Monday, November 05, 2007

Caching in Chilliwack Nov 4 2007

All photos for this trip can be viewed on my Flickr site here
When the page comes up look in the upper right corner for the wording "View Slide Show". That will start the slide show for your viewing pleasure. Mouse over the centre of the picture and then click on the "i" in the centre of the picture to read the text that goes along with the posted pictures

Ken and I took advantage of a sunny fall day to sneak in a few hours of geocaching in the Chillwack area of the Fraser Valley; specifically we would be in the Sumas Prairie region for most of the day.

If you don't know the area well, the Sumas Prairie during the winter is just like the prairies in Manitoba or Saskatchewan during the winter; cold, windy and dry. Every so often during the winter Hwy #1 is shut down as it is impassable due to poor visibilty and snow drifts. A few years back the highway was shut down for 6 days by snow drifts that covered the roofs of cars stuck on the road; stranded motorists were rescued and housed by the local farmers for several days.

However, it was not that cold today, just a bit breezy and cool on a sunny autumn day.

As Ken and I always like to start the day with a "find" instead of a "DNF" (Did Not Find), we stopped at the highway rest stop in Chilliwack to find a nano cache called "Muddy Cole".

The co-ordinates were pretty good and we had a good idea were to look and what to look for, but sometimes this "easy" caches just elude us. So it was again, as after 20 minutes of searching we called it quits and moved on to the next cache on the list; so much for the easy start!

The next cache was called "Gollum's Gulch"; so named as it is located on the bank of a small creek which flows through the fields on Sumas Prairie. We enjoyed the walk along the dike next to the creek as it afforded great views of not only the surrounding farm lands but the Coast Mountain range to the north.

In the creek we spotted a muskrat swimming across the waterway, and a King Fisher flew off from it's perch as we disturbed it's solidary watch for prey in the creek.

Even a Great Blue Heron kept a sharp eye on the creek from it's perch in an overhanging tree; it only flew away when we got too close. But not wanting to give up it's feeding spot it flew just a short distance away and landed on the pathway. At least unil we walked that way and scared it away completely.

The cache was found in short order on a widening of the creek bank, and we made our scribbles in the log book to show we had visted the cache location.

With the cache now back in it's hidey hole along the dike, we returned to the truck to drive to the next cache called "Split Personality"

This next cache took you to the crossroads of two of the older roadways that bissected the Sumas Prairie, long before the freeways and most of the other roads came into existence.

This intersection was the location of the first waypoint in a multi-cache; a multi-cache makes you go to multiple locations before leading you to the final cache hide.

Standing in the middle of the intersection of two rural roads instantly transported you to the middle of nowhere in Middle Saskatchewan where they assign not addresses but section of land numbers to where you live! There was nothing to see but flat land in all 4 directions!

From this location you needed to do some math questions by adding up street sign numbers and counting road names so you could find the co-ordinates to the next way point.

The next waypoint was a mile up the road where we would find a large sign; on the sign was a series of numbers and information about the local business. Again we had to do some math to find the next location, which, surprisingly turned out to be not too far from the first cache along the small creek.

So back we go to the same area as before only this time we approached the creek greenbelt from the north side as the walk appeared to be shorter from this new parking spot. Another enjoyable stroll down the dike alongside the creek brought us to another artfully hidden cache. A sign of the log book, a return of the cache, and then we almost got busted by a dog walker coming along the dike. Luckily he was more intent on talking about MrTJ's hound then he was wondering what we had been doing.......

Considering how you can see for hundreds of yards either way on the dike he sure snuck up on us!

Off we go into the small village of Yarrow to find a cache placed next to the local cemetery. Some of the local cachers have gotten together to create a series called "BC Spirit Quest" where they place caches next to pioneer cemeteries ; this is a great way of leading you to historical locations.
The cache we were looking for was placed just outside of the Yarrow cemetery and was called "BC Spirit Quest #02 - Kirchofstrasse".

The Fraser Valley has a strong Mennonite presence and these German immigrants knew the road as Kirchofstrasse or Cemetery Road.

The cache was found after a bit of searching in the area, a sign of the log book, and a replacement of the cache meant we could carry on to the next cache.

The next 3 caches were all in the same area near the Vedder River; these 3 caches highlighted the Blue Heron Reserve in the wetlands adjoining the Vedder River.

Many years ago the army dug out the wetlands in the area to use as a training ground for army personel for wet crossings. That is, any crossing involving a water way, marsh or bog that needed to be crossed would be represented on the grounds here for army troops to practice in various environments. Eventually the army signed the area over to the City of Chilliwack for custodial purposes; a society was soon formed to take on the challenge of looking after the 325 acre lands.

The first cache was located not inside the reserve but outside along a dike on the western edge of the reserve. From the cache location one only had to look up into the tall cottonwood trees to see dozens of large heron nests. As this was autumn and many of the leaves had fallen, the nests were easier to view. And the cache was easy to spot as well, which made for a quick turn around on our walk so we could head into the reserve to find the next two caches.

The heron reserve sports a relatively new information centre that is only 5 years old. Inside the centre you will find guide maps for the trails in the reserve, as well as books on local interest like "West Coast Birds" and "West Coast Amphibians". They also have a large hall like room with various stuffed birds and a raccoon, a deer , and a few eagles; all of which are found on the reserve.

The next cache was located on a viewing tower, this cache was called, surprisingly, "Tower".

Again this was a multi, as after you found the the first waypoint you had to get directions to the final cache location. Here's a secret: shhh....the final cache is located inside the information centre.

And I think it's a great idea; by making you go into the centre it makes you stop and visit the facility, to help you understand what the reserve is all about. All you have to do is ask the volunteer on duty to retrieve the cache from it's spot behind the counter and sign the log.

Cache logged and returned to the volunteer, we trudged to the south end of the reserve to find the last of the 3 caches in the area. In this case the cache was actually outside the reserve gates but located along the river side trail that is very busy with walkers, joggers, bicyclists and all sorts of folks during the summer. This time of year there was only the odd person for us to be concerned with, so the finding, signing, and returning of the cache to it's hide was done with minimal interuption.

