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Back Country Horsemen of British Columbia

Baezaeko River Trail

{magictabs}Description::

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The "Pile of Horns" - an area landmark

West of the Fraser River in the Chilcotin country two volcanic ranges rise up from the plateau. These have become the BC Park known as the Itcha / Ilgatchuz. There are many trails leading into this extensive park - the Baezaeko River Trail is one of the most scenic and horse friendly.

There are many areas of logging activity as can be viewed on Google Earth, and many more are likely in the future but the river trail should be exempted . Many ride the trail in one day from trailhead to the cabins, but for a leisurely ride two days are recommended. There are many good camping spots along the Baezaeko River, some near the divide and a couple along the headwaters of the Chilcotin River.

This is an easy ride with very little elevation change, little rough ground and the rivers are really just creeks. There are only a few soft spots and these can be skirted with a little care. In the early part of the summer run off water can be backed up and may create a challenge. Caribou, moose, wolves, foxes and a few grizzlies make their living there along with various other smaller animals.

Snowmobiling is very popular in the winter and hunting via horse or floatplane starts in September. Permits may be issued by Parks for quads which have a different dedicated route in.

||||Details::

Nearest Communities: Nazko, Quesnel

Trail length: This trail is the longest route in. You can use the cutlines for a shorter ride but then.... you're riding cutlines. Two six hour days with a pack string, camping overnight at Moosehorn is a very nice ride.

Connecting or nearby trails: The 55 cut line and the 67 cutline both lead into the Itchas. From the cabins there are trails up onto the Itcha Plateau, heading west towards the Ilgatchuz and various other trails, one of which leads to the historic Home Ranch via Shag creek.

Parking: Rigs should not be parked at the end of the road but rather just back a half km. out of courtesy to the people who have traditionally used the end of road area. There is room for a half dozen rigs without impeding anyone going to the road end.

Camping: The trailhead has no facilities. There are many good camping spots along the trail.

Water: There is no potable water at the trailhead but seep puddles usually provide stock water. Along the trail there is abundant water.

This information provided courtesy of: BCHBC Aldergrove Chapter

||||Directions::

Nazko is a paved drive west of Quesnel, then take the 3900 road. to km 57.

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||||Map Information::

View in Google Earth (must have Google Earth installed on your computer): ItchaBaezaeko.kml

GPS: ItchaBaezaeko.gpx

Lat/Long @ Trailhead: N  52.886372°    W 124.281838°

Printable Maps (© Back Country Horsemen of British Columbia. All rights reserved. © Department of Natural Resources Canada. All rights reserved.):

NTS map sheet reference: 93C10 Downton Creek, 93C15 Kushya River, 93C16 Toil Mountain

||||Photos:: {rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/TrailsMaps/itcha/*{/rokbox} ||||Video:: {flv}Itcha{/flv} ||||More Info:: {iframe}http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/itcha_ilgachuz/{/iframe} ||||Stories::

“They Had the Courage of Bears and the Manners of Goats”

By Sheila Sowerby Aldergrove BCHBC     

    crossing_the_Bezieko_River_no.1 It all began at an Aldergrove Backcountry Horsemen of BC meeting in September 2008. We were hashing over our wonderful BC 150 ride (a nine day ride from Fort Langley to Jacobsen Lake to celebrate BC’s birthday) and were wondering what to do next summer. Those of us who had participated in the ride had unanimously not wanted it to end, and we wondered how we could ever recreate that. Jim McRae suggested the Itcha Mountain Range on the Chilcotin Plateau would be a spectacular ride. This was the country made famous by Rich Hobson in his book ‘Grass beyond the Mountains’. The Itchas were about a hundred miles  west of Quesnel and were a vast and wild area with volcanic landforms and an abundance of wildlife. I had never heard of it before but Jim has ridden almost everywhere in BC and ranks it in his top three, so I was intrigued.

    It wouldn’t be a toodle through Campbell Valley Park though, anyone participating would need a pack animal and to be completely self sufficient for seven days in the bush, packing for our horses and ourselves! My partner Larry Squire had been frothing at the mouth for quite awhile now to buy a mule and get serious about this “backcountry thing” so his hand was up in a flash to sign up for the ride. I had ridden a fair bit in the backcountry but I heard there were grizzly bears in the Itcha’s, so my hand went halfway up and hovered. I didn’t want to end up as grizzly poop in some far off land. I was a mother of three, for god’s sake.

