Be ‘Bear Aware’

There are several different types of large wild animals native to the Kamloops area, and hikers should learn all they can about each one and where they might be encountered. Wild animals are naturally unpredictable, and they may consider a sudden encounter with a human to be a danger to them. Different animals will react differently, so if you do find yourself face-to-face with one you will need to know which set of tactics to use.

The most familiar, and perhaps the most misunderstood, of the large wild animals around Kamloops is the black bear.

standing BEAR IMG_8105
This bear saw Al then stood up perhaps to get a better look, then dropped to all fours, turned away and disappeared into the forest.

There were more than 14000 complaints about black bears in BC in 2017 and a number of these have involved bear-human conflicts on the hiking trail. These conflicts are almost invariably caused by inappropriate human behaviour – they are never the fault of the bear. Black bears are naturally shy and will avoid people if given the chance, so if you see one at a distance, do not approach him.

If you encounter a black bear on the trail, give him plenty of room. Black bears have a strong sense of personal space – a distance that varies from bear to bear and from which they won’t back away, and if you end up inside that space, you are likely to experience a combination of highly intimidating behaviours. You are entirely responsible for your own safety if this happens, and to manage a human-bear conflict successfully you must be able to communicate with the bear in a way that he understands.

bear IMG_6953
In the bush, we saw this bear before he saw us, so we moved ourselves out onto the road and continued the hike. On the return he paralleled us and again seemed to be oblivious of us. Then came into the open right behind us and then moved on.

Almost all bear attacks are defensive bluffs based on fear, and many of the behaviors that appear ferocious are really expressions of the bear’s own anxiety. So make yourself appear physically harmless; face the bear but avoid direct eye contact, talk calmly to him to identify yourself as a human and not another animal, then slowly begin to back away. Do not turn away from him, and NEVER RUN. This takes nerve, but remember that the bear is defending something; cubs perhaps, a food source or just personal space, and is not making a predatory attack – black bears do not prey on humans. Once there is enough distance between you, the bear will no longer feel threatened.

Leave the area immediately following the encounter, preferably the way you came in. If you choose to detour around the bear and continue your hike you may very well face him again on your way back.

More information about bear encounters see pg 35 of Kamloops Backcountry Hikes

BEAR VIDEO       There’s a little blurb below the video too!!


Al Budreau




Sinkholes are very common in the bench lands east of Kamloops, and can be fascinating surprises for the hikers who come upon them. This is the story of how they form.

Thompson River and silt cliffs near the shore

Near the end of the era of massive glaciers the Thompson River valley was submerged under a large glacial lake, and the bottom of this lake, from Kamloops to Pritchard, was composed of a layer of silt up to 100 meters (330 feet) thick. Today this silt forms well-defined benches on either side of the river which are cut by an extensive system of gullies.

Silt is a stable material when dry, but is weak and easily eroded when saturated with water, and because of this is very susceptible to the formation of sinkholes. Sinkholes are formed by a type of subsurface erosion called piping: water percolates into the silt during infrequent storms or spring run-off until it reaches a temporary water table, then moves horizontally until reaching a gully wall.

Erosion and sinking has begun along this line of piping

Here the wet silt collapses, or caves, but the dry silt above remains stable and forms an arch over the caved area, creating an opening in the face of the wall. Continued seepage from the area where the caving began extends the opening back into the wall, forming a tunnel. When caving sufficiently weakens the silt arch at some point in the tunnel, it collapses and a depression, a sink, appears on the surface above. The process continues following this collapse, because the sink now acts as a collecting basin for surface water and the disturbed silt below it provides an easy path down to the pipe.

Collapse from caving can happen at any point in a pipe, and it often takes place simultaneously at several different points. When this occurs a chain of sinks will appear. Over time these sinks enlarge as the erosion continues, and eventually so much silt is removed that they connect and a new gully forms.

A fresh collapse about 20 feet deep

Sink holes can occur as cave-like openings in the walls of gullies, vertical shafts at the bottoms of cone-shaped depressions both on the surface of the benches or in gully bottoms, or downward-angling holes that connect one sink in a chain to the next.

For hikers trying to find sink holes in gully bottoms, look for patches of green shrubbery or tall grass that stand out from their surroundings; at the heads of gullies look for isolated trees in otherwise open terrain. Trees frequently grow in or immediately beside sink holes.

Pines and firs drawn to water can meet an early demise in sinkholes

Al Budreau

Kamloops Backcountry Hikes

Stay on the Trail

Hiking is one of the most rewarding outdoor activities you can do, and the Kamloops area is hiking country. Much of it is open terrain with big hills and sweeping vistas, but at higher elevations it can be heavily forested, and there it is important to plan your route,

Anticipate conditions you will be encountering, and stay on the trails.

