Friday, January 29, 2016

Harrison Lake West - Puttering About

Another Sunday came and I scored another "free" day for me to wander about aimlessly in my extended backyard.

Today I opted to go a few miles up the West Harrison Lake Forest Service Road (FSR) to get a few pictures of the lake and do a wee bit of geocaching while I was at it.

Click on any picture to see the set in full panorama view  :)

First stop was at at lookout high above Harrison Lake, last stop was the back roads around Lake Errock.

The West Harrison Lake FSR is a familiar friend and I have been up this way many times over the years. A few years ago I put a series of geocaches along here that is best accessed via 4X4 as the first of the caches is 20 miles up the FSR. Steep rutted hills, sever washboard, and sharp gravel makes these caches not the ideal choice to go for in the family grocery-getter.

As I was only headed as far as mile 4 there was no rush to get there, or anywhere, so I puttered along content to check out small little goat trails off the main road that led to 2-3 truck camping spots or dead ended a couple of hundred feet off the FSR.

I took one of the main turn offs that gave a commanding few of the south end of Harrison Lake and snapped off a few pictures. Low hanging clouds associated with rain showers meant the lake was partly obscured for the camera but I could see just fine.The lake is 60 kms long so although I could see up and down the lake in reality I could only see a small portion of the lake.

This is one of my favourite pictures...I think it's due to the ribbon of brown sandwiched between greens and browns of the foliage with the vast blue and whites of vast lake in the background.


Proving that any age is a good age to splash in puddles, I decided to try out the video setting on my camera to see how it works. To do that I needed any "action" shot, and since the Jeep was still way too clean, I thought I could make everyone happy (me and the Jeep) at the same time.

There, that looks a lot better! Now all the other Jeep owners won't laugh at me and not let me play their stupid reindeer games!

Back down at the start of the forest service road is Weaver Creek Spawning Channels created by Fisheries Canada and now run by the local Sto:lo First Nations people.
The channels provide a natural habitat for the various types of salmon returning to spawn, the most prized being the Sockeye salmon.

Today it was mostly Chums in the hatchery beds but the limited numbers was enough to provide interest for the tourists.

The few Sockeye that were here stood out in stark relief to the mottled grayness of the Chum.

There is plenty of room in the man made beds but one thing is for sure - all the salmon end up as food for the wildlife. Bears, raccoons, seagulls, and every other form of fur and fowl have a field day gorging on the plentiful bounty of the salmon runs.

It's no surprise that such a great supply of food during the winter salmon runs would attract Bald Eagles to the area.The large predators enjoy a a tightly packed area of rivers full of spawning salmon. Weaver Creek, Chehalis River, Harrison River, Fraser River, and many side channels and marshes of the Harrison River and the Fraser River supply enough salmon to make this area one of the top 3 wintering areas of the Bald Eagle on the Western Flyway. The Squamish River area is usually #1 spot, Haynes Alaska is #2, and the Chehalis Flats area of the Harrison River is #3.
A tourist industry has sprung up surrounding the December-January return of the eagles. Squamish has done this for years but in the past 3-4 years this part of the larger Fraser Valley has gotten organised and promotes various marketing campaigns to bring the Metro Vancouverites to the area.

Remnants of a former age are scattered throughout the local forests...some of the biggest stumps of Red Wood Cedars and Douglas Firs I have seen are in a local suburban Surrey park. I spotted this one a mile or so up the Chehalis FSR as there were two geocaches I wanted to nab. The notch you see in the tree stump was chopped there by loggers to insert a springboard. A Spring board was a long plank of wood with a pointed end they would insert into the notch they cut into the tree. The trees of yesteryear were first growth trees,and often stood a couple of hundred feet tall. The bases of the trees were massive and would take forever to chop three either with an axe or with a two man whip saw. The loggers "cheated" a little bit by starting the cut 10' feet up the tree were the tree trunk was thinner.

There are numerous artesian wells in the area some of which are on private property. In this case, the local land owner was tired of people trespassing on his land to fill their water jugs and making a mess of the forest undergrowth so he tapped into the well and ran a line down the hill to the forest road for the public to access the water there. To make it a bit interesting he built a small rock wall and put a statue of Buddha to offer good vibes in the area. There is an Earth geocache here (Earth cache means there is no actual cache, just a "virtual" to discover the area, and another actual cache across the road along a the banks of a small creek. In the old days you would call that a "two-fer"  :)

On the list of my "must sees" when ever I bring someone new to the area is the old Kilby Museum in Harrison Mills. Originally a train stop it became a small community onto it's own as the local loggers from the logging "shows" or forest operations, needed a place to stay so the train stop became a combination general store below and a small boarding house on the upper floor. It was also a distribution point for the farmers in Chilliwack across the Fraser River who would row across the river with their fruits and vegetables to catch the 4.00 PM train to take their produce into the vast market of Metro Vancouver.

