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Alexander MacKenzie Heritage Trail - Trip Report

  • Intro

    In August of 2016 a group of friends tackled the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail in central British Columbia. It took six days to travel from Titetown Lake to Eliguk Lake; we were unable to complete the section after Eliguk Lake.

     

    AMHT 2016 Teaser

      November 4, 2016 9:22 AM PDT
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  • The most of the first day was spent driving to Quesnel. We were traveling from the Edmonton Alberta; the others were coming in from the West Kootenay's, BC.

     

    The Cast:

     

     

    Jeep XJ - Mark | 5th Gen 4runner - Dan (op) and Jenn | 40series Land Cruiser – Alex | 3rd Gen 4runner - Aaron and Cassidy (trail companion)

     

     


    Once in Quesnel we did some last minute errands, filled up on gas and had supper.

     

     

    As the sun began to set we headed out to Snaking River recreation site via the Nazko Road. Arriving in the dark we quickly set up camp and went to sleep.

     

     

     

     

     

    This post was edited by DanO at November 4, 2016 9:32 AM PDT
      November 4, 2016 9:30 AM PDT
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  • Snaking River recreation site to Kluskoil Provincial Park recreation site


    Eager to get to Titetown Lake we packed up and headed up Nazko Road. We stopped at the hiking signpost for a photo before making our way to Titetown Lake crossing.

     



    Crossing at Titetown was straight forward. A little further along a beaver had built a dam on the downstream side of the trail; flooding and washing out the trail. On the far side was a steep rutted exit.  Aaron went first, the 3rd gen, and with little effort made it through and up the other side. I went second, 5th gen, and got high centered on the exit. (I made the decision to go with 31” tires as they were practically brand new and didn’t have the extra money for 33”, looking back that was a mistake.) We winched me out of the ruts. The LC and Jeep followed and had no problems.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The rest of day we meandered through the forest. The trail was a series of rocky sections, small water crossings and a few stretches of meadows. There was very little deadfall to clear but lots of evidence of prior groups doing some.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    We ended our day at Kluskoil PP recreation site. Camp set up was quick and in no time we had a nice fire going and beers in hand.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      November 5, 2016 6:41 AM PDT
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  • Kluskoil Lake to the clear-cut, with the Blackwater River in the middle

    The day before coming down into Kluskoil there were parts that were steep and grease, the ground around the lake is clay based, so on the way out we took a fork in the trail. This paid off as it was not as steep and was dry. We did need to clear some dead fall. Meeting up with the main trail we headed west once again.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Soon we started to get glimpses of the Blackwater River through the trees, teasing us with its size and width. Convincing ourselves the crossing would be shallower and narrower we pressed on.

     

     

     

    The trail continued through the forest with the lake on our left. It was more of the same as the previous day, rocks, streams and meadows. After a few kilometers we came into a burn section from a few years ago. It was quite striking with new pines growing up among the old burnt trees. It was a little drier through this stretch, with a few stream crossings mixed in. This was to be the most relaxing part of the day.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Arriving at the crossing point and seeing it up close, we realized it was going to be the biggest and deepest crossing any of us had done. Later we would find out it was the highest it had been in quite a few years.

     

     


    Alex and his Landcruiser were first up and with a little struggle in the middle made it across. Now we had a winch and winch point on the other side. A big concern was that our air intakes were all on the upstream side of the vehicles. Aaron improvised a snorkel with some dryer hose, I took the cover of my air box to gain a few inches and Mark was able to reroute his air intake a little higher in the engine bay. Up next was Aaron, he made it just past half way and stalled in the deepest part of the crossing. Unable to get it started it was winched the rest of the way.

     

     

     

     



    Up next it was the Mark and his Jeep. For a reason I cannot recall my wife decided to ride in the Jeep, leaving me and my nerves alone in the 4runner. It was decided we would both cross at the same time so if one of us got stuck the other could winch/pull the other unstuck. The theory being it would save someone from having to walk a line from the opposite shore. It didn't work, the Jeep got hung up in a couple of boulders 50’ out and when I went to winch him back the runner dug in and sunk to the axles in the soft riverbed (which used to be shore).

     

    While Aaron walked a line out from the opposite side and Mark pulled his winch line to meet in the middle I tried to dig myself out but was not able to and was going to have to wait my turn to winch out. In the meantime Aaron's dog Cassidy thought she could be of some use and decided to swim out to Aaron, it was a little tense watching her struggle in the current but she managed to get across and get her legs on the river bottom. Marked scooped her up and dumped her in the passenger seat of my runner. After she shook off, spraying me and the inside of the vehicle, she settled down for a nice sleep for the rest of the trip.

