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.

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