The name of this cache is "Narnia #2" and it is one of a series of caches based on the Narnia movies. You also have to gather a clue from each of the Narnia caches to be able to find the final Narnia cache location.

For now, back through the heron reserve we go, past the tower and the information centre to MrTJ's truck ready to shoot on over to the next cache on the list.

If you want to visit the heron reserve you can click on the link here to go to their web site; just remember, no dogs allowed in the reserve, and check for winter hours.

"Cache, Cattle and Church" is cache in another series that highlights the Chilliwack community. In this case the cache brought us to a faded historical marker that marked the spot where the first church was built in the Chilliwack area in 1869.

Picture of Sumas Lake Before It Was Drained

As you drive along the 4 lane Hwy#1 through the Chilliwack Valley you may not realize, but just a short 100 years ago this entire area was a 10,000 acre lake that was one of the worst mosquito infested areas you could ever find. Each year during the spring freshet the Fraser River would overflow it's banks and add to the size of the lake; with the flood waters came much needed nutrients that made the Sumas and Matsqui Prairie areas such great farm land.

The Sto:lo First Nations people have lived in the area for over 5,000 years using the rivers as their highways and finding food plentiful in the surrounding forests and large rivers; Sumas Lake itself was a source of wild hay, fish and waterfowl for the natives. It was also a place ripe with hordes of mosquitoes which at times made the lake area intolerable.

Picture of the Sturgeon from this web site

But with the immigrants came experience, and the Dutch settlers were no strangers to draining large areas of land to create farmland. In 1919 a large scale project began to drain the lake and reclaim the land for the benefit of the immigrant farmers. The Sto:lo people were pushed off their land and the drained lake bed turned into excellent prairie land. So large was the lake that sturgeon were often caught in the flooded lake after the Fraser River overflowed it's banks. There has been more than a few tales of farmers plowing their new fields only to uncover still live 20 foot long sturgeon surviving in the mud while they awaited the waters to return.

However, our time in the low lands had ended and now we were onto higher things; in this case were were off to ascend Chilliwack Mountain in search of a cache called "Fraser Valley Tool Exchange". This cache had not been found for 6 months so we were not entirely sure it was still there to find.

The road to the cache took us up a steep winding road as we first ascended the south side of the mountain affording us panoramic views of the Fraser Valley and Sumas Prairie, then winding us around the mountain to the north side where we were treated no less spectacular views of the Fraser River and the Coast Mountain Range.

The other noteworthy views were of the houses that dotted the mountains; multi million dollar houses were affixed to small ledges of level land on the side of the mountain in any place that could assure the owners of fantastic views. Well, we thought the homes alone were fantastic, and the views off the back deck were eye popping!

The trail to the cache started at the end of the winding mountain road at a cul-de-sac: the trail itself looked like an old narrow skid trail from the turn of the century when the entire area was logged. About 500 feet along the trail we found the cache hidden in the forest, the cache was a large tool kit filled with tools that various cachers no longered needed and wanted to trade for some other tool in the tool kit.

As we ourselves did not need to trade, we signed the log and returned the cache to it's hidey hole. The one worrying aspect to this cache is that in the immediate area the trees have been cleared for another house or two to be placed on this section of level land. I'm sure in the near future this little bit of forest will be gone as well...

I took lots of pictures here of both the views over the Fraser River and the old skid trail, and as I was doing so I was remembering one of my favourite facts about the Fraser Valley. While some of the small mountains in the valley like Sumas Mountain and Chilliwack Mountain rise soar 500 feet or so above the valley floor, they are really much taller than you can see. Chilliwack Mountain is made of bedrock that reaches up from the floor of the Fraser Valley, but the real floor of the Fraser Valley is buried beneath a mile of river sediment that we see and drive on today.

Satellite View of the Sediment Load in the Fraser River

As the glaciers covered the land they gouged giant pathways along the earth where ever they moved; 10,000 years ago when the glaciers melted, the Fraser River, which at the time was a much larger version of itself, carried millions of tonnes of sediment down from the Interior Plateaus where it settled out in the slower waters as the river crossed what would be the Fraser Valley. A mile deep of sediment now covers the ancient bedrock of the landscape.

And just how big was the Fraser River when it did this? Well, picture this; stand on Cypress or Seymour Mountain in North Vancouver and you are on the northen shore of an ancient river. Now, get in your car and drive two hours south through Bellingham to the mountains just south of Bellingham, find the highest peak, and imagine now that you are on the southern shore of a mighty glacial Fraser River. Makes the present day Fraser River seem paltry doesn't it?

Anyways, let's segway back to the present day and get back to geocaching.

The last cache of the day was not too far away, only now we had to descend the mountain close to the river level. "Leaning Tower of Treesa" was the name of the cache tucked away in the confines of bluff where a small creek flows sharply down the side of the mountain.

Alas, just like our first cache, the last cache was to be a DNF; we searched for approx 30 minutes before this cache was declared MIA. After 6 moths of no visits, this cache, unlike the cache we just came from, did not want to make an appearance.

By now the sun was low on the horizon the and the autumn light was failing fast, so Ken and I decided to call it a day and began the long trek back to Maple Ridge so we could have a late dinner and enter our finds on line at
Another fun day in the sun hunting Tupperware in the woods.......

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Harrison Lake Trip Report

Ed Crossing the Creek

Picture by Laara
On September 30 a group of fellow geocachers headed on a long day trip north past Harrison and Lillooet Lakes on our quest to collect caches that qualify for the 92G Topo Scavenger Series. To qualify for the series you must find a cache in every quadrant of the map that covers the Greater Vancouver region, part of Vancouver Island, the Gibsons-Sechelt region on the Sunshine Coast, and the mountains surrounding Garibaldi Provincial Park.

