Level: Difficult

Distance: 51 km

Time: 5+ days

Elevation Change: 1870 m

Season: June to Sept

Topographical Map: 92 I/5 & 92 J/8

Click to View Map

Access: From Vancouver take the bus to Pemberton [See Getting to Whistler.] and, as prearranged, meet the driver from Pemberton Taxi [604 894-1111] who will take you some 60 km further along the Duffy Lake Road to the Blowdown Pass area where this route begins. 3½ km beyond the Duffy Lake East Recreation Site the driver should turn right onto a disused logging road marked with a "No Through Road" sign. With luck the mainline will be passable for the next 9 km. If luck is not on your side and you find the road washed out you'll have to hoof it uphill the rest of the way in. Stay on the mainline all the way until you reach a large flat parking area at about the 9 km mark. Take the first branch line to the left after this and continue for another 1½ km to the beginning of a private mining road. Contact the B.C. Forest Service in Lillooet to check road conditions ahead of time. Follow the mining road in towards Blowdown Pass.

Depending on how far you've already had to hike you may want to make pretty Blowdown Lake your destination for the first night on the trail. From the start of the Silver Queen Mine road the lake is just 3 km away while windy Blowdown Pass is a further kilometre. Many different routes emanate from the alpine pass. True fanatics may want to set up a base camp from which to explore the wide open alpine hereabouts before continuing on the Mini-Traverse proper. Gott Peak to the north and Gotcha Peak to the south are popular half day ascents, both requiring route-finding skills.

From Blowdown Pass at 2150 m our route continues east along the mine road for 8½ km, dropping gradually at first then more steeply before taking up a course parallel to the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek. Abruptly the road crosses a bridge over Cottonwood Creek, heading off in a southerly direction. Continue hiking east along the north side of the creek for 15 minutes or so. Where the road plunges down towards the creek bed you'll find a well-defined trail to the east, continuing to parallel the creek. Follow this trail for 5 km down through the meadow, passing a disused trapper's cabin just before the confluence of Cottonwood Creek's north and south fork. The best camping in the area is on the opposite side of the waterway. From Blowdown Pass to Cottonwood Junction expect a descent of 1170 m over 13½ km.

The trail next drops steeply south into the Stein River Valley continuing to follow the course of Cottonwood Creek. The trail is well-defined with little underbrush but your progress may be impeded again by deadfalls. No longer a hindrance, fallen logs will get you across Cattle Valley Creek 4½ km further on. The campsite here is well-established but Cottonwood Creek camp is just 3½ km away at the bottom of the valley. To reach it you'll have to negotiate a succession of switchbacks over loose talus, following rock cairns where the footpath is not obvious. Pause in your route finding from time to time to enjoy the view of the valley laid out below. From Cottonwood Junction to the banks of the Stein is 8½ km with an elevation loss of just 390 m but the going can be taxing at times paticularly if the trail has not been recently cleared of deadfalls.

At the bottom you'll find the campsite just beyond the Stein Valley Heritage Trail. Follow the previous hike description in reverse to reach the community of Lytton at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers.

The End


Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura