Monday, April 07, 2008

Planting Seeds Up Harrison Way

ABOVE: My Jeep perched above Harrison Lake

All pictures in this set can be seen here on my Flickr site

Laara , AKA "MsChief Gps_y" and I did a run up the west side of Harrison Lake planting half a dozen caches as part of the British Columbia Geocaching Association (BCGA) 2008 Spring Blitz.

This is a month long mass planting of quality caches to kick off the spring geocaching season. The month culminates in a get together for a afternoon of fun, renewing old aquaintances, and making new ones. Prizes are also awarded for the best caches in various categories.

Our first stop was in the Mission area where we stopped to allow Laara snatch a cache that she had not been to yet, and seeing as how we were going right past it it was an easy stop and grab.

ABOVE: Silverdale Wetlands

The cache is located in a new wetlands conservation area called Silverdale Wetlands; in the marsh area the river has been enhanced by adding spawning channels and ponds for the young fry to hide in. As well, song birds are encouraged to nest here with the addition of bird houses on stilts above the ponds.

ABOVE: Salmon carving at Silverdale Wetlands

There is even a neat carved salmon statue to highlight the salmon habitat in the park.

ABOVE: Lake Errock

Stop #2 of the day was at Lake Errock to pick up a cache called "Just Because"; the cacher owner placed this cache here "just because" he liked the spot. It is a small community of summer cabins and full time homes that have resisted the hordes of outside people by posting "No Parking" signs anywhere near the lake, as well as prominently placing signs stating that the facilities are "private; members only".

Still, it's a very scenic spot with the old elbow of the Fraser River long ago cut off from the river, and it is now a small fresh water lake set amid surrounding tall hills more reminiscent of mountains that hills.

OK, on to the main event.................

ABOVE: Signboard for the Weaver Creek facility

Our first cache plant was at the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel, an artificial channel on the banks of Weaver Creek built to enhance the survival ratio of Sockeye salmon, and to a lesser extent, Chum and Pink Salmon. From the early 1940s to the late 1950s the Sockeye runs where around 20,000; in the early 60s extensive logging in the watershed exacerbated a natural tendency for the river to flood, resulting in runs in the 12,000 mark.

ABOVE: Weaver Creek Spawning Channel

The International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission, a joint U.S. - Canada commission created to enhance the Fraser River salmon fisheries, decided to build numerous fish hatcheries and salmon enhancement channels. Weaver Creek is the most succesful of them, first being run by Fisheries and Oceans - Canada, and for the past many years it has been staffed and run by the local Chehalis First Nation. This is historical Sts'a'itles land; Chehalis knew this as "running aground on a sandbar (with the chest of the canoe)" in the Sto:lo tonque. The Halq'emeylem language is spoken from the mouth of the Fraser River as far upriver as Yale, with different dialects spoken between the "upriver" and "down river" peoples.

The Scowlitz peoples inhabit the area around Harrison Bay, while the Chehalis occupy the territory at the mouth of the Chehalis River where it empties into the Harrison River; the Chehalis are the peoples furthest away from the Sto'lo, "the river", or as we know it, the Fraser River.

ABOVE: Parked on the side of a forest road on a wet day in a coastal rain forest

Cache hid in an out of the way spot, we continued up the road looking for another good spot, and it wasn't long before we found it. An old beaver pond, no longer a viable habitat, was overgrown with cottonwoods and birches which love the water environment. The marsh is reclaiming the land slowly, and you can see the various types of trees and plants creating a new forest where once it was a pond.

We found a good spot here as well, typical location in a rain forest with every thing covered in different types of moss. Ever tried to count the many shades of green in a forest? I tried once and I got lost after 20-something, it's just remarkable all the slight colour variations.

ABOVE: The View Point

Further up the road at mile marker 5 we came to one of my favorite places, a scenic viewpoint overlooking Harrison Lake with a good view to the south down the lake. There are better view points that come and go dependent on the active logging, but this viewpoint is always here waiting for me. Here's the routine; break out the cache, find a good spot to stash the cache, mark the waypoint, and continue on, and that's just what we did

ABOVE: A healthy beaver pond

Next on the list, a beaver pond in good health. I picked this one to contrast with the previous pond that was no longer in use and being reclaimed by nature. This new pond had vibrant colours and clear water, it just looks healthy!

ABOVE: Sandy hill just right to play on

Further up the road is another one my favourite places, I just had to hide a cache here. I named this cache "PlayTime"! That's because this location is an old sand hill that was once used as a source for surface fill on teh forest road, now it is a mild play area for city folks who have an SUV and don't often have the chance to play in it.
The hillside is not very big and you can't make a mistake on the hill, its a safe environment for beginners!

ABOVE: Short video of me playing on the hill

ABOVE: Second video of me playing on the hill

The two videos are courtesy of Laara, who defied "death by raging Jeep" to film the videos

The videos are deceiving in that they make the hill look much smaller than it is. Plus the Jeep is so sure footed that it made climbing the soft, sandy hill look easy. Well, I'm sure the driver had a lot to do with it! :)

ABOVE: Snow stop; good name for a cache!

I was aiming to plant the last cache at 20 Mile Bay Recreation area, but Mother Nature had other plans. At the 17 mile marker we hit snow on the road on an uphill section of the FSR. We were far enough north and just high enough that we were at the snow line on the shadow side of the mountains. Here amidst the trees the shadows linger longer, and so does the snow; not willing to risk powering up hill through the snow just to run off the side of the road into a ditch, we decided to turn around and look for one last good spot.

ABOVE: Small waterfall on side of Harrison West FSR

Just 100 yards or so down the road we came across a small creek that had a good size waterfall coming off the hillside and continuing under the road to the opposite side. This was a great little area, lots of moss growing on everything from the forest floor to the tree limbs of the older second growth forest. I found a good hiding spot that is easy to spot from the road, ensuring the cacher of a find. If you come this far looking for the cache, you should at least find it!!

ABOVE: Good reminder why you shouldn't try to act like Mario Andretti on these roads

The last of the six ammo cans hid, we turned around and started the long drive back down to mile zero. 45 minutes later and we were back at the Sasquatch Inn, wondering if the Sasquatches had as much fun as we did today.

Thanks to Laara for helping me hide the caches and ensuring we got as accurate readings as we could on the hides. And of course thanks for the good company!

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