Friday, September 26, 2008

Driving the KVR With Scruffster Riding Shotgun

ABOVE: Engineers Road in Manning Park

Last Saturday I did one of my favourites drives in this corner of B.C., and as an added bonus I had Scruffster (Stu) along riding in the shotgun seat.

Stu is basically a city boy who doesn't often get the chance to experience the wonders that B.C. has to offer, so it was with great pleasure that I was able to offer him a ride for the day to enjoy the scenery.

The goal today was to follow the route of the old Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) from Princeton north through the Otter Valley, then hang a left approx 30 miles up the valley and head west to the old railway stop of Brooksmere.

The four part video may be viewed on my YouTube channel here. Look for the videos titled "Princeton-Coalmont-Tulameen With Scruffster" and start with Part One

We started off in Maple Ridge at 7.00 AM where Stu dropped off his car and climbed into the Jeep with just a bit of a buzz happening with the expectation of things to come. Stu had been out just the other weekend with me as we did the Harrison West FSR Geocaching tour, so he had some idea of the sights we would be seeing and the roads we would be travelling. Even so I think by the end of the day he was awed by the scenery, and just a wee bit over whelmed by the amount of territory we covered.

We drove the 90 minutes to Hope with no stops along the way as we wanted to keep to the agenda, knowing that the day would be turning dark on us at some point earlier then we wanted it to.

Our first stop was just east of Hope on Hwy#3 at a camping spot called Nicola River Campsite. It was a campsite that I had used way back in 1980 with my brand new truck and camper as a shake down sleep over. While the rain poured down, I was having a cup of tea reading the local newspaper while the furnace kept it nice and toasty in the camper. This was a far cry from the days of sleeping in a sleeping bag out in the open at Garibaldi Lake and waking up to ice on the sleeping bag.

ABOVE: The Hope Slide

Next up were 3 caches at the Hope Slide further east on Hwy#3. The Hope Slide is one of the biggest slides in to happen in Canada; it was triggered by rain water loosening the slopes which first created a minor mud slide that blocked the highway. Then, approx three hours later, a minor earthquake triggered the larger slide that broke away half the mountain. This happened on Jan 9, 1965 and 2 people in two cars are still missing. Four people in all were killed.

At the slide the 3 caches consisted of 2 real caches and one Earth cache; the Earth cache is a virtual cache where you go to a location and find out some information about the unusual earth fomation, in this case the slide. Real caches found and the necessary information collected for the virtual cache, we moved on down the road.

ABOVE: Westgate of Manning Park

The next 8 caches were all inside Manning Park; the caches highlighted some of the natural beauty of the area. The cache locations took us from the old Dewdney Trail to it's succesor, the Engineer's Road, from rare large rhodendrons to swift flowing creeks, with highlights of beaver and mule deer environments thrown in for good measure.

Manning Park consists of over 70,844 hectares of rugged forest-clad mountains, deep valleys, alpine meadows, lakes and rivers. There are numerous campsites in the park, most drive in along with some alpine areas. There is a downhill ski area, a lodge, a full service cafeteria and store and public washrooms for the weary road travellers.

Manning Park also straddles several bioclimate zones; at it's western entrance the park is west coast rain forest with green trees and plants every where you look. Creeks, rivers, and waterfalls are the norm on this side of the park. As you move towards the centre of the park you climb into Allison Pass and lose the west coast feel; it is replaced with smaller trees and less ground cover due to the harsher winter environment.

By the time you get to the lodge and store area, you are in the midst of a high altitude environment; the winters bring heavy snow and it is reflected in the types of structures here. All of the buildings have steep pitch roof lines to minimize snow build up and you notice that many of the signs are placed at a height where they will still be visible even when the winter's snows come.

Moving east you cross from the west coast zone to the dryer Interior climate zone. Here the ground is dryer and the trees have changed from firs and evergreens to lodgepole pines and birch. Dry brownish grazing grass fills the voids between the trees and the deer population explodes in the area. Where you had to be lucky to see a deer to the west, now when you drive this section at night you have to be lucky not to hit a deer.

We exited the east side of the park, got half a mile away when Stu noticed a moose at the river's edge. "A moose"? I said, here in the dry semi-arid Interior? Well, yes there was one right there!

Moose generally prefer wet marsh areas to arid environments, so we could only surmise that this moose was at the edge of it's territory.

On we went towards Princeton picking up a couple of caches along the way. By now we were fully into the dry lands, and sage brush grew in the fields instead of shrubs; we also noticed in this environment every plant seemed to have thorns or prickles that clung to your clothing as you walked past.

