The Quest for Takakkaw Falls (aka The Falls That Got Away)

        Wednesday, April 11th, 2001 - Evening: The long weekend was just around the bend and after spending a few too many weekends playing video games and watching movies I figured it is about time that I actually got out and enjoyed some of my surroundings. I had been told that there was beautiful scenery if I set off north of Whistler. Sounded like a pretty good plan. I could hop in my car and simply drive. But what's a journey without a destination? Of course some of the best journeys never involve a specific destination but I figured I should have one anyway. So I ended up doing a search on waterfalls in BC to see if there was anything interesting in that general vicinity. Up came Takakkaw Falls, located in the Yoho National Park. Sounded good to me. It is supposed to be one of the highest falls in Canada. (Accounts vary from it being the highest waterfall in all North America to the 3rd highest in Canada. And in the world, it is ranked #8, #11, #13, or not even in the top 20. I think people need a better standard for measuring waterfalls!)

        Anyway, regardless of where the falls stood up in the scope of things, I wanted to get away and that sounded like a good direction. So I tossed a foam mattress in the back of my car along with pillows, a sleeping bag, and prepared to set off the next day after work.
          Thursday, April 11th, 2001 - 5:09pm: With my trusty camcorder at my side I set off from Whistler Village in a slight rain and began my journey north. I figured it would be a little over 1600 km round trip. I said a few kind words to my car before taking off, saying that if it managed to make the trip okay, I would pay for that tune-up it keeps asking for. I checked out the map and planned on hitting Lillooet before dark, pulling off somewhere for the night, and then journeying on to Field (next door to the Takakkaw Falls) by the next evening. Saturday could then be spent exploring the area with Sunday reserved for the long drive back to Whistler.
          I hit Pemberton after about twenty minutes and then made the tough climb up Mount Currie. A real nasty mountain road filled with very steep sharp turns and all sorts of "runaway ramps" for trucks who may be unfortunate enough to lose their brakes while coming down.

          As I continued on towards Lillooet I managed to see several groups of deer, including one group that seemed to think they were mountain goats, grazing on the side of a very steep slope.

          Just before reaching Lillooet, I pulled over to enjoy the view of Seton Lake. Now if only the colors were right, then you could see just how green that lake actually is. A beautiful spot, but a little too cold for a swim today.

          It started to get dark a little after 8pm so I began looking for a place to pull over for the night. Some place not too far off the main road but far enough to be out of sight. Didn't want any strange intruders tapping on my window in the middle of the night. And I ended up finding a perfect little spot about halfway between Lillooet and Lytton. The hardest part was trying to convince my body that it was time to go to bed at nine in the evening. In the end, I didn't get to sleep until after one anyway. (The back of my car is not quite long enough to fully stretch out in so it was a little hard to get used to.)

          Friday, April 13th, 2001 - Hard to sleep in when you have the sun streaming in through all the windows. So I was up bright and early the next morning. Didn't get a great sleep, but it was a little cheaper than the Holiday Inn. After a lovely breakfast consisting of a banana and some Froot Loops, I was on my way once again. 

          After I hit Lytton, I turned north once again to visit Spences Bridge. The movie "The Sweet Hereafter" was mostly filmed in Spences Bridge and Merritt so I decided to make a detour and check out the two places in case I could see anything familiar. However, I came away empty-handed. I suppose I should have asked one of the locals if they could point me in the right direction. Still, I did manage to catch some more nice scenery along the way and then grabbed a real breakfast at an A&W in Merritt.

          From Merritt, I headed north once again, towards Kamloops. Ran into a fair bit of snow. Turned to rain once I hit Kamloops and then the sun came out again as I set off east towards Chase, Salmon Arm, and Revelstoke.

          Stopped off in Craigellachie for a moment to see the spot where the last spike of Canada's first cross country railway was driven in. I was disappointed that they didn't seem to actually have THE spike on display. I suppose someone would try and steal it if they did. Then it was on to some more mountains and an interesting series of little tunnels.


