Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Highway to Hope!

ABOVE: Hwy #1 east at Prest Road overpass at Chilliwack
The complete set of photos for this trip can be viewed here on my Flicker site

AKA Hwy #1, Hwy #401 and the Transcanada Hwy, the main freeway runs east through the Fraser Valley as it carries it's road surfers out of the Vancouver area to points east like Princeton, Vernon, Calgary, and other Canadian towns.

Today, MsChief Gps_y (AKA Laara) and I were using the highway for those noblest of reasons; we were geocaching our way to Hope!

Now, I'm sure Laara knows this, but for those of you who don't bump into me often, I'll tell you right now; "I DON"T do mornings well"! If I see something like 6.00 AM on a Sunday it's only because I've come at it from the back end. Nor do I suffer fools gladly that early in the day; some of my fellow workers have been known to get speared by my acerbic sense of humour when they insist on practicing their stupidity around me before my mental wake up time of 10.00 AM

But I digress...already.

Laara knows that I treasure my Sunday morning sleep-ins but for the sake of the day to come and the long sets of driving involved, I offered to pick her up at 7.30 AM and then make the dash out to our starting point in Chilliwack.

Our first stop in Chilliwack was at the gas station as gas in Chilliwack is always cheaper than around Vancouver; a savings of 15 cents per litre attested to that fact.

Gas tank topped up, we took a round about way to get to our first cache via Airport Road which takes us right past the Chilliwack Airport. The airport here is well known for it's excellent, and huge, selection of pies. This little 40 or so seat diner (looking like it was an after thought in a hall way) in the main building always has a loyal following waiting for a coveted spot at a table, forks and knives at the ready.

The first cache was at an overpass on Hwy #1; "Prest for Time" cache is right along the off ramp of the highway as you exit to Prest Road. A cache truly for those pressed for time, you can literally do 70 MPH almost all the way to the cache.

ABOVE: View north from Prest Road in Chilliwack

The overpass offered an excellent view of the surrounding farmlands and of the Fraser Valley as it continued east to it's head at Hope. We also had terrific views of the mountains that contain the valley to the north and south.

We quickly found this micro cache and then jumped back in the Jeep and roared down the on-ramp back onto the freeway heading for "The Mint".

"The Mint - Your Geocoin Rest Stop" is another quick drive up cache on a rural road just off the freeway in the village of Popkum. Best known for Bridal Falls and Flintstone Village, along with the Trans Canada Water Slides, Popkum, in the First Nations language of Halq'emeylem is a take off of the word Popkw'en meaning "puffballs".

ABOVE: Mt. Cheam

For us it was a drive up cache and a chance to take more pictures of the mountains that were now closing in on the Upper Fraser Valley. As the name "Geocoin Rest Stop" alludes to, this cache was a haven for geocoins, those collectable coins of the trade that grown adults become goo-goo over!

Well, we weren't getting so goo-goo so we packed up the cache and put it away so we could go-go down the highway to the next cache.

ABOVE: Cheam Lake Wetlands

In this case we just had to go a wee bit further down the rural road to a nature reserve called Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park, a relatively new park in the process of reclaiming the land from it's past of being abused for the local agriculture industry.

ABOVE: Signboard at Cheam Lake Wetlands

Five thousand years ago a slide three times the size of the Hope Slide roared down Mt. Cheam and covered the valley up to 30 meteres in depth. Over time the organic matter of the valley floor, in particular an aquatic plant called Chara, through photosynthesis caused the limestone from the Mt. Cheam rock to bond creating marl limestone.

The local agriculture used the marl as a natural additive to reduce the acidity of the boggy soil in the area. Huge scoops were used to mine the marl and the shallow Cheam Lake was drained to allow the lake floor to be scooped out. From 1944 to 1990 one million tonnes of marl was mined from the lake bed.

Eventually the conservation crowd wised up to this oppertunity and in conjucntion with the government, developed a comprehensive plan to allow the area to reclaim itself to become a haven for many types of song birds and water fowl. Walkways and trails around a portion of the lake allows visitors to appreciate this treasure as Mother Earth heals herself.

In the park we would find three caches, well 2 and an invisible cache. The invisible one was an Earth Cache, so called as there is no actual cache to find but instead you are brought to a unique geographical location to appreciate the beauty of the area. To claim this cache we had to A) find some marl, take a picture and obtain the co-ordinates B) state something we learnt about the park, and C) find at least one other cache in the park.

Well, all of these tasks were easy to do as we not only found marl and learned something new, we also found two other caches in the park.

Cache #2 was called "Blossom Kingdom - 3- Blossom Kingdom"

This is one of a series of caches by a local Agassiz cacher called Agassiz Angel, in which you have to find clues from various caches to be able to find the final cache.

