Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caching Along The Fraser River in Delta and Surrey

Had another chance to go caching as a member of the "Jeep" brothers, whose members are myself, AKA tjguy98, my brother Alan, AKA Bowser98, and another brother Ken, AKA MrTJ.

We set our sights on the Delta area along River Road as our start point and meet point on the day. Our first five caches were in the Tilbury Industrial area, either along side the Fraser River, or in small "green" spaces mixed amongst the big block industrial buildings. While caching along the edge of the Fraser River always gives one an opportunity to view a working river complete with tug boats, barges, and wood mills, caching in and around old industrial parks somehow provide a feeling of gloom to the day. There's nothing pretty here, just the smell of diesel from the parked semis and scattered garbage from tenants who don't care about there surroundings.

The one bright spot was a cache called "Ant Hill" which was placed in an undeveloped lot back filled with sand as these industrial lots are. The cache was placed next to a fair size ant hill, and with the warm weather the ants were once again active; a little bit of nature in this artificial neighbourhood.

The Fraser River played host to the 3 brothers today as many of the day's caches were located along the shoreline. A typical one of these caches was one of the Blue Sky caches; placed in conjunction with BC Parks, these are designed to showcase the province's parks, and at the same time promote green caching.
This cache was placed right along side River Road, a mere dozen or so metres from the roadway. Perfect for biking or a bus trip to the cache; today we were car pooling as a way for us to cut down on our carbon footprint.

The cache itself was hidden inside an huge old stump that had been washed down river many years ago, and found a home resting on the fore shore of the river. Neat to see such a large piece of drift wood on a river that appears to us land lubbers as "clean" of debris.

That cache quickly found and logged, we moved on to an historic part of Surrey called Annieville. Annieville, and Annieville Slough, have their roots back in the 1890's when the area was a bustling fishing camp complete with a cannery for packing the salmon reaped from the vast runs at the turn of the century. 

Annieville Slough is a sliver of water where fishing boats can pull in protected by a few hundred feet of land that parellels the main shoreline. Old live in shacks and boat shacks line the water's edge, very reminiscent of Finn Slough in Richmond. 

While looking for the cache here, a sleepy Mallard duck wasn't too worried about having 3 humans walk around him. He walked just a few feet in front of Ken, and actually walked up to me and stopped just 2 feet away! Got some great video of him as he checked us out....

From there, we moved on to do a number of urban caches, none of them very spectacular; just more green spaces or small city parks with nothing too exciting, other than the caches themselves.
The one cache that did stick out was a cache called "Lest We Forget". This is a micro cache placed in North Delta at the local community complex. I don't want to give the hide away, suffice to say it is a very well camoflaged cache container, and, as usual with these best ones, it is out in the open.

As we drove up, we seen the telltale behavior exhibited by two individuals; head down walking slowly in an aimless pattern, covering only a few feet before stopping and changing direction. Sure enough, CoachDoug and Bear were on the prowl for the cache. We walked up to them, and in typical fashion played dumb and asked what they were doing. CoachDoug says "geocaching, ever heard of it"? "Why yes we have, is that where you use the GPS units to find stuff"? About that time CoachDoug noticed the official Geocaching ball caps we were wearing and clued in that we were pulling his leg.

After a few hellos, all 5 of us sauntered around for a few minutes before MrTJ made the find; we all said "good hide, good hide"! Log book signed and the cache put back for the next finders, we said goodbye to CoachDoug and Bear, and continued on with our caching day.

A few more city caches brought us to a cache called "The Pit". It was located in a short green space right behind some houses. The pit is actually one of those large sunken green spaces that Surrey utilizes to control the water drainage from the surrounding land.

As we walked past a house through the pit area to get to the rear green space, I noticed a lady in her kitchen window not 10 feet from where we had to pass. I said, "this is awkward, there's a lady sitting there watching us". A few more feet and she opens the window and says "it's around the back, right under the *******"
Well, knock us over with a feather....she says "there's lots of you coming around looking for it".
I guess she was just trying to be helpful, and here I was thinking we were making her nervous...  :)

A few more caches had us working east ward along the north side of Surrey as we headed towards Langley, if we even got that far. Well, surprisingly we weren't that far away now; the next two caches were along the new bike path that follows Golden Ears Way. The second one brought us to another piece of historic roadway, this time Telegraph Trail.

From 1884 to 1904, the only way across the Fraser River from New Westminster to Surrey was by ferry. The ferry ran from downtown New West across to Brownsville. In 1861 The Kennedy Trail linked Annieville, just down river from Brownsville, south to Oliver's Slough near Mud Bay, still Surrey but commonly called White Rock by most people. In 1865 The Telegraph Trail opened to link Brownsville with the U.S. border; in 1866 a link was extended to run to Fort Langley. It would be another 10 years before the most famous and enduring road names in the Fraser Valley would appear, that being Old Yale Road....only back then they didn't call it "Old".

It was this Langley spur of Telegraph Road that we found our selves on to find one of the caches along the brand new, modern Golden Ears Way. Quite the juxtaposition of the old and the new highways as one replaced the other. I stood at their intersection and I couldn't help but feel there was much more character to the old road than the new. The new highway shot like an arrow across the land, bisecting old residential roads, sliding under the freeway to then wind it's way between and up and over the North Surrey industrial area. The old road, on the other hand, meandered at a 45 degree angle to all other roads as dawdled along it's way to Fort Langley, much like an older person who knows there is more to getting somewhere than blasting along a freeway. The trip itself is just as enjoyable as the arrival......

With our last two caches we had made the transition from Surrey to Fort Langley as we headed for a couple of caches on Glover Road. The "Salmon River Cache" was located along the shore of the Salmon River right at a salmon fish trap used these days for catching salmon to count their numbers passing the trap as they go upstream.

The Salmon River itself is another historic piece of Fort Langley, as the original fort in Derby was located near the river. Salmon were plentiful then, and no doubt the Salmon River got it's name from the runs that filled the small river, like every other small tributary of the mighty Fraser River.

The cache itself was unique, not the first one like it in the Lower Mainland, but one that took a certain amount of time and effort to create. As a cacher, I appreciate when a fellow cacher takes the time and effort to make something special, and I always make sure to say so in my logs.

The last cache of the day was only fitting to finish up our historical tour in the area. This was a cache called "Telegraph Trail". It was located at the corner of Telegraph Trail and Glover Road on the outskirts of Fort Langley. At the location is a plaque commemorating the historic Telegraph Trail and the importance of the route.

You see, Telegraph Trail didn't start off as a road to the "suburbs", it actually was the local section of the trail blazed to string the Russian - American Telegraph that had it's ends in San Francisco and Moscow. In the spring of 1865, it had reached New Westminster from San Francisco; the first message it carried was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln!

From New Westminster it went to Yale and then along the Cariboo Road and the edge of the Fraser River to Quesnel. From Quesnel it continued to Kispiox, past Fort Fraser to Hazelton, where it was learned that Cyrus West Field had already completed laying his TransAtlantic cable, rendering the whole project obsolete. Still, it left the province with a working telegraph between New Westminster and the gold fields in Quesnel.

And this was also the end of the line for us; the overcast day that we started off in, for the past few hours had turned to rain, making us feel like wet dogs. Last cache found, signed and returned, we headed back to our modern homes, having enjoyed another fine day of caching and learning a bit more of our local heritage.