Tweedsmuir Lodge – Day 2

Another absolutely outstanding day!!! We started with a 7 km hike along a tributary of the Atnarko river, past scree slopes and along a river channel that alternated between rapids, sloughs and idyllic ponds. The clouds burned off part way and the unseasonable Oct heat built during the hike. The scree slopes are home to Pika’s – a very cool little animal which is a close relative to the rabbit. They were sleeping in today so I didn’t get any photos. Have included one here taken from a public database that gives you an idea of what they look like.


You can feel the land preparing for winter. Although the heat still builds in the afternoons, mornings are cold and the air has that particular hush of autumn before the low pressure systems move in and the first big rain storms hit. Chipmunks and squirrels going about stocking their larders chattered at us as we passed by – although some of them were quite obliging models, my sense is in squirrel speak they were being quite rude 😂

A highlight of the walk was a ruffed grouse courting circle. A male in full plumage drumming away,  surrounded by four females. The females got out of dodge the minute we arrived but the male hung around for a few minutes – allowing for an excellent photo op. I think he thought we must have been some extra big hens as he continued to strut his stuff following our arrival 😂

Strutting his stuff

Mergansers and wood ducks came in to the slough as we passed by. Unfortunately the male Wood Duck was quite shy and not interested in having his photo taken.

Following another 👍🏻 lunch at the lodge, we set off for our second river drift, with another excellent guide Tamar. We had a wonderful conversation on our three hour trip down the river, about travel, philosophy and tidbits about the biology and ecology of the area. She also had met a guide of mine from my Galapagos trip – small world!

As before, no bears made an appearance until the end of the drift – my lucky hat is batting 100%. As we rounded the final corner there was Ivory again, this time accompanied by a male cub. Magic!!

I had a massage after we returned from the drift, we are looking forward to a steak dinner and then off to bed. Another big day tomorrow.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge – Day 1

What an amazing day! The day began at dawn with an incredible sunrise displaying its colours on MT Stupendous as we sat in the wildlife hide by the river hoping for early morning visitors. None arrived but our luck was about to change.

After an excellent breakfast we met our guide Bryn for our first river float to last about 3 hours down the Atnarko River system.  After finding and photographing a banana slug (who was not impressed) we boarded our raft and set off. The early morning on the river was outstanding, mergansers, gulls, lots of bear tracks, some bear day beds and salmon (dead and alive)  but no bears. We had two very impressive young men guiding us who filled us in on the natural history of the area, fish and bears – with the occasional philosophical discussion thrown in the mix. The river world casts a spell and the three hour drift passed quickly.

As we rounded the final corner, there she was, a young grizzly sow just sauntering out of the woods to feast on the dead and decaying fish along the riverside. We had a privileged 30 minutes with her before she moved on. Grizzly bear females generally do not produce offspring until they are 4-5 years of age. Mating season is in the summer but embryos are not implanted until the fall with implantation being nutrient dependent. A thin badly nourished female will generally abort any embryos she is carrying. This one looked very well fed, fingers crossed she will appear next spring with a couple of cubs at her side.

Following a lovely roasted red pepper/tomato soup at the lodge, we got our walking shoes on and joined Bryn again for an ecological walk through Big Rock Kettle Pond Park. The park boasts some huge glacial erratics (hence the name) – rocks that are carried by glaciers great distances from their origin and deposited when the glaciers retreat.

The walk turned into a mycological adventure and a chance to spend time with douglas firs 800-1000 years old.

Hoary giants who had survived fires that decimated the pines around them and had acted as bear rubs for centuries – if only they could talk.

The ecology of riparian (stream/river bank) zones that surround bear/salmon habitat is interesting. Bears often will drag their fish up away from where they were caught – a habit often seen in juveniles to protect their dinner. The remains of the fish are then left to decay into the soil. The result is a 200 m corridor running to parallel to these watercourses which has a very different soil composition than the remainder of the forest. We noticed this today – resulting in  very different plant/tree community, before the moss and fern system began about 200 metres from the Atnarko tributary we visited.

An interesting discussion ensued regarding the purpose of bear rubs (trees rubbed on and clawed by bears) . Some scientists regard them as address posts – there is also some research that indicates that bears who use them are more successful at mating and producing offspring.

Following a couple of hours in this magical place we received word of another female grizzly working the river below the lodge and away we went. “Ivory”, named after her white claws, appeared shortly around the bend in the river, engaging in what is called kick fishing – bringing up dead fish from the river bottom with her hind feet. Another 20 minutes in the company of a magnificent animal.