An audacious project to be sure, but one that adventurous cachers have risen to the challenge.
All you need is lots of spare time, a 4X4 vehicle, a GPSr and a body that doesn't mind getting bounced around all day.
All pictures taken by myself can be viewed on my Flickr site by clicking here!
When the page comes up look in the upper right corner for the wording "View Slide Show". That will start the slide show for your viewing pleasure. Mouse over the centre of the picture and then click on the "i" in the centre of the picture to read the text that goes along with the posted pictures.
You can follow along the same trip as we did by clicking on the map below for to view the track overtop of GoogleEarth.
NOTE: The broken line represents where the GPSr was turned off; my thanks to Kelvin for the track file.
** Click on the link below to view the EveryTrail web site and our journey ****
The crew of the day consisted of Kelvin and his son Jordan, AKA The Meridians; Cameron and Jackie, AKA legacypac & co; Laara, AKA MsChief Gps_y; myself Ed, AKA tjguy98 with a ride along muggle work mate named Mark.

After 3 weeks of sunshine and/or little rain you know it had to happen; I awoke to the pouring rain that was forecast for the day.... Great! Nice turn of events for sure......

Laara, Mark, Kelvin and Jordan all met myself in Maple Ridge at 7.30 AM, then caravaned east to Mission where we met Cameron and Jackie at the first cache location called Oyama in Mission. 8.00 AM put us at the Mission Tourist Centre where legacypac, cache owner of the afore mentioned cache, had been waiting for 30 minutes as we were already running late coming out of Maple Ridge.

Laara and Kelvin got down to business and made quick work of the looking for the cache to mark the first find of the day. After making the introductions, sorting out the FSR radios we had brought to facilitate truck to truck communications, we hit the road heading east with Harrison Lake on our radar.

As we travelled along Hwy#7 we went through small communities like Dewdney, named after Edgar Dewdney, a surveyor who surveyed the Lougheed Hwy (Hwy#7) and the famous Dewdney Trail in the south west corner of BC, as well as Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge; and Deroche, named after Joseph Deroche, the first white settler in the 1880's who came from California. These were small communities where the general store or the local school let you know when you were in town.

Eventually we reached Morris Valley Road, which was our turn off from Hwy#7 and gateway to the woods. At the junction of the roads is the Sasquatch Inn, named after the legendary Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, known to inhabit Harrison Valley. The Sasquatch Inn is a real man's place; the basic menu features large portions desired by the mostly logging crews that make up the clientele. This is one of those few places in the Fraser Valley where, if you're wearing the wrong clothing, you sure feel like an out of place Yuppie.

Not far up the road was our second cache of the day, "2 fer 1". This was an easy grab located in a new subdivision where the housing was just starting to reach the cache hide. The cache itself is safe and will not be disturbed by the buildings, but it will be one of those caches were you are standing outside some one's back door while you grab the cache.

After we quit following Cameron, who knew exactly where the cache wasn't, we used the GPSr to zero in on the true hide. Kelvin and Jordan vaulted the fence to retrieve the cache for us to sign, then they re-hid the cache and we trucked on up Morris Valley Road to visit a cemetery.

The Crew at the "BC Spirit Cache #05 - A Pretty Place
The next cache, owned by Cameron, was located next to a pioneer logging family's personal cemetery. Nestled against the bare rock of a bluff, the Pretty Family cemetery cache is officially called "BC Spirit Quest #05; A Pretty Spot". It is part of Cameron's Spirit Quest caches dedicated to the Pioneers of BC.

Pretty Family Cemetery

Well, the cache itself was a quick find, but we spent some time wandering the small cemetery looking at the names and ages of the family members that has passed away. You could almost imagine many of then sitting at the Sasquatch Inn back down the road eating a hardy logger's breakfast before they went out into the surrounding mountains to work the family's vast timber holdings.

This was the last cache for the next 30 miles but not the last stop; we needed a pit stop before we hit the forest logging road and it's limited facilities. So, I radioed ahead to Cameron and suggested that we stop at the Chehalis Fish Hatchery for a pit stop and a walk around as most of the folks had never been here before.

Rearing Ponds at Chehalis Fish Hatchery

We wandered around the outside aluminum trough rearing ponds and were lucky enough to see one of the hatchery workers feeding the smolts and frys in the concrete holding pens. We talked to the worker for a while getting informed on what types of salmon were in the pens and what other types they raise here. Eventually we realized that we had better get a move on, so we jumped back into the trucks and continued on the still paved road.

A few more miles up the road brought us to the Weaver Creek Fish Hatchery; this hatchery is a seasonal one that is only opens in late early October to coincide with the return of the famous sockeye salmon. I have been here during the salmon runs and the bright red of the sockeye are in stark contrast to the dull colours of the other salmon breeds.

Dead ahead the paved road turned to gravel and as if to emphasize we were about to embark on our adventure the road was signed "West Harrison Forest Service Road". We shifted into 4H to help the trucks grab the ground on the rutted hills and just give us an all round better ride.

Harrison Lake Looking South From the 5 Mile Marker

Picture by Kelvin

The road was well groomed for the first many miles and we made good time along this section, stopping only when we got to the five mile mark at a viewpoint overlooking Harrison Lake.

Harrison Lake is a glacial lake 40 miles long and in places over 900 feet deep; read a good write up on Harrison Lake here. This part of the lake is wide and even at this distance the raucous Rainbow Falls on the east side of the lake can be seen on a sunny day. Today was not a sunny day; today we would be in everything from heavy rain to no rain, back to showers and rain.

Video by Laara

This was also the first of many stops we would make for photo purposes, and while it may have slowed down our caching speed, it more than made up for it in allowing us to see how beautiful the area was, even steeped in mountain-hugging clouds.

Beaver Pond at Side of Harrison FSR

Back in the trucks and a few more miles along the gravel road seen me hitting the brakes on the Jeep to pull over and take some pictures of a wonderful beaver pond nestled in a marsh at the side of the road.

Yes We Are Going Down There

Again we made headway up the lake but yet again I pulled over at another viewpoint overlooking Harrison Lake and the deep valley we were about to descend. Down in the valley we could see the road we were on continuing up the other side of the ridge and over the hilltop out of view. If these stops keep up we won't even cross the divide from the Chilliwack Forest District to the Lillooet Forest District before day's end!

Cameron in the Creek
Picture by Laara

We were now actively counting down the miles as we head for our first real forest cache, but as usual, before we even had gone far we crossed a bridge over a small creek that suddenly plunged over a cliff just below our tires. Another scenic photo op for the camera clickers, myself included; as we were taking photos I was wondering if any one had noticed the short dirt road on the upside of the bridge that went down towards the creek and crossed the creek in a small hollow. Not surprisingly, Cameron had noticed and had jumped back into his Liberty to give the crossing a look-see.

