Yes, most Canadians actually celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday and not the actual holiday (today), but today is the official day and we’re celebrating with…chicken. Because cooking turkey for two is only a good idea if you REALLY like turkey. And while I don’t mind turkey, I’m not a big fan of turkey for weeks.
To commemorate the holiday, here is a vaguely disturbing animated gif I found on the internet. Enjoy!
Day 12 – Thursday, July 12, 2018 FVRDA campsite, Hope, New Westminster
We awoke to it already being about 30c. Summer has truly arrived now that our vacation is over and we can begin the annual Lower Mainland tradition of complaining that it’s too hot.
After breakfast we packed up the trailer, not just doing the usual pack up, but also battening down the proverbial hatches in preparation for parking the trailer at the quaint hobby farm where it lives when it’s not out camping. The hobby farm is in a place called Dogwood Valley, which is even more quaint.
With the trailer secured, we began the hairy 5 km descent from the FVDRA campsite, hairy because much of it is an 18% grade. At the 3.5 km mark we were delayed while a convoy of construction trucks trundled up past us. The alternative would have been them smushing our truck and trailer off the road, which would have been a bummer way to end the vacation.
I also learned the difference between a rock truck and a dump truck and it’s not that one carries rocks, smarty pants. Rock trucks apparently have twice the load capacity, which is handy when carrying rocks or rock-like things. The trucks were very big, like the ones you see in monster truck shows, except without the belching fire and ramps to jump over.
We finally got off the mountain, unhitched the trailer at the farm (I forgot to get the contents from the fridge—I knew I’d forget something. But at least I remembered my pants, even though I wasn’t even wearing them at the time), then went to Home in Hope to have a late lunch before what would turn out to be a 159 hour commute into Vancouver. I am exaggerating, but only by a little.
Here is a picture of our lunch. Jeff had Champignon Schnitzel, which is the most foreign-sounding thing on the menu. It came covered in gravy and mushrooms, so much so that you could not see what was underneath. It could have been called Mystery in the Gravy. I ordered a club sandwich on rye bread and every time I have a club sandwich I am reminded of how silly they are. You do not need three slices of bread (or toast) for a sandwich. That’s like 1200 calories alone. Also, you almost need a reticulated jaw to actually bite into a club house.
It was still delicious. I could not finish the nicely crisp French fries, though. The order size is based on your weight, judging from how many I got. I was originally going to order pie for dessert (I’m trying to make dessert after lunch a thing) but we were too stuffed and passed.
After lunch, we gassed up (Jeff eerily predicted the exact dollar amount the tank would take), then began the last leg of our journey, leaving Hope behind (again, never tiring of Hope jokes). Things went smoothly until we reached Abbotsford, which is the unofficial entryway into the Lower Mainland. Suddenly the left lane, which is only supposed to be used for passing, became the other lane to use in order to clog up the whole system. Which it did. We went from 110 km/h to 80 km/h to 30 km/h to sometimes just plain stopping. It turns out there was an accident—on the other side of the highway, which is separated by a large median strip, thus having zero impact on traffic on our side of the highway.
People are weird.
Things finally improved when the two lanes changed to three and we finally got into New West around 5 p.m., in time to agree on a quickie pizza dinner—a few hours later. This would give Jeff a chance to recover from the driving in a nice hot bath and me a chance to clean the dirty clothes in a nice hot washer.
After that I unpacked everything, tidied up a few things around the condo (our veggies sadly expired in our absence. Good thing we don’t have pets) and now I’m wrapping up the whole thing here at my familiar computer desk, but I’m being kooky and consistent by typing this final day’s update on the same iPad with its Smart Cover keyboard, after which I will use the magic of home internet to hopefully upload this all to my blog.
And with that, the official travel part of Summer Vacation 2018 comes to an end. There may be more, but it will involve walking around the neighborhood or possibly riding the SkyTrain, which is less exotic than driving a thousand km to a remote northern mining town.
It was actually 29ºC. zomg, as the kids would say. The summer weather has arrived just in time for the last few days of vacation.
It was already 28 when we got up, like someone threw the Summer Switch from OFF to ON.
I actually wore my sunglasses. It was amazing.
Today was hiking day. We started by doing the Beaver Tail Loop, a 5 km or so set of connected trails designed for kids to ride on. It wends through the forest, so most of it was fairly comfortable. Less comfortable was the giant unavoidable puddle that forced me to put my waterproof shoes to the test. They passed.
There were also several downed trees, likely due to construction crews trying to keep the culverts clear. And also maybe they secretly hate dirt bikers. “Haha, ride over THAT, buddy!”
We also forded a real life babbling brook (it was a small fording) and crossed a new bridge that replaces an old rickety one that was in the path of a beaver dam. We saw the dam, but I did not see any beavers, alas.
The next hike was to the famed Hobbit House. We descended deep into the woods and down a tricksy hill. At one point the path curved and became very narrow and I experienced a few moments of vertigo. It was weird, and as you would expect with vertigo, disorienting. It passed quickly, though, and we made our way down to a giant, yet sadly dead cedar that has been hollowed out, with a charming wooden door added to it. Officially it’s known as the Trickle Creek Tree House to avoid lawsuits from the Tolkien estate. Inside it is dark and scary, which is not like a hobbit house at all. It’s nothing a hobbit couldn’t fix, though.
