Monday, August 13, 2012

tjguy98 And Cookie Cacher Slide Into Skagit Valley

Click on any picture to see the full size version

No I'm not talking about the Skagit Valley casino...I'm talking about the Skagit Valley in BC that is accessed just west of Hope.
Jeannine AKA Cookie Cacher and I had decided on hitting some out of the way caches that would take us to some where we don't usually go - in this case, down a mountain valley that runs for 40 miles before it dead ends just beyond the Canada - U.S. border. This is one of those rare places where you can cross the border into the U.S. without going through the full blown security protocols.

For those of you who don't know, or don't remember, the Skagit Valley was to be logged and flooded  in the 1960's on behalf of the Seattle City Light Company so they could be a higher dam further downstream on the Skagit River. The new lake would back up many miles into the Canadian side; "Curley" Chittenden worked for a while on the logging and then recognizing the natural beauty and the significance of the area, refused to to any more work. Eventually a deal was brokered where BC Hydro would supply power to Seattle City Light to offset the power that would not be realized through the now shelved project.

Parks were established on both sides of the border and many camping and day use facilities are available for campers, day trippers, and hose back riders to enjoy. Also preserved were the habitats for the rare Red Bats, and the wild California Rhododendron that are rare north of the Oregon border; only the Skagit Valley and a small area just west of the Manning Park westgate emtrance have colonies of these giant bushes.

The Skagit Valley itself was created by retreating glaciers over 10,000 years ago, and the First Nations people were known to be in the area approx 8,000 years ago. Their trade routes were the first paths through the valley, followed later by the gold miners using the now established Whatcom Trail.

The Cascade mountains start off smooth at the north end of the valley and as you go south the mountains become more rugged and jagged, which makes for excellent photographic opportunities. The road itself is a well graded forest service road that is almost flat all the way to the end - many cars make the trip with little effort other than the odd flat tire.

Silver Lake is just a few miles into the valley, and is itself a provincial park; the small lake is excellent for fly casting and a well laid out campground lends itself to enjoying a slow few days of camping, swimming, sun bathing, and fishing.

You have to travel quite a few miles along the FSR before you come to the Skagit Valley Provincial Park border, but when you do, you are rewarded with a number of day-use areas and another campground named Silvertip - no doubt named after the silvertip of the Grizzly Bears. The Centennial Trail and the Trans-Canada Trail also bisect the valley, leading hikers and horseback riders to either head west over the mountains to the Chilliwack Lake area, or east following the original Whatcom Trail as it heads over the next mountain chain and into Manning Park.
The last stop is Ross Lake, which lies 99% on the U.S. side of the border; as a matter of fact just a few hundred feet extend into Canada. In the summertime the lake is kept high for lake activity, other times of the year the Canada side shows mud flats. You know you cross into the U.S. side of the valley by the small  sign noting that you are now crossing the international border. A cut swath through the forest and up the mountains helps to define the border, as does the occasional obelisk with "United States" printed on the south side, and "Canada" printed on the north side. A half mile down the road you come to North Cascades Ross Lake National Park and find yourself at another beach and campground, this one attended by the U.S Forest Service.

Jeannine and I spent the entire day in the valley, picking up geocaches, snapping pictures, and dawdling at various creeks and day use areas where the caches were hidden. It was just too beautiful an area to waste by just running and picking up caches and heading back out - it made us forget that neither of us had had breakfast or lunch and it was nearing 5.00 PM when we were exiting out of the valley near Hope after just finding our last cache on the day.

We spent 7 hours in the Skagit Valley finding 24 caches, covering aprox 90 miles of  good forest service roads, side roads into campsite areas, and over grown old logging roads while we zig zagged our way to finding caches. The highlights was the wonderful mountain scenery, the overgrown decommissioned dirt road where Ed had to make a 6 point turn around in the Jeep in an area that was no wider than the Jeep, and a small hidden cabin by a river that someone had built and was presently using as their hideaway.

All in all we had a wonderful time in Skagit Valley and were very happy we had taken the time to seek out of the way caches in a beautiful area.    

I've put a few pictures in the story, to see the rest click here and then start the Slideshow as indicated in the top right above the pictures

Monday, August 06, 2012

Spending The Day in Steveston

First day of holidays for me and I spend it exactly the way I want - I slept in and acted like a slug for the rest of the day! Threw a nice salmon steak on the BBQ for dinner, added a few accoutrement's and a lovely dinner was had by Annette and I.

