Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On A Mission To Merritt

Okay, technically that's not quite true...we were on a mission to Logan Lake....but "On A Mission to Merritt" sounds better as a title than "Lollygagging in Logan Lake"!

The complete set of pictures of this trip and other trips can be seen at my Flickr photo web site here

I had a few days off recently, and with MrTJ and Bowser98 being retired, they had a few days off as well. Bowser98 was toying with the idea of going to Logan Lake to see the automotive swap meet on Saturday and I suggested to MrTJ that we turn it into a two day geocaching road trip hitting Merritt, Logan Lake and places in between.Wow, was it hard to twist their arm!  :)

As Merritt is only a 3 hour drive from the Coast, we decided to spend most of the day caching in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, adjusting our schedule as required as we planned our arrival in Merritt to be around dinner time to ensure we secured our motel room.

The first couple of caches were roadside caches, no big deal there but we did start off with that warm fuzzy feeling of going 2 for 2 on the day. One of the caches we looked for had been in place for a while but the area was being over run by black berry bushes. Bowser98 got his whacking tool out of his truck and he and MrTJ took turns whacking back the bushes until we had access to the cache. Some brambles were hurt in the hunt, but they evened out the score by drawing blood in return.

We found a few caches around two side-by-side cemeteries in Abbotsford, which gave us 9 caches in close proximity to each other..always good to save driving time. And as this was June 6, D-Day, it highlighted the sacrifices our men and women made, and continue to make, to ensure our freedom and our way of life.

We then moved out of Abbotsford, slowly making our way towards Chilliwack. One of the fun caches we found was on a farmer's piece of lawn art - an old truck cut down to fit on a corner of the yard fronting the rural road. This was kind of neat to see, and neat to think that the property owner had the whimsical thought of putting this piece of truck out there on display. And kudos to the owner for allowing a geocache to be put there for us to enjoy it as well.

Click on any picture to enlarge it to experience the full magic! 

We did a few more caches in Chilliwack, mindful of the time of day and skipping some more from the agenda as time got tight. I really wanted to ensure we caught three caches that were old stone obelisks that were mile markers used way before the freeway came into existence. From the main Canada Post Office on Georgia Street in Vancouver to Hope approx 100 miles away, there was an obelisk every mile that let you know how far you had gone. The ones we would be finding were #58, #59, and #60; I had previously found these but wanted to show them to my brothers for their historical coolness..

We scooted up to Hope to pick up a couple of quick caches that were new since last time we came through town; one of them was at the old train station, (every town has one of these). This one, as many are, is being maintained by a local heritage committee which is determined to preserve the town's history. This station had the double pleasure of seeing George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 as they made a stop here on their cross country tour, and, of seeing Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip when they made a stop in October of 1951.

With our reminiscing of royalty over, we headed up one of the new royalty of roads...that being the Coquihalla Highway. A wonder to behold in summer, it's a true nightmare to drive in winter; it's not uncommon for this highway to get 2-3 feet of snow overnight courtesy of winter storms. Lucky for us we were in the beginnings of summer, and while we did see some snow still clinging to the high peaks, we were safe down at road level

We were soon getting close to Merritt, time to start finding some historical caches, and by that, I mean caches that took us to historical locations. A few years back, the BC government through Tourism BC offered funds to the Thompson Valley area, which included towns like Merritt, Logan Lake, Ashcroft, Lytton, Lillooet, and as far north as Cache Creek and Clinton. One of the schemes that came out of this was to lure geocaching tourists to the area with a series of geocaches highlighting the Gold Rush days of BC.

In .Phase 1 there were 72 geocaches hidden at historical locations such as at this last remaining train water tower from the Kettle Valley Railway; this tower was rare as the KVR was the only railway that built 5 sided towers. This one is located in the small village of Brooksmere just off the Coquihalla Highway.

Other locations highlight long-gone mining towns, pioneer farms, and any historical place that was involved with the Gold Rush. The geocaches are well made containers, and stocked with stickers that you collect to put in your Gold Rush book to show you been there - you take a second sticker and send in 24 of them on a sticker page to obtain a collectible gold bar geocoin....so far I have one of them and should be close to qualifying for a second one.

We eventually cached our way into Merritt, popped into our hotel to secure our room for the night, then headed back out on the road to continue caching until we got tired, or hungry, or it got too dark...which ever came first.

