It had been a while since the last time I’d been out on a trip with the TEAOA. Over a year, in fact. And with recent additions to my truck (new bumpers from CBI and an Icon suspension), I’d been waiting for another trail run to come up. From what we could tell, Prairie Creek still had snow and there would be no guarantee that we’d be able to get all the way to the end to see the falls. I wasn’t really worried about that though. Just getting out for the day to enjoy the outdoors and test out my truck would be enough.
We left from a Tim Horton’s parking lot after work on Friday and drove straight into a strong wind all the way to Edson. After filling up with gas, we turned off the Yellowhead Highway and started our drive to the trailhead where we would be camping for the night. The road got progressively worse the closer we got to our destination as it transitioned from pavement, to gravel, to snow. Huge plumes of dust hung in the air as the trucks drove down the logging roads making visibility a challenge and eventually forcing us all to stop and engage 4-low. However, with only a minor incident involving a ditch, the group arrived safely at the campsite around 11pm to set up our tents, start a fire and eat a bit of food.
A fresh layer of snow greeted us in the morning as we awoke, got dressed and had breakfast. Having never used my Roof Top Tent in the winter, I was pleasantly surprised at how warm we were throughout the night. Although it hadn’t got too cold, it was still below freezing and yet I’d had a very comfortable night. I’m not much of a morning person and I usually skip breakfast altogether in order to get going on my day, but looking around I saw that the group was moving relatively slowly and that we weren’t going to be in a big rush to get on to the trail, so I made some soup for my wife and I and enjoy an early morning tea while I let my tent heater melt and dry the snow that had accumulated on the fly over night. This saved me the trouble of having to open a wet tent later on in order to dry it out and prevent mold.
After breakfast, we split into two groups of trucks (8 each) with the first group consisting mostly of Toyota drivers with a variety of different skill levels. The vehicles ranged from a stock height FJ to a heavily armoured 6” lifted Tacoma.
Since it looked like this group was going to be first to get onto the trail, I joined up and soon found myself crossing a creek and heading up into the trees. The first part of the trail is a steady climb through the trees and this was made both easier and harder by the snow. Easier, because there was no mud to speak of at all, but harder, because if you weren’t paying close attention, a slight deviation from the path would slowly drag the truck into the deep snow on the side.
Eventually we emerged from the trees into the valley that was home to a creek we would follow towards the falls at the end of the valley. The bottom of the valley was covered in rocks and I was glad to be in the truck instead of on foot. We took a break to get our bearings and ensure that we were on the correct trail. After a brief attempt to take a ‘shortcut’ through the trees that ended in a long reverse to extricate ourselves, we decided to continue along the valley floor.
As we got closer to our goal, the valley narrowed and we were forced to make brief detours into the trees. Based on the depth of the snow, it was clear that we were the first trucks to make it this far into the valley this spring. The snow caused us some minor delays but by putting some of the more capable vehicles up front to break a trail, we slowly inched closer to our goal. However, it was starting to get a bit late for those of us that were not going to be spending the night at the Falls. We wanted to make sure we could get off the trail while there was still a sun in the sky and leave ourselves a bit of extra time in case we ran into any trouble. While we all decided how we wanted to proceed, we parked the trucks and cooked up some lunch.
The trip out was relatively uneventful. Using the MotionX-GPS app on my phone, it was easy to follow the trail back and we made good time. The snow had been melting all day and now we found that some of the areas that were easy just a few hours ago were full of slushy snow that caused us to get stuck. We quickly learned the value of momentum and before long we were back at the trailhead and in 4-high.
On the way out, we learned the value of communication. 5 trucks and 4 CB radios led us into a situation where a wrong turn had one of the trucks going the West instead of East with no way for us to contact him. In the end, however, he did make his way back to the highway and home.
Overall, this trip was a great 1 day trip for me and my wife to get away from work and enjoy the outdoors. Winter camping (more like early spring camping) was a good test of our camping equipment and the trail was a good warm-up to what I hope will be an exciting year in the back-country. It would have been nice to stay with the overnight trucks and make the trip all the way to the Falls at the end of the Valley but that will have to wait for another adventure.