Later with the rise of the auto-mobile gas pumps were added to service the area. OK, so your first question is...."why is there a board walk going up to the second floor"?

This area was prone to springtime flooding and it was quite common for the surrounding land to be under 6 feet of water for a few weeks. The basement of the store, which was actually ground level, was just bare dirt and other than a few tools and work benches was left empty as it was often under water with the freshet.

I sauntered out of the Harrison Mills, rambled east down the Lougheed Highway, and meandered into the back roads of Lake Errock. Lake Errock is actually an old oxbow of the Harrison River situated slightly upstream of where it empties into the Fraser River. Looking at a topo map it's easy to see that this oxbow was probably part of the Fraser River at one time before the river cut itself off and left the Harrison River to claim this twixt of water.

Here was one of the neat things about aimlessly driving down back find the most interesting things. I knew that the Western Painted Turtle is on the endangered species list in BC. I have even seen them in some suburban parks sunning themselves on logs...I did not know there was a small population in a marshy area in the Fraser Valley. I have to chalk up this find to geocaching as there was a couple of nearby caches that highlighted this turtle oasis; without the impetus to drive down this stretch of road I might not have found this reserve.

All kinds of treasures are found are found down back roads...some are a wonder of nature, some are a small feat of modern man. In this case an old Fargo pickup truck trying to maintain it's dignity sat in a corner of someones rural property...all but abandoned and being overtaken by brambles. I can't help but think this is a diamond just waiting for the right person to find it and restore the truck to it's former glory.

Now this is what back road exploring is all about....a beauty of nature in the form of two large firs growing out of the same trunk tucked right against the edge of the road and the local community having the grace to leave the tree as is and have the road skirt the edge of the tree. This quaint image is one that I think of when I think of what I would like to see when I am Out and About rambling the back roads of Beautiful British Columbia.

The full album of today's pictures can be seen on my Flickr web page here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fort Hope Is Where It's At

Late October I had a "free" of those days where there is no shopping to do, no running around, no "things" to pick up, nada...even Annette was content to pick up a book and give it some serious attention.
I thought that was a great idea as well, until I heard the Jeep in the garage crying a little bit as it wanted to go out and play. Being a good pet owner, I told Annette I was off for the day, and grabbed the keys and headed to the garage. Annette called out "where you going"? I said "Out and About"....
Well, actually I did tell here where  I was heading to just in case I didn't come back on time and she needed to send out a search party

Click on the pictures to see them full size to get the full magic effect of them !  :)

I took a few minutes at my computer to figure out where I wanted to playground extends from the Shores of the Pacific Ocean on the west, to Squamish in the North, and as far as east to Hope BC. I consider that large region my "backyard"...and a fine day tripping region it is.

I thought I might head either up the Coquihalla Canyon or up the Fraser Canyon..both of them I love to putter around in discovering new niches that I haven't come across yet. I made note of a few geocaches in the Hope area and a few new ones up each route, as well as a few coming back west along the Lougheed Hwy from Hope. Armed with a few geocaches, a full tank of gas and a camera I headed off to the far corner of my backyard...Hope BC.

Hope, or Fort Hope, as it it started life as a Hudson Bay Trading Company fort in 1848; well before that the local Sto:lo First nations had a settlement here stretching back 10,000 years.

Hope is 96 miles east of Vancouver, it is the head of the massive Fraser Valley that runs from Hope all the way to the sea. It's also a cross roads where three highways diverge to take you to points farther into the heart of BC.

To the north Highway #1, the Trans Canada Hwy, takes you up the amazing Fraser Canyon and points north and, if you choose, east towards Kamloops.

Northeast takes you along the astounding Coquihalla Hwy through mountain passes affectionately known to BC'ers as the "Coke" and known to TV viewers as "The Highway Through Hell" as winters are particularly brutal through the high passes.

East takes you along one of the original routes in Southern BC. Hwy #3 follows the old Dewdney Trail first blazed in 1861 as a rough trail designed to keep the gold in BC rather than having miners take the existing southerly routes like the Skagit River Trail into the U.S.