One of the series of geocaches I like in Merritt is by a cacher named Mole60 which highlight the back roads around Merritt. These caches lead you to pristine views of rural life where the only sound you hear are the birds around you and the occasional call of livestock on the nearby farms.

Another cache series I like is called "A Taste Of The Valley" done by Dumbo09; this set of caches lead you around Merritt and surrounding areas as you get a taste of the Nicola Valley from early pioneer days through to the last generations childhood memories. Following this set of caches from place to place is like having your very own tour guide sitting in the back seat.

We finished off in Merritt at 9.30 PM, just as the last of the sun's rays were setting...time to hit a local eatery and have a late supper, then head back to the motel for trip planning the next day as we had Logan Lake in our sights.

By far the biggest reference point in Logan Lake is the giant mine shovel and it's neighbouring terrain moving mine truck. Both of these "small" units are now retired and serve as the local tourist centre. Many a city folk, (me included), have parked their geomobile next to the truck and snapped a picture to compare the "hugeness" of these mine machines to our tiny on-road vehicles. As it was, this was also the site of our first cache, which was doubly convenient as this was also the site of the community centre where the automotive swap meet (remember me mentioning that) was taking place and the whole genesis of the idea of the road trip!

As the idea of an automotive swap meet bores me to death, I took the opportunity to wander around the show and shine to snap a few pictures of the trucks. Yes trucks...as I am a "Jeep guy" first, followed a close second by being a "truck guy",  I was more interested in the old trucks turned out in their Sunday best.

Here's a picture expressly for my "corn binder" loving friend Fred whom has had his old IH sitting in his driveway for longer than my kids have been around (and they are married now) swearing one day he'll get it back on the road!  :)

After wandering around the show and shine, I went back to the geomobile and had a nice snooze in the sunshine...ahh, life is good sometimes...

Eventually we started caching again, picking up some of the in-town caches in small parks and a couple of Gold Country caches like the one above called "Birth Place Of Logan Lake". This one provided a good viewpoint of the city and the valley below the hill

 Here's a good delegation of chores....MrTJ points out the cache to Bowser98, Bowser98 digs the cache out and signs the log, and tjguy98 (me) snaps a picture for posterity.

After Logan Lake, we cached all the way back to Merritt, where we popped into town for a late lunch that we knew would have to hold us over until late at night. We were going to head home to Vancouver today via Spences Bridge and we knew once we got on the road we probably wouldn't be back in Hope until 8.00 or 9.00 PM at the earliest.

The road to Spences Bridge is filled with history, from local First Nations to early European pioneers.who farmed the land, and were eventually buried in that same land.It was a hard life, only a generation or two back from us, but it was a whole different world.

And through it all, the life lines of the day ran non-stop taking produce to markets in the near cities and as far away as Vancouver, transported needed goods to your homestead, and took you away.to places so far away they seemed like travelling around the world. The railway...or railways, as there were many independently owned ones at the time, cut straight lines through the towns and valleys as they worked their magic on our fore fathers. Above is an old railway bridge over the Nicola River, still standing 100 years later.

As we got closer to Spences Bridge it starting getting hotter, like the heat you feel in Lytton in the middle of summer. We had crossed into another geo bioclimatic zone, of which there are 14 in BC, and the heat had us driving with the windows down even at highway speeds. Hoodoos appeared along the Nicola River and with the sun on the decline the walls of the cliffs were bathed in golden light...absolutely the perfect light to show off the sandstone's natural colours.

If you haven't already, click on the above pictures to see them full size and see the natural erosion of the cliffs.

We crossed the Nicola River one last time knowing that just a few miles down the road was Spences Bridge and our last caching stop of the day. We picked up a few new caches that had appeared since our last visit to town, then high tailed it down the Thompson canyon to Lytton, where the Thompson River merged with the Fraser River, and then followed the Fraser River as it ran through picturesque Fraser Canyon all the way to Hope.
A quick stop at the local Timmy Ho's for a bowl of chili and a coffee provided energy for the 90 minute drive back into town. MrTJ and Bowser98 dropped me off at my door at 10.30 PM, and then headed home themselves.

It was a whirlwind two day tour were we combined sight seeing, a swap meet, and geocaching into one big fun trip. We found around 100 geocaches, which isn't a world record by any means, but it was plenty for us as the geocaches took us to beautiful places, all the while teaching us some history about Super Natural BC.