11-Aug-2002 -- The quest for this confluence began back at the end of January/02. At that time we decided to take a drive out East to check out the Walker Forest Service road. This road connected up to the Sande Forest Service Road which is located on the South side of the confluence. From there it looked like we could get to the confluence.
While the first few miles of the road were compact snow, we had no problems. However once we crossed the Fraser River we soon found that the road had not been plowed at all, and was impassable. This meant that we would have to wait until the spring, or try accessing the confluence from the West. We decided to wait for spring.
Spring came and we again made our way up the Walker Forest Service Road. This time there was no snow on the road at all until we started back up the hill, on the north side of the Fraser River. Again we only made it a few more miles before we again encountered snow on the road. After a few miles of tough sledding we once again turned around. Access was at least a few more weeks away.
On the way back home we decided to check out access from the West. This meant we would have to take the Pass lake Forest Service Road, which starts on the north side of the Fraser River from the Hansard Bridge. The Pass lake road was plowed, and in good shape, as it is the main access road for the area and active logging was ongoing. However as we rose in elevation the snow became quite deep (3 to 5 feet) which meant it was unlikely that we would make it into the confluence. We drove up to Pass Lake, looked around, and decided to wait for the snow to melt. As luck would have it we had slow start to spring in the area, and the snow pack was slow to melt.
We again tried the Pass Lake route on May 19. The snow had significantly melted and I felt confident that we would not find any snow on the roads. By this time we had decided that is was faster to access the confluence by the West even though it meant we had to go further on the gravel. As it would turn out, access off of the Walker Forest Service Road was virtually impassable due to mud.
This time we drove up to the Sande Forest Service Road (connects with the Pass lake forest service road and the Walker Forest Service Road). However even though it was May 19 we encountered snow on the road about 3 miles before the confluence. While the snow was only 3-4 inches deep, it was soft. No one wanted to try walking, so we headed back to see if we could get in from the Gleason Forest Service Road.
The Gleason Road had not been plowed at all as this is a snowmobile use area. We were still a few weeks away from getting to the confluence.
We tried again two weeks later and found the snow pack at ground level has mostly melted. All roads were open. We again traveled down the Sande road to 121 degrees. We would try accessing the confluence from the south and if we couldn’t make it we would try from the north (Gleason Road). At this point the Gleason and Sande Roads are actually only a few miles apart. However the McGregor River winds between them so you can’t just walk from one road to the other. The other problem was the actual location of the confluence. Depending on which map I checked, the confluence could be on either side of the river. (or in it) Either way we knew that the confluence was going to be very close to the McGregor River.
Our hike through the bush was tougher than I figured. The ground was still quite wet with snow up to 18 inches deep in spots. Other areas were covered with Devil’s Club. We had only hiked for about half a mile when we came to a small lake, which was long and thin. After that the area looked to be mostly swamp. We decided to turn around and check out the Gleason side of the confluence.
The Gleason road was in rough shape over the first 5 km with the rest of the 27 km drive off of the Pass lake road being bumpy but driveable. The Gleason road is basically a side road, and ends about 35 km off of the Pass lake road. It appeared to have been a few years since any logging had been done.
Once we reached 54 degrees we climbed up the adjacent clear cut to check out the area. Most of the area around the confluence was bush, with a large swamp cutting through 54 degrees. We could also see that the River made a couple of large loops through this area. At this point the River and mountains run in NW to SE direction. As it was now getting later in the day we decided to come back and try again.
The next time back was June 08 and the leaves were just starting to come out, the high water was gone and there were only a few bugs. I decided to stay away from the swamp (made up of BC Muskeg) and we hiked through the bush which had been winter logged at least 5 years before. It was at this point that I ended up taking us in the wrong direction. I would later realize that the GPS didn’t always give an up to date reading, especially in heavy bush with mountains on each side. (I now always carry a compass as a back up) We ended up on the banks of the McGregor River and followed the River back towards the confluence. It was easy to see that we would not have been able to make the trek a few weeks ago as the River would have been at high water, and a large portion of the area would have been under water.