We have a walk planned tomorrow morning and then another river drift in the afternoon. This is an amazing place, peaceful and spiritual – highly recommended! Many thanks to my friend Pat for some of the photos!

Redstone to Tweedsmuir Park Lodge

Highway 20 (also known as the Chilcotin Hwy and the Alexander McKenzie Hwy) was our route today from Redstone to Tweedsmuir ParkLodge. Hwy 20 is a mixture of flat stretches, windy areas, an unpaved portion of about 60 km

Heckman Pass

and finally the famous Precipice or as many simply call it “The Hill”. The Hill begins at Heckman Pass (5000 ft) drops down the back of the Chilcotin Range 43 km to about 300 ft above sea level, in at times a 18% grade, complete with switch backs and hairpin turns, as well as one lane traffic in parts. The one lane traffic was generally around no-see um hairpin turns. As the road is used by logging trucks transporting pine beetle killed timber out of the area, paying attention is critical and guard rails of any kind are conspicuously missing. “Interesting” today, one can hardly imagine it in winter 😳.

A relatively flat paved road at the bottom of the summit was greeting with relief and within in minutes we arrived at Tweedsmuir lodge.

The lodge is nestled in between the Chilcotin Range

and the Coast Mountains – the most prominent being Mt Stupendous and that it is. The staff here are first class and we were quickly checked into our cabin. Our first event today was a Grizzly Bear 101 orientation. Our lovely guide Karla familiarized us with the property and took us on two short walks. We saw lots of grizzly footprints and grizzly droppings which smelled like salmon – imagine that 😂. Tomorrow we have a river drift in the morning where we hope to see our first bears.

Clinton to Redstone

Clinton originated as 47 mile house on the Gold Rush Trail that linked the lower mainland to Barkerville. As with many Canadian monikers – Clinton was renamed after an absent Duke who was a British civil servant  for a time and the name stuck. The town was first settled in the mid 1800’s during the gold rush and became an important junction in the two roads leading from the south. Ranching became the main industry following the gold rush, followed by forestry and more recently tourism. The location of the town is a perfect jumping off point for winter and summer activities.  Our stroll along main street in the morning light provided us with some lovely photo ops.

Leaving Clinton we headed north along Hwy 99 towards Williams Lake. The drive went smoothly through a landscape of incredible fall colours.

Turning west at Williams Lake took us onto Hwy 20 heading towards the coast and into the area of the Hanceville-Riske Lake wildfire which decimated the area in 2017. The devastation that still remains is sobering. The photo can’t really capture the enormity of what happened here.

Our journey towards the coast included an overnight reservation at the KiNikiNik Lodge and restaurant at Redstone. Things started to get interesting at this point. We pulled into the lodge area to see a big closed sign. OK – I walked around and found a couple of guys – turned out they were blowing out the irrigation and knew nothing. One of them suggested I go see Jess at the ranch. Ok – where is the ranch – a query answered with a vague flip of the hand towards some hills. We drove around to the back which houses a butcher shop, found a man who barely spoke english who told us to drive around back of the restaurant and find a white car – apparently someone who could help us was there. We found the white car but no people. Pat leaned on the horn and a girl appeared who knew nothing and had locked herself out of the restaurant. Hey – it gets better…..

Jess finally arrived,  restaurant is closed on Mondays – has been for two weeks, something she neglected to tell us. But she can give us cold food and we can cook it…..  Plus breakfast is a cold waffle that we can heat up.  Well yeah 🙄 Meanwhile I drink a glass or two of wine – it has been a long long day …. As I am sitting out in front of my cabin a hissy and scratchy sound comes from a bush right behind me – thinking snake I end up on the other side of the table – turns out it was a sprinkler head being blown out by the compressor on the other side of the bush. Now things are getting funny 😆 

We are out of here in the morning – should be at Tweedsmuir Lodge by noon and the planned adventure begins!!!

Horseshoe Bay to Clinton

A somewhat smoky ferry ride deposited us at Horseshoe Bay, the beginning of one of the most stunning drives in the world culminating in Lillooet on the Fraser River.

Aptly named the Sea to Sky Highway the first portion of the drive highlights the beauty of Howe Sound as it transitions into the Coastal Ranges of BC. Howe sound was formed about 20,000 years ago by glaciers as they slowly crept over the Continent. The resulting geology is stunning, granite and metamorphic rocks with volcanic intrusions snaking up through fractures in the main rock.

Squamish and Whistler appeared quickly as we continued east. Both are meccas for skiers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. The growth in this area has made parts of it unrecognizable from the sleepy little villages that existed in the 70’s when our family used to come up here to ski. The only familiar landmark to me was the Old Highland Lodge, which at one point was the only place you could get dinner in the area. How times have changed….