There is also a spectacular waterfall farther down the hill. Here is a less than spectacular shot of it. This is as close as I got because the rest of the trail down is so steep and narrow there is a steel cable provided for you to hold onto. Or in my case, to hold onto briefly before slipping and sliding the rest of the way down to my doom.
The third hike was up an unused secondary road leading up the mountainside. It promised nice views and badly burned skin, as it is completely out in the open. In a rare case of foresight, I slathered sun block all over my arms, my face and my neck—including the back of the neck. I did not put any on my legs as they seem impervious to burning, for some reason. The result: a 75 minute hike later and I am as lily-white as when I started. This is nothing short of a miracle, believe me.
The hike itself was as you would expect—more work going up than going down, but not exactly a cakewalk (mmm, cake) going down, either, as the rocks and general lumpiness keep you from descending drag strip racer style.
The views were very nice, despite abundant evidence of logging in days gone by. Jeff opted to commune with nature by walking in a clothing-optional configuration. While sunblock might prevent one’s doodle from being scorched by the sun, I’d still be afraid of a great big horsefly biting mine if I hiked au naturel. It’s too bad, too, because I have incredibly sexy buns.
Jeff’s are pretty decent, too.
We ultimately hit a dead end, took in the view (both with and without buns of steel on display) and made our way back. It was quiet warm, but a breeze helped and the sunglasses worked a treat, as the Brits say. Or maybe it’s the Irish. Or all of them. I don’t have any internet as I type this, so I can’t check.
Jeff is continuing to work on his tan while I continue to work on remaining very white. Tonight we are having pasta for dinner, another fire and may decide whether we stay another full day or head homeward tomorrow. Jeff has a highly developed “lounge around, relaxing and enjoying the quiet of nature” sense, where I’m more I MUST BE IN CONSTANT MOTION LIKE A SHARK OR ELSE. So we’ll see how it goes.
For dinner we had pasta with a manly beef sauce and it was very good. Everything tastes slightly amazing when you’re out camping.
Jeff cut some fresh wood for the fire tonight and it’s weird how incredibly light some of the logs are. I could pick one up with one hand and balance it on the tip of my nose.
I took on the task of building the fire tonight and it was a raging, magnificent inferno. We didn’t even require any of Jeff’s magic elixir* to give it a boost.
We are turning in earlier tonight and mercifully it’s cooled down quite a bit from the day (ironic, I know, that we have so quickly come to complaining about how hot it is). After some discussion we have decided to head home tomorrow after a pit stop in Hope for food and gas (but not lodging).
The FVDRA campsite is quite nice. We got in good hikes, there were a few pesky flies, but very few mosquitoes, and, of course, it was blissfully quiet.
Day 10 – Tuesday, July 10, 2018 Fraser Canyon, FVDRA campsite
When we got up at Arrowhead the lake was placid, as all good lakes are in the morning. It wasn’t too long after that the wind started whipping things up again.
The family with all the girls packed up their tents and left before we were even up, and we didn’t even sleep in—honest! But really, camping with a baby is probably not something you want to push the envelope on, time-wise. They don’t understand mosquitoes like adults do. Or hate them like I do.
We decided to head off because while Green Lake is theoretically a nice place, there isn’t much to do if you don’t have a boat or aren’t there to swim, and my swimming skills are only slightly better than my flying skills. I tucked a thank you note (ed.–autocorrect originally had this as “I tucked a thank you horse”) into the locked suggestion box at the campground entrance along with a $20 bill, as we did not see any friendly park rangers to give our money to. The camping fee is $18, so I suggested the extra two dollars was for leaving us alone.
We didn’t have a specific destination in mind, other than south and hopefully somewhere warm—it was about 14ºC when we left camp at 11 a.m.
Our journey took us to Cache Creek again, but instead of getting gas, we just drove though—with one dramatic change. We fought an army of zombie Vikings. No, we didn’t. We diverted to Highway 1 to continue to our next major stopping point outside Hope, taking the old Fraser Canyon route. The Coquihalla Highway is more direct, wider, safer and more modern, while the Fraser Canyon route is narrow, winding, has occasional potholes that have swallowed up entire subcompacts never to be seen again, has numerous steep grades, BUT none of the grades are as long and steep as some on the Coquihalla, making it preferable for driving in Jeff’s mind. In my mind I was white-knuckling the wheel most of the way and I wasn’t even driving.
Jeff began getting tired, because driving through the Fraser Canyon requires the same level of concentration as brain surgery, so we started looking for a rest area to, well, rest. But for some reason nearly every pull-off on this stretch of Highway 1 is unmarked, so you don’t see them until it’s too late to pull over. One official rest area did have a sign posted 100 m in advance, which is the equivalent of a two nanosecond warning when in a motor vehicle.
