May 17-19th, 2013
After weeks of dreaming of leaving office desks and florescent lighting, myself and six others arrived in the small town of Lytton, keen to venture the Stein Valley trail. Officially established on November 22, 1995 as the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, there are over 150 km of hiking trail to explore through-out the provincial park. With no motorized vehicle access, the area is user-maintained and pure, pristine wilderness.
Because of high water levels the usual ferry access that crosses the Fraser River was out, so our journey began by crossing the CN train bridge via the pedestrian pathway over the Fraser River from Lytton. After 8km down a dirt road, we arrived at the trail head. Here we found picnic tables and an outhouse for a quick lunch and bathroom break. The park also had a bulletin with map postings and information on the First Nation’s pictographs found throughout the park.
With the Stein River roaring in the distance, we began our trek down the ponderosa pine tree lined trail. Just a short distance from the trail head we came to the Stryen Creek which provided us with the opportunity to refresh our water supply. After crossing the bridge we came to the first set of ancient paintings at the Asking Rock, said to be a sacred and spiritual place.
From there the trail offered plenty of diversity, meandering in and out of the brush alongside the mighty Stein. Wild flowers were in full bloom and filled the air with the sweet spring fragrance. With 30+lb packs, we were grateful for the mild and undulating trail. The only steady inclination we experienced was at the appropriately named Devil’s Staircase. Although trying, the switchbacks led us to an awesome view of the river that allowed us a moment to catch our breath. Christina Falls followed the Devil’s Staircase as the next point of interest. Although it was off trail, we bush-whacked to the falls for a misty refresh and pictures.
Approximately 10 km from the trail head, we arrived at dinner time to Earl’s Camp for our first night’s stay. The Stein soothed us to sleep, although our tired bodies didn’t require much persuasion. Our second day began with hot oatmeal and coffee and a relaxing hike to the suspension bridge approximately 2.5 km away. Our original plan was to cross the bridge and continue our hike, but the park posted online that it was under repairs from a landslide. It isn’t expected to be functional again until Fall 2013. After returning and packing camp, we ventured back along the trail back to the Devil’s Staircase Camp for our second night.
On the third day we got an early start packing camp to head home. From the camp we only had approximately 4 km to return to the trail head, and another 8 km back to our vehicle down the dirt road. It was bittersweet leaving Stein Valley, but our blisters needed soaking and our bodies longed for the comfort of warm beds once again. I will never forget the many landscapes of the Stein, the sound of the rushing river, or any of the breath-taking views the park offered. Stein Valley is a place for every level of hiker or backpacker, so make sure you add it to your bucket list!
– Chelsea Ellis – MWO Staff