Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Crazy Canyon Caching

ABOVE: Somewhere on the Thompson River

Crazy Canyon Caching is an excellent name for this trip report as the whole day fits into the category - just crazy!

Here's the stats on the day; 22 hours on the road, 770K, 12 Gold Country Caches for Cookie Cacher, 12 more for me to obtain my 24 caches required for the Gold coin, a total of 60 caches for me and 66 for Cookie Cacher!

Videos and the GPS route of the day's trip, uploaded to EveryTrails.com, can be found at the end of the write up.


I had been up the Fraser Canyon two weeks ago with Stu, AKA Scruffster, as we blasted our way through the canyon one early morning on our way to Cache Creek to arrive just in time for the official late morning kick off of the Gold Country Geotourism event. The event was being held in 6 cities, Cache Creek, Clinton, Lillooet, Lytton, Merritt and Logan Lake, all in an effort to promote tourism in the area.

All that morning, we kept on passing caches that just begged us to pull over and find them; with broken hearts we passed them by, knowing full well we would be back here soon answering their call. This Saturday we were back, only instead of Scruffster being in the shotgun seat, it was Jeanine AKA Cookie Cacher.

Cookie Cacher had been asking to go caching with me for quite a while, and today seemed like the right time for me to make good on my promise of a day of caching together.

We met up in Maple Ridge at 6.00 AM, me almost sleeping in and waking up only 20 minutes before we had to meet. We met up, both of us semi-awake, loaded Jeanine's stuff into the Jeep, and cruised east out of Maple Ridge aiming for the Fraser Canyon.

We did a couple of caches just north of Hope as a way of warming up on the day, then made our way to Emory Creek area where 4 caches awaited us.

One of the caches highlighted the Emory Creek area, explaining how there was a townsite here in the 1880s; it boasted of 13 streets, two hotels, nine saloons, a brewery, blacksmiths, a general store, and residences. It soon became evident that the CPR would make Yale the terminus of the railroad, and by the 1890s no sign was to be found of Emory City.

Also in the area is a Provincial historic signpost explaining the significant contribution of the Chinese in building the original Cariboo Road, and later the railroads.

We found the 4 caches in the area, then moved on to Yale to look for caches there.
In Yale there are several historic places, suchs as the oldest church in BC still on it's original foundation, Lady Franklin Rock, named after Lady Franklin who toured the world while her husband was on his expedition to the Artic.

Another little know fact is that, in 1868 there was a meeting of 26 delegates from all over the colony of BC who were dissatisfied with the colonial government. This convention did much to stimulate popular support for the idea of the Colony of BC uniting with Canada to become a province of Canada.

We finished up in the Yale area, then moved north on our journey, grabbing various roadside caches that highlighted the best scenic viewpoints in the Fraser Canyon, or otherwise little mentioned historic areas.

Another of the more historic spots was highlighted with a cache placed on a trail; not just any trail, but an HBC Fur Brigade Trail.

This one was placed a short ways up the trail next to Alexandra House. Alexandra House was a road house on the original Cariboo Wagon Road, and the fur brigade trail predates the road house. The original road house was torn down and the current one built, supposedly using one or two of the original road house walls. Hard to determine which ones were used, but even so, the current building is pretty old as is.

The cache was located about a 5 minute walk up the trail from the noisy canyon road, but you might has well been 100 miles from anywhere. The trail leads over the mountains into the Coquihalla Valley, on through the Voight Valley, then cuts across the Douglas Lake Ranch holdings on it's way to Fort Kamloops.

In it's heyday, the pack trains of horses were an incredible site; 500 horses packed with large 80 pound bales of fur on each side, requiring 150 men to run the pack. The First Nations people would watch this procession go by in amazement; never had they seen so many "English" men at one time.

In the Gold Rush days, there were two kinds of white man; those that came from America were called "Boston men", as many of the gold seekers came from Boston. Every one else was called an "English men", as most of the non-Americans were English.

This was a great chance to stretch our legs and provided the wonderful experience of allowing us to step back in time, if just for a few minutes, and imagine the sound of many hooves from labouring horses, intermingled with the voices of the packers encouraging their charges to keep moving.

Northward we continued, stopping at more viewpoints and scenic waterfalls till we got to Boston Bar, the site of a bar in the river first worked by American miners, hence the name "Boston Bar". Here we did a couple of caches aimed at highlighting the old suspended cable car that use to run over the Fraser River from Boston Bar on the east side, to North Bend on the west side.

