Thursday, April 24, 2014

Llamas, Horses, and Water - Geocaching in Abbotsford

Brother Ken AKA MrTJ and I spent the day geocaching in the north part of Abbotsford enjoying one of those sunny days that alternate with the rainy days that early Spring brings. Most of north Abbotsford is rural, split between full fledged farms and small hobby farms where people enjoy a bit of freedom to raise chickens, goats, horses and what ever else they fancy.

Click on any picture to see them full sized - then you'll get the full magic!  :)

Many of these hobby farms have a llama or two mixed in with the herds as llamas are excellent protectors against predators like raccoons, coyotes, and other creatures that fancy an easy meal.

We started the day just outside of Fort Langley, well, truth be told we started the day in Fort Langley as MrTJ required some fortitude in the form of a coffee and a cookie. Having got that out the way, we headed just outside of the historic town to find our first cache which was located on a small suburban trail. We had actually been here before finding another cache that has since been archived, so we knew the closest parking and entrance point to the trail. We only had to go a few hundred feet up the easy gravel path, but we took a few minutes to once again enjoy a hobby farm that was situated on a small hill above a pond that came fully equipped with Canada geese, Mallard Ducks, and your own canoe to slip among the water fowl.

  This was a good trail to stretch out the muscles and to get the blood flowing - easy walk to the cache, not far to go, and no coffee was spilt on the way. Best of all, a quick find was an omen of good luck on the day!

The next few caches brought us back down to the Fraser River's edge and took us along River Road as we picked up caches heading east away from Fort Langley.It also brought us down into the Glen Valley region of Langley. This is a pocket of flat land sandwiched between the uplands and the Fraser River. It's also one of the earliest farm land areas utilized by Europeans in conjunction with the operation of Fort Langley when it was a Hudson's Bay Trading Post.

The land is now diked to protect it from flooding, and a long irrigation canal operates as both a source of water for the fields and a drainage mechanism during high water levels. We found a couple of caches in the area and took time to read the nature information boards posted at this popular walking area.Always love reading these as that's how you learn about your local world; not just the present day, but the history of the land and the people that lived here.

 The next cache of significance brought us to Two Bit Bar, site of a historic farm house and now part of the long, linear Glen Valley Park. This cache is called "VTMP # 59 Two Bit Bar"
VTMP stands for Vancouver Transit Memorial Project and it highlights a now defunct type cache known as a "moving cache". The ideas was you would find the cache, pick it up and go hide it in another location within specified geographical boundaries.This one had a wide range - anywhere in the Greater Vancouver area, that's a big area to hide it in! Once you hid it, you would post the co-ordinates on the cache page for the next cacher(s) to race to find it and re-locate it again. I myself have one of these memorial caches hidden in east Maple Ridge at Arnold Falls in Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

 The next cache was deja vu, as it was hidden at a location where I had hid one a few years before. My cache was called "Bob's View" as my work buddy Bob lives right across the river and this is the view he has of the river.
The boat shed in the picture above belongs to Bob - his house is on the hill to the left, partly hidden by the brown building.
My cache lasted for a couple of years before an extremely high spring runoff floated my cache downstream to disappear forever, or so I thought. A year later I received an email from a fellow geocacher, whom worked in New Westminster on the log booms as a log sorter, stating he had found my cache floating in the Fraser River among the log booms! WOW! I met him at a geocaching meet up a couple of weeks later and he returned my cache; he also said that this was the second time he had found a geocache that had run away and ended up in the log booms.

River traffic provided many a picture opportunity and I think MrTJ was getting a bit bored after a while as I was more about the pictures and less about the caching. No worries MrTJ, I can do both "cause I'm a guy"!

We picked up a few more river side caches and then retraced our steps a few miles back to head to the uplands of north Abbotsford known as Bradner.
Bradner was another historic area situated right atop the hill with a commanding view of the Fraser River, and well above the annual flooding I might add.

The area was a small knit community where everyone seems to know everyone and we were decidedly the outsiders. I assume that, as this area is rural and far from the normal patrol area of the police, the Neighbourhood Watch program was in place as every where we went among the rural acreages or hobby farms we got the beady eyeball.

We really liked it around here - it was quiet and peaceful, lots of space between you and your neighbours, you can make a bit of noise or run some machinery in your yard with out the neighbour complaining. We found two caches at the local baseball fields that were part of the school, and the kids whom played in the school yard had a horse as a neighbour - granted he wasn't much on conversation, but he probably found all these rug rats running around mildly amusing  :)

One of the caches had us threading our way on a short trail that ran along the top of a ridge line in a ravine area. Doesn't look like much in the picture (go ahead, click on the picture and make it bigger) but a simple trip over a tree root or your own feet would have you rolling 50 feet down the hill.

This ravine area also showcased why they say Vancouver is in a coastal rain forest area; Muddy slopes and heavy moss on the trees indicated that plenty of rain fell here to keep the flora as green and lush as it is.

 As we headed east through the upland area we transitioned from Bradner to the Mt. Lehman rural region. At the base of one of the old local roads that winds it's way down the escarpment to the Fraser River was the location of a bygone ferry that ran across the river from Abbotsford - Mt. Lehman to the north side of the river taken passengers over to East Maple Ridge - Mission territory. I can honestly say that until I had found a couple of caches down that abandoned road I had no idea that a ferry use to run across the river here. That's one of the wonders of exploring through geocaching - learning all about your historical back yard!
The Mt' Lehman library shares the building with the Mt. Lehman Fire Department - small town efficiency, serving all your needs in one location. :)  In the days of big buildings and big libraries and bug everything, this quaint building in a small part of the world made me smile.

We picked up a few more caches as we wound our way into civilization known as Abbotsford; we had picked up most of the rural caches in the northern sector and as the day was winding down I had planned on picking up a succession of rapid fire caches in the city. One of the caches we found touched on a series of caches along an old rail way path that is now a main road that lazily traverses west from Abbotsford back into the Bradner - Langley area. Ken and I had done a cache along this path way a few years ago but we see now that some one has created a whole series along here. I've marked these ones for a definite re-visit as both Ken and I enjoy caches that highlight areas of local historical significance.

With that in mind, I saved one of my favourite type caches to last........this was another in the Mile marker series that highlights cement obelisk mile markers.

When BC highways were young, there was no Highway #1 from Vancouver to Hope; what you had was a series of local roads that took you east from the city of Vancouver to Hope and the lands beyond.
To help you know how far you had traveled on your path, a series of obelisks counting off the miles were created. Starting at the Vancouver Post Office on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver, you went along Kingsway Street through Burnaby and crossed into Surrey to follow alternately Old Yale Road and The Fraser Highway as you headed east. Most of these mile markers have disappeared as they became obsolete, but through blind luck and restoration, some of them still exist. This one is at Mile Marker 35 at the edge of Aldergrove; 35 miles from Vancouver and another 65 to go until you reached Hope. I have found a few of these, I think the lowest I have found is Mile 30 and the highest I have found is Mile 98 just outside of Hope.

This was the end of the day for MrTJ and I, we had found 31 caches and a lot more. We had started our day in the first Provincial capital city of BC in the name of Fort Langley, then wandered through the farms that fed those pioneers, traveled along side the original highway in BC in the form of the Fraser River, climbed the hills to meander through small communities content in their quaintness, and ended the day at a relic of car travel from 1931. All in all, a very fun and satisfying day was had by all, and you can't ask for much more than that!  

All pictures of this trip and other trips can be seen here at my Flickr web site. You can also click on the link in the left margin of the blog page.