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Getting there

This trip came about indirectly. We'd been trying to arrange a three day hike out to Cape Scott with some friends, but we were having trouble getting the timing right so they suggested a two day hike into the Stein Valley. We'd been meaning to do the Stein for years so we thought it was a great idea. 

The Stein is a bucket-list item for most of us who do any hiking and we've felt suitable chastened because we hadn't. The complete hike is about 68Km end to end—about a six day trip hoofing it hard all the way and requires having a car at the other end. Between us we could only spare time for an overnight stay but thought we'd at least see about 13Km of the lower valley—a quarter of the way—so it seemed worth it.

We left Vancouver just before 8 am, heading west along the Fraser Valley for Hope and then turning north, up the Fraser Canyon, to arrive at the Lytton Ferry around noon. Once on the two vehicle ferry, making our way across the river, we asked the ferry captain if there were many people heading up the Stein; we were surprised to hear that we were the only ones that day. Odd, as this is a very popular hiking destination

He was right. There were only two vehicles in the parking lot when we got out of our cars a few minutes later and started to get our packs in shape. Lynda and Linda spotted loaded Saskatoon berry bushes in the parking lot and resolved to cash in on the way back.

We headed down towards the river, followed by one of the car occupants, who was only heading out fishing for the day.

We were immediately aware of one thing we hadn't planned for: the heat. Lytton—back across the river—is often the hottest place in Canada in any given day. And this was probably one of them: it was baking hot.

The Stein, which we arrived at within a few minutes, was quite different too. For Lynda and I, it was our first view of the Stein and we'd imagined we would be in the usual coastal forest, with lots of cool shady trees and occasional glimpses of a wide sleepy river and maybe some white water at times. In our 14 Km hike we saw ONLY white water! This is one roaring river, dropping almost 1000m in the 60Km from Stein Lake and the sound of it is seldom far off. True, July and a late melt meant the the river was at its highest, but I'll bet that this is a strongly running river at the best of times.

The first part of the hike is really quite pleasant. Our first stop, to fill up with water by a convenient rock, brought us unexpectedly into the company of a Dipper, a bird often found around river white water, that darts in and out of the current to pick insects off the rocks. Perhaps we were scaring off the insects because he stood only a few feet from me and complained loudly until we left. 

We first followed an easy trail through a variety of eco-climates. This is perhaps the attraction of the Stein: one minute we'd be walking through grass and green brush, and the next through tall open pine. But even the forested stretches (through the pine) were more sandy and hot than the cool forest with thick underbrush that we were accustomed to.

After a steady climb for about 4km we reached the aptly named "Devil's Staircase" where things changed quite a bit. We began a steep climb up through dense trees up and were soon about 250 ft above the river. Suddenly we emerged into the open, up on the west side of the Stein valley, heading across a series of rockslides. By this time of day heat we were being baked on both sides— coming from the sun directly above and radiating off the rocks below: a natural toaster oven with us as the toast! Between the climb, the heat, and maneuvering over rocks with heavy packs for 2km, we began to see how this section got its name.

We figured we'd climbed about 1000ft of up and down before we finally descended to the river and were back on a more or less even trail.

But again we found ourselves in picturesque surroundings, always changing and always interesting as it followed the river West. There were loads of berries. The most common along here at this time are the salmonberries (awful taste when raw, but I gather they're better cooked) but we also came across wild strawberries, raspberries, and thimbleberries.

We arrived at TeePee campsite around 4:30pm after about a 4 hours on the trail. We put the four Kilkenny's that I'd brought along to celebrate the occasion in the river and let them cool; it took about half an hour to put up the tents and get set up. It was a bit unnerving to note the signs of bear markings —tree bark scraped off and small bushes broken. To add to this thought, the campsite was richly endowed with heavily laden berry bushes, and one large branch of berries hanging over our tents seem to beckon any wandering brunos directly to us! As it turned out we neither saw nor heard any more definite signs of bears on this trip but those planning a trip here should note that grizzlies have sometimes be seen on the upper reaches of this trail.

At first there was nobody else in the campsite but two women showed up after we'd been in the camp for about an hour. And yes, they owned the other white car in the parking lot. They had hiked in on the previous Friday but hit dense mosquitoes on wetland further in, got badly bitten and decided to start back. However, the six of us seemed to now accounted for  

A couple of Swainson's thrushes serenaded each other for most of the daylight hours and we caught a glimpse of one of them. We ate around 7 and managed to stay awake until 9:30.

We emerged from our tents next morning around 7, amazed that we had slept for 9 hours; made the obligatory cup of coffee and had breakfast. We then set off up-river with daypacks, with the intention of at least seeing the new bridge and the petraglyphs further up. More of the same pleasant and interesting scenery, roaring river, and berries by the bearful.

Took us an hour to reach Earl's cabin (on Earl's creek). Don't know who Earl is but his cabin needs some work. 

Stein Petroglyphs

Lynda below the petraglyphs

People have inhabited the Stein valley for thousands of years. Here and there along the hiking trail you can see petraglyphs estimated to be perhaps 200 years old, the most subtle signs of past human habitation.

Heading Back

It was blazing hot again by the time we got back to the campsite, packed our gear and headed back. But we enjoying the trail—except for the Devil's Staircase, which hadn't improved! Back at the cars harvested the Saskatoon berries in the parking lot (they taste awful when raw but they're not so bad in pie).

The beer we had in a cool bar back in Lytton was excellent!


BC Adventure