Many an old folks have used this cable car, and can still vividly recall their trips. Years ago the cable car was replaced with a high level bridge to provide more permanent and improved access for the residents on the west side of the river.

In Lytton we came across our first Gold Country caches, where we started collecting stickers to place in our books. We visited a historic church, The Church of St. Mary and St. Paul, and the Lytton cemetery; we also stopped at the Lytton Jelly Roll, so called because, well...it looks like a giant jelly roll. The roll was created in an ice bound lake during the last glaciation period when an underwater landslide caused the sediment layers to slump away. Rather than breaking up and dispersing, the layers rolled up instead to look like a jelly roll.

With jelly rolls on our minds, we scoured Lytton for as many more caches as time would allow, before we headed north once again.

Next stop, beautiful Nicomen Falls; get ready for a great view of a tall waterfall seemingly coming out of a crack in the hill, and a steep short hike to find the cache. This one I looked forward to doing, and I didn't.....I'm no so good on uphills... :(

But, there was no way I was going to pass on this cache just because I had to huff and puff a little bit; besides, I was hedging my bets......I had Cookie Cacher along to perform CPR in case I over exerted myself... :)

As it was, a short, 2 minute hike brought us to the cache location...."well, that was easy"!
"What was I whining about"? With cache in hand and cameras going, we took a few minutes to enjoy the area, before the calls of the caches up the road begged us to continue.

Into Spences Bridge we went, criss crossing the small town while we searched for caches at a cemetery, at the oldest Inn in BC, at a small camp ground on the banks of the Thompson River, and at a small cafe called The Packing House.

Caches found, it was time for a "time check"; it was 5.30 PM-ish.....oh boy, so many more caches to do, so much more ground to cover.

We raced towards Ashcroft picking off caches as we went, taking the time at each cache to enjoy the scenery. As much as we wanted to to the "dash and grab" thing, the vistas where just so beautiful we couldn't help but stop to admire the land and think of what it was like over 100 years ago. It might not be all that different now; the clear blue Thompson River cutting it's way through the surrounding lowlands of glacial till, vast morraines of gravel and sand left by the retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago. The low rainfall, hot sun, and poor soil combine to make this the land of sage brush and rattlesnakes.

We arrived in Ashcroft around 7.30 PM, knowing that we had two, maybe three hours of daylight left before we would have to make a decision; whether to quit at night fall, or break out the flash lights.

We did the Ashcroft caches as quick as we could, then moved up to Cache Creek to pick up the ones there. By now it was around 8.30 PM....what to do, what to do.....we still had a few more caches to do, and I was getting caught up in the Gold Country quest as I only needed 4 more caches to get my 24.

We made the daring decision to push through to Clinton to pick off the caches we could, specifically the Gold Country caches. It was after 9.00 PM by the time we got into Clinton, and we needed to break out the mini mag lights to find the caches around town, all the while trying to not be too suspicious waving flashlights around in a small town.

We grabbed the Gold Country cache at the historic St Peter The Apostle church by the light of the flash lights and got away from the church lest we looked like we were up to no good.

Back in the Jeep, we counted the Gold Country caches, I now had 23, I needed one more! ARRRGGHH.......

Oh well, by now it was after 10.00 PM and it was time to start heading south for the long drive.
Visions of completing my Gold Country quest were fading as I realized it was not to be this day, and that I would just have to do another tour to the area.

Heading back to Cache Creek, Cookie Cacher says to me, "you know, there is another Gold Country cache called Hat Creek just 26K west of Cache Creek on Hwy #99"

I ran the logistics through my head, guesstimating how long it would take to drive out west, find the cache, drive back, and then dead head all the way back to Vancouver. I came to the conclusion that it was better to say "enough's enough", and head home.

Cookie Cacher gave me one more assurance that if I wanted to go grab the cache, she was willing......tempting, but nahhh....time to turn towards home.
As we approached the turn off for Hwy #99, I was content to know that one more cache was waiting for me some where down that highway.

"Wait, what's this".....that adrenaline rush was starting in the brain and moving down my arms, and then into my hands....and then a 'force' over came me and I turned the wheel hard so that the Jeep's grill was now pointed west ward towards the last remaining cache.