Hwy #3, also known as The Crowsnest Pass is the gentlest of the routes but even this highway has teeth that bite the uninitiated.

So, here I was at Hope...deciding which way the wind blew.....eventually I figured out the wind wasn't blowing at all and I settled down and decided to roam the back alleys and side streets of this small town where major rivers meet and major highways joined into one to allow travellers in a hurry to race to the big city of Vancouver.

I changed my mindset, put away the GPS, and took out my camera and started prowling around the outer edges of Hope looking for some good shots. I meandered over to the mouth of the Coquihalla River where it empties into the Fraser River. I knew there was a local park with river access, I thought this would be a good place for some pictures of the wide Coquihalla River. As you can see from the picture above, the river was running low as the winter rains had not started, and the summer melt of snow had not yet been replaced in the mountains to feed the river.

What I found instead was a vast expanse of gravel bed with the river far off nudged against a bluff. Well, that was not what I expected but still made for a good picture..

The old bridge on Hwy #1 over the Fraser River has been the scene of many accidents as it has a sharp bend at the eastern end. Many semis have failed to negotiate this turn on their night runs down the Fraser Canyon. With downhill momentum on their side and "speed" on the driver's brain they remember too late that the turn is almost 90 degrees and 60 miles an hour in a loaded semi spells bad news.

Art can be found almost anywhere, every common day object has it's beauty...the old highway bridge was no different. Standing at the gated underside of the bridge, I shot through the wire mesh gate and zoomed in a little to get the fade away box reminded me of a "metal tramway to infinity".

As if to re-enforce it's place in the history of Hope a historical sign board tucked away along a rural road proclaims the importance the Hudson's Bay by highlighting one of the original Fur Brigade Trails from the Interior to the Coast. A "fur brigade" consisted of 20 men and 200 horses packed with furs of fox, beaver, bear, mink, and other animals trapped in the lush Interior of BC. All furs were bound for either Fort Hope or Fort Langley to board trading ships to Hawaii or home to England.

A small lake is nestled between the town and the start of the mountains at the eastern edge of town. It is a local hot spot during the summer for the provides a respite of cool on hot summer days.

Serene and quiet on an Autumn would never know that this little lake is a hub of activity on warmer days.

Hope found fame again a few years back when a large tree fell in the city centre and rather than just cut it up and haul it away a local artist asked if he could use his chainsaw and create a piece of art. Well, what kind of art can you create with a wild chainsaw? Apparently some pretty fantastic more than 20 of Pete Ryan's creations stand around town providing highlights of an interesting walking tour of the city.

The carving of the dog is dedicated to the RCMP Police Service Dog Chip who was shot as he and his handler pursued a suspect in the mountains just outside of Hope.

I poked around Hope a little more until I was back onto familiar ground that I knew well, so I decided it was time to find some new land and picked up Hwy #7 the Lougheed Hwy as it ran west back towards Vancouver.

I took out my GPS and fired it up, as I knew there were a few geocaches down side roads I had not yet been along. Another reason why I love geocaching - it goes hand-in-hand with that sense of exploration that I have.

The hunt for caches led me to a backwater slough of the Fraser River I hadn't discovered before, and it also took me down a rural back road that I had not been on for 20 years. It was still as pretty as I remember it...

Being in the open farm lands provided good views of the ring of mountains that come together near Hope to form the eastern end of the Fraser Valley and the start of the Coast and Cascade Mountain Ranges. Click on the pictures to zoom in and look at the logging road clinging to the side of the mountain...only loggers, goats, and deer would dare go up there. And, oh yeah, guys with Jeeps...yeah I'm one of those guys, I've been on that mountain shelf road a few times. Awesome views from up there!

I went a short ways up the western flank of Mt Wooodside east of Agassiz to a lower level lookout that provided a scenic view. The top picture is looking south-west towards Chilliwack; the bottom picture is looking west towards Abbotsford in the far, far, distance.

Here is an "Eddie Favourite Fun Fact".... look at the bottom picture...the hills you see in the near right and the far left are actually mountain tops. As the massive glaciers covering North America started melting 10,000 years ago the Fraser River carried the glacial till in it's belly until the river slowed down in the flats of the valley and the sediment dropped out. The river sediment here is over a mile deep making the Fraser Valley one of the richest farming areas in BC.

Here is another "Eddie Favourite Fun Fact"... as the glaciers melted, the Ice Age Fraser River was massive - the mountains on the North Shore of Vancouver formed the northern edge of the river delta....the mountains to the south of Bellingham Washington was the southern delta edge. That is 112 kms wide....the present day Fraser River delta is split over three arms of the river, the widest arm only slightly more than 500 meters wide.

