We’re a one car family, which means despite my best planning I don’t always have access to our car on a Monday. That was the case this Monday. My wife had skate camp to teach which meant she needed the car to get my oldest daughter and herself there and back. That means no Monday adventure, unless I make it a Sunday adventure and stay out late doing it.
So that’s what I did. Sunday I left at 2pm to drive just over 160km to the Stein Valley. While I didn’t take a lot of pictures this time around, I did grab some video which you can watch at the end of the post. Or just scroll there now.
I got to the new suspension bridge over the Fraser River just before 4pm and got my shoes on and made sure that my bag was packed properly for the day in the valley. It’s about 10 minutes to walk down to the new suspension bridge, and boy was it cool to walk over the Fraser River.
From the suspension bridge hang a right[^1] and then a left as you see the fenced off compound. It was here that I saw a black bear, which would plague my thoughts later.
Head down this road until you get to the yellow gate, and then walk up the hill sticking to the right hand roads, to find the proper entrance to the Stein Valley. You’re going to add about 4km to your goal for the day by accessing the valley via the new suspension bridge. The advantage to this access point is that you don’t have to worry about catching the ferry, which I would have missed.
This wasn’t my first time on the Stein, but I’ve only ever travelled about 2km up the trail since I had kids in tow. I quickly passed this point and was surprised at how much elevation gain you end up getting as you hike up and over Devil’s Staircase. If you’re looking for the pictographs then head into Devil’s Staircase to get a good look.
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity in the forest during the run as well. From desert like trees and rocks, to some quite lush sections as you crossed multiple clear and rushing streams, the Stein Valley had lots on offer. In fact I think my favourite section of the trail was the section where I ran between and over multiple streams.
My turn around was around 17km into the run at the suspension bridge, which is where I needed a picture for the Mt Waddington’s Quest for 10. Unfortunately this was the hardest thing to find. As you get to the bridge you also enter a campsite. Here the campsite is directly in front of you, but the trail to the suspension bridge takes a hard right just over the rocks you use to enter the campsite. I spent a few minutes here figuring out where I needed to go and eventually pulled out my phone and used Gaia to figure out which direction the trail went.
Once I was looking the right direction, I found an orange marker and found the bridge. Some signage as you enter the campsite pointing towards the bridge would improve navigation here.
From there it was a quick picture snap and then putting some food in my belly to head back. I had hoped to negative split the run, but was actually about 10 minutes slower on the return. Part of that is missing the Devil’s Staircase turn and needing to back track. Part of that was due to running in the dark. Part of it was due to my knees being sore for the first time in years on some of the downhills.
While I had planned to run on Monday, even just 10km by the river on easy gravel, I decided that what I really needed was a rest. That meant a meandering 10km bike ride across town to watch my oldest skate and then coffee, reading, and a meandering bike ride back later in the day.
To finish out I ran, and tried to get a bit of video in the dark but it didn’t work. Right around where I saw the bear I got really nervous, which is rare for me. I’ve seen bears in much more remote spots than this before, but I spent lots of time looking all around to make sure I didn’t have a bear encounter. I even screamed when a toad on the road jumped just as my light caught it. I don’t think I’ll stop heading out on my own in the evening, but I was nervous.
All told I was on the trail for about 6 hours with around 5:30 moving time to cover 34km. You can see the full stats below with the Strava embed. In truth, I’m a bit concerned about my race in September since it has a 5 hour cut off for the first 27km. I haven’t covered 27km in that time in a while, but I was able to do it 6 weeks after being on crutches last summer. I’ll have to see if I can get a test run in on that 27km intro to the race in the next few weeks.
[^1]:Which is really the only way you can go anyway.