ABOVE: Pond at Cheam Lake Wetlands

This cache was located on a wonderful little trail that was a kilometre long and wound it's way through the bog and over and around a small pond where the Red Winged Blackbird whistled to us from the bush around the pond. Cache found, clue duly noted, on to the next cache.

"Crafty Cache" was the third cache in the park to find, and this one was along a small creek ravine; you couldn't even call it a ravine, more of a bed as the ravine was only 8 feet deep all along it's length. We did have the pleasure of noticing the tell tale signs of beaver activity as evidenced by the cut saplings in the creek area. This cache was a quick find for the intrepid duo, and we signed our names, Laara made a trade, and we bee-lined back to the Jeep to get back on the move to the next cache.

ABOVE: Caching at the side of Hwy #1

Another quick drive up cache right at an exit off the highway made for a swoop and go cache as we homed in on the "We're On The Way Now" cache. I'm sure it's named for all those people who feel the exhilartion of heading along the highways into the mountains knowing that they are at the start of their big road trip and a holiday's worth of fun!

Next up on the list; the "Spooky" cache! OK, I admit, we were scared...

In this case the Spooky referred to the gnarly old tree (oak maybe) that must have looked a little scary at night as if it was something just coming to life.

This was one of those caches placed in an ironic location; to get to the cache you have to cross the train tracks, with their big NO TRESPASSING signs warning you the the Train Police are hiding around the corner waiting to pounce on unrepentant geocachers who break the law to get to a cache.

ABOVE: On the way to Spooky cache

Well, that didn't happen of course; what did happen is that we found a neat little trail through the narrow strip of forest sandwiched between the train tracks and the Fraser River. Only cachers and all the local fisher folks know of this place.

ABOVE: At the sight of the Spooky cache

The ironic part? Oh yeah, when we found the cache area there was a cairn and a dedication plaque stating that this strip of land was donated to the provincial government by Mr. Francis Barber in 1978. I really liked the idea of preserving this strip of land, but do I have to run the gauntlet of the Train Police to enjoy one of my provincial parks?

Kudos to Mr. Barber for his donation and the province for saving the land, but how do I get to it legally? Oh well, I guess they're still working on that one...............................

ABOVE: At the sight of I Walk The Line cache

#8 cache "Walk The Line" seemed to put us in the land of Bubbas; a small community of worn houses with numerous "things" in the front yard, like old cars, washing machines and other good luck items fit right in to the location of the cache.

ABOVE: Might need to up the terrain rating at this cache; at least for Chevys!

The cache is located along a power right of way which the locals have deemed their own play area. The secondary dirt road from the paved road into the area was in good shape, but the dirt road that ran alongside the power poles had been chewed up, as had the grassy area right in front of the cache location. It was deep enough that an old step side Chevy pick up was sunk up to it's axles in the mud; the smashed in front end and the broken windows means it's probably not a daily driver.

This cache took a few minutes but Laara soon got her eagle eyes on the hide, which is always good! Love the finds, HATE the DNFs!

ABOVE: Hunter Creek cache location

The next two caches were close together near the Hunter Creek rest stop; this is a great area during the summer to stop for a rest and walk along side the creek under a forest canopy where it is 10 degrees cooler than the parking lot. One cache was down by the river tucked away in a good hiding spot, and we took more time taking pictures then we did finding the cache. "Hunter Creek" cache was, as it said, right by the river and now in my logs as a smiley.

ABOVE: Granite walls tower above the Too Tired To Drive cache

The other cache just up the road is called "Too Tired to Drive", no doubt named after all those people who pulled over with one eye closed and the other one half way there.

This also was a quick find and sign for us as it was meant to be; Hey, when you're that tired, you don't have a lot of energy to beat the bush looking for a cache! LOL

ABOVE: Husky truck stop in Flood BC

OK, lunch time, Laara is buying and I know just the place a little ways up the road. The big time village of Flood is home to the Husky truck stop complete with a restaurant that hasn't changed much in all the years I've been coming here. I think the same linoleum is still on the floor that's been there all these years. Yep, I'm sure I took that little corner of the lino off over near the wall as I tripped in my hiking boots one year coming back from the Ashcroft Rodeo.

This restaurant, just like it's counter part 10 miles north of Hope on Hwy #1, serves real man size meals as it caters to truckers, loggers and their large appetites. They even have two huge burgers named after tractor rigs; you could order the "Kenworth" if that was your truck, or you could vote for a "Mac" rig if you liked it better. Your basic Ford vs Chevy game only with bigger Tonka toys!

We had a good meal and chatted over cups of coffee as we enjoyed the day's outing, and before we knew it we had spent too much time chatting away.

ABOVE: Hope Airport has a grass landing strip

Back on the road were we, and just down the road was the "Grass Strip" cache. At the time both of us were thinking that this was a grass strip along a rural road. Instead, it was the Hope Airport which has a grass runway, not at all like the paved runways we were use to seeing.

