I was even gladder when the dirt roads turned to pavement once more and I spied a much needed gas station in the town of Clearwater, B.C.
From there, I would head into the main, popular section of Wells Gray Provincial Park, home to many waterfalls, some of them among Canada's most iconic.
And from that moment onwards, my day became increasingly magical. Increasingly full of peace and solitude, geological marvels and marvelous frogs. I would soak up solitude, and I would love almost every minute of it.
As I drove into Wells Gray, I passed by some attractions, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. There's only one road into each section of the park, so I figured that if I accidentally skipped something I really wanted to see, I'd stop again on the way back.
(Of course, I also intentionally skipped a few very exciting and interesting park areas like the Trophy Mountains, owing to snow.)
Wells Gray Provincial Park
Wells Gray Provincial Park is the fourth largest park in British Columbia. It protects much of the Clearwater River Basin and Southern Cariboo mountains, and includes many large tracts of wilderness in addition to several more easily accessed areas in the south of the park.
The first of the waterfalls I stopped at was Spahats Creek Falls. My timing here was not the best. I reached the falls at the same time as a tour bus (incidentally, the only such bus I saw operating.) And, also at a time when the sunlight hitting the falls was just too harsh for my photos to turn out nice.
Nevertheless, it's a beautiful spot.
This is the famous one, the park's main attraction. Deservedly so.
Helmcken Falls is Canada's fourth highest waterfall, and probably the easiest accessed of the high ones. It is just plain beautiful.
I knew and I know that these two pictures do absolutely no justice at all.
So, hey, here's a video that also does it no justice at all:
Helmcken Falls Videoclip
Click to load YouTube video.
Beyond the Helmcken Falls overlook, the road into the park soon ceases to be paved. It is well-travelled and well-maintained, but no longer asphalt for the rest of its journey to Clearwater Lake.
I continued North, hoping to stop at some more waterfalls and some hiking trails along my way...
West Lake Loop
I wanted to do a longer hike, but I also decided I was going to avoid the snowy alpine. Pyramid Mountain? Off the table. Trophy Meadows, with its not-yet-flowering wildflowers under a blanket of snow would have to wait.
Instead, I walked the West Lake Loop, moderate and easy going. I would say for this hike, and any of the forested hikes to waterfalls that I did in Wells Gray, the forest areas are nice but not jaw-dropping.
First the trail runs along the Clearwater River, in an area of rapids known as Bailey's Chute.
A simple downhill slope leads you back to the trailhead, refreshed from a lovely forest walk.
I stopped for lunch, assembling more dubious meat sandwiches near the Clearwater Campground / Boat Launch. I could have set up my tent there for the night, but I was set on choosing the Pyramid Lake Campground instead. It was closer to a trail that I wanted to hike at dusk, and it had a reputation for being unpopular mosquito happy swampland, meaning I could expect a great deal of solitude.
I enjoyed their natural setting, and the tranquility. I had no other visitors, and I lingered near the falls base for some time, just enjoying being alone in the forest, with the rush of water next to me.
Heck, you can even hear me say as much to the cellphone camera:
I headed back south in the park. I decided I was going to try to hike a certain trail at sunset, and I was going to try camping at the nearest first come, first serve campground to that and avoid driving back and forth on the unpaved road.
The Pyramid Campground is, as the guidebook says, built on a swamp, often full of pesky mosquitos, and genuinely unpopular compared to the campgrounds further north in the park.
This is absolutely true, though the mosquitos were less bothersome on cold May days than I imagine they would be later in the season.
It did mean, though, that I had plenty of solitude as I set up my tent, and flipped through the guidebook. What park attractions would I see next? And what had I missed?
After I was set up, I ventured out to visit Dawson Falls, from the vehicle-accessible viewpoint.
(There are other trails that lead to different views, but erm, I was saving my strength...)