22-Jul-2002 -- This confluence was the first of four we visited in Alberta and Saskatchewan. My plan was to keep my eye on the GPS, and when we were close to a confluence I would take a look to see if it we could make it without too much problem.
Speaking of problems, the biggest hurdle I had to keep in mind was that the kids think confluence hunting is boring. As it would turn out, this confluence would end up testing their resolve.
The confluence hunt all started when we decided to drive from Hinton, AB, up through Grand Cache, AB. This was one road we hadn't been on, so off we went. As we got near the community of Muskeg River I noticed that there was a confluence about 25 km off the Highway. Knowing that this area was used for both Gas exploration and logging I kept an eye out for a major access road which would take me to the confluence. (a quick review of the Alberta confluence’s showed that 118,54 and 117,54 had not been done. Likely due to their location in the Bush.)
Not far from 54 degrees we came upon a forestry trunk road (940 or 734, depending on the map). We followed this road for a short distance until we came across a fork in the road. Having reached many forks in my life, I took it. (took the right fork) After taking a few more forks, we came to the end of the road with the choice of going North or South. North looking more like a Goat trail we headed South into an area which had been recently logged. However after a few km we came to the end of the line. The GPS said I was 8 miles North and 5 miles West of the Confluence. We had seen a number of roads leading South so we started to backtrack.
After trying 3 roads which went nowhere, we found one road, which after about 10km, took us to another main road. While we were now 15 miles from the confluence, this road was obviously a main road in the area. Or at least I thought so judging from it's width. This road made the Trans-Canada look small. However after less than 5 miles the road quickly reduced itself to a ONE lane bridge.
Undaunted we continued to follow the road through a number of twists and turns. We came upon one section which was being rebuilt to allow crews to run gas line. However we soon were stopped by a pile of gravel which had been dumped on the road but had not been graded (see picture). Seeing the the road still appeared to continue on for a while yet, I decided to play macho man and take the truck and camper over the hill. We made it but not before my wife had a few choice words for my stubbornness. Shortly after we came upon a fire tower (Huckleberry tower). I'm not sure if anyone was actually in the tower at that time, but if they were, they must have had a good laugh watching us go over the gravel.
As it turns out we only got a few more miles down the road before the road ran out. We decided to camp there for the night and continue looking in the morning. I checked out a clear cut nearby, which was on a hill facing south. From there I could see Donald Lake and at least another 6-8 miles farther. The GPS showed I was almost sitting on 118 but was still 8 miles north of the target.
The next morning I went back to the clear cut to take another look, and hopefully see a road or cut line which was in the area of the confluence. From the clear cut I could see dust rising up in the area of the confluence. This meant there was a road and I was determined to find it. We again set out (having to cross the gravel hill again) and this time took the Huckleberry Connector. However, after about 20 km, we ended up coming out onto the highway. This meant that the road I had seen had to be accessed from another area.
We drove to Grand Cache and stopped in at the Tourist Information Centre and got a copy of the Topographical map of the area. (we were on the prairies, what would the topo map show. Flat, Flatter and Flattest.) I also picked up a backroad book which was not as detailed as the topo map. To our dismay the access road which appeared to go right by the confluence was actually accessed further south off of Highway 40. So, after a swim in Grand Cache lake we set off again, certain that with a couple of hours we would find the confluence.
Both maps proved useful and we easily made our way into the backroads. It looked like this was going to be easy. However it turned out that both maps were wrong. The road ended about 6 miles south of 54, even though both maps showed the road continuing on for at least another 10 miles. On the bright side it looked like the right of way had been cleared, but the road had never been finished. However we also knew that we had to cross at least one creek and the Berland River. What were the chances that the River could be crossed?
We knew we couldn't hike all the way that day, so we decided to walk to the river, which was about 2 miles away, and see if we could cross it and the creek which was before it. The creek had a small make shift bridge across it, but when we reached the river we weren't so lucky. However the river was fairly flat and it looked like we could cross it.
The next day we set off just after 10 am. We packed our hip waders and they came in handy crossing the river. After ditching the high waders and one pack we again set off for our target believing that we had already gone about 1/3 of the way. However the right of way tended to wander and we had more of a hike then we expected.
While the hike was long, the trail was clear and fairly flat. The weather remained warm but not too hot.
Less than a mile from the confluence I could see something in the distance which looked white in color. Whatever it was was not from around here. Once we got closer our wonderment turned to HORROR!!! The white object was a pile of culverts and they were sitting beside a road which looked to be less than one year old. Obviously the maps had not kept up with all the gas exploration going on in the area (and the new roads being built). The dust I had seen the other day had turned out to be this road. Did I ever get bad mouthed and dirty looks from the rest of the gang.
The road went straight north and looked like it turned left near where it would cross 54 degrees. Rounding the corner I could see that the road went another 1/4 mile to the west, which meant it should be very close to the confluence. However it also crossed a creek which we would have had to walk through if not for the new road and subsequent bridge. At least we didn't have to wade across the creek.
At this point the rest of the gang decided they had had enough of my confluence hunting and decided to wait at the corner while I went off to find the confluence. So off I went down to the next corner where the road again turned north. The GPS showed that I was about 800 feet NE of the confluence which meant it was in the bush. Thankfully there was a cut line running North and South so I followed the line south. Unfortunately, just before I reached 54 the cut line crossed a creek and swamp area. By now I was only a few hundred feet away from the confluence and I decided that if I had to walk through a swamp I would do so. Fortunately the swamp area had mostly dried up and the creek was taking a SW route. I decided to backtrack up the cut line and walk in through the bush until I reached 118, then I would see what kind of "swamp" I would have to endure to get to the confluence. Upon reaching 118 I walked towards the swamp and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was basically dry (if this was May/June it would likely still be too wet to walk in). I quickly located the confluence which was pretty much out in the open with some short bushes in the area.
After marking the confluence on the ground and with the GPS, and taking pictures, I made my way back to the rest of the crew knowing I was in for a long walk and a lot of ribbing about a certain new road. As it turned out the rest of the crew had gotten their 2nd wind and had started to follow in the direction I had gone. Having gone this far they had figured they had better see what the BIG fuss was over this confluence. The only comment they had upon reaching the confluence was, "is this it." "Never have so many waited so long for so little." I knew I had better make sure they had hot showers tonight.
After having to endure a vigorous rain shower on the hike back, we arrived back a the truck around 8 PM, having walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles.
I wanted to try and find where the new road originated from but decided against it. The silent treatment on the way back to Grand Cache was LOUD!
The next day we actually took a look at finding 119,54 but the crew said they were too sore to do anymore hiking. Good thing we didn't as someone had done that one on July 10.
Elevation was 3729 ft.