    With the Jeep across, Aaron walked the line back across to me and winched the runner out. Once I was unstuck I believe I could have made it across without the winch, I kept out running the winch and had to stop to let it catch up and just needed a little tug to get going again.

     

     

     

     


    All across and a little trouble shooting on the 3rd gen and we were on our way.

     



    Reading what I just wrote doesn’t really convey how much of a challenge this was. The river was quite high with a fairly strong current making walking the winch lines and strap across very difficult. The rocks were very slippery making it tough to stay upright. I cannot swim so others (thanks guys!) had to spend a lot of time in the water as I would only venture out up to my waist depth. The water was very warm and only reason we were able to spend the time in the water walking lines across. I honestly don’t know how none of us took water into our engines. In all it took 4 hours to get all four vehicles across. We learned a lot, what worked and what we would do different.

     

     

     

    On the other side of the Blackwater the trail continued through the burn and then into a logging clear-cut. Using the GPS and a faint set of vehicle tracks we navigated through the clear-cut. Crossing a couple of old logging access roads the GPS track started to follow one of the logging roads, unable to find the trail off the road we decided to follow the road out and down to an FSR.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    It was getting dark and we were all pretty tired, with a storm on the horizon we didn’t want to camp up high. We found a pull out on the FSR, it wasn’t the best camping spot but we had lots of wood for a fire. After some food and a couple of beers around the fire we went to sleep.

     

     

     

      November 5, 2016 6:43 AM PDT
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  • Clear cut to Tsacha Lake

    The day before with not being able to pick up the section of trail through the later parts of the clear-cut we decided to take the FSR into the Indian village of Kluskus, about 20km. Picking up the trail again just outside the village.

     

     

     


    This day was fairly easy compared to the last two. There were a few water crossings and some mud but for the most part the trail was dry. This section, at least the first part to Messue Crossing intersection, seemed a little more traveled.

     

     

     

     

     

    After Messue Crossing there were a few fallen trees that need clearing.

     

     

     

     

    There was an electrical issue on the Jeep which turned out to be a loose battery connection.

     

     

     

    Like the previous couple of days the trail alternated between dry and wet.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    We arrived at the lake early in the afternoon and set up camp. This spot used to be a fly in fishing camp, from what I read when the lease came up the BC government didn't renew and went in a few years later and took all the buildings down. There are still a few boats sitting on shore and the cabin foundations are still there.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This post was edited by DanO at November 6, 2016 7:54 AM PST
      November 5, 2016 6:44 AM PDT
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  • Tsacha Look to Old Homestead

    After a great afternoon and night at the old fishing resort, we almost stayed a second night, we moved on.

    Climbing back up to the main trail and turning east we crossed an old bridge, which was a lot more solid than it looked, and headed down an airstrip. Soon the trail entered another burn section; this one wasn’t as old as the other. It was all burnt trees and deadfall, new growth was limited to grass and shrubs.

     

     

     

     

     

    A couple of deep stream crossings were drama free and soon we encountered 'Mud Hill'.

     

     


    There was one route up the hill, it followed some fallen trees and then turn almost 90degrees left about halfway up.

     

    Aaron and his 3rd gen made it to the corner and then using a fallen tree was able to winch clear of the mud.

     

     

     

     

    I was next and made it about halfway to the corner before sinking deeper into the ruts. We set up a snatch block to get around the winch line around the corner and winched to the corner. Resetting the winch line for a straight pull the truck got about 10’ before a log, buried in the mud, wedged underneath the skid plate halting forward movement. We grabbed another winch line from behind and tugged the runner back off the log. With the log removed the runner was winched up and free of the mud.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Third up, Alex and his LC made it to the corner and sank into the mud past the axles. It is the heaviest vehicle by far and because the anchor points were nonexistent (we tried a lot of fallen trees and it just dragged them towards the LC) due to the burn. Before trying the dead fall we tied using the 3rd gen to winch him out and then tied the two 4runners together; both times the LC just pulled the runners towards it. This was going to require some digging. After digging for some time the two runners were able to support the weight and winch the LC free.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



    It was now Mark and his Jeeps turn, which is the lightest vehicle. With high hopes it would just float up it got about 30ft and sank. The rest of us had rutted it up so bad it didn't stand a chance. We set up the snatch block the same way we had for the 5th gen but it just pulled the fallen tree out. After serval attempts to find a solid winch point the only option was to get a truck in line with the Jeep for a straight pull, the LC showed its prowess and blazed a trail through the burn on the high side of the muddy hill. A few winch lines later and we were all out.