After working through a gauntlet of brush, where we basically had to climb through the bush, we came up to an area of virgin forest. Lots of old growth, dead fall and brush. However we were less than 1200 feet from the confluence so it looked like we had picked the correct side of the river. After walking a few hundred feet I walked into a small clearing. It quickly became apparent that the clearing had water running through it. At first I thought I had again got myself turned around and was once again looking at the McGregor River. However as I looked around I realized that this was a creek which was running into the McGregor River which was now located about 800 feet to my right, and which I could now also clearly see. Hoping we had over shot the confluence I double checked our location. The GPS readings indicated that we were about 500 feet from the confluence, and yes, it was on the other side of the creek. Another problem was that even if we were on the other side of the creek, the confluence could still be in the River.
We marked the spot and decided to come back again with the belly boat and go across that way. Making our way back to the truck we followed 54 degrees. The first 800 feet or so was dense bush and then we came out on the low side of the swamp. Since our feet were already soaked we decided to walk up the middle of the swamp. While it was quite wet, we didn’t sink into the bog. Obviously this was the way to go on our return journey (with the belly boat).
Once back to the truck we traveled down the road to see if we could walk down the east side of the creek. Again we weren’t so lucky, as the creek makes an abrupt turn between the river and the road. The creek finally crosses the road over 2 miles from where 54 degrees crosses the road, and the area was all heavy bush. The belly boat was going to have to do the trick.
We didn’t get back to the confluence until the beginning of July. By this time the brush and leaves were in full bloom, making bush whacking a bit tougher, especially when carrying life jackets and a belly boat through the bush. However this time we walked straight down the swamp to the edge of the bush where we located a well used animal path. At this point we were about half a mile from the truck. However, the path didn’t exactly go in a straight direction and disappeared a couple of hundred feet into the bush. After we lost the path we followed the compass in the direction of the confluence and after a few choice words from the trekkers we made it to the creek. Or should I say, LAKE.
Unfortunately for us this was the time of year when the McGregor is full of runoff from the Rockies. The quiet creek was running quickly, and was now 6 feet higher than our last visit. (and the bugs were thick) Not even the Macho Man bush wacker was willing to tempt this one. After all, Fear Factor hadn’t phoned to offer $50,000 if we made it across. Back home we went with our tail between our legs. For a confluence which was only three quarters of a mile from the road, it was sure putting up a fight.
Aug. 11 was the next time we got back to the challenge. We again set off through the swamp. (By now we had a trail worn out between the road and the swamp.) Followed the animal trail, lost the animal trail. Fought our way through the dense bush with the belly boat. Made it to the creek.
ALAS, the creek had not only subsided, but the water was very clear. We didn’t need the belly boat or the hip waders. The water was no more than a foot deep in most spots and the sand at the bottom of the creek was firm. It turned out to be a walk in the park. Now we only had to hope that the confluence was on dry land and not in the River.
As it turned out the confluence was about 300 feet from the River. The bush was very dense with a lot of dead fall and heavy brush. Walking through it was tough, never mind trying to get an accurate reading on the GPS. As it was I lost satellite reception six times while trying to get all zeros across the display. When I did get zeros they never lasted more than a few seconds before reception was interrupted. I noted that the area of the confluence showed signs of water. During the spring breakup and early summer, a large portion of this area would be under water. Maybe that’s why none of my maps could agree on just where the confluence was. During part of the year it would be in the River.
While the trek back should have been a joyous activity, I had made the mistake of (my wife was right) wearing my hip waders instead of packing them. Talk about a work out. Climbing over the logs and through the heavy brush made me wish I was on a 20 mile hike. At least the swamp was now dry enough that you could walk it with runners on. Of course that didn’t matter to me, I still had on my hip waders.
Elevation was 2489 feet.