OK, OK, that's not was this story is about....let's talk about day 2....

Sunday of the long weekend in Maple Ridge and it's smoking hot.....34C in the shade..what to do, what to do.....?
I know, head to Richmond where it is cooler by the ocean. So, we decide to make it an "all Richmond day" by partaking in some plane watching at Vancouver Airport, then heading over to the Steveston area and riding around the dikes where we could enjoy the ocean breeze.

Steveston is one of the first settled areas of Richmond, and made it's name and wealth on the strength of the salmon cannery industry at the turn of the century. The small "village" has retained it's historical persona and as such makes it a tourist magnet; same for the Steveston dockside area where boats pull into the government docks with their fresh catch of the day. The booming tourist industry has led to a growth of restoration of the dock and surrounding area - a large boardwalk now houses many small and mid size restaurants taking advantage of the fresh catch of the day.

Steveston is also home to one of my brothers, which means we could add another element of our day by having a family get together - in that vane I called the "Steveston" Pedersens and said said we would be in the area and we should get together and go out for dinner, and I also called the other "Maple Ridge" Pedersens and left a message for them to meet us in Steveston around dinner time.

So, we park the Jeep at my brother's place in Steveston and set off on a bike ride along the south dike of Richmond. I'm good for about 5-6 miles before I get tuckered out, Annette is good for about 20 miles, so I had to know we would be going beyond my comfort zone. We rode along the dike, with one of my destinations as Finn Slough, which was a small slough where Finnish fishermen originally squatted 100 years ago. Over the years progressive family generations have lived in the same shacks,still squatting as their parents did. At high tide the fishermen could pilot their boats up the small slough right to the door of their shack - on today's visit it would appear that is no longer doable as the slough was empty and grass covered mud banks were too high for boat navigation.
Still the area is very photogenic and I always enjoy stopping here and snapping a few pictures to share.

We continued on down the dike for a total distance of 6 miles before I called it quits and we decided to turn around. Six miles out and six miles back seemed doable...until we quickly realized the return 6 miles was fighting a head sections it was tough going against the wind in the 30C heat. But we, or more correctly I, persevered (Annette had no problems) and we made it back to my brother's place just in time to see the Maple Ridge Pedersens arrive.    

A chance to relax on the front patio in the shade and glug some cool refreshments before we decided to walk the few blocks over to the Steveston dockside where Alan had made restaurant reservations out on the deck. We chowed down on a seafood based dinner as we enjoyed the cooling off of the day and had a great seat to watch the sun go down over the Strait Of Georgia.

After dinner we had a walk around the village, seen some of the locations where the TV series "Once Upon A Time" is filmed, and then we sat on a bench along the wooden boardwalk overlooking the darkened Fraser River, enjoying a late night coffee and a perfect West Coast summer night. We strolled along the boardwalk in a long loop back to Al's place for another relaxed conversation around the patio table before Annette and I decided it was time to jump back in the Jeep to head home.

A midnight ride home with the top off the Jeep and the warm summer night sky above us was a perfect ending to a fun filled day in Steveston.

 To see all the photos go to Ed's Flickr web site and then start up the slide show (upper right above the pictures) will be enough to make you wish you were there!   :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Geocaching in Merritt & Douglas Lake Area of BC

Cookie Cacher and I managed to find a nice Sunday late in July when it wasn't raining and made a spur of the moment decision to do a long distance trip to Merritt and surrounding area for a mix of geocaching and backroading. I hadn't talked to Jeannine AKA Cookie Cacher in weeks, maybe months, but I sent her a quick text on Friday and said "you up for a long distance drive"? She answered back "giddyup"! Glad that gal can make up her mind quick...   :)

We met up 8.00 AM Sunday morning in Maple Ridge, both of us not quite shiny bright - I had 3 hours of sleep and Jeanine was operating on one hour of sleep.....sounds like we were gonna be great company for each other!

We made a bee line for Merritt passing up caches all along the way in favour of saving time at our destination area. We hadn't even gotten to Merritt yet and Jeannine started talking about this puzzle cache she solved two years ago and keeps driving by when ever she travels through Merritt. "We just have to stop and grab it" she says.....for the third time in 20 minutes. "OK" I say, I'm easy, and I surely know the feeling of driving past a cache you know you should stop and grab, but just never do.

