Located approximately 160 kilometres north of Kamloops and Sun Peaks, Wells Gray Provincial Park defines the word “wilderness”. World famous for its amazing waterfalls such as Helmcken, Dawson and Spahats, the park also offers many lesser known destinations that are memorable, fascinating and offer a glimpse of history.
One of these fascinating destinations inside the park is the Ray Farm Trail. If you zero out your odometer at the Wells Gray Visitor Centre just as you pull off the highway in Clearwater, the Ray Farm Trail will be reached at kilometer 54. Look for the trailhead sign and begin a short hike to the farm.
John and Alice Ray started to live on this land back in 1932. They lived a traditional pioneer style farm life complete with fruit and vegetable gardens, chickens and goats. Today, a trail that leads from the old farmhouse will take you to the grave site of the Rays.
So what does the Ray Farm offer the outdoor photographer you may ask? Well, on this land you will find a mineral spring. As the seasons progress from spring through summer and into the fall, many species of wildlife take full advantage of the spring in search of iron, calcium and magnesium to supplement their natural diets.
Black bears can be found throughout the park, but can be a special treat when viewed at the mineral spring. Moose, mule deer and small seed eating birds are also popular visitors. Look for tracks in the orange-coloured mud around the spring. Although wildlife can be seen here at any time. A good idea would be to plan your walk to the area in the early morning and early evening to increase your chances.
On a personal note, I have found that getting to the spring an hour before sunrise can produce some great photographs and wildlife sightings. This seems like a favorite time for wildlife to visit the spring. During mid-summer, the trail can be busy with tourists on the weekends and holidays so plan your trip midweek if possible.
How about a paddle after your hike? Not far from the Ray Farm trailhead, you’ll find Alice Lake. Named after Alice Ray, here you can launch a canoe and watch for moose on land and loons on the water. Don’t be surprised if hummingbirds buzz past your ears at the launching point.
Wells Gray Provincial Park offers so much to the photographer and the Ray Farm Trail is only one destination. The beauty of this wilderness is that it’s so close to home and makes for an easy day trip. Stop in at the Wells Gray Visitor Centre and take some time to explore all your options. If you’re not able to do any extended walks, the park has many areas that can be explored with minimal effort. On the other hand, if you’re eager to plan an extended backcountry adventure, those opportunities exist as well.
Enjoy your escape to Wells Gray!