We eventually parked in front of a motel in Boston Bar that offered breakfast all day. We did not have breakfast, all day or otherwise. Instead we had good old camping staples: hot dogs and my favorite soup of all time, Bean with Bacon. I can’t even explain why I like it so much, but I do. Even as I type this I regret we have already used the one can we had.
Onward we went, past Hell’s Gate, which I’ve been to as a child, but I was too young and don’t really remember more than what you see on a post card. I would probably pee my pants taking the tram across the canyon to the other side. I don’t do well with heights in certain situations. Such as when I am very high above the ground.
Jeff normally stows the trailer at the home of a dirt-biking cohort and it turns out he lives just on the other side of Hope, so Jeff suggested we go to the FVDRA site where he rides dirt bikes with other people who like to get dirty on bikes. It’s about 5 km away from his friend’s place. The trick is to get to the site you have to drive up a 5 km mountain road that requires four wheel drive. With a trailer. Not that the four wheel drive requires a trailer, but it’s what we had to pull with the truck, as all our stuff is in it.
We made the slow, winding trek up the mountain to camp after a convoy of construction vehicles went by first. They’re cleaning up a nearby railings a pond. Jeff used the radio to confirm they had all passed, just like they did in Smokey and the Bandit. I could almost hear Jerry Reed singing in the background.
We set up camp, fired up the generator—here the generator hours are “Until you run out of gas.” I walked around to look at the site and Jeff immediately gouged his hand setting up his radio antenna. Take note, kids—radio is dangerous!
We aired out the bedding, strolled a few trails, walked to the magic spot where you can get one bar of cell coverage—I suggested a sign for the spot with ALL YOUR WORRIES BEGIN HERE.
Later, Jeff chopped some of the local wood for our fire. Local wood is easy peasy to chop compared to the alpine wood up north. The northern wood is 60% concrete. But lo, he cut into a piece and found signs of pine beetle shenanigans. These little pests can fell entire forests because it no longer gets cold enough in the winter to kill them off. When global warming leads to the next ice age, that’ll show ‘em.
Here’s a pic showing how the beetle burrowed into the wood and then made cozy little burrows for all of its eggs, so they could grown up and continue devastating the countryside. Why can’t these things just breed in the nice warm dirt?
We are having chicken for dinner tonight and I am curious to see how a fire will burn when it doesn’t have 130 km/h winds to help it.
UPDATE AT 9:52 P.M.
This is the darkest it’s been since we’ve been traveling. I know that sounds a bit lame to people who stay up till 1 a.m. and chart half of the entire night sky, but for us it’s impressive.
It’s also cloudy, so we can’t actually chart any stars.
Dinner was yummy and for dessert we again had S’mores. Jeff used both of his marshmallows to do an impression of Burning Man. I made mine toasty golden brown in a way that would have done Martha Stewart proud. Not prison-era Martha, the one before (or after).
The fire burned very nicely.
The forecast for tomorrow is mainly sunny with a high of 28ºC. I will believe this when I experience it. And maybe not even then.
Day 9 – Monday, July 9, 2018 Williams Lake, Green Lake Provincial Park, Arrowhead Campground
We bid farewell to Barkerville and its inhabitants this morning, heading west to Quesnel and then turning south on Highway 97 toward warmer climes. As we left it was sunny and warm, again to mock us.
Making good time to Quesnel, we opted to keep going, so I waved at the Quesnel Walmart and all the treasures contained within as we drove by.
At Williams Lake we stopped for gas and I contributed. I’m hoping that my contribution to the gas doesn’t get my debit card flagged since the last time I bought gas was in 1997.
We also did one more round of shopping at the same Save-On Foods, replenishing our supplies with vital snacks and elixirs. As we headed out of Williams Lake I couldn’t help but notice the temperature was now double what it had been at Barkerville. It was weird to step outside and realize it was not actually November.
For lunch we pulled into a small pull-off for tourist trash disposal—a sign actually warns that non-tourists getting rid of their trash will be sent to Garbage Prison or fined millions of dollars. Speaking of signs, there was one of those ugly 1970s signs here that didn’t note anything specific, it just provided a blurb about the Gold Rush Trail. Something to read while dumping your trash, I guess. We had lunch here and at my request it was wieners and beans, a staple from childhood I haven’t had since, well, probably childhood. It was everything I’d remembered, all yummy and warm and sweet. So far no tooting, but no promises. I apparently have beans on my mind, because I also grabbed a can of Bean with Bacon soup, another favorite of mine from when I was a wee lad.
The Save-On also had fresh fudge. FUDGE. I resisted, but now that I have the knowledge it will be hard to keep resisting.
We scouted out a few locations around 70 Mile House to stay for at least the night and settled on Arrowhead Campground in Green Lake Provincial Park. It’s downright tiny compared to the Lowhee Campground, but we are a stone’s throw from the lake. Seriously, I could throw a stone from where I’m sitting and it would hit the lake. The camps are also much closer together, so if I threw the stone left instead I would bean one of the three small girls in the tent next door. To the right I would bean a guy wearing a neon green baseball cap and a pair of plaid shorts. And really, I should, just for his terrible fashion sense.