     

     

     



    This took about 6 hours to get us all through.

     

     

    We encountered a few more mud sections but they didn’t take too long to get through. When going through these sections a slow approach and then using the winches once forward movement stopped seemed to be the way to handle the thick sticky mud. Trying to get through with momentum, like we did at the mud hill, only buried the vehicles more.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Lots of old things left throughout the trail.

     


    This burn was quit big and took a while to negotiate. We had set out with no daily mileage goal so with the sun setting we came out of the burn briefly at an old homestead. We decided to camp in the meadow for the night, circling the trucks we made camp. We did not want to get stuck camping in the burn. Those burnt trees fall all the time regardless of wind or no wind and to sit in one spot for 8-10 hours is just asking for something bad to happen.

     

    This post was edited by DanO at November 6, 2016 7:57 AM PST
      November 6, 2016 6:35 AM PST
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  • Old Homestead to Eliguk Lake

    The day started out with a small stream crossing, through some more burn and some more mud. The muddy sections went a little quicker now as we have got a bit of routine going. Once passed the second airstrip and lodge the trail widens out. It is here the 3rd gen shifting started acting up. It turns out it had taken water in on the Blackwater crossing and need new oil. A trail side flush of the transmission oil, new oil added and it is up and running again.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



    The trail passes through the Lampart Ranch yard, which is gated; we walked in and asked permission to drive through. Permission is granted and we drive through a museum of old classic vehicles scattered about the range, from old Volkswagen window busses to 50’s pickup trucks, it was a little surreal. Crossing the Blackwater a second time except there is a bridge at this crossing! With the Blackwater on the west side again we made our way along its edge. After short time we passed another abandoned homestead.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    We arrived at the east end of Eliguk Lake with lots of daylight left, we had made good mileage that day and with great confidence decided to continue along the north shore of the lake. Oops. The trail had been cleared but was very tight; we think it was cleared for hikers, horses and quads. But we all were able to squeeze through. Some spots requiring a three point turn just to get around a corner. There was also a fair bit of clearing to do despite the amount someone had cleared previously this year.

     

     

     

    It was along here the 3rd gen shifting started going bad again. This was the point we made the worst decision of the trip. The map we had indicated a camp site at the far end of the lake and we were just over half way there, it was about 4km from the one end of the lake to the other, so we hooked a tow rope onto the trip and 3rd gen and continued forward. The going was slow and we were losing light, the trail continued to get worse with some tricky sections.

     

     

     

     

    We get to the far end of the lake and no camp site! Walk the trail for about 15min and got to a swamp section. We decided to turn around and head back to the meadow.

    Once turned around the 3rd gen was hooked up to my truck to tow back. It was during this time I believe a sustained the damage to my rocker and rear passenger door. It was dark and hard to see the stumps and with the weight of the 3rd gen tugging from behind I went through some corners a little tight.

    Arriving at the meadow we set up camp in the dark.

     

     

    This post was edited by DanO at November 6, 2016 8:02 AM PST
      November 6, 2016 6:41 AM PST
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  • The next morning we decided to head back to Lampart Ranch, turn north and take the FSR to Vanderhoof and Prince George. It was Friday and our best odds of finding a shop on the weekend to do a proper flush on the 3rd gen’s transmission would be in Prince George. It would have been quicker to turn south to Anahim Lake but being a small community we were not sure there would be a shop open.

    With daylight I was able to see the damage to the runner. I am surprised how I have accepted it both then and now a few months later. I do plan to get the door and fender/headlight fixed this winter. Oh almost forgot, right before we turned around I watched the 3rd gen get kicked into a tree and take out his tail light right in front of me. Being both tired and stupid, I tried the same line and I didn’t even get through the two trees, my driver’s side wheel hit the same root kicking me left and smacked the tree taking out my headlight and denting in my fender...

     

     


    On the way back to the FSR I managed to high center the runner on a hidden rock.  I saw the rock but it didn't look that big.

     

     

     

     

     



    That is it for our experience on the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail, once in Vanderhoof the land cruiser (Alex) had to head back home and continued on. The rest of us spent the night in Vanderhoof and the next day in Prince George doing some vehicle maintenance, resupplying, laundry and such. Heading south to Williams Lake we turn west again and spent the next week in the Chilcotin and Bella Coola area.