From previous visits up this road I knew that the creek was an easy crossing for a high clearance vehicle as I have been through there before; Cameron wasn't so sure but after giving it the once over he decided to give it a try. Well, the crossing was easy but there were several large boulders hidden under the water that made the Liberty bounce around as it went through. And just to allay your fears about trashing fish spawning grounds, this section of the creek is located approx 400 feet above the lake shore with several high waterfalls along they way; there are NO fish in this section.

Well, we snapped a bunch of pictures of Cameron's Liberty crossing the creek, and of course, anything a Liberty can do a TJ can do as well! So down into the creek I went and bounced my way through to the other side, then turned around and bounced my way back again. At the deepest the water was over the bumper of the vehicles, a good 2 feet deep!

Jordan wanted his dad Kelvin to drive through but after Kelvin discussed it with me, he decided not to as the Dakota sits lower to the ground and has less protection for the under carriage. The last thing we wanted to due is ruin his day by having his truck strike a boulder hidden in the water causing major damage. Much to Jordan's dismay we got back in the trucks and continued on the FSR towards our goals.

Beach at 20 Mile Bay Campground

One more pit stop for us and that was at 20 Mile Bay Forest Site, located at the 20 mile point of Harrison Lake, exactly half way up the lake.

This time of the year the campground is relatively quiet, and the fact it was a Sunday worked to our benefit as we had passed the campers that had been here heading back down the road towards civilization.

View is Looking South Down Harrison Lake

We used the primitive facilities and then wandered down to the lake shore for a wonderful view back down the lake. The campsite is nestled in the crook of a small peninsula of land and in fact beach camping is allowed a short way down the spit. Cameras clicked and whirred again as the view was beautiful and made us want to linger there, but alas, like our previous stops, we had to remind ourselves that we were just beginning our long journey. So back in the trucks and down the road we go....

Kelvin Crossing the Creek Crossing....that phrase makes me all crossed up

With the rainy day came mixed blessings; the dust that I hate so much that this route is famous for was kept well under wraps with the wetness. The flip side was any wash out and small creek that we had to forge would be running with higher water levels.

Such was the case a few miles down the road; a washed out culvert that had not been replaced now allowed the creek to wash over the road. While the creek was 18" deep it presented no problem for the trucks we had, but it did give a bit of a thrill to those of us not used to fording water deeper than puddles. This was another photo op complete with video to show the folks back home.

Video By Laara

On the road again we reached the end of the "good" section of the road and now were on a stretch that was unmaintained for regular travel. These types of sections only see maintenance in the spring time when forestry department fix the bad wash outs and water rutted sections. Other than that, they are left unmaintained requiring you to have a 4X4 to get through some of these sections.

Ed Going Through a Washout

Our pace was now slowed as we were forced to cut down the speed as we crossed water bars and climbed worn, rutted hillsides that required 4L just to keep the trucks from bouncing all over the road. 4L engages the transfer case which causes gear reduction; translated that means each gear has a much lower speed. Instead of reaching speeds of 20 MPH in first gear, my Jeep maxes out at 5 MPH; this means less wheel spin on poor surface conditions and more control for the Jeep and more traction for the tires.

View From Shore Level

As we followed the worn out road we descended back down to the level of the lake and at an opening of the trees along side the lake we stopped for another photo op. We were now approx 30 miles up the lake and it was easy to see the influence of the Lillooet River on Harrison Lake.

Where the south end of the lake had been dark blue, the lake here was more green tinted as the glacial sediment carried from Lillooet River stained the dark blue of the lake. You could even see where the current in the lake was as the stronger current sections were lighter green than the other parts of the lake.

Leaving the lake shore we once again climbed the hillside on what would be the worst section of the FSR. The next few miles consisted of several wash outs where the heavy rains had eroded the road, and the uphill sections begged for a slower speed to keep the bouncing of the trucks and passengers to a minimum. Again, these sections were an easy obstacle for a stock 4X4, but for the family grocery getter it would be a challenge, if not deadly.

Coon Creek Falls

Soon enough we were at the next cache called "Coon Creek Falls". We parked at the edge of the road near the bridge over the creek and had just gotten out of the cars when Cameron had the cache in hand, just like that! Well, that saves me from looking....

Ed's TJ and Kelvin's Dakota Just Before the Rocks Started Falling

Kelvin looked at the undercut bank that he had parked under and worried about some of the rocks that looked dangerously loose. Two minutes later we turned at the sound of falling rock in time to see small boulders roll down the hillside in between Kelvin's truck and Cameron's Liberty. Both scrambled to move the vehicles out of harms way in case more rocks came down...
good move!!

Double Creek Crossing The Road

Picture by Laara

We continued on the FSR crossing more small wash outs and creeks cutting across the road. At one of the larger creeks that we had to ford we stopped for another photo op. This particular creek was very picturesque as two small creeks came together to cross the road as one, then disappeared over the edge of the embankment on the downhill side of the road.

This was such a pretty spot with it's twin creeks and fording required that Cameron and Jackie hid a cache here. "Jeep Fording" is now live on just waiting to be found at the time of this writing.

With the new cache hid and co-ordinates recorded, we continued on our journey stopping just a few miles down the road at the head of Harrison Lake on a hillside overlooking Tipella Logging camp. And of course, a cache was here waiting for us; the "Tipella" cache welcomed you to Tipella and all things Lillooet.

Tipella Logging Camp

Now that we had reached the north end of Harrison Lake the lake itself no longer looked like the lake we were used to; instead this part was entirely light green reflecting the outpouring of Lillooet River into Harrison Lake.

Lillooet West Branch FSR Starts Here!

As if to signal we were crossing the "divide", we left the West Harrison FSR and ahead of us was the Lillooet West Branch FSR. Even the forest district had changed; instead of the Chilliwack district we were now in the Lillooet district. As well the name Lillooet would be interchanged between the river and the lakes we would be alongside for the next few hours.