So, we get to the cache area, south side of Merritt, and you guessed it, the cache is missing! Jeaninie can't believe it..and is slightly disappointed as she reads the past logs online and realizes it's been missing for a few weeks. So, I suggest we replace the cache for the cache owner, and claim a smiley as a reward for our good deed of the day. DONE! And the cache can finally be struck off Jeannine's "to-do" list.

Off we go, to do a few city caches and some in the ranch land on the out skirts of town. Then, it's a fuel up for bodies and Jeep, then off towards Quilchena and Douglas Lake Ranch we go. This is one of my all time favourite back roads drive... turn east off Hwy 5A just north of Quilchena along the Douglas Lake Rd and head over to Douglas Lake and the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, the largest operating ranch in Canada.

The ranch has a lot of history, it has always been a working ranch, but it has catered to celebrities like Tom Jones and Prince Phillip looking for that "dude ranch" experience.

South from Douglas Lake to Minnie Lake Rd, for a few miles, then pick up the Pennask Lake Rd and follow it north-west back to Hwy 5A close to Quilchena.
I have done this trip a few times over the years, and have written trip reports in my blog about it already, so I won't go into all the details again. If you would like to read them, peruse my blog for previous entries.

I will say that we ran into thunderstorms complete with heavy rain and a musical background of thunder, which can be heard in the video....that rain in places turned the Minnie Lake Rd to the texture of slush, and it felt just like driving through it, complete with the rear tires throwing out rooster tails of goo.

The Jeep started the dirt roads pretty clean, 10 miles later most of the Jeep was brown, not red. That's OK, "a dirty Jeep is a happy Jeep". And a few dollars spent at the car wash will let me power wash the mud off the fun-mobile.

Total mileage on the day was 700K, caches found was 25, time on the road was 14 hours, and the fun factor was up around "awesome"!

We were using Jeanine's GPS for caching, but I was running mine to record the trip and make a route out of it which I then posted to Every Their web site is pretty cool, it takes your GPS waypoints and track route, then overlays it over top of Google Maps and even lets you "play" the trip back, complete with elevation gains shown along the way.

I have embedded the route here for you to view, you can also go to my Every Trails account and view the this and other trips I have done.

  PS - X the elevation box closed so you can see the trip play out on screen. Mouse over the bottom of the screen to pop up the PLAY button to re-start the trip playback.

Merritt - Douglas Lake Area

The real story is told in the video, where the ranch country is on full display. If the video is too narrow to display on your screen, click on the link to go to my YouTube page to watch it full screen's the only way to do the scenery justice.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Cop Toys

The missus and I did a couple of errands at the local mall on Sunday, and we came across the RCMP and the local Search and Rescue hosting a "show and shine" of their latest toys. The picture above is an old Cougar donated by the Canadian Armed Forces; these 6 wheel drive tactical armoured vehicles have found new life serving as combat vehicles for the RCMP. One was used just a couple of days ago here in Maple Ridge when it was used to push a murder suspects vehicle into the ditch to contain the suspect and eliminate his avenue of escape. Unfortunately the suspect had mental health issues and came out of his van shooting, which resulted in his death. The positive was that none of the RCMP members were injured in the standoff.
RCMP member having a robot play with the kids....the kids thought it was great! Note the larger robot on the right, that one was being worked by remote control by another member just out of camera view.


High resolution cameras, water cannon, mechanical grip, laser, gun, and other neat gadgets are all worked from this remote control box. To all the police officers out there......thank you for taking care of us day after day......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ed's Backyard This Sunday

With the weather finally getting nice on the weekends, I've been out in the yard weeding and pruning and power washing and enjoying the view of the garden. Here are a few pictures I snapped today... you can click on any picture to make it full size and see more of the details.
The burble from the rock waterfall is soft and soothing coming through the bed room window at night

The bushes have really grown in over the past few years

A view down the path to the end of the yard

When night comes, the show doesn't stop...multi coloured solar lights through out the yard, augmented with white mini-lights on the clematis covered arbour, light up the centre of the yard, while two flood lights under the trees in each back corner of the yard provide a night time view of this oasis. 
Whether sitting reading a book during the day, or sipping a glass of wine at night, this is the best place to view the garden show.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Europe Part 3

Another good sleep tucked away on the 7th floor of our hotel in Brussels left us feeling refreshed and excited to begin the big cross continent tour - well, at least we began the drive from Belgium to Denmark in our baby blue Mercedes A320. Still, it was a feeling of excitement as we loaded up the car, pulled out of the underground parking, went past the building were the EU leaders meet and headed out of town northward aiming for Bruges.