    Eleven months later on August 22nd, 2009, after countless lists of what to bring and what not to bring to cover all eventualities, rain, sun, bugs, thrown shoes, and colic to name a few, and the means to cook while out in the middle of nowhere in the heat of summer with campfire bans in effect, seven of us headed north to the Itchas. We had between us eleven horses, three mules and Tika the dog. It took about twelve hours of driving, with stops to rest and stretch for the beasts and us, to get to the trailhead. We highlined the animals and lit our propane campfire quickly because although it had been a hot day it was cold when the sun went down.

    The next morning was gorgeous and after a good breakfast and much coffee we went about saddling up and loading pack animals. Of the seven of us only Jim, Alan Olson and Brian Harder were experienced packers and they were unbelievably generous with their advice and help that morning, and the whole ride for that matter. I watched Dan MacDonald, chairman of our chapter, load his pack animal, the Red Dun, and then stand back to admire his work. The Red Dun, tied to a horse trailer had a hissy fit, pulled back, and spread Dan’s stuff all over the campsite. Dan jumped out the way just in time and I decided to hold the horse for him while he repacked. Three more times Dan packed and RD unloaded some, or all of his pack bags. I will say that by the end of the trip Dan could sure pack.    

     That first day was a bit nerve racking. Some of the horses were fresh and we had to stop for many repacks. And there was bog to cross. As a farrier, bog rattles my mind because they are prime areas for shoes to come off, and as a horse lover, I can hear tendons snapping each step through the mire. At the first boggy crossing Jim shouted back to us “Its fine if you stay to the left!!” My little mare Djinn is a bit green and doesn’t steer all that well yet, she swung to the right and promptly sunk past her belly. I did what any self-respecting farrier would do, swore loudly, hung on and let my horse figure it out.    

     After about six hours we made camp at Moose Horn Camp. There was good grazing for the animals and lots of water. We hobbled the mules and horses, put bells on them (to help us find them if they wandered too far) and set up camp. Across the creek was another group of riders, all ladies from Quesnel. The guys in our group, including my beloved, made an excuse to go visit. My only fellow female, Patsy Mahoney, and I rolled our eyes and cracked a cold beer. It was Jim’s night to cook dinner and I have never tasted better steak in my life.     

    Our first night in the bush! My eyes were darting everywhere looking for grizzlies and I was the only one to put up a tent, everyone else slept under the stars. The tent somehow felt more secure to me. To compensate for my nerves I drank a fair bit of Jim’s homemade wine. I realized I’d had enough when, not only did I venture quite far away from the tent for the call of nature, but also failed to notice a stump about a foot high in the middle of the path, tripped and went down like a Douglas Fir.     

    The next morning although Larry was limping a bit from a miscommunication with Tina, his Belgian cross mare, and her giant foot, the packing went much faster. Shortly after leaving camp we passed a colony of marmots, some as big as dogs. They whistled madly and dove into holes as we rode past. I rode alongside Alan for a while and reacquainted myself. We hadn’t ridden together since ‘00 up in the Cascades. I reminded him of my nickname for him, which was his old phone number “538-HOMO”. He still didn’t think it was that funny. Along the shores of a small lake we saw our first evidence of the wildness of this place, a full-grown male caribou brought down and devoured by a pack of wolves.         

    We stopped for lunch at Old Log Cabin Camp and to our dismay Alan decided to turn for home. One of his horses wasn’t quite right, maybe a bit colicky, and rather than risk going further in, he rightly thought he should head back to civilization. We were about a ten hours ride away from the trucks and trailers and when I looked around, I had a only a vague idea which direction home was, but Alan was nonplussed. He waved farewell and was gone. I was pretty sure he was going to get eaten by a grizzly but Brian and Jim, avid hunters, assured me that the salmon were running now and that’s where the bears were. Besides, a griz was no match for Alan. A week later we learned that the horse and Alan were fine.    

     Late that afternoon, bums aching, we arrived at the Itcha Cabin. It was a tiny log cabin with a table, plywood bunk beds for about eight people, a wood stove, propane, a real stove and an outhouse. The Itcha Cabin Society maintains it, and it looked like the Beverly Hills Hilton to us. Pasty made a beeline for the outhouse but came screeching out seconds later convinced there was a wild animal in there. A lot of bird doo on the seat but that was it. Quite luxurious, after we rehung the door.      

   And what a view from the cabin.     

   From the doorway you could see a big pasture, which we turned the horses and mules out in, just beyond that a tributary of the Chilcotin River and overlooking everything the Itcha Mountain Range. The field still had original fences from the 1930’s, Pan Philips’ days, in pretty bad repair, but still there. I sat and watched the animals graze and listened to the soft chime of their bells and couldn’t imagine any place I’d rather be. Patsy was on dinner duty that night and I have never tasted better spaghetti.     

