Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Jeep Brothers Go On A Road Trip - Day One

"Summer time.....and the living is easy....."  so goes the song.....a time when all is mellow and right in your world, at least for a few moments. But those moments live on fondly in your memories for years to come.

Such was a few moments in my life when my brothers Alan and Ken, AKA Bowser98 and MrTJ, decided that it was time to pack up just the three of us into one of the trucks and spend a few days doing a caching run up to the Interior of BC. We had done a similar trip a couple of years ago, and I for one couldn't wait to do another.

I have a Jeep TJ, Alan has a Jeep Liberty, and up until recently MrTJ also had a TJ, hence the moniker of "The Jeep Brothers" that some of our caching friends have bestowed on us. Well, I guess I've been called a lot worse!

So here was the plan; start the serious caching in Hope, cruise up the Fraser Canyon and finish off the day in Cache Creek. From there we would head over to Kamloops for the night, then on to Salmon Arm for the last night, and head back home from there. Well, we did pretty well just that, with lots of caching in between.

Now here's the problem....MrTJ and myself travel and cache quite a bit, so I've done lots of the ones up the Fraser Canyon. MrTJ and Bowser98 have done a bunch of the ones in Hope from a previous trip to the Interior, so now matter how we sliced it there was going to be some repetition of cache visits for one of us. Oh well, just do it and soon enough we'll be on to virgin territory.

We did most of the caches around town and the ones we liked the most were the ones along the old Kettle Valley Railroad right of way in the Suckers Creek area, a small marshland that lies between Kawkawa Lake and the Coquihalla River. The rail right of way is a smooth slightly graded walk about a kilometre long, which gave us plenty of time to chat in between spaced out caches. The history of the area was a big pull for us, to be able to walk in the footsteps of our heritage is always neat.

We especially liked the cache that was located at the heritage 1861 Anglican Christ Church; this gothic revival design building was built at the height of the gold rush in the area by the Sappers, as the British Royal Engineers were known. Besides administering to the hordes that came this way, it was also a strong reminder of the British presences in the area.

After grabbing lunch at one of the fine eateries in town, we began our northen journey up the Fraser Canyon. A couple of caches close to each other gave us a bit of a charge, each in their own way. The first was at the intersection of the highway and Nickel Mine Road. The cache was located just outside a private residence, one with an acre or two of wooded property; the cool part was the owner had salvaged many articles from the abandoned mine up the road for his house. Items like old bed frames, miner's picks and axes, mine helmets, lanterns and even a couple of old tractors gave the yard a great nostalgic feel...we would have loved to wander around his yard.

The other cache we liked was back across the highway and down at the edge of the Fraser River. One of the old time residents had left his property to the government, and the parks board has granted public access down to the rivers edge. I have to admit, this was a bit of a different view of the river for me; for most of the Canyon's length, travellers are high above the river looking down at it. At this new park we could walk down to a small sandy beach area and be at river's level. Oh yeah, there was a cache there too!

We headed on up to Emory Creek Provincial Park, where a campground was located on an old miner's camp. In 1858 the area was one of tents and miner shacks; When the gold just wasn't present in numbers they thought, many miners moved north up the Canyon looking for better pickings. After changing hands a few times, the CPR decided to make Emory City as the western terminus of the railroad; with this proclamation the town grew swiftly, counting thirteen streets, it's own newspaper, various shops, a brewery, nine saloons and a sawmill. When Yale was made the terminus instead of Emory City, the town died; just a few short years later by 1885, the town was all but abandoned.
I have to say, of the two caches we were looking for here we failed miserably! We couldn't even get close to one in the park above the camping area, and the other one by the river we thought must be missing. No one else has found it since, so we're sticking to that story. While thrashing around in the bush, on top of the hill above the river, MrTJ made a neat discovery; two wide rows of boulder size rocks neatly stacked up, the rows being approx 80 feet long each and about 4 feet high.