Belgium is one of those countries that seems divided; the southern part is mostly French influenced due to its proximity to France's northern border, while the northern part has a Dutch influence; the language spoken shifts from French to Flemish, a mixture of true Dutch spattered with local lexicons. In a way, just by travelling north in the same country, it seemed like we were leaving France and driving into Holland.

Once we got out of the city, the driving was a little simpler, as now I didn't have to try and figure out where the traffic lights were hiding, and we didn't have to watch for partially hidden routes signs saying "Turn here now"! We were on a 4 lane highway heading north, and we didn't have to worry about getting off the highway for another hour or so....easy peasy...

We past our first set of tall wind turbines, our first of many that we would see over the next few weeks. It's amazing to hear all the fuss and farting around the various Canadian governments do when it comes to putting up wind turbines, yet they seem to be very common in most of the countries we visited. No idea what the problem is on our side of the water....

After playing tourists sightseeing as we drove, and fiddling with the satellite radio on the car which we used to tune in stations that either seemed to play electro-techno pop or local flavoured music, we began to get alert as we started to see the road signs stating we were getting close to Bruges. We were flying along the highway when we see a sign stating "parking for city centre", so we flew off the freeway onto the off ramp that went underground and hit the brakes pretty fast as we suddenly realized we were in an underground parking lot, under the city, we think, somewhere close to where were supposed to be, we think.

I was going to pull out of the lot and continue on, but we had to go upstairs to the machines to pay before we could exit...crap..crap....well, hell....might as well park and go figure out where we are and where we gotta go. So we park the little Mercedes, find the stairs to the open air plaza above, and come out right next to the tourist information centre! Well, that's just like it was meant to be !

We talked to the staff in the centre, got a local neighbourhood map, and found out that we are only 3 blocks away from the hotel...I turn to Annette and say "hey, not bad huh"? "No maps, a smattering understanding of the French on the road signs and almost nothing of the Dutch on the road signs, and I could still find may way across the foreign land to get us just 3 blocks from our hotel..damn if I didn't live up to my reputation of finding my way around any where, any time"! Annette just rolled her eyes and walked away...I think she was secretly impressed but she was working hard not to let on.

We retrieved the car, got back in and rode back up to the surface world looking for the small side street we needed to take to get into the heart of the "old city". We passed a cobblestone alley and Annette says " that's the street we need", I say. "street, that was no bigger than an alley"? She says, that's it, that's the we circle the block and come back around and take the street as advertised; here was our first lesson on streets in old European cities....they are really small, usually have cobblestone surfaces, and are not back alleys!

We go down this street a short block or so, then we see some street signs that we can't read but they look like NO ENTRY signs, and the street looks like it dead ends into a wall half a block away, so I turn right off the street onto another small street and Annette says where are you going"? I say, I can't go down there the street dead ends...she takes a sharp right and then a sharp left and goes past our hotel."

I say really? Well, OK, I trust her navigation skills, so back we go past the NO ENTRY sign - (probably means its a dead end street), and I figure at worst I can pass off my poor driving skills as a being just a dumb tourist. We go a hundred feet or so, and realize that the road does indeed turn, then turns again, and there is our hotel! Well, son of a gun!

Our hotel is old world awesome! A white faced building built in the 17th century as an elegant mansion, it's tucked away in a private courtyard with a small parking lot out back for their guests. Annette picked this hotel mainly for the car park, as there aren't many in the old section of Bruges, and the fact it was a heritage building. The small cobblestone street it was on lent itself to more old world charm, and the small pool in the lower basement seemed to be carved out of rock; the blue of the water played over the white washed walls of the pool room, and I was blown away by the serenity of the room, and the romance the room inspired...made you want to get a couple of glasses of wine, a dozen red roses, sink into the warmth of the pool, and feel the like you couldn't have been in a better place or a better time then you were then.....