   The next day was another perfect day, temperatures in the high 20’s, but there was a lot of smoke in our valley. We couldn’t see or hear any helicopters but used Jim’s satellite phone to find out where the fire was. It was the Kluskus fire, far, far away thankfully. We decided to ride up the mountain overlooking the cabin (nicknamed Nipple Mountain because of its shape). Near the top was a huge pile of antlers that humans add to every year. There were antlers, shed yearly by moose and caribou, everywhere. We contributed a set. For a while we rode along the top in the wind, hoping to see caribou and thanks to the amazingly keen eyes of the hunters, Brian and Jim, we saw two pairs. One pair, a young male and female passed within a hundred feet of us. Out in the open, silent on our horses, I guess we didn’t seem like a threat. dan_and_cariboo_no1

    I have never seen the thrill in blowing Bambi’s brains out, but riding with a hunter is an amazing experience. Jim and Brian noticed things that Dan, Larry, Patsy and I would have ridden right by, moose watching us from the forest, caribou quietly leaving the clearing we just entered and sign everywhere. One evening feeling brave, and convinced that the grizzlies were indeed fishing, I joined Brian and Dan at dusk to walk to a nearby lake and sit quietly hoping something would come down to the water. Brain noticed four game trails leading to the lake (Dan and I noticed the lake). As I sat in complete silence, heart pounding with anticipation, camera ready, the red sky darkening, I suddenly “got” the whole hunting thing. Unfortunately nothing came to drink that evening.     

    Each night one of us made dinner and after a day in the saddle it was always delicious. Even the Puritan Stew was spectacular. Also in the evening we would bring out the guitars we painstakingly packed in (undamaged!) and Larry, Jim or Dan would play. Or we would simply stare up at the stars, gob struck at their brilliance.      

   The stunning sky was the reason Brian chose to continue to sleep outside every night; the rest of us opted for the comfort and warmth of the cabin. One morning there was frost over everything, even on Brian, snug and warm in his bedroll.     

    On our second morning at the cabin, a plate of food left out for Tika mysteriously disappeared. “Grizzly bears!!” I thought, but something much smaller trotted into camp to see if he’d missed anything. It was a dark gray fox with red and black points and a white tip on his tail. He came quite close to us to pick up some of the spaghetti he’d dropped. He was small and quick like a cat, but obviously quite used to humans at the camp. So were the birds! A Whiskey Jack flew right into the cabin to peck crumbs off the stove.     

   That morning only Dan, Brian and I wanted to ride, the rest of them chose to rest various sore parts of their bodies. We rode north along an old wagon road for about an hour and a half until we couldn’t go any further. We decided that rather than backtrack we would try out our new GPS skills, honed by the technical wizard in our club, Jack Breaks, and attempt to loop back around Itcha Lake. Both of the guys had marked “waypoints” as we rode (I was too busy admiring the scenery) and knew exactly where we were and where we were going. We rode east into a dead forest (pine beetle) with a mossy floor. For 45 minutes we rode roughly southeast through dead trees, which we couldn’t see to the other side of. On and on and on and on. I heard Brian mumble, “I wouldn’t do this without GPS…” but sure enough we popped out of the forest and there was Nipple Mountain beckoning. We were half an hour from the cabin. We were smirking nonchalantly as we rode into camp from the opposite direction they expected us.     

   The next day dawned sunny and warm again, but the river, our water source for the animals and ourselves, was nearly dry! We had to walk a fair way from camp to find a pool deep enough to pump water from. And it was pretty questionable looking. We boiled it and added purification tablets but on that last ride there were a few hasty dismounts.     

    But what a ride. Jim wanted to take us toward the Ilgatchuz Mountain Range and after a couple of hours we rode into an absolutely spectacular valley. We tied the horses to trees and had lunch while looking out at a beautiful landscape of rich green meadows, forests and snow-dappled mountains. Silently we ate our food and passed the binoculars around looking for, and finding, wildlife. Brian nudged me and passed the glasses, pointing up to a soaring cliff on the east side of the valley. There, sunning himself on a ridiculously high ledge was a mountain goat. He was nearly invisible to the naked eye, but through the binoculars obviously a goat, shifting occasionally, scratching his butt and doing goat things. The sun was warm on our faces and the moss was soft to rest on, and so we stayed. We glassed the valley, watched the goat and tried to prolong the moment, because we all knew the next morning we had to start home.     

   That last morning we signed the ceiling of the cabin, as is tradition. We decided on “They had the Courage of Bears and the Manners of Goats” and all our names, then began packing for home. This was done with some sadness; everything from the weather, to the company had been perfect. On the bright side, we still had two full days of riding ahead of us to get back to the trucks and trailers. Our wild fox had gotten a little too familiar (and we had been a little too complacent) and had strewn things from our saddlebags all over the meadow. We gathered our gloves and other stolen items, collected our pack animals then stepped into our saddles, and rode out, with many a wistful look back.      

