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A Hodophile is one who loves travel, and with a special affinity for roads. Derived from an ancient Greek word pertaining to roads and journeys.

Maligne Lake, Icefields Parkway near Jasper Alberta.

In my last blog, “Becoming One,” I said that driving in British Columbia (BC) seems like you are always in a National Park. There is reason for that since BC hosts seven National Parks, some 644 Provincial Parks, and claims that it has the highest proportion of protected land of any jurisdiction in the world (about 15% of BC is protected). After spending time there, I believe them. Today I expand on that earlier statement and take you on a photo road-trip headed east to Banff and Jasper National Parks (just over the border in Alberta), and describe how wonderful it is just to get to Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

It is about a ten-and-a-half-hour drive from Bellingham to Lake Louise. But in all honestly, I have never made it that quickly with all the amazing places and photo stops along the way. More realistic for me is about ten-plus hours to Revelstoke or Yoho National Park, which is at-best still some twenty minutes from the Continental Divide.

Bugaboo Falls, British Columbia.

All roads begin in Hope! Hope is a small town not far across the US border that sits at the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers, and is the gateway to BC’s interior. In the past you could cross the border and drive to Hope in two hours, or you could fly into Vancouver BC and get there in about the same time. Remember you really cannot get into Canada now, and the latest update is that the border will remain closed at least until May 25th (most likely to be much longer).

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

From Hope you can take the southern Route 3 through Manning Provincial Park and BC’s prime agricultural region in the Upper Okanagan, to Rossland, up to Nelson, past the Bugaboo Mountains and Kootenay National Park, north to Mount Revelstoke National Park, through the Selkirk Mountains, then east to Yoho and then Lake Louise in Banff National Park. You can take Route 1 out of Hope to Kamloops, and then along Salmon Arm to Revelstoke. Or, from Kamloops you can take Route 5 North past Wells Grey Provincial Park, to Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 12,972 feet) and into Jasper. All are equally wonderful to drive.

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

Robson is the second highest point in BC, just short of Mount Waddington’s 13,186 feet over west in the Coast Range. Recommendation on the northern route -- plan to spend quality time in Wells Grey Park in the Cariboo Mountains, which is just phenomenal and home to forty-one named waterfalls including the 463-foot Helmcken Falls. In May and June, black bears can be easily seen along the road as they browse on new grasses. On my first trip many years ago, my daughter and I counted eight black bears in one campground. We quickly figured this was the bear’s campground and went to the people campground nearby! There are grizzlies here as well, but they usually stay in the far northern part of the park, or at elevation among the berries and wildflower meadows on Trophy Mountain.

Helmcken Falls, Wells Grey Provincial Park, British Columbia

Once on the divide, head north or south on Route 93, the Icefields Parkway, a seriously beautiful four-hour drive between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Banff, to the south, is Canada’s first National Park established in the 1880’s. It is one of the most scenic drives not just in Canada, but in the world. Hundreds of glaciers, waterfalls, emerald lakes, and wildlife. There is a lot of info on this drive, so I will not spend more time here, but note that you will want time to spend in and around Banff, in Jasper, and on the road linking them. You can do it in a day, but why would you?

Mountain Goats on Icefield Parkway, Alberta.

As in the US, National Parks can get crowded in the high season. Especially this summer when everyone is looking to escape the pandemic. If you do not like crowds, but like to drive, you can head twenty minutes east of Banff to Canmore and drive Route 742, the Smith Dorrien Trail through the Bow and Spray Valley Watersheds. It is a rough gravel road but should be passable without four-wheel drive, and it crosses the 6,250-foot elevation Smith Dorrien Pass – so not a good choice in winter. I drove it four mornings in a row and saw maybe two or three other cars each day – and tons of wildlife. A nice several hour loop is to take Route 742 south to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, then Route 40 back to Canmore, with its wonderful local bars and restaurants.

Glacier fed Peyto Lake in Banff National Park. Alberta.

End Note

The Bow, Spray and Kananaskies Lakes area above were originally part of the Rocky Mountain Park of Canada. The National Parks Act of 1930 removed the Kananaskies area due to extensive fire damage, and twenty-one square miles along the Spray Lakes area due to water-power potential. BC is not unique at allowing dams to be built in beautiful places, think Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, O’Shaughnessy Dam drowning the Tuolumne River outside Yosemite or the recently removed Elwha Dam in Olympic National Park. Calgary Power Company, now TransAlta Corporation, buried two lakes in the Bow River when they flooded the valley and began generation in 1950. The reservoirs and infrastructure are visible, although the drive, wildlife and solitude are still recommended.

Spray Lakes Reservoir Sunrise. Smith-Dorrien Trail, Alberta.