The hotel was on the edge of the old city, which itself was only about 6 blocks wide by about 10 blocks long; quite a small area really and you could easily see the whole thing in a day....but you would miss oh so much. This town requires a slow walk, hand in hand with your loved one, meandering in and out of the small shops along the street..that is until you hit the chocolate stores. Chocolate stores? Yes, plural, and don't forget you are in the land of the famous chocolate known as Belgium chocolate....makes your mouth water just thinking about it.
In one store, we dropped $120.00 on chocolate for family and friends..we just had to....

The town is also criss crossed with small canals, harking back to the days when guild merchants realized they needed to transport their goods within their city, and to other cities as well. The most cost effective way was by water, so canals were built through most of Belgium, and smaller ones covered the cities; we took the option of riding on one of the canal tour boats to get a water level view of the city, and it was incredible. Being at water level, you notice all the doors on buildings at water height designed to accommodate water deliveries. Plus you get to see old houses and older buildings obviously built when the front door was on the water, not the land side. Sorta reminded me of Venice....

We tried something new as well, we went on a Segway tour! We were lucky as it was a slow time, so our entire tour participants consisted of Annette, myself, and our tour guide. He was an older Dutch guy, with a great knowledge of little corners of the old city that we would not have found ourselves. And he provided good historical insight into the city and it's older generations of inhabitants.

The main plaza was what we now know as typically European....large buildings around the outside, originally guild halls, government buildings and rich man's houses, now most either museums or private residences, all with cafes on the main floor.

This was also the location of the Church belfry where the movie "In Bruges" was filmed, and that alone was worth the visit. But the whole town was so much more than cobblestones, great food, and history galore. This town has charisma, and it's one of the few towns that I tell people "you have to go see it. it's fantastic"!
I would go back tomorrow, just to spend a couple more days there and let the gracefulness of it all wash over me in warm comfort.

Click here to see the video full size on my YouTube channel

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Europe Part 2

After visiting Waterloo for most of our second day in Belgium, we drove back to Brussels and parked the car in the underground parking at the hotel.
We then walked outside, went around the corner, and purchased a couple of day tickets for the hop on- hop off bus to take us around the city.

As newer tourists to some of these locals, we were quickly catching on to what a good bargain these tours were. Maybe not price wise, but definitely for helping get your head wrapped around the layout of the city.
When we were in Paris a couple of years ago, we got the day pass and rode around the city a time or two without getting off just so we could see where the highlights were in relation to everything else. We then felt pretty confident knowing where we were, and where we wanted to go on our next hop.

With tickets in hand, we only had to wait 5 minutes for the next bus to come along; aboard we went and picked a good seat to spot what was up ahead. We didn't realize till after we bought the tickets, (around 3.00 PM), that the buses here only ran till 6.30 PM, that didn't give us much time to take in the city.

So, we asked each other which highlights we really wanted to see (actually, Annette told me what I wanted to see, which funny enough were the same choices as hers), and off we went waiting for our anticipated stops.
Our "must sees" were the small fountain of Manneken Pis (little boy peeing in Flemish) and the Grand Place, a major courtyard or plaza in the old section.

Well, Manneken Pis was a delight to see, only 24" tall and peeing into a fountain 5 feet below him, he had every one's attention. This little guy has many costumes and the city dresses him up for holidays and special occasions, or even in costumes donated from countries around the world that depict the donated countries image.

A couple of blocks down one of the old city streets was the Grand Place, I have to say, this place was totally awesome! You walk down a nondescript old city block, cobblestones under feet, turn a corner, and this large open air plaza greets you. Every building rimming the plaza is a wonder unto itself; ornate architecture, life size statues, all back dropped on period buildings, led us to turn around slowly and ogle every building...and then turn around and do the same thing again! The Grand Place has it's beginnings in the 13th century when the Brussels City Hall was built on the edge of the square; ornate guildhalls and private residences followed, mostly in the 17th century, making the Grand Place what it is today.

We spent most of our time here, wandering around the Grand Place and touring a museum in one of the buildings. This... this was worth the trip to Brussels alone - please, please ensure that this is one of your main stops if you make it to this part of the world, you will not be disappointed!

Before we knew it, we had to make our way back towards the drop off point to catch the bus for the return trip. We did enjoy a tour around the rest of the city while we did the circle drive, and all too soon we were jumping off the hop on - hop off bus.