It’s quite breezy here, and cloudy. Normally this would make you think it was time to don a jacket but it’s still 23ºC and the breeze actually feels nice. As I type this the sun is even starting to poke out. Hello sun, I dimly remember you!
There are still mosquitoes here and a Google review of the park proclaimed them to be “the size of B–52 bombers.” They’re not that big, nor that plentiful, but I’m still dousing myself in Off! to be safe(ish).
Here’s a shot of our site, with wildflowers in the foreground.
Shortly after I took it this small inquisitive bird showed up. I thought it would be spooked and fly away before I could get any decent pics, but it practically posed for them. I swear it followed us down to the beach, where we watched it snap bugs out of the air around both a log and some kid’s collection of sand castles. We actually left before it did.
And here is the inevitable shot of a cinder block, likely having washed ashore from China. You can see the lake in the background, which is big and very full of water.
Tonight we dine on frozen Shepherd’s Pie. Mmm. I should clarify that we are cooking it first, not eating it frozen. After that perhaps a cozy fire that the wind will hopefully not whip into the nearby trees.
UPDATE AT 6:45 P.M.
We have finished the Shepherd’s Pie. Those shepherds know a thing or two about making these things. I can only imagine how delicious Shepherd’s Fudge would be.
Meanwhile, the dial on the wind has been turned up three notches, with whitecaps on the lake and a possible storm sweeping in. Even if it doesn’t rain, you probably want to glue your hat to your head tonight.
UPDATE AT 7:30 P.M.
The lake is now eerily calm, though it looks like it could still get damp. We have decided to go for a bike ride up the road to check out whatever it is people do alongside a lake in the early evening.
As it turns out, some of them are crazy enough to go swimming. A bunch of teens from the Flying U Ranch (the logo is exactly as you’d expect—the letter U with wings on it) were swimming off the dock across from the ranch. They were laughing and seemed in good spirits. Now, you would normally expect swimming in the second week of July to be fine, especially in a shallow lake such as Green Lake, but this July has skewed toward cooler so far, even if you haven’t gone way up north like we did. So I’m assuming the lake was still frigid and they were all drunk.
Speaking of, we stopped in at Little Arrowhead Park, which has some picnic tables and a boat launch. There was one car parked near the launch, but no boat to be seen. Instead there was a young couple frolicking in the water, but upon our arrival (also without a boat, it has to be admitted) the woman began buttoning up her top, and the man began scrambling for his pants, which had somehow gone missing.
After about 6 km of riding through the bucolic countryside, we opted to turn back, because the alternative would have been something like a 50 km loop around the lake. I don’t know how far it really is, but that seems like a good number.
UPDATE AT 8:30 P.M.
The wind is now whipping the water into a froth again. I can’t figure this lake out. We made a fire and due to the wind it became fully consumed in about three seconds. Then it got too cold anyway because of the wind. Plus it started to rain, which is obviously following us.
But the number of mosquitoes here is vastly reduced. I did not need to wrap myself like a mummy to enjoy the fire before it got too cold.
Still, I yearn for a single day of sun with the temperature above 22ºC. We’ve come oh so close.
(It actually got up to 28ºC today in some of the areas we drove through, though it remained cloudy. It’s actually preferable to sun when driving, so I have no right to complain, except I’ll still be trying to start my tan come November.)
We got up before 9 a.m., which is kind of early for us lately (hey, it’s vacation), to prepare for our day at Bowron Lake. And what a day it was.
Conditions were cloudy and a bit cool—normal—so we took no mind of this as we began our 28 km trek up Bowron Lake Road.
And lo, there was a bear! But this time we were safely encased in a giant metal and fiberglass structure. Also, it was an adorable little black bear that totally ignored us as it hunted for grubs, berries or leftover Snickers bars by the side of the road. It was on the left, so I handed Jeff my camera—er, phone—and he snapped a bunch. Here’s one of the better ones. Think of the rear-view mirror as adding perspective or context or something. It ain’t easy taking pictures from a moving vehicle, especially when you’re driving it.
We continued on, leaving the bear to forage when lo! There was another much larger black bear on the right side of the road. I rolled down my window (kids, don’t try this at home) to get a good shot (a photo, that is, I’m not the hunting type), but this bear had obviously had conversations with humans before and didn’t like what it heard, so it crashed off into the brush before I could capture photographic evidence, elusive as Bigfoot.
We are now up to 3.5 bear sightings.
It began to shower as we got closer to Bowron Lake, but this again is normal; we thought nothing of it.
The shower eased up as we arrived and went to the camp registration/info center. It had a cool-looking 3D relief map of the entire lakes area. There are seven lakes that connect in roughly a giant square, and people canoe between them, over periods ranging from seven to eleven days. Then they celebrate with Slurpees.
Unfortunately, it turns out if you don’t have a canoe, there’s not much else to do, as there’s no real biking to be had, and trails are minimal (most of them are for portaging between lakes). Undeterred, we went off on the Osprey Trail, so named because it was lovingly built by a pair of kindly old ospreys.
