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!   :)