I am in Clearwater on Friday, Oct. 2nd, so I don my usual, not-exactly-waterproof gear and light hikers and grab my water bottle. Only when I walk out our front door do I notice that it has started to sprinkle. No time to dig out rain gear now as I head for Wells Gray Information Centre. Driving into the parking lot I see vehicles parked crosswise over the long white lines marking off spaces for RVs. People standing behind them, wearing colourful jackets and hats, turn into seven recognizable friends. “Where are we going?” “Remember the old Tipi Camp?” “Haven’t been there for years, but sure I do.”
Leaving a couple of cars parked legally, we car-pool to Upper Clearwater and stop near the road up to Battle Mt., take packs, jackets, and hiking sticks and start up the narrow road. Big black poodle Jake and beautiful blonde Labrador Molly are released to race and chase each other. If anyone has noticed the sprinkles are heavier, they don’t say anything. We progress to the first junction and hang a left onto a wide trail walking in ever-changing small groups. Bushes hang out in places so we take care not to get hit in the face by wet leaves. By now, sprinkles have turned into raindrops. More caps cover heads, and hoods come up, but still – no comment.
Underfoot we see hoof prints (and other fresh evidence) of passing horses. ATVs have been through here recently so it’s a bit churned up and becoming muddy. At the next junction we start wandering upwards until a voice calls from the end of the line: “I’m not going up there. I am heading back and taking the trail that goes down!” We all obediently face about and follow suit. And yes, now on a rocky, increasingly muddy (right) trail, we descend. Four stout poles marking off a platform greet our arrival. “There’s the dance floor!” Who knows; maybe that’s what it was. A toilet, despite lacking a door, is more useful. Extensive hay fields that were previously visible from the campsite are hidden by undergrowth. We stand to snack beside a large sturdy table sheltered by a huge tree. We could have all fitted on its long, strong, damp benches, but didn’t sit although we wouldn’t have gotten much wetter. Water drips off our hats and finds its way through layers of clothes beneath which we are sweating anyway.
No one says, “I don’t want to trudge back up the hill,” but the thought hangs in the air as the rain pours down. “Where does that little trail go?” “You soon see the fields but there’s a creek too wide to step across. Down the other way, we could bushwhack for a short distance until we see that edge of the first field and then stay in the trees until we reach the road.”
Soon we are helping each other across the small creek. Only the person with the longest legs succeeds in stepping into the flowing water rather than across it! Then we are trespassing…. Swampy conditions have sent us out onto the not-recently-mowed hayfield. “My trouser legs are so wet and heavy they are pulling my pants down!” We follow the fence to an opening onto the next field that doesn’t help. “There’s a deep, steep-sided, irrigation ditch hidden in the grass.”
Beside a “No Hunting” sign, we finally scramble from one property to the other. Here the grass is shorter; two deer stop grazing to watch us. Waving white “flags” but stopping a few times to look back, they disappear near the sign. We decide to head for the house and its driveway to access the road, passing cars now within sight. “Blinds are down, no vehicle, no dogs; maybe we’ll be lucky and won’t have to explain our sodden presence.” Dripping doggies Jake and Molly are leashed, but no one appears as we cross between barn and house to follow the short driveway to legality. Pools of water by the road along which we return to our vehicles tell us we made a smart move in heading towards the shuttered home.
And what, you might ask, did everyone say at the end of the trek? “Well. That was FUN!”