Nuk Tessli Revisited

Mt Monarch and windmillThe name Nuk Tessli had not even been thought of when I first stood on this point more than a quarter of a century ago.  There was not even an axe mark on the place, which was a day and a half’s walk from the nearest bush road.  During the first three summers and one winter, I built two cabins single-handedly, using no heavy machinery, and wrote Diary of a Wilderness Dweller about my experiences.  Several other books followed.

Two years ago, mostly because of bad knees, I sold the place to Doron Erel.  Because of a knee replacement in 2013, I had not been back since I sold it.  I was very curious to see what Doron had done with it.

I used to hike in most of the time, but my knees wouldn’t like that any more.  So two friends, Doreen and Patricia, and I arrived at Tweedsmuir Air’s dock in Nimpo Lake, early on the 16th of July.

Tweedsmuir Air dock

The hot weather was still continuing, but it was cool and calm enough to give us a smooth flight.  Twenty minutes later, Nuk Tessli lake came into view.  Hard to imagine that I called this body of water “My Lake” for over 23 years.

Nuk Tessli Lake

I had built 3 cabins altogether while I lived there.  Doron has turned my living cabin into a cooking and dining place.

Cabin 3The big indoor stone bread oven is gone. (They have a very sophisticated stone oven outside.)

6 stoveAnd all the cabins have been opened up to create sleeping lofts.

Cabin 2


5 sleeping loftThe big innovation is the shower cabin!  What luxury!  I don’t even have a shower at Ginty Creek.

12 showersSome things I recognise, like the owl I carved, but it has been moved to a more prominent place.

7 owlSome things are new, like this rather wonderful bird chair.

8 bird seat(And the windmill in the first picture.  Doron has also added another solar panel.)

Doron uses wwoofers to help him, but these are all brought over from Israel.  Janiv and Ishay are particularly creative.

JanivThey have been cutting boards with an Alaska Mill, and towing them home by boat.

9 towing boardsThey are making them into doors and shelves and counter tops.  Saha is sanding.

11 sandingWith scrap pieces, they are making signposts and displaying them all over the bush!

13 signpostsItaman is an excellent cook, and every day, Ishay makes the most wonderful bread.  They are a fun bunch of young people.  I thought that the style of carpentry fitted my somewhat funky buildings very well.  I am very fortunate in having a buyer of my creation who is continuing the original atmosphere of Nuk Tessli.  I felt completely at home.


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Nuk Tessli: Gentian Valley Part 1

Canoe trainThe main focus of our Nuk Tessli trip was to see rare alpine plants in Gentian Valley.  Doron, the man who bought Nuk Tessli from me, would take us up the lake with his motor canoe, but we would need two canoes to get home.  Badger was too stiff and old to pack so we left him at the cabins.  Harry rode in my canoe.

The man standing on the dock is Chris Harris who has a great photography blog.  I have known Chris for years – this is his second visit to Nuk Tessli.

Doron fired the motor,

Doron Erel

And we were away!

Nuk Tessli lake

We portaged into the upper lake.  The wind was really wild – great for keeping the bugs away, but very hard to canoe against.

We climbed through a series of meadows (that is Nuk Tessli lake below).

cotton grassIt was very hard to get Doreen past the patches of paintbrush.

common red paintbrushNot only did Doron help us up the lake, he also provided some of his young helpers to carry a lot of our gear.  From the left: Janiv, Ishay, Patricia, and Doreen.

4 our portersAt last we climbed high enough to see our destination.  Gentian Valley is tucked below the highest peak.

gentian valleyAs we crossed the creek in the foreground, we had a lovely view west.

common red paintbrush and coast rangeSoon we reached our camp.

7 campThe wind grew stronger during the night.  I had my own tent, and was awakened at first light be Doreen as the tent that Doron had left them had collapsed.  The fly had ripped right down one side, and the plastic connector for the poles had snapped.  Fortunately, Patricia had brought duct tape and we were able to fix it, and stitch up the fly.  These repairs lasted through many more hours of violent winds.

1 broken tentThe winds were so bad that we had to put rocks on the pot lids to stop them blowing off.

2 rocks on pot lids

As we were ready to set off up the valley, the weather looked ominous.

camp in Gentian ValleyIn sheltered spots, the heathers were magnificent.

heather speciesWe soon started climbing up the main creek in the valley.  Normally, this whole section is full of snow.  But Nuk Tessli, like all the west Chilcotin, is incredibly dry.

partridge footAbove the falls, the winds were maniacle.

HarryI would normally hope to find a host of roseroot and moss campion, but all but this single clump of roseroot were finished.

red roserootThere were, however, a lot of butterwort in flower.  This insect-eating plant has sticky leaves.  Bugs get stuck on them and are digested.  Note the copious meal these plants are having.  The wind was thrashing the blossoms about so much I only got one reasonable photo.  It was now rattling with rain as well.

common butterwortAnd this is one of the plants I had come to see.  I don’t think that there are any recorded locations of the slender gentian (Gentianella tenella) outside Mt Fairweather on the BC, Yukon, Alaska border.  In Alaska it is common (and blue), in Europe rare.  I have seen plants labelled as G tenella in the Victoria herbarium, but they are the very common G stelleria, which grows all over the Chilcotin. My several pictures were ruined by rain except this not very good one.

gentianella tenellaWe skirted a small lake and managed to find some alpine harebells, one of my favourites.

campanula lasiocarpa

We had to abandon hopes of getting into the upper part of the valley where many more rare plants reside.  We camb back to camp a sheltered way, and stumbled upon a magnificent grouping of alpine hemlock.  They are loaded with cones – many conifers are this year, no doubt because of the drought.  Behind is the spear of the subalpine fir, and the sprawly, cone-laden top of the white-bark pine.

mt hemlockBoth people and camera lenses were pretty wet when we arrived back at camp.