Trails provide easily identifiable routes and allow you to enjoy the beauty of nature while also preserving it for the future. There are many benefits for staying on the trail, both for nature and for yourself, but the biggest benefit may simply be this – staying on the trail will help keep you from getting lost.


It can be tempting to veer off the trail to check out a possible viewpoint perhaps, or to see where that animal trail goes, but if you are in unfamiliar territory it is wise to resist these temptations. Animal trails don’t show up on maps and they usually don’t lead anywhere. They often just wander off for a short distance and disappear, and their rough nature can make it hard to backtrack. And going completely off any trail can be worse. If you become lost and your route-finding efforts fail, you will need to call upon other back-country skills and experience to be able to find your way out, and in this age of reliance on technology fewer and fewer people have those skills.

Carrying a GPS without doing any pre-hike planning or preparation, leaving a physical map or compass at home can lead to a bad hiking experience. Relying solely on a GPS with weak batteries or falls and breaks or a way-point wasn’t set at the beginning of the route and now they have no idea which way is out are all realistic possibilities. If you have decided to bushwhack in unfamiliar territory with only your GPS for guidance, and now you don’t have it, you may suddenly find yourself in serious danger.

With that said, it is sometimes possible to get lost on trails too. Not all trails or trail systems are signed – or even mapped. In areas under dense canopy a GPS can lose accuracy.

So if you intend to go hiking in the beautiful countryside around Kamloops, plan your route before you head out, research the terrain that awaits you using topographic maps, and stay on the trails.

Al Budreau


Sacred Places

All hikes travel through sacred places because the earth, no matter how man has desecrated it, is sacred. The word “sacred” as I’m using it here, has everything to do with universal laws, the energy that prevails and having respect for all.
Sacred places where marks are left behind by ancestors from long ago hold energy on stone.

hunting picto

Archeologists try to surmise how ancient peoples used sacred places based on knowledge of religions from another continent and it comes across as inaccurate. It seems to me they have not connected the right dots.
I can’t blame North American Shamans for keeping quiet how to work with energy, how to talk with trees, water, rocks and each other without opening their mouths.
Archeologists and shamans rarely talk to each other so a genuine understanding of  sacred sites is still unknown to most. Until there is full understanding of the responsibility that goes along with having this knowledge – the wisdom to use it – there will not not be possession of it.

sm cave in mtn marked

Al and I hiked to a sacred site this past weekend. It’s a cave a thousand feet up from the trail head, a slit on the side of a mountain. It’s hard work to get up there. There are 5 pictographs in the cave and as an artist I think the images were painted with finger tips not brushes. The lines are solid and endings rounded and the width of the lines are right. The pressure of a finger could push the pigment into the rock better than a brush, explaining how sharp and clear they appear today. They are red ochre and one is faded.

One has been marked in white by a disrespectful person.

There were two girls there with a insect whining drone. They were taking pictures of themselves at this ‘cool’ place and it felt rude to me, but I am sensitive that way.

Someone left an offering at the most faded pictograph, that was good to see. I smudged the cave with local sage. Strong emotions rose in me.
I was thankful to be there, to be with the residue of people made 8,000 years ago.

The trails we walk upon are sacred and when we are quiet, introspective and open we make way for deeper connections and understanding.

Mairi Budreau

me photoing IMG_9782

MB taking photos of the pictos on the ceiling. Just beyond my feet the floor of the cave drops off.

Even If I Don’t Go Far

We need wilderness


The term ‘Wilderness’ has been defined as “a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings”, and “an area, together with its naturally-developed life community, that is undisturbed by human activity” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary).

For me, real wilderness is more than this. Yes, it has its physical elements – forest, clean water, space, virgin flora and wildlife, but its essence is something else. Wilderness for me is an abstract, intangible thing – a mood, an impression of solitude and remoteness,
of having left far behind the familiar artificialities of the modern human world. And I believe we need wilderness. We need to be able to get into it, to wrap ourselves in it and to shed ourselves, just for awhile, of the cares and reminders of the workaday world which enslaves us at all other times. And one of the best ways of reaching this wilderness is by hiking.

Budreau AL in woods

Hiking is a recreational activity where we walk because we want to, not because we have to, and the journey is just as important as the destination. However, as distinct from trekking, it usually implies a single-day outing and because of this we must confine our broad picture of wilderness to those areas of it that we can conveniently reach. But hiking is a wonderful way of exploring nature, and for me it is about more than just recreation. Hikers have long known of the connections between nature, themselves and good health, and modern research is making those connections too.