Even the history of the area changed; in the old days mining was the prime resource, not forestry. Most of the mining activity was centered on the east side of the lake; silver, nickel, gold and ore are just some of the minerals associated with the geology in the area. In fact, recently with the price of metals there has been a resumption of mining interest and activity in the region.

As well, the head of Harrison Lake marked the start of the Harrison-Lillooet Gold trail; indeed this is part of the larger Douglas Wagon Road that begun in Harrison Hot Springs and ended in Lillooet. From Harrison you took a steamer to the head of the lake at Port Douglas; from Port Douglas you walked or purchased a ride along the wagon road that ran to Lillooet Lake. From there another steamer took you to the end of the lake at Port Lillooet where you again used the Douglas Wagon Road to Anderson Lake; another steamer ride brought you to Seton Portage just a few miles short of the boom town of Lillooet.

In places the old wagon road is still visible if you know where to look; lately there has been a push to turn the entire road into a linear heritage site and to have the sections of the road made more accesible to the public.

Click here to go to a web page with a wonderful map of the cariboo Gold Rush and it's various routes over the years.

Port Douglas itself was a booming town as befits an important port of it's time; Port Douglas and the Douglas Wagon Road are named after James Douglas, the first governor of the Province of BC. It is said that Judge Mathhew Begbie, the first appointed judge of the new colony of BC, travelled through here holding court. Legend is Judge Begbie, known as "The Hanging Judge" meted out justice for a while in this raucous town and that the first hanging as senteneced by the judge was carried out here.

We continued through the Tipella logging camp, which was quiet on a Sunday afternoon, and drove north still on the Lillooet West FSR. The road was now a wide smooth thoroughfare as it is the main road for the logging camp and local Indian bands to access the paved highway at Mount Currie approx. 40 miles away.

Five miles down the road we came to the turn off for the Sloquet Valley, and two more caches to find. The road meanders west as it follows the Sloquet River towards it's head waters in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We didn't have to go that far, we only had to go 4.5 miles into the valley before we reached the first cache.

At the base of an uphill section of the road was a sign welcoming you to Sloquet Hot Springs recreational area; lucky for us the cache called "Hot & Wet Sloquet", hidden by the cacher's alias of "Boiled Frog Legs", (gotta love a sense of humour) was close to the road. A quick find by Laara with her radar locked on made this search not much more than a leg stretch.

Back in the trucks and on up the hill we go to the 10 site or so rustic campground area on the hill over top of Sloquet Hotsprings. We were immediately disappointed in the campers as they obviously had never heard of CITO; beer cans, pop cans, food wrappers were all over the camp area. Not a welcoming site and one that would have taken our group a few hours to clean up.

Instead, we turned a blind eye to the mess and followed the abandoned road down the hill to get to a small clearing just above the river. Here, just off into the bush, you could see where the hotsprings bubbled up from the ground to run as a riverlet over the embankment to join the river below.

Sloquet Hot Springs Pours Over Cliff

Numerous parties have strung up a wide tarp at the edge of the waters to keep their clothes dry whilst in the pools, but the mess of beer cans and wine boxes was just as bad here. Unbelievable that people would drive all the way to a remote location like this to enjoy nature and then turn it into a pig sty....lazy asses!
Sloquet Hot Springs Pool - Unknown Guy in the Pool

The pools themselves are constantly changing as each year they are washed away by the spring runoff, then rebuilt by visitors using river rocks and digging pockets in the river sand. Like most hotsprings these are "clothing optional" but the people here were clothed; which is just as well as the mess around the river created by them or others didn't put us in a pretty mood.

Sloquet River by Hot Springs

We walked around the area looking at the river itself, the rustic hotspring pools, and watched the steaming hot water run over the embankmemt down to the river's edge. The hot water made a veritable hot zone around the spillway and many plants enjoyed the full time warmth the water provided.

And, oh yeah, we found the cache; we HAD to find the cache or else this trip would be for naught! This cache was called "Sloquet Hot Springs" and is right on the bank of the Sloquet River next to the pools, but far enough away the other visitors didn't wonder what we were doing.

Climbing back up the old road to the camp site proved to be the hardest part of the entire day; at least for some people it did. Last time I was here you could drive to the lower clearing, providing you had enough faith in your 4X4 that it would make it back up the steep, deeply rutted and pock marked dirt road. Right about the time I was a 1/3 of the way up the hill trying to catch my breath I began to wish for the "good old days" where I would have driven back "up" the trail!

By now the day was getting long and we were aware that we only had a couple of more hours of sunlight on this short fall day, we we took off down the road heading east on the Sloquet Creek FSR heading for the main logging road Lillooet West FSR so we could in turn head north and continue on our sojourn. Mark Trying to Keep Warm at "Psst Beware Of Snakes"

We made good time out of the Sloquet Valley, picked up the Lillooet West FSR and kept up the pace to the next cache approx 10 miles up the road. This one was called "Beware of Snakes" as the cache owners stopped here for a breather and heard the tell tale hiss of air leaking from their tire. The cache itself is hidden in the rocks at the edge of an old spur road which is more of a creek bed than road now but still offered a nice enough place to stop for s stretch.

And as usual, with all those rocks it could have been a PITA to find but Cameron spotted the hide just as he was going back to his truck to get the cache write up so he could read through looking for some clues. Whew, thank you Cameron!

Further down the road we crossed a large creek called Tuwasus Creek, and sure enough hidden here was a cache also called "Tuwasus Creek". This hide was just inside one if the TOPO map squares to count as a find for the TOPO Scavenger Series we were working on....remember me telling you about that at the start of the story?

This cache was a micro, so called as it was a mini cache utilizing a camoflauged water proof match stick holder as the container. This one was a gimme as I walked over to the cache area and found it lying on the ground...folks, it doesn't get much easier than that!

A quick sign, a re-hide in it's proper place and back on the road in the shortening daylight to get the final two caches.

Only now, we were on the wrong side of the river! Way back at the Tipella Logging camp we should have turned east, crossed the glacial green Lillooet River and then headed north on the In-shuck-ch FSR. How ever, it wouldn't have made much difference, it might have saved us a few miles of driving but that wouldn't have amounted to much time over the course of the day.