18 wet hikers.




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Nuk Tessli: Gentian Valley Part 2

a second bid for the upper Gentian ValleyWe made a second bid to reach the bluffs with the rare alpine plants in the upper Gentian Valley.  The morning had a bit of promise at first.  The wind was still very wild, but we had a little sun.  The heathers were wonderful.  Little creeks seeped over lovely rock gardens.

2b seepGold-crowned sparrows defied the wind and sang to us.

perched goldcrowned sparrowWe were headed for the steep valley side below the saddle in the following photo.  There I would hope to find dozens of species, including mist maiden, alp lily, a so-far unidentified potentilla, snow saxifrage, nodding saxifrage and several other species of that genus, pygmy buttercup, and several old friends like moss campion, roseroot, silky phacelia, alpine harebells and so on.

upper Gentian ValleyBird’s beak louswort was common.

pedicularis ornithorinchaWe startled a white-tailed ptarmigan with chicks.

ptarmigan, white-tailedNear the lake at the top, a small pond still retained a bit of ice.

6 bit of ice

As we grew closer to the bluffs, the weather deteriorated again.  Soon we were fighting gusts of rain as well as the wild wind.  Very regretfully, we decided it would be too dangerous to try and negotiate the steep bluffs.  We managed to find a few plants on an easier slope:

Moss campion.

8 moss campionMountain harebell

alpine harebell

Arnica mollis.

lambs'ears arnica

But the weather was too uncomfortable to linger.

dry slopeAfter 2 weeks of scorching, dry weather, we had to time our camping trip for the storms.  We beat an ignominious retreat back to camp.

11 wet retreatThe next day, we arrived back at Nuk Tessli.

canoeing on Nuk Tessli

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Back at Nuk Tessli

western red columbineI spent 2 days guiding various people in various directions close to Nuk Tessli’s cabins. We visited nearby flower meadows.

white bog orchid and pond lilies


bull lily

Sue and her granddaughter Mahina and I made a bid for the Mammary Meadows, one of my favourite hikes.  But although the wind had dropped, the weather was dribbly and muggy and buggy.

creeping dogwoodFirst we crossed the bridge over Otter Creek.

bridge over Otter Creek

The lupin leaves wore their classic drops of water.

5 lupin leaf and water

Mahina was not a happy camper so we had to abandon our destination.  We hiked back to Nuk Tessli back past the Lookout.

Nuk Tessli LookoutPassing the Monster Tree on the way.

6 monster treeOn the other day we all went canoeing,

8 Margaret and MarkWe parked at the portage,

nuk tessli portageAnd went to visit the sundew bog.  Despite the bits of drizzle, the bog, like everywhere else, was extremely dry.  Normally these plants are sitting in water.

long-leaved sundewThese plants eat insects.  Acid soil locks up nitrogen so the plants have figured out how to get their dinner by other means.  The hairs on the leaves have sticky ends; the bug gets stuck, and the leaves slowly curve over and digest it.  In previous visits I have found obvious insects trapped – moths and dragonflies – but now we had to look for curled leaves before we spotted things trapped in them.

long-leaved sundew with flyI am not at all sure what this creature was.

lonlong-leaved sundew with prey


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Nuk Tessli – North Pass Meadows

6 meadows 1On the last full day I spent at Nuk Tessli, we all went up to the North Pass Meadows.  After 8 days of crappy weather, it was finally wonderful.  Still pretty windy, but sun, sun, sun!

Doron towed us with the motor again, and we landed at Big Beach.  The trail to the North Pass follows the creek up.

1 sign to Nth Pass Lake

Soon we were skirting Snowshoe Mountain (named because the first time I climbed it was on snowshoes.) The last time I came this way was late June 2012, with Doreen, and we were slogging through deep snow.  The lakes and ponds were frozen.  Today, however, the tundra was bone dry and the flowers were prime.

Mount Monarch


Anvil Mountain

We picked our way around the edge of the lake then climbed up the steep ridge on the west side.

4 climbing upNorth Pass Lake lay below us.

Lake at the North PassThe meadows were amazing.  Like everywhere else, they were 2 weeks early.  We should not have seen this kind of display until well into August.

bog orchid


arnica and lupinThe common red paintbrush was most obvious, but there were several small flowered paintbrushes as well.

castilleja parvifloraThe meadows got better and better!



common red paintbrushDoron called a lunch break at the top of the ridge and afterwards introduced us to a new trail he and his crew had made.  First we went down towards Anvil Mountain.

Towards Anvil MountainAn obliging clump of paintbrush grew near the bott0m.

paintbrush and Anvil Mt

Then we followed a series of little ponds and tarns, back down towards Nuk Tessli.  I had never been exactly that way before so everything was new and exciting.

Sawtooth Mt


14 new trailo 1


15 new trail 2I had not done such a long hike for 3 years and, although I was very slow – and very sore at the end of it – I was pleased at what I had been able to do.  It was truly a beautiful ending to what had been a somewhat disappointing visit so far.  I am already planning next years’ trip.


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