    I am happy to say that I no longer fear bog. There were no tendon or shoe mishaps and with a few tips from the experienced boggers on our ride I was getting quite cocky and arrogant about it, toward the end. Even about grizzly bears. We rode along the Bazieko River for several hours before reaching the rigs and couldn’t help but notice huge, fresh bear footprints traipsing in and out of the river. After riding past a berry filled, cow pie sized, steaming crap we realized he was ahead of us, but not by much. “Pshaw…whatever!” I thought, after a quick look at Jim and Brian to make sure they weren’t fondling their rifles.      

    After seven days in the saddle it was a relief to arrive safely at the trailers. Larry and I gratefully fed and watered our wonderful equines Djinn, Tina and Jasmine the mule with many thanks and a good rub down. I nearly passed out with delight at the taste of a fresh, cold bottle of water and a bag of potato chips, but when at dusk Jim thoughtfully pondered the half moon and said, “You know, if we ride for another week, the moon will be full…” I thought that didn’t sound like a bad idea.

     The End 

Grizzlies and Goats

~The Itcha Ride~

By Sheila Sowerby 

T’was a year ago, at a Back Country meeting,

I first heard the name, “Itcha Mountain” spoke;

And I didn’t realize,

That there, is where I;

Would find out about courage… and goats. 

Jim’s idea, I think, to ride this vast range;

Far north and then west of Quesnel;

Cariboo and moose,

Grizzlies profuse!!

It wasn’t a hard ride to sell. 

Courage I saw on the very first day,

We loaded pack horses, August 23rd;

The red dun had a fit,

Missed Dan’s head… by a bit,

He repacked 4 times, without word.

Night one we lit our fake fire at Moose Horn Camp,

Larry watered horses ‘neath a crescent moon;

As he turned to go,

His horse crushed his toe…

He called her foul words, but rode with us at noon. 

On the second day, Alan’s horse wasn’t well;

Back to the rigs he must ride alone;

With a tear in our eye,

We bid him goodbye,

I said, “Be safe 538-HOMO” * 

When we got to the cabin, Patsy ran for the loo,

But flew out like bullet from a gun.

Her bum was quite bare,

She screamed, “there’s something in there!!”

Jim checked for wildlife, but alas, there was none. 

Overlooking the cabin was a mountain, oddly shaped,

With a point on the top like a nipple!

We rode up the boob,

And saw four cariboo!

Then home to throw food on the griddle. 

Next day Dan, Brian and I rode north east…

And wanted more, when the trail sadly ended,

“Onward!!” we chorused;

“Through the Endless Dead Forest”!

GPS made our loop rather splendid. 

For three days Jim had pushed his mule to walk out,

Day four he rested, and I heard him mumble;

About his hips and his knees;

And the Prophet **…rest in peace,

But he led us onward, with a wee bit of trouble… 

Patsy had fed Larry and Jim lunch, the day before,

And they awoke with bowels like a fountain;

Was it the food or the water?

Patsy swears it was not her!

Their guts rumbling we rode to Goat Mountain. 

Toward the Ilgatcha’s was a valley so stunning;

Soaring peaks, snowy draws…dappled shadow;

And Goat Mountain we named,

‘Cause Brian’s eyes are so trained;

He saw a speck…on a cliff…. it was a goat. 

A mountain goat pondering his realm, safe from wolves,

And the grizzlies that lurk everywhere,

Defenseless… yet a king,

Overlooking… everything,

It was a long time ‘til we could leave there. 

“The courage of bears and the manners of goats,” we laughed,

A saying that suited this group,

Bad manners? The odd belch,

Really, nothing else!

And courage? I pondered the truth. 

Courage from me? Well my lips got quite chapped;

And I complained not even a trifle,

I searched for moose at a lake…

It was dusk for god’s sake!

But I made damn sure that we had a rifle. 

That last night Brian slept ‘neath the stars yet again;

Mocking those who prefer four strong walls,

Let the bears eat him first,

But our wild fox did worse,

He searched our packs and scattered them all! 

We started home the next day, and at the Bezieko***

We realized we were trailing a bear;

We saw his tracks and his poo;

My god he was huge!

Just ahead… I tried not to be scared. 

Like that goat on his ledge silently taking it in,

We rode our horses quietly towards home,

And perhaps I was mad,

But I felt that all of us had, 
The courage of bears, and the ‘manner’ of goats.
 

* Alan’s old phone number and nickname.

** Jim’s saddle mule, recently passed.

*** The river we followed home.


 
 END 
  goat_valley_1

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