Waterfalls and raging rivers dominated Stage 2 of our road trip as we drove from Whistler to Jasper along a ‘road less traveled’ via Pemberton, Lillooet, Kamloops and Clearwater. This was a very rewarding experience as we were not surrounded by hundreds of fellow tourists, allowing us time to drink in the silence, to find the special magic, that something unique and wonderful that nourishes a connection with the wilderness.
Whistler to Kamloops
We left Whistler on an overcast but dry day. We had lots of time to stop and explore along the way as we were only driving to Kamloops and it’s light well into the evening in early June. Just outside Pemberton, we stopped at Nairn Falls on the Green River to stretch our legs and check out our first Canadian waterfall. The walk to the waterfall, along the Green river was lovely.
All too soon, we were in the car. Passing through pretty Pemberton, our next stop was Joffre Lakes. We had learned about them from a couple from Adelaide, as we lay soaking in the hot tub at the Summit hotel in Whistler. Alas, Kenn and I didn’t have the four plus hours needed to complete the 10 km round hike, so we just walked along the path to the lower lake.
Then came the best part of the drive to Kamloops. The road to Lillooet winds through snow capped mountains that seem to hover all around you. The sun kept making an appearance, breaking through banks of clouds, making glaciers gleam and sparkle and frosting the tops of the deep green trees which lined the valleys. Then this alpine perfection changed. As you drive further inland towards Lillooet, the road enters a rain shadow and the countryside becomes sparse and dry creating an interesting contrast with the coast.
This is a little hamlet on the Fraser river and was our stop for lunch at the Rugged Bean Cafe where our meal and coffee were delicious.
Earlier than we had anticipated, we found ourselves in Kamloops. This was only an overnight stop so we quickly booked into our motel, Accent Inns, Kamloops. (https://www.accentinns.com) We were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and well equipped our room was, considering this is a 3 star rated motel. Guided by a lovely receptionist at the Inn, we explored the riverside park in the heart of the city where the Fraser and Thomson Rivers meet.
Kamloops to Jasper
Clearwater and the Wells Grey Provincial Park
Next morning, after a simple breakfast at Accent Inns, we found ourselves bound for Clearwater, gateway for the Wells Grey Provincial Park. No-one seemed to know about this park back in Australia but I was intrigued by some comments on a couple of blog posts I had read while in the research phase for our trip. Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls, the blog posts enthused. Worth a stop I thought!
Clearwater was only about an hours drive from Kamloops and our first port of call was to the park information centre. With a limited time frame, they were able to advise us which of the many waterfalls we should visit and which walks were feasible. So map in hand and my navigator’s cap on, we drove into the park. Our first waterfall was the Spahats Creek Falls.
Next came the Dawson Falls or ‘Mini Niagara’ according to the locals. This too, was quite impressive I thought.
But we saved the best for last, the lovely Helmcken Falls on the Myrtle River. Firstly, we walked for about an hour to the top of the falls along the Rim Trail. This was a great hike as you follow a rampaging river hurtling along to the falls. The sound is amazing!
Reaching the top of the falls, you find yourself surrounded by mist and spray.
Retracing our steps along the Rim Trail, we encountered a young couple coming towards us exclaiming excitedly, ” Did you see the bear?” We hadn’t, but soon after heard some ominous growls emanating from deeper in the woods.
Thankfully however, we didn’t have a close encounter (I love bears … from a distance) and I can assure you that while I didn’t set a new land speed record, I did make it back to the car very, very quickly.
Soon, we were on our way to the viewpoint for a panoramic view of the falls. the waterfall was really beautiful and I loved the way the Canadians have made the viewpoint so accessible for everybody.
Finally, our day trip into the Wells Grey Provincial Park ended with a visit to an early settler’s now abandoned homestead. One could only wonder how they coped with the isolation and the cold in those early years.
Finally, it was time to retrace our steps to Clearwater and find the Hummingbird BnB, our home for the night. We were thrilled to see some deer and a couple of bears crossing the road on our way. One of the benefits of staying in a BnB is that you get to experience a place like a local. Some of our most memorable meals in Canada came from a recommendation from a BnB host. Doris, our hostess in Clearwater, recommended the Hop “N” Hog Tap & Smokehouse. And it was wonderful. Sipping signature beers and working our way through a gigantic plate of amazing ribs, we wished that we could stay a little longer here and perhaps take a white water rafting trip. Maybe next time.
Next morning, while Doris served up a lovely breakfast, we saw hummingbirds for the first time in the wild. So tiny and so fast! Then we were on our way to Jasper. Doris had recommended stopping at Mount Robson Provincial Park on the way, but when we got there, it was so foggy and overcast that we drove on past. I will have to look at the highest point in the Canadian Rockies another time. This part of the drive to Jasper was spectacular. I suspect that I looked a little like one of those clowns that you see at a country show: mouth always open, head moving constantly from side to side!
A road less traveled and that made all the difference