This one km interpretive trail has signs highlighting the flora and fauna and fish of the area as it skirts near to the lake and then back up to the campground.
This is when the bad thing happened. A thing called mosquito. I have talked—nay, complained—about the mosquitoes at length, but all of that was, as they say, penny ante stuff. Here, by the lake, the mosquitoes are the main indigenous form of life. They are legion. They are hungry. And we had no Off!
I wore my jeans and jacket, so escaped largely unscathed, but Jeff, in shorts and t-shirt, got his exposed flesh turned into a mosquito pincushion. We left the trail and headed back through the camp to the truck, where we would divert to take the one accessible portage trail, miming a canoe being carried over our heads. Jeff went to use an outhouse and I bent over to tie my left shoe. As I did this—holding myself in place for a few moments—I was swarmed with mosquitoes and got three bites between my two hands in the time it took to tie the lace. I’m just glad I don’t have more hands, really.
This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I uttered colorful metaphors, both at the mosquitoes, and more generally to anyone in hearing range. When Jeff came along I told him that this felt less like vacation and more like punishment and that my idea of fun did not include clouds of mosquitoes attacking me.
Jeff was not happy, though I made it clear I only wanted to leave the lake, not the entire area. Nonetheless, we later agreed that we would pull up stakes a few nights early and leave the Barkerville area tomorrow morning, heading south to stay a day or two in some yet undetermined but warmer and likely sunnier location. Jeff’s tan has faded from very brown to merely brown while we’ve been here, so he has some catching up to do. My tan is more subtle this year. So subtle it’s not even a farmer’s tan.
Also we ate the last of the fudge today, so there really is no point in staying.
We’ll have a last campfire tonight (it’s not raining as I write this at 3:30 p.m.), but that could change or be cut short, as it’s gotten wetter the longer we’ve been here. Maybe we’ll just have the fire in the rain, anyway, to show Mother Nature who’s boss.
In all, Barkerville and area has been an interesting and colorful experience, and if I had a robot body made of steel I would probably have enjoyed it even more. Still, we saw the town, got some hiking in and some good cycling, too. On a scale of 1 to 10 Happy Sasquatches, I rate this part of our trip 7 Happy Sasquatches.
UPDATE We had a campfire! In fact the sky totally cleared and it was sunny for the rest of the day, as if to mock us.
We made S’mores again and I lit one of my marshmallows on fire, as tradition dictates. After we ate them I heard a loud crack similar to the report of a gun on a TV show. In other words, not a real gun. And then I found out what a bear banger is. No, it’s nothing naughty, it’s a .22 caliber projectile that creates a big BOOF—the technical term as used by Jeff—and a spark of light. It’s used to alert others to a bear in the area. One was fired nearby and all the kids that had been playing down the road ran back to camp and made a lot of noise, presumably to scare the bear off. It almost scared me off.
Jeff tamped down the fire and we headed inside around 9:30 p.m., which is like midnight camping time. It was a nice way to end the day.
I was happy to pay extra to get electrical for our campsite because it allows us to leave all the lights on and waste energy, just like at home. Not that we actually do that, mind you, but we could, if we wanted.
But for all the luxuries we have in this modern recreational vehicle, I don’t think in a thousand years I would ever get used to the shower. It’s like having a shower in a two-thirds demonstration unit of a real shower. It’s like having a shower in a shoe box. What I’m saying is it’s small. But the water is nice and warm and I get to improve my dexterity by washing myself without banging body parts into the walls, so it’s not all bad.
Today was the second time we did not end the day with a campfire. It was not because it was too scary to sit around telling each other ghost stories. (It was too wet.)
Unrelated, Jeff has floated the idea of a vacation in Hawaii next year because it has no rain or insects. I’m not really sure on either of those things. Also it has active volcanoes. But it would probably be warmer. Especially in the active volcanoes.
We had a wee bit of a sleep in today, getting up around 9:30 or so and our plan for the day was to bike up to Wendle Lake and have a late lunch by the shore. We gathered our food, rain gear (just in case) and donned our backpacks after Jeff adjusted mine. Mine was hanging in a low back-killing position because everything I know about proper backpack usage could fit into a backpack with room for everything else.
Jeff is all smiles, as always.
I asked him to take a picture of me. There is a faint hint of a smile on my face. You may have to zoom in to see it. But I was having fun, honest! I apparently spend most of my time with a weirdly intense look on my face.
We headed off around 11:30. The directions to get there were on a photocopied sheet that looks like it came off a mimeograph machine from 1978. I quote:
Bowron Lake Road to Wendle Lake Provincial Park – 1 mile (1.6 km)
Approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) out the Bowron Lake Road, an unmarked turnoff to the left leads to Wendle Lake. You may drive up this road in the summer months, but it may not be passable to cars in May or June depending on the snowfall and weather. This lake area is a beautiful example of the sub-alpine terrain in this area. There is good fishing, and wildlife may often be seen.
