By Joe Pelletier
Did you know that doctors in Scotland can prescribe nature to patients suffering from everything from high blood pressure to anxiety to heart disease?
Vitamin N is what I call it. N for nature. And outdoor enthusiasts in Northwestern BC already know about its power. There is no shortage of outdoor opportunities here, and adventure leads to well being. Awe leads to inspiration. And getting out of your comfort zone is good for everyone.
You may know me as a runner, but I’m also an avid hiker. One of the most common questions I get is how does one get up to John Little Falls?
John Little Falls, of course, is the prominent waterfall perched high up a mountainside about 40 kilometers along the way to Prince Rupert, just west of Exstew. A rest stop prior to the falls features a historical information board explaining that the falls were named in honor of the 20-year-old Terrace soldier who lost his life in World War II. Drive around a couple of more corners and there is a rickety old white sign pointing up to the distant falls.
Most people stop here and follow an old stretch of long, abandoned highway thinking the trail is nearby. They never get anywhere, because, well, the trail is still quite a ways away.
You have to drive a couple more kilometers down the long straight stretch of Highway 16. Right before the next corner, amid a cluster of CN activity, you will notice a turnoff on the right that will lead to a series of gravel pits. It is almost across the road from a popular boat launch. But there is no sign for the trail.
CN crews seem to be locking the gate to the gravel pits these days. So that will add at least a kilometer of easy walking to the trailhead. Now I have heard that the trail itself was completely brushed and flagged in 2019, and a proper, long overdue trailhead marker has been added as well.
Once on the trail, it is an enjoyable though at times steep route up. Allow for a couple of hours up and an hour down.
The earlier in the season you go, the better. There is no shortage of Devil’s Club in the area and by summer the thorny plants can dwarf you. Plus the big leaves can overgrow the trail, which is particularly unpleasant when wet.
But the biggest reason to go early is you want to get to the falls while there is still snow in the bowl at the bottom of the falls. The bowl is full of uninviting debris, and, while doable, it is quite the chore to get through. Go early and snowshoe right over top of the debris, though beware of avalanche possibilities. You will not need the snowshoes for much of the trail itself, as it is sheltered by the canvas of the trees.
The frozen falls have already been visited in 2020 by both hikers and ice climbers.