Gold Hill Alpine

July 21, 2022 by Marko Marjanovic

Location: Annie Lake

2 weeks hiking in Tombstone Park, that was our original plan. But the highway was closed due to a wildfire, so we had to make alternate plans closer to home. We settled on spending 4 days exploring some of the alpine in the Annie Lake area.

We had just bought a couple of electric mountain bikes, so we intended to use them on the mining roads that are scattered around Annie Lake in order to gain the alpine. The only problem was, we had never used them on anything other than a paved street, let alone with overnight backpacks.

Our objective was labelled Gold Hill on our map. It seemed like a good staging area where we could explore and climb a few peaks from base camp. The route followed the road to the end of the Red Ridge trail, then turned left along Thompson Creek to Hodnett Lake. At Hodnett Lake, we were to turn left again, ditch the bikes, and hike up the mining road to the alpine. The total distance from the truck to our camp would be 20 kms with 1000 m of elevation gain.

A map of our routes.
We parked at the start of the Red Ridge road and jumped on the e-bikes. Even in the easiest pedal-assist setting (there were 5 pedal-assist settings), the going was easy. The backpacks made the saddle a little soar, but otherwise we were cruising much faster than simply hiking.

A few minutes into the ride, I biked across what looked like wet mud, but turned out to be an incredibly deep mud hole. My bike came to an abrupt stop. I put one foot down. It sank about 12" into the mud. I was stuck. My hiking partner was laughing so hard he couldn't assist me right away. Eventually I tossed him my backpack. I still couldn't move. My only option was to fall over, and then get him to take my bike as I crawled out of the mud. I had to douse myself and my hiking boots and socks in a nearby creek in order to get the plethora of mud off of me. Not the greatest start.

Mud. So much mud.

After that mishap, we continued biking along the Red Ridge road, which was fairly fast going, except for a few times where we had to push the heavy e-bikes up a couple of steep sections. Before long we were at the turn-off towards Hodnett Lake. Again the going was easy, but the landscape looked like bear heaven. We biked past a few bear, moose, and wolf tracks, but didn't see any wildlife.

Turning off the Red Ridge road towards Hodnett Lake.
Shortly up the road, a beaver dam detoured Thompson Creek onto our road. We had to dismount and push our bikes up the road until Hodnett Lake, where we crossed the creek and ditched our bikes in the bush.

Beaver dams diverted the creek onto the road.
Now we were hiking up the relentlessly steep mining road into the alpine. Even with the steepness, it was good to be hiking.

At the top of the saddle, we reached the Gold Hill alpine. Fresh water was our only concern, so we dropped our packs and searched around until we found a picturesque little stream from snowmelt that had just enough water.

We setup camp, then did a little evening jaunt up a small, orphaned ridge near camp. We called it Evening Ridge (since we hiked it each evening from camp). We sipped scotch on the ridge as we looked down towards the Annie Lake road near Tally-Ho.

Evening Ridge.
Our plan for day 2 was to hike to the summit of Pugh Peak, and then see if we could connect to Bush Peak. The hike to Pugh Peak involved a mixture of boulder hopping and alpine walking. It took us a few hours from camp, but we were soon on the summit of Pugh Peak.

From Pugh Peak, we had originally planned to follow the ridge to Bush Peak. However, there were well over 100 sheep between us and Bush Peak along the ridge. We felt it would be wrong for 2 hikers to displace over 100 sheep just because we wanted to hike to a peak where they spent most of their lives. We walked a small distance along the ridge to Bush Peak and back around.

The ridge to Bush Peak from Pugh Peak.

With no other real objective for the day, we hiked along the top of a cirque that overlooks two alpine lakes. After hiking to the end of the cirque, we decided to descend to the alpine likes for a closer look. We ended up losing way more elevation than it looked, so we were committing this to be the last of our exploring for the day.

We sat beside the smaller lake, directly below the cirque, and listened and watched as rocks fell down the steep slopes. After some time, we climbed back all that elevation we had lost and headed back to camp.

The smaller of the two alpine lakes, with the rocky cirque surrounding it.
After a few nips of scotch, we mustered up the energy to climb to the top of Gold Hill for an evening jaunt. From the top, we got a great view the valley we had hiked up along Thompson Creek.

Looking back down the Hodnett valley and Thompson Creek. The mining road is visible in the valley and up into the alpine.
The next day, the plan was to do a short alpine walk, and then head back down. I retrieved our bear-proof food bags, and as soon as I got back to our tent, my hiking partner said: Wolf. I look over and saw two black wolves near our tent. After about a minute of watching each other, they sauntered away up to some sheep above our camp.

That morning we hiked out to a plateau that overlooked the Annie Lake Road and Tally-Ho Mountain. It took longer than we expected but the views were worth it. We hiked back to camp, packed up and hiked back down the mining road to our bikes.

The view of Annie Lake from the alpine plateau walk.

The ride out was incredibly quick, with minimal pedaling thanks to a gradual elevation loss all the way out. I managed to dodge the dreaded mud hole and made it back to the truck in record time.