So, instead we were on the west side of the Lillooet River still on the West Lillooet FSR, and we needed to head north for another 10 miles to reach the bridge over Tenas Lake to get to the east side, then back track south for 7-8 miles to reach the remaining caches.

Enjoying The View of The Lillooet River

Well, back in the trucks we went and headed north along the good gravel road with the river tracking beside us. The river was so beautiful that we again stopped in several spots for more photo ops; we were using up time but it was just too hard not to stop to enjoy the scenery.

We eventually reached one of the small First Nations settlements which meant we had to be close to the bridge, and sure enough just a round the corner was the bridge that at that moment looked oh so beautiful to us.

Tenas Bridge
Picture by Kelvin

The bridge is relatively new and is built to withstand the tough winters and wild river that the Lillooet can be in the springtime during the spring freshet. The bridge is a long, one lane cement topped structure as it spans the lake; Tenas is Chinook for "little" and indeed this lake has been called Little Lillooet Lake at times. Tenas Lake is really a widening of the Lillooet River as the valley is broad through this section with minimal elevation loss; translated that means a perfect area for peoples to live and hunt, no doubt the First Nations thought so too.

Small First Nations Cemetery at Skookumchuck

Now heading south on the In-Shuck-ch FSR we sped towards our next cache on the list; "The End of the Road ...For Some". This brought us to the small First nations cemetery used by the local bands; it also brought a bit of distress for Cameron and Jackie as their onboard tire pressure instrumentation in the Liberty gave them the red warning light that one of their tires was low on air. Cameron Changing A Flat Tire
Picture by Kelvin

So, while some of the crew went off to look for the cache, others stayed by the trucks to give Cameron a hand changing the tire so we could get back moving ASAP. OK, maybe we supervised more than we helped!

Of course, the area where we stopped was anything but level, so it took a couple of attempts to find suitable flat ground to jack up the truck and change the tire. While we were doing so the other folks reported that the cache area was burnt out and the cache was missing...hmm...not good....

However, Cameron the Boy Scout to the rescue as he had the makings of a replacement cache in his truck. This allowed us to sign the log, count the find, and to keep the cache alive for future cachers to come.

OK, tire changed, new cache hid, let's get moving to the last cache of the day!!!!

The last cache was an Earth Cache; these are always fun to find as there is no physical cache to find but instead the locationless cache brings you to a unique geographical area. In this case it was the "Skookumchuk Hot Springs".

When you go to these style of caches the cache owner usually makes you take a picture of the area to prove you were there, as well as you have to answer a question that can only be found by visiting the cache area.

The Original Pool at Skookumchuk Hot Springs
Picture by Laara

These hot springs had a 20 spot or so campsites surrounding the hotsprings on the bank of the Lillooet River, but in this case the hotsprings are 100' feet back from the river.

Skookumchuk Hot Springs
Picture by Laara

Just like the Sloquet Hot Springs these ones too bubbled up from the ground into the original pool, but then the water flowed around the pool area into a series of tubs sheltered by well built leantoos. The local First Nations people look after the site; they charge a nominal price of $5.00 per person per day to camp here and use the hot springs. In return the place is clean, very neat, not like the messed up campground back at Sloquet, and as they stay onsite there is security at night. One Person Hot Tub

This is definitely a family oriented place, but just remember, like most other remote hot springs, these are clothing optional. Indeed, one couple off to the side of the clearing where sharing a small tub and they were sans clothes; the other folks in the two main sheltered areas where in swim suits, as they felt a little more exposed I guess. There is even a funky old one man tub for you to sit in as you converse with your neighbours!

The sun was setting and it was getting dusk, so we took the requisite pictures while we could, looked for the answers we needed for the cache requirements, then headed back out onto the main FSR to start the 20 mile run north to reach pavement at Mt.Currie.

By now it was around 7.00 PM and we were totally in the dark; as we were spread out a bit we were able to use the high beams to pick out the potholes in the dark as we sped up on them.

It didn't hurt to use them either for the fact this scetion of the road ran right beside the lake at lake level with no guard rails or sign posts to let you know you were coming up fast on a 90 degree turn. Every now and then you would think, "is the road just dark or is that lake in front of me and I have to slam on the brakes". You defintely want to guess right at this point in the game!

We reached the head of the lake at the old location of Port Pemberton , where the gravel FSR meets Hwy#99, around 7.30PM; which meant we had driving for 11 hours on 80 miles of gravel forest road, some good sections, some bad sections, some washed out sections, and some creek fording to do, but all of it extremely scenic. It's these types of trips that make me believe in the slogan "Supernatural BC" or the other one the province uses "The Greatest Place on Earth".

Another 30 minutes brought us to Pemberton and the local Petro-Can gas station where we gassed up, filled up on a late dinner while we stood around the trucks, and chatted about the day's adventure.

It was a very long day but even at this late time of the day we were all smiles with a sense of satisfaction of accomplishing the long trip.

We eventually said our goodbyes as this would be the last time we all stopped together, and one by one we headed south down Hwy#99 towards Whistler as we dead-headed back to our own part of the world.

Thanks to Mark, Laara, Kelvin, Jordan, Jackie and Cameron for their excellent company on an excellent road trip. As that guy on the Internet says, "Cache On"!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

View The Harrison Trip on GoogleEarth is a web site that allows you to upload your GPS track file to their web site, and then overlays the track file over top of GoogleEarth.

Have a look at the track from the Harrison Lake - Lillooet Lake caching trip: you can either view the map here or click on the link to see it on

NOTE: The broken line is indicative of the GPSr being turned off during that segment. The GPSr will include mileage and duration as measured "as the crow flies".


Harrison lake - Lillooet Lake - Whistler at EveryTrail

Map created using EveryTrail: GPS, Travel & Geotagging!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Harrison Lake - Lillooet Lake Tease

Still haven't got all the pictures and videos in from the other folks, but I thought you might like to have a taste of what the day was like.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ambling in Agassiz

ABOVE: Kilby Museum at Harrison Mills

All pictures for this trip can be viewed at my Flicker page by clicking here. When the page comes up look in the upper right corner for the wording "View Slide Show". That will start the slide show for your viewing pleasure. Mouse over the centre of the picture and then click on the "i" in the centre of the picture to read the text that goes along with the posted pictures.