I couldn't see Cookie Cacher in the darkened cab of the Jeep, but I swear she was smiling, knowing that I had felt the irrestible pull of "just one more cache"!

Down the highway we ran, highbeams picking up the curves of the road as it meandered through what I remember is a lovely small valley with farm houses filling in the loneliness of the land.

We arrived at a fork in the road, one sign saying Hat Creek Road....Cookie Cacher says "thaddaway 4K"....off we go on the gravel road, the Jeep's tires hugging the gravel around the corners keeping us safe. We come to one more fork in the road, Cookie Cacher says "Left" on Upper Hat Road, just one more K and then "STOP"!

We park the Jeep on the side of the road, leave the parking lights on to help us find our way back in the dark, break out the BFLs and plunge off into the bush counting down to the treasure 30 metres away. We end up going in circles for a few minutes before Cookie Cacher leads us to a suspicious looking wood pile; we grab the wood off the pile and YES, YES, YES!! there it is!!
Number 24 of the Gold Country caches found, the day is now complete!

We sign the log, ensuring we grab the required stickers, I do a little bit of the "Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah" dance singing "uh huh, uh huh, oh yeah, oh yeah, complete with the arms and hip movements! Cookie Cacher is not impressed....actually I think she was trying hard not to laugh at me......

Back in the Jeep, back down Upper Hat Creek Road , then down Hat Creek Road as Cookie Cacher reads about the coal deposits found in the area, back down Hwy #99 to the turn off for Cache Creek, then into Cache Creek for a tank full of gas for the Jeep, and a stomach full of Momma and Sirloin Burgers for us.

We looked back on the day, thinking how 6.00 AM was so long ago, it seemed like yesterday, and it almost was. Stomachs full, we started back through town when I said to Cookie Cacher, "wait, there's one right there you can get".

So, here we are, in downtown Cache Creek, in the middle of the busiest intersection in town, right by the Dairy Queen, at midnight, finding our last cache.

OK, OK, that's really enough now!! Let's put away the GPS' and start home.
And we did, back down along the Thompson River, through Spences Bridge, through the Thompson River Canyon, entering back into familiar territory when we once again joined the Fraser River at Lytton.

Down on through the Fraser Canyon we travelled, past caches that we found oh so long ago....
We spit out of the Canyon at Hope, now on flat land, and hightailed it back to where Cookie Cacher had left her car in Maple Ridge.

It was just before 3.30 AM that I dropped her off, I'm sure she didn't get home till after 4.00 AM. 22 hours on the road, a whole day come and gone in the search for little tupper ware containers in the bush...some how it all seems so normal to me! :)

It took me hours to go through and log the caches, and I'm sure it was the same for Jeanine, not to mention the pictures to download.

Still, if you asked me to go up country this weekend and do it again, I'd say sure! That is, if I'm allowed.... LOL

Videos below, as well as the GPS Route I made of the day and uploaded to EveryTrails.com

You can click on the map to go to EveryTrail.com and see more details. You can also change the map type be selecting a different map style from the drop down menu in the upper right.

Fraser Canyon Caching at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: Geotagging Community

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gold Country Caching - Cache Creek

Had the good fortune to do a road trip to Cache Creek for the kick off of the Gold Rush Event on this past Saturday. Cache Creek is one of 6 B.C. Interior cities that have benefited from government funds to help the local economy recover during this economic downturn.

Cache Creek, Lillooet, Lytton, Clinton, Logan Lake and Merritt were all part of the Gold Rush Geocaching program designed to bring tourism dollars into the cities.

Aprrox 72 caches were placed between the cities and surrounding areas, highlighting the historical locations and at the same time, bringing in a new wave of tourists, in this case geocachers.

I had the pleasure of sharing the day's journey with Scruffster, also known in real life as Stu. I have travelled a fair amount in BC, as have many other cachers, and know the lower part of BC fairly well. Spending a day with Stu is always a treat, first because he's just basically a great guy; second, sharing a road trip with a person who doesn't see this part of the world very often reminds myself of why I like travelling as much as I do. Stu's excitement is contagious, and it leads me into enjoying the trip that much more.

The gawd awful time of 6.00 AM was the pre-arranged meet time in Maple Ridge where Stu would leave his car and jump in the Jeep. That meant I had to get up around 5.00 AM, and Stu was up even earlier....I think Stu was up at 4.00 AM !