Exiting Whistler we headed for Pemberton and the start of the Duffy Lake Road, sometimes referred to as one of the most dangerous roads and beautiful roads in BC. After a brief arguement with a trash can at a gas station in Pemberton (the trash can won), we picked up a coffee and were on our way. As we left Pemberton the ecosystem began to change to a drier pine type from the conifer dominated Howe Sound vegetation. The road follows the valley bottom through stands of Aspens and small farm holdings and then begins to climb as you approach Lillooet. Switch backs and steep climbs/descents are common. This drive is part of a loop that drops back down to the coast from Lillooet.

Once we reached Lillooet and the Fraser River we parted ways with the conventional route and headed north to Hwy 99 on our way to Clinton. Another ecosystem change to the fire driven semi arid sagebrush/pine forests characteristic of this part of BC. We reached our hotel as the sun was descending below the mountains, sorted out a brief room issue (yes there is a story there 🙂 ) had dinner (who knew there is a place in the Cariboo with excellent Quesadillas) and called it a day. The hotel truly is a family run affair – our front desk receptionist waiting tables as well, and her sister cooking in the kitchen. Her sister can cook like nobodies business – if you pass through Clinton I recommend a meal at the Cariboo Lodge.

Our drive today is short and we hope to spend part of the morning wandering around Clinton’s many interesting shops. Possible retail alert!

Great Bear Rain Forest and Tweedsmuir National Park

Rainforests have always been a magical place for me and today my girlfriend Pat and I begin our journey to one that has long been on my list to visit. Our destination is Tweedsmuir Park Lodge located in the Great Bear Rainforest near Bella Coola on the Atnarko River, one of the most pristine Grizzly bear habitats in North America. Our route will take us from Vancouver Island to Vancouver and then on to our first stop in the town of Clinton via the Duffy Lake Road. Fall colours are at their loveliest and the drive should be a stunning one. For those of you interested in following us on a map, I have included a map of SW British Columbia. We will travel on Hwy 99 through Whistler and Pemberton, then turn north on Hwy 97 to Williams Lake, before turning west on Hwy 20 to Bella Coola and the Lodge. A short slideshow highlights some of the beauty of the area we are travelling to, as well as photos of the lodge and surroundings. As always I look forward to sharing the journey with you. Regular notifications will be posted on Facebook, or you can follow me at


Essaouria has stayed reasonably true to its origins due to the location on the coast, directly in the path of strong onshore winds – which has prevented the establishment of a sun loving European elite.  A breakwater of sorts complete with walls and ramparts  created a safe harbour for the hundreds of fishing boats that ply the waters  off the town daily, as well as many various craft in the past.

Occupation has been since the Palaeolithic times. The Romans produced the Roman of purple of toga fame using dye from the species of whelk found here. Portuguese invaded the area in the early 1500’s and built walls and fortifications that still exist today.

During their hey day along the coast of west Africa the Portuguese had numerous towns under their control which supervised as transiting point s for trade goods including slaves. By the mid 1500’s their influence was waning due to the Spanish and British. However remains of their occupation remain.

The Medina of Essaouria is easy to navigate with many restaurants and shops. the vibe is relaxed and not as aggressive  as Fez or Marrakesh.

Our lunch was incredible – a Moroccan salad of tomatoes, peppers and onions which  started out the meal was followed with numerous types of fresh seafood purchased at the fish market in the morning and cooked to perfection at a local community kitchen.

Following lunch a shopping trip in the Medina resulted in a glorious scarf joining my growing pile of treasures. A sunset of equal beauty finished our day.

On to Marrakesh and the final leg of of journey tomorrow

Trafraout, Ait Mansour Gorge and the Palm Valley Oasis

An early morning departure from Taroudant on the road to Tafraout took us through the outskirts of the city – passing school children and livestock on the road, as well as a charcoal kiln operation just beginning to belch smoke. The Anti-Atlas range appeared quickly and we began a climb to start quite possibly the most beautiful drive so far. A fitting beginning to one of the best days on the trip. 

The route to Tafraout is spectacular. PreCambrian rocks in bedding planes subjected to massive deformation in the past, mountain peaks, valleys – absolutely breath taking colours.

One sobering detail is the lack of people. The road into Tafraout travels through an area where climate change has made the biggest impact on any areas I have visited on the planet. Up until 50-60 years ago the area in the Anti- Atlas was farmed intensively, a rich producer of  agricultural products.

Climate change has resulted in extreme drought conditions gradually spreading over the region. The terraces that the vanished farmers created for their crops still remain, as do Argon trees which can go dormant for years and resprout from the base when the rains come. It may be a while.