Still round the corner, there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.

J.R.R. Tolkien

In this blog, I take you far from our last destination in America’s Southwest and give an overview of one of my very favorite places, the roughly eighty-mile-long Bella Coola Valley located on British Columbia’s Central Coast. As befits almost all my special places, Bella Coola is another end-of-road adventure. Getting there requires intention. Is also requires patience as we await the opening of the Canadian border.

Bella Coola River & Coast Mountains. British Columbia

For the Nuxulk Nation, which has a local history spanning over 8,000 years, the original Valley of Nuxulk means “Becoming One.” One origin theory has Nuxulk arriving at the time of Creation, on the eyelashes of the sun, in animal form. They landed on various mountain tops where they took on human form.* Having enjoyed the beauty of Bella Coola on numerous trips, I believe Becoming One well defines this wonderful and unique area where you can get closer to indigenous art and culture, and wildlife. You can witness the Atnarko and Telchako Rivers flow into and form the Bella Coola River, which flows forty-four miles to the Bella Coola estuary on North Bentinck Arm, and then west eventually to the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Grizzly Reflection, Atnarko River. British Columbia

Also known as the Gateway to the Great Bear Rainforest, the Bella Coola Valley is part of both British Columbia’s Discovery and Great Bear Circle Route. From the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island, north to Port Hardy, by ferry to Bella Bella and then Bella Coola, then driving east up the 5,000 foot ascent of “the Hill” (a thirteen-mile descent/ascent with 18% grades built in 1953) and across the Chilcotin Plateau, then south to Whistler and back to Vancouver. It is a beautiful circuit and I have made the drive several times (about fourteen hours from Bellingham), have taken the Ferry up, and my wife Stephanie has flown into the Bella Coola airport. Any way you can, it is worth the time and adventure.

Heading North in British Columbia.

I love ferries, but my favorite is the drive. Driving anywhere in British Columbia seems like you are in a National Park, and viewing wildlife seems to happen around every bend in the road. The 280+ mile drive along the Chilcotin Highway (Hwy 20) is simply stunning, especially in fall with the yellows, reds and ochres announcing the end of the summer season. On one trip, I needed to pull over as the brilliant colors had my eyes swimming. Then the dramatic drop from the Rainbow Mountains and Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and into the valley. All of this located in the Coast Mountains that run some 1,000 miles from the Tatshenshini River to south of the Fraser River.

Pika on drive to the Odegaard Falls Hike. Bella Coola.

Originally drawn to the Valley to photograph bears, I have come to love my visits to this area for other reasons as well. The chance to sit along the river in the early evening, basking in the last glows of the sun. Conversations with other photographers, visitors, fishermen, and local tribal residents while watching bears at the Belarko Wildlife Viewing Station (the bears are everywhere when all five species of Pacific Salmon are spawning). Or deciding if I dare take my Subaru (and Stephanie) up the four-wheel drive tote road? The answer is no!

Fall Colors along the Chilcotin Highway, Hwy. 20.

While a trip to Bella Coola is an exceptional opportunity and destination, the Valley (like almost every outdoor destination today) is facing changes. Like California, Oregon, Washington, and other states, fire has ravaged the Central Interior of British Columbia. After the record-breaking fires of 2017 and 2018 (over three-million acres burned), I was distraught by the hours of driving through smoke, haze and matchsticks in Williams Lake, Riske Creek, Hanceville, and Anahim Lake on the Chilcotin Highway. It will take nature a while to heal from this, IF it can, as temperatures and wind increase exponentially each year. The thought of losing more of this wild area to fire is devastating. I can only imagine how it feels for those who live there.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.

Mark Twain

Backroad to the Coast Mountains. British Columbia.

And tourism is taking a heavy toll as well. If and when you go, you need to remember exactly why this Valley is a special place, and be sure to help it keep its history, culture, and link with nature. If you are a traveler, especially a solivagant or solitary wanderer like me, you will take my meaning. The ability to see bears and other wildlife is still amazing but many rules have been put in place to protect both bears, other wildlife, and visitors. Be kind to the wildlife, as well as the tribal and agency staff working to keep it wild. Talk and get to know the local community and residents, who live in this wonderful place to which you have come – and which you will want to visit again.

Bella Coola River, British Columbia

Links and Additional Information

*Chief Sixlaxaalyc (Noel Pootlass), Nuxulk Nation Head, Hereditary Chief and Artist.

In August of 2017, British Columbia banned all grizzly hunting throughout the province. This eliminates grizzly hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest area. Unfortunately, this protection does not extend to other wildlife including black bears, mountain goats, or the elusive coastal wolves (a genetically distinct population of the grey wolf, but only found in the Coast Mountain Range).

