junction Sheep Range was legislated as a Class A Provincial Park. This park is representative of a nationally significant grassland ecosystem. The grasslands of BC cover less then 2% of landmass, yet hold nearly 40% of BC's species at risk!



The "Junction" referred to in the Parks name is the joining of the Chilcotin and Fraser Rivers. In late Pliocene time (around 2 million years ago), an uplift of the erosion surface caused increased energy within the streams and rivers. The result of this was the plateau on which the JSRP now sits was formed as the Fraser River on the east and Chilcotin River on the west cut  down into the layers of hard lava, forming the steep-sided valleys they no flow through. Below these grasslands topsoil lies 90 metres of volcanic rock. These layers are visible where exposed in the ravines that cut across the plains. These same ravines provide travel corridors for the historic resident California bighorn sheep.



The Junction's California bighorn sheep make up the areas most significant wildlife species, and have probably inhabited the area after migrating north along the North American west cost as the ice of the glaciers melted, some 10,000 or more years ago!



This herd that roams the terraces and ravines of the JSRP were instrumental in replenishing all the other herds in North America. IN spring the bighorn ewes (females) travel in groups together, separate from the rams, and give birth to their lambs on the flats near the steep slopes of the rivers banks. Here the can escape from predators less sure footed. 

 

Fall is a time when the rams and ewes come together for breeding. The 'rut' is characterized by the bighorn sheep ram's fight fro dominance of the herd. These rams often bang heads up to 40 times a day at combined speeds of up to 80km per hour. Now listed on BC's Blue List (a species of concern due to sensitivities to human activities and /or natural events), the herd's survival depends on our success at preserving the grasses that sustain them.



Other species residing within the JSRP grasslands on BC's 'at risk' list are the: Sharp-tailed Grouse, Long-billed Curlew, Western Small-footed Myotis, Spotted bat, Townsend big-eared and Fringed Myotis bats, Flammulated owl, White throated Swift, and Rubber Boa (all blue listed) The Park is working to enhance and restore these grasslands as conservation of this area is a prime concern for the preservation of all these species.



Grasslands are very fragile and lasting damage occurs when they are driven on. If planning to visit the Park JSRP, realize the road in to the Park runs through privately owned ranch land. Drive only on designated land. Drive only on the designated roads, and realize this is a very rough, road suited to 4 wheel drives or hikers! There are many steep hills that become impassable in the rain. Check your vehicle's tires for possible weeds picked up from other areas. Noxious weeds are often spread this way and destroy grasslands! Respect the wildlife and cattle, view from a distance, as many are sensitive to loud noises and intrusion.



BC Parks on the the Internet: http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/bcparks

For a map and travel details on the JSRP, visit the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society's website at www.ccconserv.org, under Projects, JSRP click on 'Brochure'."

Now our opinion of this wonderful park. It is the most wonderful park we have ever visited. It is a rough ride in and you need a 4 wheel drive with lots of clearance. Do not go if it is wet, you will be stuck in the mud for a while.



The 10 km (give or take) drive in takes a good hour and the same out, but it is worth it.  Next time we do this trip (and we will) we will try to start the drive in around 8am, drive as far in as you can (just keep right all the way in) to the monument then put on the hiking boots and hike down to the bottom of the park where the Fraser and Chilcotin meets. I think that hike would take about 1-1.5 hrs down and 2-3 hours back up. Pack a lunch and lots of water. This will be one of the best hikes you have ever done, guaranteed. (Judy and Charlie, this will give Cliff Peak a run for the money. Inside joke)



We walked down for about 20 minutes or so and then back up.... once on top, sweating buckets, we had lunch, the most wonderful lunch, all we could hear was the sound of the wind. After lunch we shot another 100 pictures and then headed back. No signs of any sheep yet but as we came over a meadow and down in a bit of marsh Liz's spotted a small heard of about 8 sheep. It was fantastic to see them roaming. After another 100 pictures and several movie clips we started back again. Liz got her first training in 4x4 driving in the bush. She did fantastic, she is such a good driver.


 


We got back out on Farwell Canyon Road and continued south towards the Chilcotin River. The road make several switch backs but is well maintained and the river has carved out hoodoos over the past several 1000's of years, it is so beautiful. I you have seen the badlands in Alberta this has similarities but twice or three times as big and with rolling hills. The river is turquoise blue and full of Salmon this time of year. We watched the Natives scooping the salmon up out of the fast flowing river with a net..... incredible. We have it on video.




We crossed the river and drove for about a half hour and decided to turn around and go back. Coming back a large black bear crossed the road, but to fast for our cameras. We got back to the Chilcotin Lodge and RV Park at about 5 pm. The shower sure felt good, I think I had half a kg of sand in my hair. Liz cooked up a wonderful stir fry and we cracked a bottle of 2006 Chateau de Montfancon from Rodolph de Pins in Cotes du Rhone, France (Thanks Bill and Sarah). What a way to end the day :)