My first thought was we had wandered into one of the Native Indian fortification areas along the river used to repel raiding parties of other First Nations groups. Upon looking at the lay of the land, and realizing that these stacks ran perpendicular to the river, not parallel, I realized these were probably remnants of placer mining done by the Chinese miners; I've seen stacks like this in other areas, such as in Lillooet not far from where the Hanging Tree is located. For me, this was major cool - stumbling into a piece of hidden history was a great surprise!

We continued northward, stopping only occasionally to do a cache as MrTJ and I had already done all the caches in the Canyon, so we stopped for the benefit of Bowser98 to find the odd cache. In Boston Bar we stopped in town at a cache called "Cache, Cables, and Cars"; this one was a micro cache located on one of the old aerial trams that used to transport cars and people across the Fraser River from the Boston bar side to the North Bend side. Not so long ago the tram was still in use, until they finally built a bridge across the river.

We got into Lytton and started doing a few more caches, especially the Gold Rush caches put out by some of the small towns in the Gold Rush area. These caches are found in a geo-tourist book, each page giving a full historical recount of the area where the cache is located; collect 24 stickers from the caches and you can send away for a geocoin in the shape of a gold bar.

We hit the cemetery caches and showed Bowser98 around the small town, stopping for the always great view of where the blue water of the Thompson River meets with the muddy brown of the Fraser River. The Thompson water resists merging for a few hundred yards, but can't resist the influx of the mud bearing Fraser for long.
Off we went, the next neat stop being Nicomen Falls - if you haven't seen these falls before, they are spectacular. This 272 foot two step waterfall plunges out of an extremely narrow basalt gorge into a 400 foot amphitheatre gorge. The water flow is not great, but it is enough to have carved a sinuous, twisting slot through the basaltic rock formation, making the falls appear to spring from a cave in the middle of the rock wall. The best picture I have ever seen is from high above the fall's level; there you can actually see further back into the gorge from whence the waterfall springs.
We mosied on further up the highway; at Lytton we had left the Fraser Canyon and were now following the Thompson River as it travelled through the Thompson Canyon. In places the road was down almost at river level; here the road was carved out of the side of the cliff were normally the river would roar through at the height of the spring freshet. It is quite a sight to see, and can be slightly unnerving to see the wide raging river almost even with your car!
Spences Bridge brought us to a small community on the banks of the Thompson River before it heads south into the canyon. Here the river was slower, and prime steelhead fishing grounds. We stopped at a cache in a small rec type camping area that I'm sure exists solely for fishermen to camp and fish the river for steelhead. While here, Bowser98 noticed an old truck in the campsite that had been refurbished and was being used to haul a trailer. Bowser98 meandered over to have a conversation with them about the truck and to grab a couple of pictures for his Flickr albums; check out BC Road Relics for photos of old working trucks.

Anyways, after a few minutes of chatting turns out the owner is a fellow geocacher named tedylok; we've been chasing him up the canyon all day! We had a good conversation about geocaching and old trucks and life in general before we realized that, with night fall it wasn't getting any brighter, and we still had a bunch of miles to put under our caching belts before we made it to Cache Creek.

We found a few more caches in Spences Bridge in the dark, then started spinning the wheels on the F150 to get on our way to our final stop of the night. It was a shame really, as there are quite a few neat places to cache along this route but the night time made the locations "ordinary" and there were just too many caches still to do before we touched down for the night.
We bypassed the turnoff for Ashcroft and all it's caches, we would get to them in the morning. We headed on up the road a few more miles till we pulled into Cache Creek and picked off a few caches in the dark around town. Finally, around 10.00 PM, after being on the road and caching for 14 hours, we decided to call it quits for the night. We grabbed a really late dinner at the 24 hour A&W in town, then went in search of a hotel room where we could crash for the night.

Whew! Lots of story telling and it's only day one!! Man, I sure can spin a yarn!  LOL

All pictures from the trip can be seen on my Flickr page here  TIP - right click on link to open new web page