I hooked up with fellow cacher MsChief Gps_y for a day of caching in the Agassiz - Harrison Hot Springs area of the Fraser valley in BC. Laara, as she is known to the real world, has let it be known on several occasions that she is always willing to go out caching on a moments notice, and as I was looking for a caching partner, Laara came to mind and she jumped at the chance to go.

Our first stop was not a cache but a historical landmark located in Harrison Mills on Harrison River. This is the site of one of the first white settlements in the area. One of the original farmers started milling lumber in 1870, and from 1870 to 1910 a succession of mills came into operation.

In 1902 Thomas Kilby came to the area and built a three story hotel that quickly became the focal point of the small community. It became an overnight stop for the trains heading to and from Vancouver, and the farmers from Chilliwack on the opposite side of the Fraser River use to bring their dairy products bound for the growing Vancouver and it's suburbs across the river on small boats to load onto the west bound trains.

Long before the white settlers, for thousands of years, the First Nations had a community here called Scowlitz ( Sq'ewlets), "turning the canoe around the corner". It was situated right at the mouth of Harrison Bay as the Harrison River narrows to enter the Fraser River.

The Stolo here hunted in the mountains to the north, and fished in the safety of the sheltered bay for salmon. They also fished the backwater channels of the Fraser for the mighty White Sturgeon that use to grow to 20 feet long, and live for 100 years.

After a short visit to look around the outside of the old general store, we popped down the side road and scanned the multi use park on the edge of Harrison Bay. There are facilities here for day users and over nighters; a small gravel parking lot at the edge of the water functions as a camp site, and where the camp site stops a small picnic area for day trippers occupies the upper beach and grass area. Further over still is a small but very busy boat launch servicing the fisher folks who come to launch their small boats to go around the corner and fish in the Fraser River.

ABOVE: View from old hang gliding launch pad on Mount Woodside

Our next stop still wasn't at a cache but at another scenic viewpoint, this time 1,500 feet in the air. We took a detour off of Hwy #7 and drove up the Mount Woodside FSR to an old hang gliding station. The launch pad is no longer in use, but the area provides a wonderful view of the central Fraser Valley complete with sand bar islands in the middle of the Fraser River.

From the viewpoint we could see the Harrison Bay area we just left and could see the blue waters of the Harrison River mixing with the dirty brown Fraser River. All too soon the blue water of the Harrison faded into the muddy brown of the Fraser.

We stopped for 15 minutes or so, just long enough to drink in the view and try in vain to capture with our cameras the image our eyes could see and our brain could process to provide us mortals with a wonderful view that only eagles get to see.

ABOVE: Parked along a dike road in Agassiz

OK, now we finally get to our first cache and it's an easy one in a wonderful little spot along a dike road at the edge of the Fraser River. "Stuck in the Mud" is the name of the cache and it is owned by a very active cacher in Agassiz called "Agassiz_Angel". As a matter of fact of the 13 caches we found today, 10 of them are owned by Agassiz_Angel!

I have been down this road several times before when I have been in my "wandering" mode; translated that means I head out of town to the upper Fraser Valley and just turn down any street or road that looks interesting. I have made more discoveries of wonderful little parks or out of the way historical sites than I would have thought existed just by wandering.

ABOVE: Old REO truck

In this case I had spotted an old REO truck from circa 1920; although just the frame was left to rot in the farmer's fieled at the edge of the river, like most old vehicles it had the steel ID tag bolted to the dash board. Plus it appeared to have wooden spoked wheels, although I'm told some one probably added those rims at a later date and that they are not original equipment.

ABOVE: Wooden spoked rims

The pictures you see here of the truck were taken in 2002 as you can tell by the time stamp on the picture.

REO Motor Company was founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1904 originally to make motor vehicles and later trucks. The Olds names lives on in the form of Oldsmobile.
You can read the history of the REO Motor Company here.

ABOVE: Laara makes a quick and easy find; all I had to do was take pictures

Find #1 under our belt after only 2 hours of of caching time, we picked up the pace and grabbed #2 just a wee ways up the same dike road. 'Road to No Where" is exactly that, it's the end of a short farm road that dead ends at the edge of the Fraser River. Well, the road does lead to some leads to a cache! This was another quick find as Laara had it in her hand before I could even get around to that side of the Jeep.

ABOVE: Valley View cemetery in Agassiz

All logged in and the cache re-hidden, we headed a short distance away to pick up two near by caches. The first one was at a cemetery with a great view of the valley below, as indicated in the name of the cache "Valley View".

The cache was hidden just outside the rear of the cemetery, and while you looked for the cache you could enjoy the view from this height of the land. As Laara had already found this cache on a previous visit I went solo in search of the Holy Grail on this sacred ground.

And, as cacher's luck goes, the cemetery was empty of visitors, except for the one young guy sleeping on the grass at the rear of the land not 40 feet from the cache. At least, I hope he was only sleeping and not auditioning for a full time gig with the other "guests" on the property.

So, trying not to be too jingle-jangley as I walked past him I moved in, found the cache, signed the log and replaced the cache, all without him stirring.

The next stop was just a ways down the same road in amongst the edge of the forest along the road. This was one of those cases where co-ordinates that are just a bit off on paper can be a ways off in the field. Both Laara's and my GPSrs said we should be about 90 feet into the bush. Well, we went in there and searched the area pretty thoroughly for about 30 minutes or so before we finally called off the search. As we walked back to the Jeep we both thought that it shouldn't be this hard to find and let's think about this hide.

Well, we decided that the cache should probably be located closer to the road, and as we walked back to the Jeep we tried a couple of likely areas and Bingo, Laara had the cache in her hand in no time flat. We were quite happy we found the cache as we both HATE to have DNFs against our searches. DNF in cacher language means "Did Not Find", and while it's not a sign of failure in your caching life, I'm sure every one that has a DNF does so with just a wee bit of frustration. LOL

ABOVE: Rural road in Agassiz

Next cache was one of a series of caches; the series is called Blossom Kingdom and in the series are 5 caches. In each cache is a clue, after you find all 5 caches you have the 5 clues that will lead you to the final cache in the series. These are kinda fun as the hides keep you motivated to keep on caching to you have ALL the clues, just so you can get that final cache.