     

      November 6, 2016 6:45 AM PST
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  • Thank you so much DanO for taking us all through the Alex Mac, I have read countless write-ups of people’s experiences of the Alex Mac and find it is always a different trip for everyone not only the experiences and troubles people go through but the trail itself seems to change from year to year. I think this is why the Alex Mac trail is so intriguing to everyone. Nobody ever tells the same story.


    Thank you again for sharing your story with us I'm glad you all made it out safe with the memories of your trip.

     

    This post was edited by Bteck at November 6, 2016 8:37 AM PST
      November 6, 2016 8:35 AM PST
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  • Your welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it.

      November 6, 2016 10:09 AM PST
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  • Yes I have to agree with Bteck thank you DanO The Alex Mac sure looks different since Bteck and I completed the trail in 91, we did it with half ton trucks our winches where our savior good on you guys for getting as far as you did. 

     

    Question DanO on average how much fuel did you use per vehicle? I own a jeep cherokee and Bteck and I have been talking about getting a crew together or joining one posibly for next year 

      November 6, 2016 10:37 AM PST
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  • It probably will not be for next year since I have the Event that we are working on but yes ask questions and lets get a plan together for when we do happen to go.

      November 6, 2016 6:49 PM PST
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  • Mark (the Jeep) took 150l of extra fuel. He still had 50l left when we turned around, I am not sure what he had in his tank but he added fuel part way to Vanderhoof. Vanderhoof was 190km from the turn around point so I would hazard a guess that 120l extra would be sufficient to finish the AMHT. The two runners had 60l extra each. Next time I would bring another 20l to give me 80l total. I think I would have had enough to get to Anihim Lake but it would have been close. Probably the same for the other runner. We both split the Jeeps last 25l on the way to Vanderhoof.

    We have been discusing the possibility of going back next year and finishing the section we turned back on. The portion we did along Eliguk Lake had not seen any vehicles larger than a quad this year and was cleared for a quad. The groups ahead of us all turned south at Eliguk Lake to Anahim Lake via Rainbow Falls.

      November 8, 2016 8:08 AM PST
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  • Before:

     

    Aside from the dent in the bumper I had managed to be damage free until we ended up driving too late at Eliguk Lake. In the dark and being tired I didn’t pay enough attention to the narrow trail. All of it was done on the way back to the meadow.

     

     

     

     

     

     

      November 12, 2016 8:53 AM PST
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  •   November 12, 2016 8:55 AM PST
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  • Hi all,

    We just (finally) finished a video of our trip. Check it out here:


    Enjoy!!



    This post was edited by ATBE at February 17, 2017 10:18 PM PST
      February 16, 2017 9:47 AM PST
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  • awesome video DanO thanks so much for sharing your story of Alex Mac
      February 16, 2017 8:55 PM PST
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  • This is a very good video it is one of the best I have seen to date good job DanO. You guys made it as though the viewer was with you that is awsome
      February 17, 2017 10:19 PM PST
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  • [blockquote class='siteforum_icon_quote']Bteck said: awesome video DanO thanks so much for sharing your story of Alex Mac[/blockquote]

    [blockquote class='siteforum_icon_quote']Willys45 said: This is a very good video it is one of the best I have seen to date good job DanO. You guys made it as though the viewer was with you that is awsome[/blockquote]

    Thank-you. Our goal was to show what we did rather than do the motivational type trip video most seem to be uploading these days. Glad to see we somewhat pulled that off. Thanks again, Dan 
      February 21, 2017 2:50 PM PST
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    [blockquote class='siteforum_icon_quote']DanO said: [blockquote class='siteforum_icon_quote']Bteck said: awesome video DanO thanks so much for sharing your story of Alex Mac[/blockquote]

    [blockquote class='siteforum_icon_quote']Willys45 said: This is a very good video it is one of the best I have seen to date good job DanO. You guys made it as though the viewer was with you that is awsome[/blockquote]

    Thank-you. Our goal was to show what we did rather than do the motivational type trip video most seem to be uploading these days. Glad to see we somewhat pulled that off. Thanks again, Dan [/blockquote]

    I feel you did just that DanO. It was a video of what the trail is and the fun you had as well as the challenges that you faced it really gave the viewer a sense of what they are going to expect if they challenge themselves to try and conquer this trail. Thank you again for sharing this with ATBE I hope it will also make people think of what they will need to complete this trail. Like you said the trail is not full of technical challenges but the challenge the trail will give you to complete it.

      February 21, 2017 7:26 PM PST
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