Perhaps some day we will be thoroughly urbanized creatures happily adapted to a hemmed-in life, surrounded by hordes of other people, but we are not that kind of creature yet. Today, in this crowded age we need wilderness more than ever, and hiking gives us a way to experience the real world, directly and without a filter. Being out in nature, wrapped in the wilderness and away from the business of everyday life, allows me to connect with myself and with nature in a way that brings peace and a sense of well-being. Even if I don’t go very far.

Al Budreau

French Fry Hill

When lava cools into geometric columns…

The Kamloops area is hiking country. Much of it is open terrain with large hills, providing sweeping vistas from many vantage points, but there is much more to see than just the big, post-card views. We live in an area with a long volcanic history and the evidence of that violent, hostile past remains on bold display throughout the region to this day.

Northwest of the city lies the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, a large (15712 hectare) tract of public land made up largely of grassland and (other) open, rolling countryside. But it also has spectacular cliffs and canyons which display a wide variety of rock formations (and features), and almost all of this fascinating geology is composed of one rock type – basalt.

Basalt is (an igneous) volcanic rock (which is) formed when lava erupts onto the surface, then cools rapidly (to forming a hard, dark-coloured rock with a fine-grained mineral texture).

When the lava cools it contracts and its surface will often crack. Sometimes the contraction occurs around evenly-spaced centers, and when this happens a hexagonal fracture pattern will develop. (The fracture pattern forms at the exposed surface of the lava and propagates downward into it as the flow cools, ) forming long geometric columns. This phenomenon is called columnar jointing.

columnar basalt

The best example of basaltic columnar jointing in our area is located on the south side of the Dew Drop Flats, directly north of Battle Bluff. To reach it, follow the Tranquille-Criss Creek Road to the switch-back turn and continue straight on Frederick Road to the Battle Bluff trailhead. Follow the Battle Bluff Trail to the bottom of the hill where the final ascent begins, then turn east up the wooded valley as it rises gently between the two hills. The basalt columns appear on the north side as a nearly vertical, 25- meter-high cliff (atop a talus slope, forming the lower section of a multi-tiered hill) known locally as Bighorn Bluff and referred to by my wife as French Fry Hill.

French Frys IMG_7972

The basalt face of French Fry Hill

Al Budreau

A Natural Rock Arch

Rock arches are rare in the world and they are around Kamloops BC

Castle Butte is an imposing precipice that towers over the Dew Drop Flats north of Kamloops Lake. It projects forward from the line of cliffs that make up the Red Plateau Escarpment, and was formed by a succession of lava flows from an ancient volcanic cone which once existed a short distance to the west.

Castle Butte

The flows have given the south face of Castle Butte a layered appearance, and at the top of one of these layers is a natural rock arch. The location of this arch is not well known despite its considerable size, as it can’t be easily seen from the flats below and is not visible at all from above.

The structure has an elongated, oval-shaped entrance about 12 feet wide and 35 feet high, and an upward-curving top which is generally wider than it is thick, giving it a roof-like appearance. Its other opening is much smaller, and is situated at the top of the 25-foot-high nearly-vertical back wall.

There are several different types of arches, each named for the manner in which they are thought to have formed. This one may be a Cave Natural Arch, formed when part of the roof of a cave collapses leaving a portion suspended by the walls of the cave. When
I come to this arch I do feel as if I am actually inside a cave, and I always experience a sense of shelter and protection when there.

On geologic time scales, all arches are short-lived. The rock they are composed of may be very old, but they are not. Any arches in our area only came into existence after the retreat of the glaciers less than 9,000 years ago, and all will one day succumb to the same erosional forces that created them.

To see the Castle Butte Natural Rock Arch for yourself, follow the Tranquille-Criss Creek to the Frederick Road intersection, then follow Frederick Road for 3.3 km. Castle Butte is in plain view to the north. Follow a rough grade west for 0.55 km, then head north on foot toward a large hill on the east side of the butte – the arch is at the top of this hill. There is no actual trail to follow, but a shallow ravine leads straight toward it, and the final section requires a scramble up the side of a chute. It takes effort to get there, but the place is well worth visiting – big arches are rare in the world.

corr IMG_9150

In this view the arch is about 20 feet straight up.


The Rock Arch is a GPS mapped hike in the new guide book, Kamloops Backcountry Hikes available at retailers listed here:

Al Budreau