To learn more about the lands, waters, and wildlife of coastal British Columbia, and protecting the Great Bear Rainforest, follow and support the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Need a basecamp near the river and with beautiful views while in the Valley ? Contact Chris and Krystin Carlson at the Nusatsum River Cabins (B&B, small cabins, and home of Bella Coola Harbor Tours). A few days in one of their cabins is always a highlight for me and I cannot wait to get back there!


Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu is a Hopi word that symbolizes the portal through which their ancestors first entered the present world. * It is a mythology shared by other Pueblo cultures and is considered where the “First Peoples” of the earth divided to create differing tribes. The original Sipapu is said to be located in the Grand Canyon.

Like many of us, I had been laying low awaiting my second vaccine. That turned out to be a wonderful experience as I really had the chance to explore my backyard and visit local wonders in and around Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Still, emerging from that period and driving south was for me very much like emerging into another world.

Sunrise at Inspiration Point, Bryce National Park. Utah.

It turned out to be an epic trip. Six states, two+ weeks, over 4,000 miles, lows of 23 degrees at 8,000 feet at Bryce National Park, 93 degrees at 100 feet below sea level in Death Valley, and 16 degrees in Mammoth Lakes. Some of this spent with my good friend Kevin, a fun check in with family in St. George, and the rest as a solitary experience enjoying red rocks, blue sky, and snow.

Grand Canyon at Lee's Ferry. Marble Canyon, Arizona.

My thought was to go to sun and warm weather, and I did get that, but I neglected to factor in elevation. That is how I got winter weather at Bryce and in the Sierra’s, snowstorms at Natural Bridges and Coral Sand Dunes State Park, as well as finding slot canyons with several feet of ice for a floor.

Bighorn Sheep. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

I have always enjoyed driving, and appropriately for this trip I was accompanied by songs of the southwest sung by one of my river hero’s, Katie Lee. For her entire life, Katie was an outspoken and unapologetic lover of rivers and spent as much time as possible as a boater on the San Juan and the Colorado. She was a singer, actress, photographer, and environmental activist. Moreover, she hated what dams did to rivers and was an outspoken critic of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers. Katie passed away in 2017 but listening to her music and driving along the rivers she loved made it seem she was riding shotgun for this trip. **

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Utah.

I was not alone crawling out of that winter hole into a new world. Nearly every park I visited, and every campground, was overflowing with people looking to try to put a long year behind them. If you are planning to travel, or just to visit your local trail, you need to factor in this potential new normal (?). For many years, conservation groups have longed for more people in the outdoors, believing this would result in a greater number of nature supporters. Well, they are here. Now we need to invite them into the circle of advocates to lobby for more outdoor resources, and additional natural resource staff and funding.

Capital Reef National Park. Utah.

It is interesting to see just how many people are turning to nature as a return to better, pre-Covid times. What a great opportunity to push local, state, and federal leaders to answer this call. In has been decades since agencies have been given dedicated and adequate funding to maintain and staff our parks. I talked to a young ranger in Death Valley, which has 1.7 million visitors annually, and she told me they have ten rangers for the entire park!

Valley of the Gods Scenic Backcountry, formerly part of Bears Ears National Monument. Utah.

While agencies have been woefully underfunded historically, the past two years has seen even more drastic budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (-31%), Dept. of Agriculture (US Forest Service -21%), and Interior (-12%). *** As the new administration promises a return to normalcy after coronavirus, we not only need to restore funding, but increase it to address a renewed interest in the outdoors and to place a higher value on clean air and water and special places like the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that I just visited. The tools to improve use of the outdoors are there, and those who enjoy nature need to push to make improvements and investments happen. Look for additional website photos of my trip once I get back.


*Sipapu also represents a hole in the floor of a Puebloan kiva, an underground and circular room used for rites and political meetings.

**Anytime I felt I needed motivation, or was less than inspired for my conservation work, I would think about Katie who was always a river advocate, and NEVER politically correct. You can learn more about Katie and hear her sing about her rivers on Colorado River Songs at

***In 2020, the administration passed “The Great American Outdoors Act” which fully funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund and providing $9.5 billion for national parks, wildlife refuges, campgrounds, forests, and American Indian Schools. But implementation was slow to start, projects were removed, and the administration announced a secretarial order giving governors veto power over federal public lands acquisition. At the same time, this administration weakened the Endangered Species and Clean Air Acts, opened more than 9.3 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging, permitted hunting in Alaska’s National Wildlife Preserves and Wildlife Refuges, and in 2017 recommended rolling back a 20-year-old ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. It will be a long way back for the natural world. Longer if we do not insist on it!

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