Most of this is not true. We saw an unmarked road on the left about two km earlier than the directions and thought that couldn’t be it, it was way too early and even a drunken recollection of the location wouldn’t be that far off. We continued on the road to Bowron Lakes, which is a well-maintained gravel road. The speed limit is actually 80 km/hm which is kind of scary (and which people definitely hit, based on direct observation).
As we began an ascent up one of several long uphill stretches, Jeff fell behind and I looked back in time to see a car stopping so the driver could chat with him. I wondered if something was wrong, like maybe Jeff had broken a chain, ruptured a spleen or decided he’d rather be sipping margaritas in Hawaii. As it turned out, the driver was warning him of a bear about 500 m to a kilometer ahead—which is about where I was, very much by myself.
Jeff called out for me to wait, so I obligingly waited, then found out about THE BEAR. We rode side-by-side and talked loudly about various banal subjects, because this is known to keep bears away. As well as everyone else.
We did not see the bear.
We continued on, eventually covering 9 km, well past where the turnoff should be. I decided the person writing the directions was very drunk. But I got my a cycling award on my activity app for the most calories burned in a workout—329. I felt every one of those calories go.
As we pedaled on I heard a loud crack up and to the left. I informed Jeff I heard a noise and knew exactly what it was. A BEAR. Maybe even the same bear, being sneaky. Well, not entirely sneaky, since I heard it.
Jeff was slightly behind at this point and confirmed a black bear had punched a tree to shake loose the grubs within it. Grubs is good eating. And bears totally punch trees, I’m sure I’ve seen it on the Discovery Channel.
I looked back, not in panic, but because I wanted to see the bear doing its thing, eating stuff I would never eat, not even if I was on one of those survival shows (I’d smuggle in cans of beans), but I did not see the bear.
I count this as 1.5 bear sightings.
When we got back to the first (and only) unmarked road, we turned in and found a very large puddle, possibly bottomless. Jeff volunteered to go first, to see if he would sink and disappear forever. It turned out to not be very deep. Here is photographic evidence.
The trail, which was described as being 1.6 km, was more like 0.68 km. I am not complaining about the accuracy in this case. Also the idea of someone driving the family sedan along this very lumpy, narrow, steep, hole-filled “road” is enough to make any car mechanic see proverbial dollar signs. We actually dismounted from the bikes to push them up the last stretch. I didn’t feel guilty.
Once there Wendle Lake proved to be very scenic, though a lot of the trees surrounding the lake are dead. So, very scenic apart from the dozens and dozens of dead trees standing like the remnants of a post-apocalyptic world.
Also, some previous visitors did not follow the “pack in it, pack it out” note on the official park sign, leaving their beer cans and lighter in the fire ring.
And, of course, someone left a sock.
We ate our lunch, enjoyed a bit of sunshine, took in that whole nature thing, then got out of there in case the sky opened up. Also, there are only so many things you can do at a lake you don’t intend to swim in, fish from or water ski on.
The weather was not bad. A few times it felt a bit warm, a few times it felt a bit cold—it started to rain a little, and the wind whipped up in that way it likes to in the mountains—but overall it was fine for biking.
On the way back we stopped to take a photo of wildflowers growing along the edge of the road, at Jeff’s suggestion. This is one of my better flower shots, I think.
When we returned to camp we had a well-earned afternoon nap. We rode about 20 km, all of it uphill. Both ways.
Dinner was BBQ chicken and was delicious as always. Obligatory “I would post this on Instagram” shot of food:
As we bunk down for the night it is raining again. In some ways it feels a bit like Vancouver. But with more bears. This isn’t a complaint per se, just an observation.
Before heading out a Blue Jay came by the camp to visit. No, not a baseball player, the bird. It alighted on one of the awning struts and I managed to grab a shot of it by gently opening the slot on the screen door that lets you access the handle and aiming through it.
Today was catch-up day at Barkerville and our donation got us a generous three more days, though we’ll likely only use the passes for today (Friday). We chose to make like the pioneers and walked into town, specifically taking the Lowhee Trail that starts here at the campground and meets up with the cemetery trail that leads down into Barkerville proper.
It was a little tricksy at times, but mostly just a typical root-covered and not-entirely maintained trail. At least we didn’t develop rickets or scurvy along the way.
We then followed the more sedate cemetery trail the rest of the way into town, then ascended to the view trail along the hillside that extends to the Chinatown area. This 650 m trail was also rather tricksy, but offered a unique perspective on the town.
Without delay, we kept going the 1.6 km to the former location of the town of Richfield, where the oldest courthouse in B.C. stands to this day. A pair of young actors that made me fondly recall the acting days of my early 20s, put in an enthusiastic performances, taking on the roles of judge, prosecutor, accused and a German hurdy gurdy girl. The 14 of us in the audience served as jury and with one exception, found James Barrie guilty of murdering his traveling companion of Charles Blessing for his precious loot, which he then spent in an unsubtle manner in nearby towns, sealing his ultimate doom. He was one of two men to be convicted of murder and subsequently hanged at Richfield.
