Discovering a hidden gem

The story of an amazing ride at Mount Pukeashun

Dwayne on a sled
Dwayne Brandly is ready to go. photo courtesy Dwayne Brandly

Isn’t it amazing how one opportunity can often turn into another? I was doing some stained glass work for a couple (that’s what I do) and the conversation turned to snowmobiling. I learned they are part owners of a backcountry lodge called Grizzly Lodge which is being constructed on Mount Pukeashun not far from Scotch Creek, B.C. Don’t be confused, I had never heard of Mount Pukeashun either. It is located just east of the Adams plateau about 40 minutes east of Kamloops. At 5 a.m. on Monday, March 9, Bob McKinnon and I left Leduc, Alberta, and headed out. Ten hours later we were at the drop-off point which is 12 kilometres up the Scotch Creek forestry road on the north shore of Shuswap Lake.

We had been invited to stay at the lodge for a couple of days, so we hoisted on our backpacks, fired up the sleds and headed up the well-maintained trail. Thirty-five kilometres later we arrived at the most beautiful sight for two very tired sledders, Grizzly Lodge. Our host, Adam Trainer, greeted us and showed us where to park our sleds, inside the snowcat garage, for the night. The lodge is a large, open-beam building, with eight guest rooms on the main floor and room for eight more, and two suites on the upper floor when they are all completed. A wood-burning stove in the middle of the huge living room provides a warm greeting to all who enter the building. With a full kitchen, plenty of hot water, two beds and a bathroom in each guest room, satellite TV, a great drying room and two large generators providing the electrical needs, all the comforts of home make this lodge a very unique jewel in the middle of the wilderness. The cook, Gwen, made sure we had plenty to eat for dinner. As I said, the lodge is still being completed, so it will not be fully operational for a while. I’m sure I will have more to say about this in a later issue of SnoRiders.

After a very comfortable night’s sleep, Adam took us up the short trail to a ridge overlooking Mount Pukeashun. All I can say is what a view and what glorious untouched powder snow! As far as we could see there were rolling hills just at or slightly above the tree line. I say rolling hills because this is not straight up highmarking terrain, although that is not too far away. Oh no, this area is wide deep bowls, mildly steep slopes up to the next ridge, well spaced trees and lots and lots of deep powder snow. Because we were there in early March, the snow had set up with a good crust about 18 inches below the snow line and we were able to go almost anywhere. If we broke through the crust, we had to be prepared to dig ourselves out. Several times I jumped off my sled, only to drop down chest deep before I grabbed the running board. Adam took us around all the bowls on Pukeashun.

Wow, what wide open areas!If I sound excited, that’s because I am. Even as I write this story, a month later, the memories of the wide open, deep powder bowls gets me excited for next year. I’ve been told that since our trip, there has been more snow and the best conditions of the season are now waiting for sledders. All that day and the next, Bob and I explored each valley, creek bottom and rocky ridge that we could find. We played in the never-ending powder and by the end of the day we were glad to get back to the warm fire and comfort of the lodge and Gwen’s very fine cooking. I think she tried to outdo herself each day, because the meals were absolutely fantastic. After dinner and a short time of relaxing in front of the fire, while watching the Brier curling tournament, it didn’t take long before we were dozing off. On the third day we were introduced to Adam’s new assistant, Ken, who had just arrived for his two-week tour of duty. Ken guided us to a completely different area on the opposite side of the valley and up Lichen Mountain. On the way, Bob and I spotted several very large clean-cut blocks stretching up the side of the mountain. Hmm, got to remember these.

Through a bush trail and up onto Lichen Mountain we went. Once on the ridge at the top, we were struck by the beauty of the far ranging vista all around us. The few trees were caked with blown snow, much like you might see in a movie. As we wove our way between them and on to the next open play area I couldn’t help but think this is as close to paradise as it can get. Lichen Mountain is not as big as Pukeashun, but for those who like a bit more of a challenge, there are lots of steep drops and climbs off the side of the ridge. Again the trees are spaced far enough apart that you can maneuver your way up and down.

With Ken guiding, we made our way to the far end of the ridge and looked for a trail that would lead us down to the valley below. We couldn’t find it, so Ken began to pick his way through the trees, and we followed. Partway down the mountain we found the narrow winding trail that took us to a cut block and finally an old forestry road that should lead to the valley where we could make our way back to the lodge. We travelled down the snow-covered road, following some old sled tracks, until we came to a point where a power line crosses the road. From here we could see the Seymor Arm of Shuswap Lake. We knew we had gone too far.

Ken checked his topographical map and I checked my GPS and we marked the spot where we wanted to be. Gas was getting a bit low and we couldn’t afford to be wrong again. Partway back up the road we turned off to another cut block and finally found the trail. On we went, twisting and turning on the very narrow trail through the trees and finally came to Grizzly Lake, not far from the lodge. Safely back, we again enjoyed one of Gwen’s great dinners.

The next day was our final day and Bob and I remembered those untouched cut blocks we passed on the way to Lichen Mountain the day before. We were off once again to explore some untouched territory. Not only did we carve up the cut blocks we had seen, but we found two others a short trail away that we just couldn’t resist. To say the least we were tired and happy when we got back to the comfort of our beds that night.

The next day we left the lodge early, sledded down the trail and began the long trek home. We can’t say thank you enough to Adam, Gwen and Ken, for showing us such a great time. It is our sincere hope that the lodge owners are able to complete this jewel in the wilderness and open the doors to the public; however, they are looking for a buyer for this venture. This area, known as Pukeashun, is absolutely great for those who want to play in powder, and for families with children who want to go out for a few days of great riding in beautiful country. Forty-five minutes from Kamloops and about 40 minutes from Salmon Arm you can jump on your sled and be on the way to a memorable day of great sledding.

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