I ended my day with a quick grab of a geocache in this old road warrior advertising the local stock race track. The bright yellow of the car and squareness of the white sign board stood out like sore thumbs against the backdrop of flat drab farm land in it's winter coat.

I put away the camera, turned off the GPS, stashed my papers and notes on the passenger seat as I turned the iconic 7 slot grill of the Jeep towards home now just a half hour away.

I covered 200 miles in 6 hours, fired off over 100 shots on the camera in my wanders, found some wonderful scenery I had not seen before, and came home with a smile on my face and a feeling of contentment in my heart......not a bad way to spend a "free" Sunday.

The best 35 of the lot of pictures can be found on my Flickr web site here

Friday, January 08, 2016

Geocaching Around Dewdney And Deroche BC

My brother Ken and myself spent a late Autumn day geocaching in the Dewdney - Deroche areas just east of Mission BC. We are known as tjguy98 (me) and MrTJ (Ken) so if you see those names in the cache logs then you know we have been in the area.

Mission City is approx 60 miles east of Vancouver BC and is the farthest upriver the strong tides of the Pacific Ocean reach. There is excellent fishing in the area and is the lowest part of the Fraser River where you will find large White Sturgeon that can grow to over twenty feet in length.

Today we were not fishing but we were "fishing" for geocaches hidden under rocks and tree stumps and in any little crevice the cache hider could find along the dikes encompassing the Fraser River and it's surrounding sloughs. The part that Ken and I like about geocaching is that it brings you to many new places that you had not come before and you get to enjoy just a little bit more of spectacular B.C.

The day's travels would take us to such places as: the iconic institution of Tim Hortons, a log carving, a set of geocaches based on the over-winter bird population, have us doing a little bit of creek hopping, and surprise us with a collection of memorabilia.

First up.....gassing up the Jeep in Mission and then walking across the street to Tim Hortons to find one of the many "Midnight Run.." caches hidden at many of the Lower Mainland Timmys..
Easy find, we are 1 for 1 so far on the day....that's a good sign...sometimes we are not that lucky :)

On the road now our next stop was several miles along the Lougheed Hwy on a dike of the Nicomen Slough.The geocache highlighted an old stump that someone had randomly carved the face of a bear into. (Picture above).
I don't know if the bear had been carved into a burnt stump or some jack ass lit fire to the carving - both actions are equally possible.

It was kind of neat in a quirky way to come across this random piece of art work - cool that some one took the time to do that so we could enjoy it.

The next several caches were part of the "Nicomen Slough Waterfowl" series placed along the dikes of the slough. This is a great over-winter birding area and many species of water fowl can be found's one of my favourite Sunday drive areas during the winter months to go birding.

Click on any picture to see the pictures full size....

The geocacher known as The 10Coin" has hidden a series of 8 caches all highlighting different birds that frequent the area. The cache owners gives a brief description of the bird on their cache page, so learn a little bit while you are enjoying the scenery.

 In some places we were able to drive along the dikes from cache to cache which led to the natural inclination for me to "vogue" the Jeep as if I was making a Jeep commercial...yeah I know...the dike doesn't look too tough for a Jeep to handle!  LOL

 While I was out "shooting" the Jeep, MrTJ was off feeding the horses that wandered over to see what the heck we were doing on their dike......I didn't try expounding on gestational orbiting satellites to them as they looked more interested in the grass in MrTJ's hand. can't teach them anything...

A few more bird caches had us searching down at the dikes edge all the while providing picturesque views One of the geocaches in the bird series was hidden in an actual apra pro... :)

The bird series was finished off with all caches found and it was time to move on to the next caches on the list.
One cache worth mentioning along the Nicomen dikes is "Devious Dad" by the same cacheer The 10Coin.
This was a clever, well constructed cache which we thoroughly enjoyed. It took a few minutes to figure out where the cache had to be and then how to access the cache, but it was worth the hunt once we found it and The 10Coin deserves props for taking the time to put out such a cache. A lot of work wnet into this and their fellow geocachers do appreciate it. No picture to show you as I don't want to ruin it if you happen to go out looking for it.

The next cache to find had us "Creek Hopping" alongside Pattison Creek, a small creek that feeds into the hidden Hatzic Valley. Luckily this was still low water time as it would have meant a fair amount of bush whacking otherwise. We had to skip along the north side of the creek (to the right in the picture) and we were able to walk along the creek bed daintily stepping on and over boulders hoping we don't take a tumble and smack our behinds on the creek rocks.

