Our Big Sky Country Road-trip to Lillooet and Della Creek
Early this past Saturday morning, we hit the road. With nothing but sun in the forecast, Piper, Mike and I drove the 99 north with coffees and breakfast sandwiches in hand.
North of Whistler and Pemberton, we made our way onto Duffey Lakes Road (which feels more like a switchback than a highway) and enjoyed the wild 130km ride, with plenty of single-lane wood bridges, hairpin turns and cliffside drop-offs. Between the road and the breathtaking scenery, it’s best to take your time and enjoy the ride.
After Joffre Lakes and Duffey Lakes Provincial Park, a lush forest of mountains appears. The views of the Cayoosh ranges north, and Mount Brew to the east are spectacular!
North of that, the evergreens and ferns thin out, showing off a more rugged side of BC than we are used to. Steep and sheer rock-face ranges reach straight up to the sky and arid vegetation peppers the valleys. Cayoosh Creek (named after the Spanish word caballo, referring to a certain mountain breed of horse) runs parallel to the road and it’s not uncommon to spot a pack of wild horses grazing these parts.
Signalling the last leg of the trip north, Duffey Lakes Road opens up to Seton Lake, a beautiful provincial park and lake. Once you spot the turquoise waters on the your left, the road turns east and welcomes you into Lillooet.
Formerly Cayoosh Flat, Lillooet is nestled in the gorges of the Coast Mountains with a population of just 3,000 (half made up of St’at’imc or Lillooet Nation). The humble town overlooks the longest river in all of BC, the Fraser River, a popular fishing destination known for its Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, and—most impressively—white sturgeon that weigh upwards of 100 pounds (google it, I swear)! With a dry climate, Lillooet vies with Osoyoos for title of “Canada’s Hot Spot” in the summer, boasting healthy market gardens, orchards, vineyards, and ranches, hints of that to come already showing for us in the spring.
After driving through downtown, we turned onto Texas Creek Road and headed south along the east side of the same mountains we got to enjoy westward views of on the way up.
Running parallel to the river in the Fraser Canyon, Texas Creek is a tributary of Lillooet mainly inhabited by St’at’imc, and is known for the large Texas Creek Ranch (which is currently exploring wine-making on its 2.5 acres of vineyard)! On the drive towards our destination at Della Creek, we spotted deer, wild sage, creeks with cool names like Cat Creek and McPhee Creek, and a lot of cattle which roam free, remaining on their property only through the use of cattle guards, essentially steel grates built into the dirt road.
Once we happened upon the Della Creek access road (50.480936, -121.728476 For those wondering—it was tough finding directions), we climbed 4,000 feet up the mountain to Della Creek and settled into our campsite. Talk about the wild west! Located on Askom Mountain, we parked at the last campsite before the access road closed. As we walked out near the edge, we were stunned at what we saw: with views of Intlpam Peak and Rahu Peak, our site peered over a lush valley a few thousand feet below the shaley, rock edge we were on. The site had a log picnic table, a fire pit, and a good amount of open clearing. Piper ran around, dug in the sand and chewed on sticks while we unpacked.
We didn’t plan on staying the night as we haven’t got our hands on a good truck tent yet, but we brought our summer ground tent and a mattress just in case. Of course, Mike and I let our curiosity get the better of us and we ended up assembling the tent and fitting it into the bed of the truck. We spent the night talking, cooking dinner (grilled chicken, potato wedges and kale slaw), and planning out our next adventure.
In the end, while we had every intention of staying the night, we weren’t quite prepared for the cool night temperature, and our ad-hoc tent setup was less than ideal, so we made the responsible call to pack it up, vowing to return again soon!
The drive home was quite the experience: we both felt like we were in a virtual reality video game. The sky at dusk illuminated the rugged clay-coloured ranges, and the soft green shrubs and flowering bushes looked even more beautiful in the shade.
Just as the sun was setting, we made it to Seton Lake once again to enjoy a different perspective before winding through Duffey Lakes Road and the 99 until we hit home just before midnight.
For the rest of the weekend, we couldn’t get this place off our minds and we are itching to return in a few weeks! Texas Creek, hold your horses, we’re coming back…