Only two days in Belgium, and we have seen centuries worth of art, architecture and this rate we're sure to overload before the end of our European trip.!
To see the video full size, visit my YouTube channel by clicking here

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Europe Part 1

We started our trip in Belgium, landing in Brussels, one of our must-see places. We would rent a car in Brussels, spend a couple of days sight seeing around town, then drive north-east to Bruges to visit the historic sites there.

The first day was pretty much a zero in terms of of sight seeing, but we had a few good laughs at ourselves as the dumb tourists in town. First of all, we picked up the rental car at the airport, it was supposed to be a Ford Mondero, which is something like a Mazda 3 in North America. Instead, they were pushing Mercedes that day, so we ended up with a diesel A320 model...kinda like a large version of the new Fiat.

No problem, a car is a if Ed can only figure out how to get it in reverse so he can back out of the parking spot. The car was a six-speed, and I think it took me that many times to figure out the trick for engaging the gateway on the stick shift that let it go into reverse.

Yay, we're moving backwards! OK, out of the spot and out of the narrow exit that I at first thought was a pedestrian walkway...although I thought I was safe going down it as I watched someone else drive out first  :)

Off we go out of the airport grounds and onto the main road that goes into Brussels. Annette had the map, and she is a pretty good navigator, so no worries about going astray. Besides, it was 7.30 AM on a Saturday morning and the town was pretty dead so far.

We found the turn off for the city centre, the sign with the arrow pointing "this way" and the sign text saying "Brussels City Centre" was helpful. We quickly got on the ring road that took us around the outskirts of town; what we didn't realize is that every couple of blocks the road went underground to bypass major streets and avoid congestion. So here we are, feeling like gophers, on this 4 lane road popping out of a tunnel, trying to get our bearings, then suddenly diving back down into another tunnel.

I kept driving while Annette tried to get her bearings on the map...we were pretty sure at one point that we were now on the far side of town, although we don't know how we got there. We figured, if nothing else, we'd have a nice drive in a circle for a time or two until we got the lay of the land. At one point Annette said "I recognize this road number"...I said "yeah, it's because we're heading back to the airport." Annette says "nawwww", I say "yeah-huh"...just as I said that we both said "I can see the planes sitting on the runway"!

OK, we have this town mastered, we've figured out how to go around in a circle......lets see if we can find our hotel. Half way around the town again, I get off of the up and down circus, and take a surface road. A couple of minutes later we go past the European Nations building and Annette says "I think our hotel is around here somewhere"....."and there it is"!

YAY us....first task down...pick up car and drive to hotel, with out major incident.....

After getting to the hotel, they were good enough to let us check in a few hours early, so we went upstairs and crashed for a while....actually, we pretty much spent the whole day just crashing in the room!

Next day, we were up early and ready to go...somewhere....Annette says "I want to go to's about 25 miles south of the city". Ed says "Okayyyyy...maybe a bit of a challenge as I have only mastered going in circles around the city, but I'm game".

We make our way partially out of the city, till we kinda got lost a funky part of town with no straight Ed says " no worries, we'll stop at a gas station and with my limited French should be able to get a map". Well, the guy at the gas station spoke English, but he couldn't help us much as he didn't know his way around the city either as he's only come from Africa a few months ago....I say "buddy, you gotta know more than me, I've only been here a few hours"!

So, he manages to point out a route out of town, and it works...we're now heading south on the freeway. Pretty soon we see a sign for Waterloo so we take the exit and end up in a rural area with tiny villages of 10-12 houses every couple of miles. Well, we figure out pretty quick we've taken the wrong exit, but as we are enjoying the sight seeing we'll just stumble around for a while to see were we end up.

Annette gets her eye on a sign that points down another road to "But de Lion" which Annette knows is "Lions Mound", the man made hill built at the Waterloo battle sight to commemorate the falling soldiers. So we toddle off down the road, following the signs and having a great drive through tiny villages where the towns folk live in what look like 200 hundred year old brick and stone this point we didn't care how long it took us to get to Waterloo, we were thoroughly enjoying the tour!

We zip around a corner in another village and suddenly we're there! In front of us is the But de Lion, and the museum and the round building that houses a diorama of the battle. We're really here! At!