Laara had the micro cache in her hand lickety split, and a scant few minutes later we were back in the Jeep exploring the village of Flood.

ABOVE: Silver Hope Creek

"Silver Hope Creek Cache" was located right next to it's name sake mountain creek. This is a big creek, too small to be called a river and too big to be called a crick, it's somewhere in between. .

A short walk from the Jeep led us to a regular size cache tucked away in some rocks just waiting for the next set of cachers, and that was us!

Silver Creek drains Silver Lake which is 12K south of Flood set in a wonderful mountain valley; basic camping is available at Silver Lake Provincial Park with space for 25 vehicles/tents.

I have been there several times and I am always amazed how beautiful and rugged the land scape is just an hour or so drive out of the big city of Vancouver.

ABOVE: Mile marker 97

OK, time to set our mileage and head for the "Mile Marker 97" cache which is exactly that, 97 miles from Vancouver. Back in the 30s when the Fraser Valley was being opened up as new roadways were being built, people needed to know how far they were from Vancouver and how much further they had to go. In 1931 cement markers painted bright yellow were made ready for deployment.

Beginning at the large main Canada post office in down town Vancouver, a cairn, with the mile number enscribed in large numbers, was placed every mile as you headed east from downtown. The route followed Kingsway east, crossed the Fraser River and continued along the Fraser Highway, which at the time was the main highway east out of the Lower Mainland. Most of these have disappeared over the years, but luckily a few survive in Abbotsford and Aldergrove, and another cacher named Gearhedd has made micro caches at these ones. Plus, cacher IRLPGUY has found mile marker 60 and placed a cache there as well. I recently read on that cache page that IRLPGUY had to resort to strong arming a local citizen who decided that the mile marker would look better in his yard then in it's appointed place. Kudos to the neighbour who spotted the theft and way to go IRLPGUY for stepping up and making the thief put the marker back.

It was a real treat to find this cache as a continuation of the series, how ever out of place it looked in it's current setting. The cairn is on a boulevard next to some ones house in the middle if a small residential area; I would imagine at one time the main road came right through here and you could see that you were 97 miles from the Vancouver post office as you drove past the cairn.

ABOVE: Hope you're not claustrophobic

"Wheels of Steel" was a cache located between Silver Creek, the freeway, the train trucks and a gas right of way with no apparent entry point. How the heck do we get in there? A bit of driving and circling the object of our desire brought us to an underpass that leads off a residential street and under the four lanes of the freeway. Ahhhh, that's how you get there....a short walk and a quick find along the banks of the river meant it took 4 times as long to find the entry point then to find the cache, but find it we did.

ABOVE: Bike jump and ramp

Okay, number 15 on the list, where is it? Well now, another cache that gave me a flash back from the past. "Ryan's Restaurant and Hostel" cache commemorates Ryan's Hotel that stood in Hope at the intersection of Hwy #1 and Hwy #3 for so many years. It was a favourite stop for lunch, dinner and coffee for many tired travellers; sad to say it was washed away circa 1995 when a local creek overflowed it's banks on a stormy day.

The cool thing here, besides the trip down memory lane, was that the local mountain bikers have been using the area and there is a wooden board walk leading to a 20 foot drop down a steep ramp that is nearly 90 degrees..........hmmmm.........no thank you!

ABOVE: Park on the Fraser River in Hope

Now we are caching in the town of Hope, and the next cache called "My Town", is located in a small park right downtown on the edge of the Fraser River. The town of Hope is located where the Fraser River makes a large bend as it exits the last remnants of the Fraser Canyon. From here on 100 miles west to the Pacific Ocean, the Fraser River slows and begins to drop it's sediment load creating the fertile Fraser Valley, one of the best growing areas in the world.

One of the better quoted "Ed's facts" is that in places the Fraser Valley consists of sediment over a mile deep; that is, the Fraser River has deposited so much dirt over thousands of years that the actual floor of the valley is one mile below it's present level!

ABOVE: Signboard at depicting the history of the Sto:lo people in the area

They have made a great little park here on the strip of land by the river; not only do they have pointers to the local mountains naming them along with their height, but they have also recently added story boards telling the history of the land, of the First Nations 8,000 years of living in the area, as well as the more modern history of Hope and the Fraser Canyon. The highlight of the park is the cairn with a plaque commemorating the founding of Fort Hope in 1848 as a Hudsons Bay trading post.

Laara found this cache faster than she could sit down, and I spent the time here snapping photos while she spent the time signing the log......ahh, what a team!