Well, "Blossom Kingdom 5 - Queen Mab" was found quick enough but there were no clue cards left in the cache. No worries, an email to the owner will bring the clue into our hands and prepare us for the next visit when we find the rest of the caches.
ABOVE: Another dike protecting the farms of Agassiz.

On to "Oh My! Mother Nature" a cache hidden along side a dike road at the south side of Agassiz on the north bank of the Fraser River. Again, Laara had found this cache previously so while I went in search of the cache Laara talked to two ladies who were walking along the dike with their dog. When Laara starts talks to people about dogs, you might as well either have a seat or go looking for a cache. :) In this case I had a cache to occupy my time...

Cache found and log signed, we said good bye to the ladies with the beautiful, well behaved dog and went looking for the next cache.

ABOVE: Maria Slough located on the north side of Seabird Island

The next stop was at the cache called "Seabird" as it is located on Seabird Island. The island is surrounded by Maria Slough and is the location of the Seabird Island First Nations, a member of the Stolo Nation. The band has done a fair amount of work in their community as evidenced in both their buildings and the environment around the reserve. Many of the houses are new employing the next generation of eco-friendly methods of home building; in the adjacent slough they have created spawning channels for salmon as well as created several pond environments for the Oregon Spotted Frog, the rarest frog in Canada. The reserve has all the signs of a prosperous band, which is really good to see.

ABOVE: Start of the Campbell Lake Trail that goes up the side of Mount Woodside

The next cache was a puzzle cache - literally. The cache owner, that devilish Agassiz_Angel had written the co-ordinates on the back of a puzzle, then took the puzzle apart! All of the pieces were there just waiting for you to put it back together so you could read the final co-ordinates.

The puzzle was an easy one to put together, and a short walk down a forest trail brought us to the cache location. Yay, another one found and checked off the list..

We had planned to do several caches in downtown Harrison Hot Springs but when we got there the town was jammed packed with people; then I remembered..this weekend was the sand building competitions on the beach. Okayyy, I guess we can't even get a parking spot in town let alone find some caches unnoticed; so, we put off these caches till next time and pressed on along the east side of the Harrison Lake to find a few caches in not so busy areas.

ABOVE: Harrison Lake as viewed from Green Point Beach area

The next two caches were at a beach area called Green Point; the area here is reminiscent of the beaches at Cultus Lake. A cold blue water lake created by glacier scouring surrounded by wooded mountains. At the rec area was the beach, multiple picnic areas, a change house, wash rooms, and lots of room for the families to spread out to enjoy the sunshine.

The water was very busy too, as speed boats pulling tubers gave the riders a good ride for their money, and seadoos buzzed around doing acrobatics as they jumped over the waves from other boaters.

The cache was a short walk up the beach in a less busy area; "Sasquatch Stomp - Green point" is a cache in another cache series. This series is designed to get you to explore the country side in the Harrison area that is home to the legendary Bigfoot! In this series there are 9 caches with the 10th being the final cache. Again, in this series you have to collect clues from all 9 caches to find the 10th and final cache.

The cache page for this cache was well done as it gave you some information on the past history of the immediate area. The cache page went on to tell about the fish hatchery that was built in 1904 that was the largest fish hatchery in the world.

There is a good write up on Harrison Lake
here on this web page; it makes for interesting reading to find out about how the glaciers scoured the valley and how at one time this was an arm of the ocean.

ABOVE: View north up Harrison Lake from Proposal Point

A short stroll up the beach brought us to the next cache, "Proposal Point". While this is not the official name of the area, it is where the cache owner proposed to his wife, and he has placed a cache in hope that it will inspire others to follow. The point is a small bluff about 60 feet above the height of the beach, but it gives you a beautiful, and somewhat isolated view of Harrison Lake....very romantic indeed.

ABOVE: Welcome to Sasquatch Country

Before we even got to this cache I knew exactly where it woud be; well I knew but my GPSr didn't know. Both mine and Laara's GPSrs took us for a scenic tour of the wide forest road intersection before the GPSrs started agreeing that it should be hidden where I thought it should be! The cache, oh yeah, it was called "Welcome to Sasquatch", where do you think it was hidden?

ABOVE: Signpost for Trout Lake in Sasquatch Park

One of the last caches of the day was inside Sasquatch Park along an old railway bed that is now the park forest road. The cache was an easy find but it was nice driving along the quiet dirt road. Further along the road there are some wonderful examples of different types of mosses hanging from the trees, which indicates that this is a true west coast rain forest. "Tanks for the Cache" was located near 3 old stumps with spring board notches carved into the trunks from logging done at the turn of the century.

ABOVE: Can you see the cache?

Last cache of the day was the toughest; "Sam and Valeries Adventure" was a well camoflauged micro along side a busy, dusty forest road. First of all, it's hard to look inconspicous as a car or truck roars by you as you stand in the middle of no where. Second, Laara's GPSr was bang on to the cache, while mine wanted us to be 100 metres down the road. At first we weren't sure whose GPSr to believe, but as Laara began the search I followed my GPSr down the road until it said I should turn 80' off the road and over an high thanks!

Back I went to join Laara in the hunt now that we knew we were indeed searching the correct area...we hoped. Well, after sucking up dust from half a dozen trucks going past on the gravel road we were getting near our departure time to start heading home. Just a few more minutes to look and then we'll give up; at this point I'm thinking if Laara can't see it I'll never find it as she has the sharper pair of eyes between us.

Well, after giving one least systamatic search before I stepped away and headed for the Jeep I see the tell tale sign of "one of these is different from the other". Hoping like crazy, I pulled on the suspect item and VOILA, one micro cache is in hand!! YAY!!

So that was it, the last cache of the day and we avoided having any DNFs haunt us till next time. We found 13 caches on the day, not a lot by many standards but Laara and I were out to enjoy the day more than go on a crazy cache blitz.

Good company for the day, a beautiful Indian Summer day and great views added up to another perfect day of caching in the Fraser Valley.

If you enjoyed the posting leave a message and let me know you were here...