We got out and did the tourist thing wandering around the museum and climbing the But de Lion..yeah it was a lot of stairs for us both, but we were determined to go up there, we just had to take it slow....
We spent a few hours here, in no rush at all, just soaking up the history of the area and the significance of what the outcome of the battle meant. If Napoleon Bonaparte had won, he would have had a clear shot at advancing into Prussia, Poland, Russia, etc. If Napoleon had won, most of Europe would have been under French rule.

I'll hand off the story telling to the video now......if for some reason the video does not display wide enough to see the whole screen, click on this link to go to my YouTube channel were you can see it in full display! Enjoy................

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ed & Annette in Europe - By Car and By Boat

In the past few years Annette and I have taken a couple of soft trips to Europe, I call them soft as they were pre-packaged tours which included airfare, a week at a hotel, and a one hour boat ride in the destination city. The first year we went to London, the second year to Paris; those trips were wonderful and so memorable that they seem like just last week we were there.

We enjoyed them immensely and they were a way for us to get our feet wet on a continent that we had not visited before. North America is pretty well all the same, no mater were you go, but Europe has a different feel altogether and we wanted to feel comfortable before we struck out on our own doing our own thing.

Fast forward a couple or three years, and we found ourselves looking at the travel guides searching out our next European destination. Annette had her heart set on seeing St. Petersburg in Russia, along with the world famous Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace of the Russian Emperors; Annette found a great week long boat cruise that started in Copenhagen, Denmark and had St. Petersburg as one of it's ports of call.

I said to Annette, if we are going to be in Denmark, then we have to do the "roots" thing and visit some of the places we know the Pedersen clan originate from. Add to the complexity of the agenda, Annette had also wanted to visit Brussels and Bruges in Belgium on a previous planned trip but an illness she experienced a couple of years ago put that dream on the back burner.

So, we have three weeks of holiday time to pull together an agenda that allows us to see as much of Europe as we can, and still hit our highlights - a tall order for sure. Add to the problem, at this time Annette is walking around with the aid of a cane while she is on a waiting list for a hip replacement.

We started out with the premise that the only hard dates we had was to be in Copenhagen on a certain Sunday to catch the boat, and that we would be back in town a week later. Other than that, we had free range over what we did. That also included where we landed in Europe - if we flew into Frankfurt we would have to plan our trip to start there; if we flew into London or Paris, that brought other considerations into play. As it was, we were able to get a flight into Brussels were we wanted to be for our first leg of the journey - now we just had to figure out how to get to Copenhagen in a week to catch the boat.

This quickly turned into a game of planes, trains, and automobiles - it became apparent that renting a car to get around Belgium was ideal, but the next section of the trip was awkward. We wanted to stop off on the way at the small island of Aeros in Denmark, which is on the way to Copenhagen - problem was, you couldn't get there from here! Every thing we could figure out was an awkward combination of trains that didn't go all the way, or a ferry to catch midway, or fly to Copenhagen and back track for day....all the while we had to cart around our suitcases and assorted bags we had on our trip. On top of that, Annette is walking with a sore hip and a cane in one hand....that seemed like it really limited our movability. And to be honest, I didn't relish the idea of carting our luggage on and off trains, buses, cabs, and ferries either.

The solution was simple - we would rent a car in Brussels and drive to Copennhagen - defintely not cheaper, as renting a car in Europe is very expensive, the car drop off price in Copenhagen alone was 700.00 euros! But, it seemed like the only answer with Annette's limited mobility, my lack of youthful strength, and the iternary we had for the first week. Keeping the car allowed us to be truly flexible and put us back in the driver's seat (pun intended) of our trip.

It also gave us some trepidation, as we would now be totally on our own for that week passing through several countries were we did not speak the language(s) and had to hope we could find a hotel at night where ever we ended up. Driving trips like this are nothing new for Annette and I, we enjoy the freedom and spontaniety that these trips bring - difference is, in North America, we always knew where we were and at least the natives spoke English.

Over the next few days I'll be posting more day by day accounts of the trip, plus a series of videos covering our week of driving through four countries in northern Europe, as well as a week of cruising visiting another four countries. Stay tuned, lots more to come on the "Ed and Annette Do Europe" tour!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Jeep Brothers Go On A Road Trip - Day Four - Last Day

"Welcome to Salmon Arm" ..........  That's what the sign says, and we awoke to a great last day of the road trip in sunny Salmon Arm.