ABOVE: Japanese gardens in downtown Hope

The next cache we only got the first waypoint done, as the final cache is 20k out of town and we were running out of daylight, so we decided to finish this another day. But we did enjoy the visit to the first waypoint located at a Japanese garden. The "Tashme" cache highlights both the good and bad in our recent past; the good part is that the gardens are a gift from local Japanese citizens.The bad part is it also commemorates the internment of Japanese Citizens during WW2. Some of these citizens were interned 20 K east of town at a camp/prison in Sunshine Valley.

We walked around the gardens enjoying the waterfall and the large cement Japanese Lantern while we ate our ice cream from the Dairy Queen, which Laara so generously bought.

Finally when the ice cream was gone, we jumped back in the Jeep and looked for our next destination.

ABOVE: The "H" Tree

"The 'H' Tree" cache was located down a tiny little residential street and it was located at the base of a large tree that started off as two trees, fused together at their base, and then grew apart again about 15 feet in the air. It was really satisfying to see that the city had made the street "split" around the tree and that the tree was protected with a 3 foot high concrete wall so no cars could hit the tree causing it damage.

ABOVE: Sucker Creek

"Sucker Creek", a name for a circus carnival? No, a name of a cache located at a remediated Sucker Creek where the local conservation groups have cleaned up the small creek and created a wide spawning channel for the benefit of the returning Chum and Coho salmon. American Dippers love this little creek as it is a perfect depth for them to dive into and walk under water looking for aquatic morsels and salmon eggs being washed down stream.

Signboards along the good pathway illustrate how the area has been developed to mimic nature's best efforts at caring for the local stream environment. I find boards like this highly informative and wish more areas, when remediated for nature's benefit, had these signs as well for the people's benefit.

ABOVE: Small waterfall at Sucker Creek

We enjoyed this area so much we actually forgot about finding the cache until we reached the end of the pathway at a sandy beach area which signalled Sucker Creek joining the large Coquihalla River.

Oh yeah, the cache! OK, back out on the street we go to a lesser travelled part of the park and find the cache in it's hidey hole. Sign the log, put it back and get moving as the daylight was not long from leaving us.

ABOVE: Boardwalk at Sucker Marsh

Across the street and up another path was a second conservation area, this one called Sucker Marsh. It is also known as Thacker's Marsh, named after the family that owned the adjoining farm. Sadly, the farm is now gone and a housing subdivision is going up instead.

We followed the path as at first it meandered along side another part of the remediated creek, then the forest floor broke open into a wide boggy marsh suitable for song birds, diving ducks, beaver, and spawning salmon.

ABOVE: Beaver felled tree at Sucker Marsh

And plenty of beaver evidence did we see, both alongside the trail as it paralled the marsh's edge and it the marsh itself. Where the land was lower and the trail closer to the marsh, large and small trees have been recently chewed down by beavers. Two large beaver lodges show signs of recent repairs, and two other lodges look useable and are probably safety zones if the active lodges are disturbed by bears or coyotes.

Well, after a wonderful 1K walk along the marsh we arrived at the scene of the cache but no cache could we find. We looked in the logs and noticed that it had not been found since November 2007, five months ago. After 30 minutes of looking we gave up as the dark was coming on and we wanted to have a go at a few more caches.

"Let's Have a Picnic" was on the shore of Kawkawa Lake in the picnic area. Normally every body and their mother would be watching you as you routed around in the trees at the edge of the grassy area, but not today. The park was empty this late in the day, a perfect time to look; except we couldn't find it! This was another cache that had not been found since November of 2007, so whether the cache was gone or just well hidden we didn't find out, as we looked for just a few minutes in the dark before we called it quits and went on to hit two last caches.

"It's Just a Tree" was a micro cache hidden on/near a tree that looked to be about 5 trees in one, quite the sight to see. This cache was located right on the bank of the Fraser River at the north side of town, a section I had not been to before. The trees here seemed to be old growth redwoods, but I could easily be corrected on that. After checking several other good looking trees with our mighty-moe flashlights, we found the magic container that made us smile.

A quick sign, return of the cache and a last dash north out of town to a freebee cache. I call it that as it is a quick and easy micro located a couple of K out of town at a lovely rest stop called Lake-of-the-Woods. This is one of the busiest rest stops during the summer months for the traffic that tours the historic Fraser Canyon. How ever, in the dark on a short winter night it was evident that the cleaning crews have not been by for some time...sigh. Such a lovely place looking like a poor city street....The name of the cache, "Best Rest Stop", did not live up to it's name tonight.

OK, it's now just after 7.30 PM, we've been on the road for 12 hours. Time for a pit stop and a drink at a local eat-um-up-and-go place, then make the cannon ball run back into the bright lights of the big city on the coast.

We had a blast caching through out the day, and I had a blast visiting a lot of the places I have known for many years and always enjoy coming back to.

Thanks to the cachers in the Hope area who have put out the caches that we so happily found; hopefully we can return to finish the multis not done and find the caches we couldn't find.

Eddie signing off!! ...............................

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