          I then entered Golden and continued eastwards towards my final destination. I finally entered the Yoho National Park around 6pm and it wasn't long before I made it to Field. Right as I was approaching the village, I encountered a whole bunch of caribou. They were just sitting around by the side of the road. Later on I had to come to a complete stop because one of them wandered out into the road and just stared at me for a moment. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camcorder handy then.

          Not finding any decent places to pull over for the night in Field (and arriving too late to buy the all important park pass which is required for any visitors to the park), I backtracked to Golden, had a nice meal at Humpty's, and then ended up staying the night at the one campground in the area that was open this early in the season. The owner apologized that the electrical outlets, washrooms, and showers were not yet hooked up yet. He charged me $5 for the night which was fine by me.

          Up early again on Saturday morning. Breakfast at Humpty's and then back to Field for my quest to find Takakkaw Falls. In the summer time, you can drive your car close to the falls and you only need to hike if you want to get right to the base. Unfortunately, the road was buried under snow this time of year and as you can see from the sign, it is a wee bit of a trek to get to the falls on foot. However, after driving 800 km, I didn't want 13 km to stop me. Besides, I figured that I would probably be able to see the falls long before the end.


          So off I began on my grand hike to see the falls. How long does it take to hike 13 km? I figured it would take 2 1/2 hours each way. Sound reasonable? Although I was walking on snow, it was well packed down by cross country skiers. However, when I did go through the snow, I usually sank up to my knees. Hard to believe the snow would ever melt enough to allow the road to be open to cars. Anyway, to make a long story short, I walked and walked and walked and walked and walked. I saw some nice mountains, saw what might have been a snow dove, and as you can see from the pictures, I got totally exhausted.

          No falls to be seen anywhere. I finally turned back after nearly three hours. By then I doubted that I had enough energy to make the long trek back to the car. Where were the falls? Maybe I just didn't go far enough. Maybe I just missed them. (I imagined that they froze solid and then the big icicle broke so that it was nowhere in sight.) I should return in warmer weather to find out how close I actually got to seeing the falls.

          So I began the long trek back and I kept hoping that someone would ride by on a snowmobile and give me a lift. No such luck. Although the way back was mostly downhill, it seemed to be taking me even longer and I found myself stopping for breaks every ten minutes. I finally made it back to the parking lot at 3:15pm. Boy was I glad to see my car!

          After my unsuccessful quest to find the waterfalls, part of me was tempted to simply head back to Whistler. Eight hours of driving would have me back in my bed before midnight. However, that would have been cheating and it would have also wasted the extra day of the long weekend. So, instead of turning right from the parking lot and heading west, I turned left and set off towards Alberta. Five minutes later I crossed into Alberta and stopped off in Lake Louise. The lake was a wee bit too frozen over to be tempting for a swim.


          From there it was southwards and back into BC as I headed for Radium Hot Springs, passing some more wonderful mountains in Kootenay National Park. I decided to pay the "hot springs" a visit. What I found was a big swimming pool that was heated to hot tub temperatures. Were these the official hot springs? Nothing very natural about them. But I took a dip anyway. A great way to relax after the long day's hike. And hey, I was even able to rent a bathing suit for a whopping $1.25. Very nice to be able to take a shower and a swim after living in the car for two days straight.

          Afterwards, I headed north once again and back to Golden to spend night #3 back at the same campground from the previous night. I felt a little guilty this time and ended up paying $10 for the night.

          Without any way of recharging my camcorder, the batteries had gone dead at this point so I couldn't get any more pictures. I was up the next morning before 7 and set off on the 8 hour drive back to Whstler. It was mostly backtracking but I did end up taking a different route after Kamloops and encountered some beautiful areas around Cache Creek.

          I was back in Whistler by 4pm and ready to take a nice long shower and a good night's sleep in a real bed. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

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