Even the prickly pear cactus is wilting. Small villages remain here and there in the landscape – many deserted at least partially – its inhabitants moved to the city in search of a way to make a living.

Once we reached Tafraout we took a quick orientation walk through the market before departing the city for the famous Ait Mansour Gorge Palm Valley Oasis and its accompanying villages.

A different vibe in the village, more conservative dress for women and men with black covering most women from head to foot. A lovely surprise was a face scarf blowing aside for a moment revealing a face of delicate beauty with impeccable makeup and a glimpse of what looked like a designer dress.

 Another truly memorably drive to Ait Mansour Gorge, complete with whiplash curves.

The drop down into the Palm Valley oasis in the gorge was stunning. The villages in this oasis are scattered along the river flowing through the bottom of the gorge. At one point 3000 people lived here, now 300 remain.

We were met by a lovely man who led us along the gorge bottom to his home where we enjoyed a couscous and chicken lunch and chatted with his family.

A magical lunch in a magical place. Our walk back though the oasis to our transport was a peaceful one as most of the villages inhabitants were at the local market in Tafraout purchasing supplies.

One final stop on our ride back was at Chapeau du Napoleon -a village set under a huge rock escarpment resembling Napoleons hat. An odd place – large more opulent homes, all shuttered and locked up.

A ghost town, inhabited only by wealthy people in the summer months. Not a positive impact on the community. Our local guide was excellent as always and we enjoyed a day that not many get to experience. Icing on the cake was finally finding my Berber rug in a local shop – bargaining was fun and the shop owner high fived me when we came to an agreement 🙂 The rug is now carefully packaged and ready for its trip home.

Tomorrow we leave for the coastal town of Essaouira – until then Inshallah 

Dawn in Trafraout

Anti-Atlas, Berbers and Taroudant

Our long journey today took us through what is known as the anti – Atlas range – a lower range than the high Atlas on a ride of spectacular beauty. Massively deformed bedding planes in the red hills, coupled with the ruins of an occasional Kasbah, small villages, herds of goats and sheep all along a winding river bed surrounded in many places with date palms was stunning.

I have spoken about cemeteries earlier  on this blog, how bodies are aligned on their right side, head facing east and how traditionally graves are not marked except for stones. Although the practise of not marking graves with names is slowly changing – many traditional graveyards still exist. Stones are placed at the head end of the grave and at the feet of the deceased person and all graves are facing Mecca – head first. Size difference was apparent in the resting place we visited today, small distances between head and foot stone indicated children, longer spans indicative of adults. A few actual markers were also present.

Berbers or Imazighan

A good deal of the travel time was taken up with a discussion on the indigenous people of North Africa living west of the Nile Valley – who we know as the Berbers – but who are actually the Imazighen (or free people)

The connection between the Imazighen and the land is strong as is their belief in freedom. Although many have settled in towns and cities, 20% of the Berber population still practises the nomadic life- most in the Saghru mountain area in the High Atlas. 

Successive waves of outside peoples entered Morroco over the centuries. The first were the Phoenicians who established trade routes, the next were the Romans who had other interests, the Romans were followed by the Arabs, then the Portuguese, Spain and France. The Berbers  were named by the Romans – loosely  translated it means wild ones or barbarians – who considered the nomadic indigenous people  as uncivilized according to their standards….. . The  language is one of the oldest in the world and was finally recognized in 2004 in Algeria and Morocco and is now taught in schools in both countries. One interesting Berber festival in the High Atlas is called the Festival of Marriage. The beginning of this festival arose from a Romeo and Juliet like a story of a boy and a girl – who wished to marry but were prevented from doing so by their families who were in conflict with one another. The young couple died from sorrow after crying for 40 days and nights – their tears creating two lakes (a version of cry me a river ). Their families reconciled after the tragedy and began the festival in the area of the two Lakes. This where nomadic boys and girls can meet. At the end of the festival all the young end up in a circle. A boy will point a stick at his bride of choice – if she accepts she takes the stick. If she does not she breaks the stick. Nice and clean in any case 🙂

Dropping down out of the Anti-Atlas took us through Saffron fields, Argon orchards, olive and citrus groves. The Moroccan oranges are right up there with the Mexican ones I have enjoyed so much during my travels there. Large herds of goats inhabit this region – some climb trees and we stopped to photograph their acrobatics. What the owners of the Argon trees they were munching away on while 20 feet above the ground thought is unknown…..\

Taroudant is our stop for the night. We are here for two nights to recuperate from our busy schedule, as well as get some laundry done. The hotel is lovely and I plan to spend sometime at and in the pool tomorrow.