Guest post and photos provided by adventure travel photographer and BC native Taylor Burk.
Approximately the size of Ireland and deemed the “Serengeti of the North,” the Muskwa-Kechika (MK) is one the largest and most biodiverse areas in the Rocky Mountain range, yet only a select few have heard of it. The reason for its elusiveness lies in the rugged landscapes, harsh climate, and a unique management system allowing humans to live harmoniously with the wilderness.
In the summer of 2016, I flew into a remote region within the Muskwa-Kechika and explored by foot and horseback, photographing the journey.
As it is located in the northernmost part of BC, far from any major city, getting into the heart of the MK was no walk in the park. It took a flight from Vancouver to Fort Nelson and then a lengthy—albeit beautiful—drive to the Northern Rockies Lodge, where the crew and I caught a floatplane over the Alaska Highway and Toad River to the Mayfield Lake camp.
The camp—consisting of beautifully handcrafted teepees and an inviting fire pit surrounded by uninterrupted wilderness—is owned and operated by the legendary Wayne Sawchuk. As an established author, photographer, conservationist, cowboy, and wilderness guide, he is arguably as much an integral part of the MK as the MK is a part of him.
One of my most memorable moments at camp was a scene that could have been painted by a Group of Seven artist: I paddled a canoe quietly while listening to the sound of a loon. Mountains and rolling hills were behind me, and diverse forest surrounded the lake.
Before starting the journey, Wayne and his crew diligently packed our horses, which are pampered and treated like the invaluable team members they are. We would only be getting a small taste of what the usual expeditions look like, which tend to span several weeks at a time. On these long backcountry adventures, guests become team members and learn to pack, unpack, and even track horses so they are able to contribute and hone skills that are hard to come by.
We rode up the faces of nameless mountains, stopping often to snack on the abundant cranberries and blueberries. We saw bear and caribou tracks, but unfortunately none of the animals that had left them. On longer expeditions, it is very common to see a plethora of fauna, such as bears, moose, elk, woodland caribou, lynx, wolves, and mountain goats. There are not many places in the world where one can travel by foot or horseback for months at a time and not see any other signs of human activity, but you can do it here.
It’s both mind-boggling and reassuring to know that an area twice the size of Vancouver Island can be kept wild and managed so efficiently. It serves as an inspiring example for land-use planners worldwide. I can attest that anyone who participates on an adventure through the wilderness with Wayne and his staff will gain new perspectives and skills that are immeasurably valuable. When you push your limits and leave your comfort zone behind, the rewards are often extraordinary.
If you would like to learn more about the management techniques, flora and fauna, and stakeholders, visit the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area website. For more information on Wayne Sawchuk’s expeditions, visit his website.
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