We started off our day of caching at a tiny neighbourhood park at the edge of a suburb looking for a tricky cache. Well, I guess my morning cup of English Breakfast worked just fine, as I walked right over to it and picked it up right away. It's always good to start the day with a "find", makes you feel so much better about yourself.  :)
The next couple were just a block or two away near a lake front park. One cache was tucked away out on the long pier sticking out into the lake. It was a little cool first thing in the morning walking out on the water with a bit of a cut right through the light weight clothes we had on. Oh well, we considered it invigorating (rather than considering ourselves stupid for not dressing warmly) and we made the best of the lack of pedestrian traffic on the pier. Ed (that's me) was busy taking pictures while Bowser98 and MrTJ diligently found the cache - was again teamwork works well for me.....  :)

Next cache was located along an elevated pedestrian walkway over the tidal marsh right in front of a senior citizens complex, and of course all the windows facing the lake are big picture windows, and of course all the senior citizens are up early watching out the windows. Not much to do about that, except ignore any one watching and go find the cache. We needed the ling arms of Bowser98 to ferret out this cache from it's hidey hole, all the while hoping he doesn't drop's a long way down and pretty mucky to retrieve it.  :(

Done with the water front, we headed back into town towards a BC Government office located off in another suburb and this cache was a wee bit tricky. You see, the cache is hidden in a 10 foot tall and 80 foot long retaining wall, and...the cache is well camouflaged to fit in with the look of the wall. Once again my morning cup of English Breakfast tea aided my geosenses and after about 20 minutes of looking I spotted the well hidden little bugger. Man, we were happy to find that one!

A few blocks away up on the highway was an easy pick me up cache, but it provided a nice view of the Shuswap Valley and Salmon Arm itself. It's always rewarding to see an area from above, you get such a better idea of the town is like.
The next couple of caches we did were almost right across the street from each other...well, actually they were! The were on the banks of the Salmon River, so named from the salmon that come back to spawn every year. One cache was an earth cache, the other a regular cache located along a shaded part of the river.

ABOVE: tjguy98 holding his GPS at the Salmon River Earth cache
Earth caches are always interesting as you learn so much about the local area both from a geological view, and conversely, a human point of view, as invariably the landscape shapes the history of our forefathers who were in the area. Here's some things I did know about the Salmon River before we discovered the Earth cache: there are 6 rivers in BC named "Salmon River", the one I see the most is the small one that runs past the site of Derby in Langley, the location of the first Fort Langley; the Salmon River arises in the cattle ranching area of the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, the Canada's largest working cattle ranch, a small non-descript Salmon Lake known for good fishing is the head waters of the river that lazily flows past downtown Salmon Arm and into Shuswap Lake miles later.

We poked around the city of Salmon Arm for most of the day, finding a few city caches and the occasional cache on the hills above the city lending good views up and down the lake.

Our last cache in the area was at an urban farm, where they had a small grocery store on site selling local products fresh off the surrounding fields. What we liked about this was the fact the farm had taken the time to collect old farm tractors and turn them into a bit of a showcase of snippets of life on the farm way back when.
Now, not that I'm a great aficionado of farm tractors, but I do appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to preserve a bit of our past for all to enjoy.

And, to ensure we did our part in helping the farm, we popped into the shop and picked up snacks for the road! Hey, it's the least we could do!

OK, it's the end of the caching adventure for this road trip - we've maxed out our daylight of caching in the area, time to hit the road and dead head all the way back to the Lower Mainland on the Coast.
We didn't pick up as many caches as we thought we might; we opted to pass up on quantity in order to maximize our sight seeing in the cities we passed through and in the surrounding lands we passed over. I think we all agreed spending most of the afternoon wandering the forest roads outside of Kamloops was the most scenic and enjoyable for all of us. We could have built up our totals had we skipped the countryside and just concentrated on the densely packed cities, but that wouldn't be keeping with the spirit of a "road trip" now would it?  :)

Thanks for reading this 4 parter story of "Jeep Brothers Go On A Road Trip"
All pictures I've taken for all my caching adventures can be found on my Flcikr site at
Videos I've done can be found on my YouTube channel at
56 wonderful videos await your perusal!  LOL

Until next time.....
(tjguy98 rests his pen)