In preparation for a multi-day hike along the Stein Valley trail, Scott and I stocked up on various lightweight treats and meals. We were lucky in that Scott had received some pretty generous gifts from his students’ parents, including a MEC gift card, along with bottles of wine (pour moi… the non-straight-edge member of the relationship), a certificate for Salmon and Bannock restaurant (so good!), a gift card for Choices, etc. The MEC card covered most of our supplies.
Since Scott is vegan (dairy makes him sick) he had also ordered a selection of packaged food from “Vegan Supply.” The only downer is that their new shop is in the heart of Chinatown, and probably on the condemned list by the Chinatown Concern group of trendy new businesses adding to the gentrification of the neighbourhood and pricing out historic local grocers. I guess it had to go somewhere…
I usually bring along a stash of beef jerky for any roadtrips or camping excursions, but this round I remained open to something new – the “Louisville Vegan Jerky” made of tender soy bits and heavily seasoned. Strangely enough, I ended up learning something new about library history as a result of these tasty treats…
In the meantime, after packing our new hiking backpacks we drove the truck past Hope and up the highway 1 to Lytton BC, where you take a ferry which zips two cars at a time back and forth over the Fraser river. It is a “free reaction ferry” – using the river’s current to propel itself, and it also is “free” in terms of cost! After a short drive we arrived at the trail head and learned some impressive facts about the area’s history and how the local First Nations (the Nlaka’pamux people) rallied to protect the area from logging, and preserve the sacred pictographs that can be found there, as they were often created by youth on spiritual retreats.
I later read on wikipedia that the word “Stein” comes from the word “stagyn” which means hidden place in Nlaka’pamux, which was very appropriate. We felt tucked away from the world after crossing the river, and venturing into wilderness. Not far along the Lower valley trail was an “Asking Rock” – a place of prayer and quiet reflection. It set the right tone for the adventure.
Since we had started late in the day on Saturday, we made it as far as the Devil’s Staircase campspot where an extended Indigenous family were camped out with their dog, two dads and their toddlers, and a lone guitar-toting hippy dude. One of the Aboriginal guys explained that his aunties and uncles were elderly and with heart conditions but still wanted to make the trek – he was super proud of them! To be honest, there were some hard scrambles across boulder patches, down some slippery gravel sections, and through some intense heat, so it was no easy walk in the park. Good on them!
The next day we made our way along the trail over the “Devil’s Staircase”, which turned out to be a minor challenge, but easy enough. We ventured past Earl’s Cabin (apparently he had hidden a stash of gold nuggets somewhere in the area, but since he died in WWI no one would ever know where!), past Tipi campsite, to the Suspension Bridge campspot. It was the Canada Day long weekend, so the campspots all had at least a few tents pitched. Do note that all of the campspots are completely free!
I loved the wildness of the overflowing, raging Stein river that made its own pathways through the forest. The water was intensely cold, causing sharp pain even if you dipped your toes in for a second. It was also super refreshing to drink, and we didn’t bother with our “platypus filter” device, but drank direct from river. That was the drawback of the Suspension Bridge campspot – the access to the water source was a difficult scramble down the bank compared to the other sites. I also wished that they had kept the old “cable car” method of crossing the river, but I guess they had all been replaced.
Fortunately, Scott had done a bit of research before we left and learned that there were some “exotic” beachfront campspots just 5 minutes and 20 minutes past the bridge. After a quick log crossing, the site we came upon was amazing! Technically it was a little island, with a slow moving brook on one side, and raging river on the other side with a few tiny sandy beach zones with flecks of gold in the silt. For reasons unknown, I dubbed it “Muu muu island”… perhaps because it had a hint of tropical vibes.
The spot had no bear cache so after setting up our cozy zone we hauled our food up a tree and down wind. I wasn’t too worried since there were no signs of bears, no massive droppings or footprints in the sand. Plus, I figured the bears would want out of the heat and would venture to cooler, higher realms.
I believe it was at that point that Scott busted out “Reuben’s Smokey Carolina BBQ Vegan Jerky!” And what a joy it was. We had tried a few other flavours, but this one got me good. It was just like a chewy chicken wing and crazy tasty! The best part was that the product gave tribute to a gentleman named Reuben T. Durrett (1824 – 1913), who “was a lawyer, jurist, linguist, poet, editor, journalist, history writer, and Kentucky bibliographer” and happened to launch the Louisville Free Public Library in protest to libraries charging annual fees. He even donated his massive collection for their use. I am a total convert. BBQ vegan treats that honour a rad lover of public libraries. You just can’t go wrong.
After replenishing ourselves we made a decent hike of 15km out to Ponderosa Pines and back, which was a tad anti-climatic since there was a small plaque but no evidence of the campsite or shelter. The mosquitoes also dictated that we would return to the area of Muu Muu island since there was another epic campspot with an even lovelier “beach.” At this point there was no other hikers in sight, since everyone had retreated after the holiday weekend. It was idyllic! There were even hand-hewn seats chopped out of stumps.
I felt grateful for good gear, as both our backpacks were comfortable and even though I had a couple of minor toe blisters it wasn’t a hindrance to our progress, and my boots were ideal. I did feel a tad disgusting though since the combo of heat, sweat and my technical t-shirt produced an odour that just reeked of weed! I kid you not, my pits smelled like a doobie… it was gross!
The next day we had a super chill hike back to Earl’s cabin because I had started to get the gold fever after seeing those flecks in the sand. I figure with water eroding the river banks that there had to be something new to collect! I also poked around the cabin and tried to get into the head space of an old timer hoarding his stash, but was not successful. in discovering the missing gold. Alas.
Our final day of hiking still brought unexpected surprises, since I accidentally deviated on the trail. I think I was just set on taking the low-road and avoiding a steep climb, but it turned out for the best since that was where many of the petroglyphs were clustered. After a bit of exploration and a moment of lounging on the river rocks we forged on, knowing that there were some oreo cookies and gummy bears hidden in the glove compartment in the truck! I was also craving a cold Coca-cola.
Soon enough we were back in civilization, across the ferry and into town for freshly picked cherries from an entrepreneurial young girl, and my coveted cola. I would definitely recommend this trail since it is accessible, free, full of history and worthy of awe and respect. The only bear we ended up seeing was a pre-teen black bear poking his head out of the bush as we were driving down the highway, but there were still sightings of a rufous hummingbird, ptarmigan, loads of lizards, wood peckers, butterflies, and a variety of beautiful birds!
It felt amazing to have a thorough shower and put up my feet. Next round will be a journey to Haida Gwaii in August. The ferries are booked and the motorcycles are getting tuned!