An audacious project to be sure, but one that adventurous cachers have risen to the challenge.
Map created by EveryTrail: GPS, Photos & Geotagging!
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.
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.
Coon Creek Falls
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.
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...
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 GC.com 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.
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.
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"!