We met up, loaded Stu's things into the Jeep, and then set off eastbound and down on the Lougheed Hwy.

We did a cache in Chilliwack just to warm up, but we should have taken this as an omen; it was a real, simple hide, that took Stu and I the better part of 15 minutes! Sadly, our caching skills would not improve much on the day.

We then travelled up the Fraser Canyon, with Stu shooting video for me where possible and firing off his own camera when ever he could. We stopped at the old Alexandra Bridge, then stopped just up the road at the Alexandra Lodge where we took some more shots of the old building and made note of the start of the First Brigade Trail, a Hudsons Bay Brigade Trail that wound over the mountains into the Coquihalla Valley.

Back on the road we stopped again at Hell's Gate to have a look over the edge at the river and building complex down below. While filming here, the gondola cars moved; one went down and one came up; on the one coming up, a woman was sitting out on the structure of the large arm that attached the car to the cable. She was obviously a tech checking the cable for wear and tear; if you think it's scary enough inside the car suspended over the canyon, try sitting outside above the car in a seat barely big enough for your bum! Didn't seem to faze her though....

From there we basically made a bee line for Cache Creek to make it in time for the 11.00 AM dead line where they would hand out the locations of the caches. We arrived at 10.30, which gave us time to sign in, put our name in for door prizes, and eat some of the large geocaching cake made especially for the kick off festivities.

At 11.00 AM precisely, a book was handed out to the cachers; the book contained not just the caches for Cache Creek, but for the other cities as well. Each cache had two pages dedicated to tell the historical significance of the area so that we may appreciate the history presented to us as we looked for the cache.

The cache pages also had parking co-ordinates, and the actual cache co-ordinates, it even gives the cache co-ordinates in UTM. Plus, as an added incentive to those non-cachers, the cache is also designed as a letterbox type. That means, rather than being provided with GPS co-ordinates, you are supplied with a set of instructions such as "walk 10 feet past the last fence post, then turn right and count 20 steps till you reach a large boulder". This way, even non-cachers can still be drawn to the local historical locations and have a chance to re-live the past.

Having this book is a great idea; you can pick up the book from the local tourism office, then as you travel through the Interior of BC following the Gold Rush Trail, you can pick and choose which caches to do, at the same time be educated about the history of the province.

The benefit to the communities is that they have now created themselves as a destination point, rather than a drive-through town. This will pay dividends in time for the local business owners; here's an example I over heard from just one couple this weekend; they arrived Friday night, head a few drinks in one of the local pubs, went over to a restaurant and had dinner, then stayed at a motel. In the morning they got up, had breakfast, started caching, had lunch, gassed up the car, had dinner and then headed home to Vancouver. Each one of those businesses benefitted from the Gold Rush campaign as, more than likely, they would have not even stopped and would have carried on to another destination like Kamloops.

Scruffster and I cached the morning away in Ashcroft and Cache Creek meeting up with several other cachers at various cache locations as we all searched for the elusive treasure hidden by the local Gold Rush group. The morning passed quickly and soon it was after lunch before we knew it.

We met up with another set of Vancouver area cachers called MSthebrain and Pinky, and decided to travel together as we started thinking about a route home. We decided by heading south-east we could hit Logan Lake and Merritt, two other participating cities in the Gold Rush event. This enabled us to pick up 12 event caches on the day; 12 more and we can send away for a special prize which I understand is a gold nugget... "hmmmm....gold......"

We had a great day doing the road trip, we had a ton of fun doing the Gold Rush caches and learning the history of the areas, and we had absolute blast spending time with MSthe brain and Pinky, they made the long trip home seem so much shorter.

AND, we got to share their finding of their 3,000th cache...only we didn't know it at the time and I'm not sure if they did either! :)

The road trip ended up being 750 K and 17 hours long, but I would do it again in a heart beat if I could. It was the two things combined that make up the core of a geocacher; exploring the open road and exploring new areas and finding new caches. In other words, just exploring is what drives a lot of us; that curiosity to see and find something new!

A big thanks to the Gold Rush staff who put this event together, and congrats to their cities for having the foresight to look at a new form of low impact tourism.

I have split the day's journey into two videos loaded up to YouTube. You can see them watch here or by going to my YouTube page here to view them and other geocaching videos I have done.

Cache On!