Off the Grid in Mount Edziza Park
A trip to to the Yukon was what we had set our minds to months before this, but it had somehow evolved into a different kind of trip that didn't require leaving BC at all. A good friend, Taylor Burk, had convinced us that with the amount of time we had we should do a trip to Mount Edziza instead.
The park is highly unexplored and provides some of the most stunning views of Canada's largest volcano (Mt Edziza). Geoff and I had our hearts set on the Yukon, but knew deep down that we didn't have enough time to truly get the Yukon experience so we settled on this five day backpacking trip with Taylor and his roommate, Emily. They are both excellent company and it turned out to be quite the adventure!
Geoff and I made the 18 hour drive to Northern BC, and truth be told it is a very underpopulated place, actually no it is highly populated with bears. We managed to see over 15 black bears on the road while driving and maybe one car. We made a stop in Hyder, Alaska which is very close to the BC border and has two incredible sights.
The first is fish creek, which is a major salmon spawning ground with the creek full of full grown salmon at the right time of year. We came at the right time! We could smell the death in the air, rotting fish littered all over the creek bed and hundreds of live ones swimming around them as if on a mission. It's a sad but beautiful part the salmon play in the ecosystem. They swim sometimes thousands of miles from the ocean to find their original birthplace to lay their eggs and then die. The wildlife, river and forest all benefit from their sacrifice. Bald eagles, bears, crows, wolves and other scavenger animals feed on the massive carnage of the event spreading the nutrients of the nitrogen high fish further into the forest. The only survivors are the eggs that successfully hatch and the fry that actually make it back to the ocean to return to the same bit of creek at breeding age. Aboriginals call the salmon immortal because of their constant presence in the entire forest.
If you go further past fish creek, the road takes you to the most incredible glacier I have ever seen! The salmon Glacier runs like a long road through the valley and gives you an idea of how all glacier valleys may have looked previously. Even a tiny helicopter was hard to spot flying across the glacier. It looked like it could fit into one of the millions of crevasses.
We started our long journey at a little cabin like hotel in Tatogga. The dining hall was filled with a taxidermy animal of every species ever known to the area... which was a bit sad. We were definitely not in Kansas anymore. We had a float plane booked for the following day to take us into the park to start our five day journey. The only exit was by float plane on the opposite side of the park in the following five days. We planned out our food rations, spare clothing and equipment for the journey. It would be my longest backpacking trip to date without having civilization near. Our little cabin was cozy with a little wood fire place. My master fire builder got a good one roaring while we burnt a pot of rice for dinner.
Our flight in was very cool, it was my first time in a float plane, which was quite a cool experience. We all had to weigh in before the flight and my pack was a whopping 40lbs, most of it camera gear I wouldn't be using. The air was crisp and cool while we loaded off the dock. We were instantly greeted by a group of pack horses and hunters coming back from a trip. The aboriginal guide leader chatted to us a bit about how they have been on these lands for generations running hunting pack trips. They gave us some warnings about what to expect and we headed off into what ended up being five very long days.
The park is surrounded by small volcanoes and all have names. Taylor was our navigator but the first day was fairly easy. We had a track of hoof prints to follow from the pack horses. We did about five hours of walking before we set up camp for the night. We passes numerous antlers left from caribou and moose. I found that fascinating. We cooked dinner and turned in to wake up to the patter of rain on the tent.
And that is how the next four days started. Rain, wind and even through the pass we had sideways snow. We didn't see Mount Edziza once. On the day with the snow through the pass my legs got so cold as the wind cut me to the bone, unprotected because I was wearing shorts. Luckily Geoff convinced me to put on his thermals. I'll never forget to cold to move sitting behind a rock while Geoff put pants on me and Emily stood beside us trying to take shelter with the rock. Silly move on my part, but that is how fast the weather would turn on us. I had pants but they were not suitable for this kind of wind. The wind can be the most dangerous part, and now being better prepared is a lesson.
Due to the weather we pushed hard to get to our last camp spot. Even if it was a day early we wanted to get a fire going and dry out. Our longest day was 11 hours and oh so many creek crossings. My feet had forgotten what dry was. We had lost the trail dozens of times just hoping we were in the right direction. I remember finding hoof prints and always being relived. There is no service out at this reserve, and Taylor had forgotten to bring the 'spot' (satellite emergency). The last day was the hardest for me. Down to the lake was the boggiest ground I have ever had. My leg would get knee deep in mud and throw me down. I was frustrated to say the least. We only ever saw one other camper on our five days going in the opposite direction.
As we were 30 minutes from our final destination we were greeted by another string of pack horses. They told us we were very close and I was ecstatic. Taylor and I were on the hustle but Emily was suffering a bad knee and lagged behind. Along with Geoff who was enjoying a conversation with a squirrel. Taylor and I got to what they called the beaver dam from the blogs he read. It was basically a pond we had to swim through and we had lost the horse tracks yet again. We waited for the others to catch up and then the real fun began. We managed to get across the pond but were then thrown off the trail by a stream. Completely lost for direction we bush whacked for a good hour trying to find the trail. We were all frustrated to say the least. It was getting dark and all of us were ready to be done. Finally Taylor and Geoff figured out from google maps that we had been going in the wrong direction all along. We battled bushed for a while longer before finally being reunited with the well beaten trail. Emily and I were very very happy.
A hot fire, hot meal and a wash in the lake brought back our spirits. We had a full day at camp the next day because we arrived early. A few hundred games of the cards later and some wood exploring missions kept our fire rolling all day. The last day Geoff and I took our sleeping bags to the float dock to watch for eagles in the morning. We cooked breakfast while the eagles snatched theirs from the lake. It was so calm and beautiful, the feeling is something you never can recreate, it was perfectly unique to the surroundings and situation.
Sadly our float plane never showed up at 1oclock that day. I'll be honest I was panicking because I had to be at a job 24 hours drive away the following day. Lucky for us weather was holding up the plane and we got out of there that evening. The trip ended with a meal at the dinning hall and some good times with our friends. We did not see any scenic mountains or wildlife but we did accomplish an amazing hike and we managed to feel what it was like to be truely remote, something I thing everyone should experience.