Along the road we encountered numerous signs of claims more than a hundred and fifty years old, ranging from huge neatly piled stacks of rock on the hillsides, to collapsed remnants of old tunnels. One especially steep path (?) led down to a shed that was likely padlocked with a KEEP OUT sign on it and Jeff very badly wanted to check it out. I had visions of him catching a foot on a root and tumbling down the rest of the way, breaking one to fifty bones and told him no, he could not go. He took a picture from the roadside instead.
Ironically, this was (as the plaque notes) the same place Jenny Allen broke her neck, by being pulled over with a carriage when a horse got spooked in 1870.
We also checked out the Richfield and Chinese cemetery, located about a km further up from the courthouse. Had it not been for the fence and memorial stone at the entrance, this would not have been recognizable as a cemetery, as it is completely overgrown. A few small remnants remain and recently it was found that two bodies may still be buried here (the cemetery was a holding station for bones that would get shipped back for burial in China), so it’s also now an archaeological site of sorts.
We attempted the 600 m trail that connects back to the courthouse, but it was more than a little tricksy, with twisty turns and lots of mud. I managed to cake my entire right shoe with mud by placing the foot squarely into a large patch of the stuff, to avoid something worse, like tumbling down the hillside. We gave up about 50 m or so in.
Below are a few more shots of things along the road to Richfield.
And a few pictures of some of the wildflowers.
We came back to Barkerville and made one more trip to the confectionery for still more fudge, this time banana cream and chocolate orange. Mmm, fudge. I am pretty sure I will never spend this much money on fudge again. I do not regret it.
At the souvenir shop Jeff picked out a mug as a memento, and it comes with handy bear facts. I got an orange hoodie (I wanted purple but normal sizes were sold out) and it’s bright enough for planes to navigate by at night.
We walked back to the campsite, arriving shortly after 4 p.m., having put in about 14 km of walking for the day. Hot dogs were on for lunch and then a nap afterward so we would have energy for the fire and fighting off mosquitoes later.
Around 5:30, as we snuggled in for a nap, a thunderstorm rolled through, almost as if on schedule. As of 8:30 it seems to be less rolling through than staying put, with quite regular thunder, lightning and enough rain that the fire danger level will probably be raised from LOW to MODERATE sometime in 2020.
But it was Taco Friday and we had tacos and stayed in the trailer where it was warm and dry. Well, Jeff had to get water from across the path so we could have showers and wash the dubiously effective Off!, well, off, so he got a tiny bit drenched. But he wore his Goretex Outdoor Research hat, so it was all good.
I wonder how many of the other campers here didn’t do research ahead of time and assumed early July = constant sunshine and warm weather. Also it’s apparently still 19ºC in 100 Mile House, as that was the last location I had the weather on my watch set to, so I always know what the weather is like in basically another region of the province. (It is 11 here, which, hey, it’s still double digits. That’s actually warmer than it was at Manning Park last summer at night.)
UPDATE: The rain stopped after about three hours, hooray.
Because the WiFi automatically connects when we’re in Barkerville, all of the usual emails and notifications come sluicing in on my phone unbidden (that’s a mining joke, see?) and I happened to notice a message from Nic asking if I would be free for a movie tomorrow. As I am about 700 km north of the movie theater, I would not be able to make it. Jeff kindly agreed to go back to the parking lot at Barkerville this evening, where we sat in the nice warm truck so I could connect to the WiFi, tell Nic I would be unable to attend, and also clear out some of my 79 emails. Once I culled all the newsletters/deals, I was left with 18 “real” messages. I did not read them, because while I may like keeping a handle on things even on vacation, there are limits.
The day started with me sleeping in a tad—it’s that fresh mountain air, I swear, but we skipped an in-trailer breakfast and made it to the first presentation at 9:30 a.m. where yet another performer briefly choked after ingesting cottonwood seeds. I think this may be listed as an occupational hazard for anyone who works in Barkerville.
The weather was once again quite nice early on, with temperatures rising into the 20s and feeling downright warm at times. Fifteen minutes later we were donning jackets. This is perfectly normal. Overall it was a nicer day, with no showers as I write this entry at 7 p.m. If it takes me longer than 15 minutes to finish this, it could be pouring.
After the first presentation we had some breakfast wraps at a local eatery, which were sufficiently yummy. I had tea, Jeff had coffee and when Jeff finished his coffee he was asked if he wanted a refill. He said yes. When I finished my tea, I didn’t even have to ask, I got a refill pronto—of coffee. This didn’t go to waste, though Jeff did spend the rest of the afternoon peeing.
At noon we went on a guided tour of the Chinatown area of Barkerville and to the tour’s credit, there was no attempt to minimize the racism and general inequality accorded the Chinese citizens. The tour guide also choked on cottonwood, as expected.
The intermingling of two very different cultures was for me the highlight of the day, and the story of the Chinese is ongoing as current archaeology projects are unearthing terraces that were used for growing vegetables. The terraces were built into the hillside of Chinatown, helping to shelter the gardens and extending the brief growing season.
We had time after this and before a tour of the cemetery to do a little freestyle touring, so we checked out a trail with some vantage points, as shown below.