It's always good to look upstream under the bridge before you turn your back on it and start walking downstream. I can't tell you how many geocachers have told me they have been surprised, and in turn, surprised a bear hanging out under bridges. This picture also gives you an idea of how this small creek swells during the winter storms and the Spring freshet.

I took the opportunity to drive a short way along the Sylvester Forest Service Road to pick off the first cache in a series of 4X4 caches up the FRS. As it turns out, an early Autumn storm had washed out the road and the FSR had just re-opened that weekend. The day was too short to go for this series, so I've pegged this for next summer when the mountain snows melt.
Still, it gave us a chance to get off road for a few minutes and enjoy the quietness of the forest and see once again how large some of the trees were in this area when the loggers first came to chop down the trees.

On the way back down the hill we stopped off at Cascade Falls Regional Park. This nature reserve highlights a series of waterfalls that have cool "bowls" worn into the sandstone cliff sides along the creek's course. These are caused by rocks being eroded by the water from the surrounding soft sandstone and as they become loose they start circling in the small hole created around them. As they circle in place they wear down the rock around them creating a very smooth bowl on the water fall's   flat ledges.

Last time I was up this way the parking lot was just gravel and you could drive the FRS uphill as it paralleled the water falls and then follow the road eastbound to the next FSR and then over to the the Ruby Creek drainage area and eventually back onto the Lougheed Hwy closer to Hope BC.

Now the area is closed off to 4 wheelers and instead is limited to those that enjoy the short walk to Cascade group looses and another group benefits.....which is better?

Back into the heart of the Hatzic Valley we continued doing some caches hidden along the rural roads. Can you see the cache hide in the picture above? If you're a geocacher you'll pick out the camouflage pretty quick.

Ken and I had to laugh at ourselves at this one....our path to the cache was oh so typical of geocachers...

We parked the Jeep at the side of the road right above a bridge that crossed a mid-sized creek and judging by the GPS we knew the geocache was hidden about 300' away along the creek's edge.

No problem, we already did a Creek Hopping cache, this is just one more of those.
So MrTJ and I start down the the creek edge and realize that we will have to climb up the bank to get above the water as there is no more room to walk along the creek. So, we climb up and find what could best be described as an abandoned deer trail and wind our way through the brush and small trees overgrowing the "trail" until we come to a bit of a clearing in the wood's edge. We backtrack along this clearing for 70' feet or so and come to a larger clearing where the cache is obviously hiding. We find the cache pretty quick and then realize we can follow a bit of a wide area through the forest back to the Jeep.
Well, soon enough it becomes obvious that this is the path we should have taken down to the cache in the first place as it is plainly an old roadway cleared out by a Caterpillar tractor years ago and indeed leads us back to the road just 20' feet away from the Jeep's back bumper! LOL

Across the street from this cache was a house with a large garage and many old signs out on display. The owner was out in the yard cutting his grass so we did the polite thing by stopping and asking him if we could take pictures of his signs. The owner was very wary of us at first until we spoke to him for a bit and told him what we were geocaching in the area and had just done the geochache across the street and down the trail.

The owner wasn't exactly too clear on what geocaching was but he warmed up to us and gave us permission to look around and take pictures. Turns out that the owner has had signs stolen off his garage and house recently so he was a bit suspicious of us at first but after talking to him for a while he relaxed and as I wandered around taking pictures Ken talked to him about swap meets they had both gone to over the years. As it turns out, the owner knows the brother of one of our brother-in-laws and has known him for many years. Ken and this relative had just recently been on a Hawaii cruise with him and our sister and her husband (our brother-in-law) so there was plenty to talk about.

Too much as it turned out as I had to eventually give Ken a kick in the shins to bring him back to why we were out here to begin with....geocaching!

We picked up a few more road side caches as we made our way back into Mission via the back roads. Eventually the short daylight hours started to catch up to us and we called it quits for the day.

We were happy with the day....22 geocaches found along some familiar and new-to-us back roads along with the treasure (in Ken's eyes...mine not so much) of a fellow "swap meeter" with a lot of common people to talk about.

Not a bad way to spend a day all in all...get to have some quality time with a brother, play a bit in the Jeep, find a few tucked away geocaches and do some exploring in the process. Nope, not a bad day at all!

The complete set of pictures for the day can be seen here on my Flickr web site