During the summer of 2021, British Columbia set temperature records in various geographical areas of our Canadian province. Heat waves caused drought conditions in some locations; melting mountain snowfall created flood conditions in other areas; and drought combined with lightning ignited raging wildfires.
Safety protocols and lock downs due to Covid, made this an especially challenging time to travel around our vast and majestic province. Due to a combination of these factors, we decided to make our trip back to Vancouver Island from Prince George as direct as possible!
Departing from Prince George, all highway routes southbound journeyed adjacent to one or several wildfire zones. Mom did not want to fly without our support, so “Goodbye Mr. P.G.” we commenced the southbound trip together.
The first stage of our trip was 335 km (about 4 hours) from Prince George to 94 Mile Motel south along Highway 97. We drove south past Quesnel, Australian, and McLeese Lake to Williams Lake. This route looks so totally different in summer than when it’s covered in snowmobile paths crisscrossing the deep snow banks during winter months. One summer we plan to stop, camp, and explore lovely McLeese lake.
As you approach Williams Lake, be prepared to observe an increase in loaded logging trucks on the surrounding highways. Representations of the importance of the Logging/Forestry resource industry is very evident here.
The lake area looked enticing, so we took a quick detour through this hub center of the Cariboo District. Williams Lake’s population is about 11,000 and it is the service center for surrounding communities.
Continuing 15 km southeast along highway 97 we approached historic 150 Mile House. This tiny community was an important stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road during the Gold Rush. The name marks the distance from Lillooet via the Old Cariboo Road. There are lots of fascinating historical antiques and structural remnants to explore in this area. The rural landscape is pretty; displaying a diversity of small lakes, marshes, farms, ranches and tiny communities.
Six miles south of 100 Mile House off highway 97, you will locate Mile 94 Motel.
Why would we stop overnight at tiny 94 Mile House you may wonder?
On previous trips to northern B.C. we discovered this delightful motel…updated modern rooms, meticulously clean, family run and very reasonably priced. There are kitchenettes in the rooms, but no food/pubs within walking distance. It is a lovely location to stop, sleep, then continue travelling the next day.
The proposed time to cover the 460ish km distance from 94 Mile to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in Vancouver was estimated at approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes (of uninterrupted driving)! Our trip was going to prove that time allotment was impossible today!
After a hearty breakfast in Clinton (while waiting for updates about highway closures), we headed south on Highway 97 to the Cache Creek junction exit.
Highway 99 was the only highway open to southbound travel on August 17th, 2021 due to wildfires and mud slides. We started the trip early in the morning hoping to avoid the anticipated bottleneck in traffic heading towards the only available route. It did not take long before traffic usage increased as people channeled onto this route.
We headed west driving past the evidence of mining rock erosion around Pavilion. My best educated guess after researching, is this was a limestone quarry mine. Pavilion, B.C. is a fascinating area to research. Sadly, there are few structural artifacts left around Pavilion establishing its previous historical settlement as a Cariboo Gold Rush boom town.
Currently ranches are the major focus of this area which is mostly the land of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nations reserve. Colorful, clear Pavilion Lake is a popular recreation site too with a fascinating secret to discover beneath its waters.
As we approached Lillooet the vegetation changed reflective of a hotter climate, rugged Coastal mountains, and proximity to the powerful Fraser river.
These majestic geographical features became dominant travel companions throughout the next stage of our journey. The mighty Fraser River is the longest river in B.C. stretching 1,375 km.
The population of Lillooet is approximately 2,300 people. The major industries in Lillooet are: hydroelectricity, the railway, forestry, agriculture and tourism. The summer sun, irrigation from the nearby rivers, and fertile soil produce lush fruits, vegetables, and vineyards.
After a quick morning coffee break in Lillooet we continued southwest on highway 99 fully embracing the stunning scenery along this route.
The Duffey Lake Road heading toward popular Duffey Lake Provincial Park truly is gorgeous.
It is no wonder lower mainland citizens escape to Duffey Lake in flocks! The parking lots were filled and people clad in various levels of hiking attire maneuvered around trailheads. Mom was very excited, and appreciative, by the beauty along the highway 99 route.
This short video shares some of the beautiful scenery we witnessed along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99).
The morning was beautiful and we were so thankful we had selected to travel this route on Highway 99 away from the delays due to forest fires, and mud slides… when suddenly we encountered traffic stoppage along the highway at D’Arcy.
What had happened? Luckily our wait time was only 30 minutes. We had allowed extra time for travel when making our B.C. Ferry Reservation to Vancouver Island. You never know what lies ahead when you are travelling–especially during the busy summer months. As we slowly and carefully crept along, we discovered the cause of this highway closure.
Our travel continued along Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99) through the Garibaldi Range. Mount Currie, known as Ts’zil in the St’at’imcets (Lillooet) language has an elevation of 2,591 m (8,501 feet).
This enormous mountain soars above the village of Pemberton, B.C.
Famous Whistler, B.C is only 33 km (about 30 minutes) drive from Pemberton along Highway 99S. This tourist destination is extremely popular year round for wilderness adventure sports.
During the summer you can participate in sports, such as: mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, and league sports. During the winter reserve early to participate in sports, such as: skiing, snowboarding, backcountry splitboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, bobsleigh, skeleton, ice-climbing, ice-fishing, and even dog sledding!
Whistler is a tourist haven and an extremely busy location to drive through when you are travelling. Today, was not a day to stop and explore.
Onward southward we drove along the busy Sea-to-Sky Highway B.C. 99S. The distance between Whistler and Squamish is 60 km and the travel time varies dependent on the speed of the traffic. Estimate about 50 minutes.
This is another hub for wilderness adventures and extreme sports. Watch for kitesurfing or windsurfing in Squamish Harbour and rock climbers ascending/descending the Chief Rock face.
Just 12 km (about 15 minutes) southwest of Squamish along the Sea-to Sky highway 99S you will discover the aqua ocean at Darrell Bay and historical Britannia Beach, B.C. Mom was animated with excitement as she recalled the multiple times our family drove here from Vancouver in the early 1960‘s to picnic on the beach and tour the Britannia Mine. I was under 6 years old during this period and honestly can not remember the experiences; but it was heart warming to hear my 88 year old mom’s memories of these special family adventures.
We could smell the salty, clear Pacific Ocean air and the familiar scent of cedar and various other coastal evergreen trees. The final 33 km from Britannia Beach to Horseshoe Bay (B.C. Ferry Terminal) was home stretch for us!
The sun ricocheted off the water as we passed Lions Bay. We arrived at the B.C. Ferry terminal in West Vancouver several hours ahead of our reserved ferry.
During the busy summer months lengthy ferry waits are common between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so reservations for particular ferry sailings are recommended. However, we had selected to travel on a Tuesday (mid week) and due to the wildfire and mudslide closures on B.C. highways many people were missing their reserved sailings. As a result, luck was with us today and we managed to get aboard with only 1 sailing wait! Our reserved sailing was actually for much later in the evening!
The 3 of us had journeyed around British Columbia for nearly 2 weeks and certainly appreciated the opening for travel after the lengthy Covid 19 lockdown. We utilized our time to visit family and see fascinating new sites. But as Dorothy quoted in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”
Future blog posts will be exploring hiking trails and having adventures around our beautiful Vancouver Island. Keep Safe and Keep Smiling. S