We were having breakfast at the hotel this morning and a fellow was checking out at the desk. The lady at the desk knew the man and they chatted for a few minutes and she said, “Have you been out to the sand dunes? It is the largest dune in BC.”
I had not heard about sand dunes in this area of ranchland and bluffs so when we were checking out we asked where the dunes were. There was different lady at the desk and she said she was lousy at directions so we said we will just drive down to the Tourist Information Center and ask them. Which we did and the helpful woman gave us a brochure and a map to find our way.
Since we were only going as far as Prince George today; a distance of 239 km or about 2 1/2 hours, we decided to go have a look-see.
We had to drive for about 35 minutes on the Bella Coola Highway west of Williams Lake, turn left at Riske Creek and drive a further 23 km on the Farwell Canyon Road, which is an active logging road. We were told to look for a red and black sign and a monument rock and from there you could hike to the dunes.
It was an awesome unexpected side trip. Thankfully we have a forestry radio compliments of our daughter’s fiance so we were able to let the logging trucks know the mile markers we were passing as we made our way along so they were aware of where we were.
This road winds around canyons, down steep slopes and up again and across the Fraser River. I don’t know how far away the logging operation is but we saw the dust from oncoming trucks on the far hills.
We were sure this was the sand dunes but we were told to go to mile marker 23 and we were not there yet. We had stopped on a wide spot to take photos and could see it clearly. But…we kept going.
We passed marker 23 with no sign of a black and red sign, or a monument rock. At marker 25 we pulled over to allow a logging truck plenty of room to go by and John got on the radio and said we were looking for the sand dunes. He said the hike started at marker 19!
We turned the truck around and headed back. We pulled into the little circular pull out that we had passed on the way up and took some more photos of the bluffs and the river.
Someone at some time had a homestead down by the river. We could not quite figure out how they got in there as there are steep-sided bluffs all around.
And sure enough when we returned to maker 19 there was a red and black sign telling us we were on private land belonging to the Douglas Lake Ranch and to please stay on the roads and trails and respect the wildlife and the plants. There was also a plaque on a rock at the litte grassy turnaround at the trail head to commemorate the death in a flash flood of a local cowhand.
Sadly, what we were not told at the Visitor’s Center was that the hike to the dunes was VERY long and went down into a canyon and up the other side and across a meadow.
The area is the habitat of a large number of California Bighorn Sheep and there was a herd of them grazing on the meadow. With our zoom lens we were able to spot 7 young ones among the adults. I didn’t get a clear photo of them unfortunately.
It was now past the noon hour so we had some lunch before heading back to Williams Lake.
We arrived in Williams Lake at 1:25 and headed north toward Prince George. We stopped in Quesnel and toured the museum which had a very diverse collection of artifacts including logging tools, ranching items, homestead and business displays, a small collection of lovely dolls from various places in the world, lots of wonderful old photos taken in the early 1900s of local people, plus quite a number of items from the early Chinese residents.
We found a few geocaches along the way and drove the last few kilometers into Prince George in a driving rainstorm with lightning flashing in the sky. It was a short cloudburst and the evening is nice again.
We loved our unplanned side trip. The scenery was so ruggedly beautiful and we went somewhere we had never heard of and saw one of the largest sand dunes in Canada, even though from a distance. Wonderful, wonderful day.