Into Princeton we went searching out the caches planted in this small city; an added bonus was grabbing an FTF in the Tulameen Turtles region. The Turtles are very dedicated cachers who think nothing of driving all night down forest roads searching for an FTF at a distant cache. Their fleet includes 4X4's and ATVs, augmented with a quaff of the finest wines avilable to geocachers on low budgets. To get the jump on them is tough to do; to do so in their own back yard was particularly sweet!

ABOVE: Old building in Granite City

Out of Princeton we went to Coalmont, where the treat for the day was the old ghost town of Granite City. History buff Stu had a field day here, savoring every nuance of the old buildings and the open area that was once a town of two thousand people and two hundred buildings, of which 13 were saloons.

We wandered around the old city for a while, then went up the hill to look at the old Granite City cemetery with head stones so old some of them were unreadable.

Back on the road to the town of Tulameen and home of the Tulameen Turtles which we hoped to surprise. But alas our timing was off as Mrs. Turtles had dropped by my house with some CDs of a recent trip we were on, and found out that I was headed to their territory. Mr Turtles was not home either, but had left a note for us to make our selves at home.

We wandered around the yard for a few minutes thinking how lucky they were to have the cabin to escape to on the weekends.

ABOVE: Old Kettle Valley Railroad trestle at the south end of Otter Lake

We did a few more caches in the Tulameen area, the best of which was the old train trestle from the days of the KVR. The trestle is at the southern end of Otter Lake and you have an excellent views of the lake from the old train bed and the bridge.

ABOVE: Old barn in the Otter Valley

Back on the road we headed north up the Otter Valley stopping at many viewpoints to admire the view and capture it on film and video. We had also changed bioclimate zones again; we had left the dry Interior area and where now in a wetter grass lands area as we travelled the valley bottom. Tracts of cattle ranches were the norm now as we climbed into onto the Nicola Plateau. This was home to historical ranch names like the Nicola Ranch and the Douglas Lake Ranch; these ranches made their fortune on feeding the hungry men who laid the steel rails of the railways and selling horses in Western Canada to the growing population.

By now it was early evening and we were beginning to run out of light; we made the run up the Otter Valley as far as the turn off for the Brookmere Road, which took us west towards the old railway town of Brookmere near the Coquihalla Highway. As we cruised along the old rail bed turned-back road we couldn't help but think of the old whistle stops along here and the pioneer men and women who lived on isolated ranches far from one another; the only way to town was a very long and bumpy wagon ride, or the luxury of the KVR trains.

Our last stop was at Brookmere, where a cache was placed at the only remaining water tower still standing from the KVR line. These water towers were unique in that they were multi-sided and not round like the other train lines built.

We exited the KVR route back onto the Coquihalla Highway and once again we were in another bioclimate zone. Now we were back into the high passes of the mountains were winter comes early, stays late, and dares you to drive the highway any time of the year. This is one of those mountain highways were it's not unheard of to have snow in August!

By now we were in the dark, we were way past our allotted day light hours, and we made the drive back to Vancouver in the dark accompanied by a steady mountain downpour. We had managed to miss the rains that enveloped the coast during the day by the fact we were on the other side of the Coast Mountain Range. Once we reached the Coquihalla Summit and started down the mountain pass, we ran smack dab into the bad weather that Vancouver had been experiencing in our abscence.

We arrived back in Maple Ridge at Stu's car around 10.00 PM, meaning we had been on the road for 15 hours, all of which flew by in what seemed like minutes.

Stu headed home to crash, I headed home to clean up the Jeep and pack for a 4 day geocaching road trip that started at 6.00 AM the next morning!

Thanks Stu for riding shotgun for the day and being such good company!


TESKELLY said...

What a day you guy's must have had. I have done a few of those caches but have missed some in between. I go out that way a couple times a year so I know I will get them all one day. looking forward to one of your adventures in the future TJGUY98.


Dustanne said...

Wow, what an adventure and drive.
Would love to have you host a day like that for us...hee hee
We so need a 4x4 that holds the family, but thank goodness for other geocachers who love to 4x4.

Love reading and seeing (on u-tube) your adventures, keep them coming!!!

Tulameen Turtles said...

What a great work of art - you did a great job with the video (for the record that was Jordie - not my JORDY - unless of course he was disguising his name -hmm is that why he wasn't home when you went by.. lol)

So glad you enjoyed it - now I'm assuming when we hold our event next year you're coming up? The couch is spoken for - but sure we can find space somewhere for you.. :)

But So glad you had fun - and now you know where we live (should we be scared?)