We returned to Chinatown where Jeff grabbed a snazzy-looking anklet. I grabbed a Coke at the confectionery. It required a bottle opener to open. How quaint. Fortunately the cooler had one built-in. I haven’t seen such a cooler since the 1970s. I think this one actually was from the 70s. Groovy.
The cemetery tour took us along a path outside of the town, along the hillside and past the former location of the only local hospital (primarily located in its seemingly odd location because it handled a lot of typhoid patients). The hospital burned down, of course. Twice. The closest hospital now is in Quesnel, about 80 km away.
The cemetery is a mix of new and old. The old part is only maintained by those family members who choose to maintain their sites. Considering the remote location, that doesn’t happen very often. The more famous markers have been recreated. Several graves have giant trees growing out of them, due to the abundance of water and, as the guide put it, “available nutrients.” This was the only guide that did not get attacked by cottonwood, probably because we were out of town.
The tour ran late and the court session at 3 p.m. was located in Richfield, located 1.6 km out of the other end of Barkerville. Without teleportation there was no way we were going to get there in time, so we’re going back tomorrow to see the court session and, of course, get more fudge.
We also got more fudge today because I have a rule that every time we go to Barkerville we must get fudge. It is a delicious rule, though not kind to the waistline.
We addressed this, in part, by riding our bikes later. We did a circuit of the campground to see how long the loop was (1.34 km), then toured the other two campgrounds of Forest Rose and Government Hill, had a brief peek at the road to Bowron Lake—a future destination—then watched a plane take off from the Bowron Lake Airport. Bowron Lake Airport is a strip of pavement in a small field. I shot video of the plane taking off but cut it short as standing still is the signal for mosquitoes to devour you alive.
We came back for a dinner of BBQ pork chops and corn on the cob. Yum.
Our neighbors with the dog and remote control truck are gone tonight, but have been replaced by new neighbors with another dog. We have yet to hear a new remote control truck.
I skipped the Off! today and got a few more bites, so it’s pretty much a wash with or without repellent. Such is the life of an indescribably tasty mosquito meal.
UPDATE: After turning in around 10 p.m. we heard the pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the trailer. This turned into incessant pounding rain, with flashes of lightning lighting up the interior of the trailer while thunder rumbled across the valley. It was impressive, made even better by us already being tucked in for the evening, just the way I like it.
Lacking head-to-toe netting, I instead started out the day by having Jeff blast all exposed skin with Off!, save for my face. Normally you might expect this is where I tell you about all the bites I got on my face, but no, I did not get any additional face bites.
I did, however, get new bites near my right elbow and one on the back of my neck, thus proving the Off! to be more On! when it came to repelling insects. In its defense, I could have bitten many more times without being sprayed first. Also, I never re-applied the Off! Basically it was all my fault.
But enough about bugs. Today was our first full day in Barkerville and we more or less winged it, starting off by walking up the Main Street before taking part in a 70 minute walking tour of the city that ends near the Chinatown area (there’s a separate tour for that which we’ll check out tomorrow).
The guide was a woman in character as a local from 1863, though the fourth wall was broken liberally in order to offer comparisons on Barkerville then vs. now. Some of the interesting tidbits:
The inevitable great fire that destroyed the town in 1868 has no definitive source, but it’s rumoured that a scuffle between a would-be assaulter and a dancing girl in the back of a saloon resulted in a stovepipe being tipped over, sending sparks up to the canvas ceiling, which immediately caught fire. The tinder-dry roof burst into flame, sending embers across the narrow street, instantly putting the blaze on both sides of the main drag. In less than two hours all but a few buildings in the town burned to the ground.
The fire gave the boomtown a chance to impose some order on the reconstruction. The main drag was made twice as wide, buildings had space between them to prevent easy spread of fire, and, of course, they started an official fire brigade.
Said fire brigade was in the first floor of a building that also housed the new theatre. The ground floor flooded and was cut away, reducing the building to a single floor and today the Theater Royal stands alone.
Flooding was due to the hills around the town being stripped of trees, leading to mine tailings, soil and everything else sliding down the hills, clogging the streets and leading to the river overflowing. This led to the other major change in the town’s reconstruction. Most buildings and the boardwalks are raised above ground level, allowing flood waters to pass beneath. This has worked well, even as the ground the town is built on continues to sink. Apparently you need to dig about 50 feet down near the entrance of the town to find the ashes from the fire of 1868.
Barkerville had a second gold rush in 1930, which I did not know.
The weather was quite nice at the start of the tour, sunny and warm enough that I could feel the burn starting on my arms. The weather in this area is fickle, though, so while I first regretted bringing my hoodie, I was wearing it by mid-afternoon when a brief shower swept through. Overall it was fine for touring the town and preferable to 30 Celsius, like they’re getting out east currently.
We also checked out a couple of shows covering operation of water wheels and other mining technology, both handled by a pair of very funny performers. I did not get pictures of these shows because I was spending my time either watching the show or swatting away the giant bee-like insects that interpret Off! as On!
I did get a couple of pictures of the Main Street, looking to the west (with our tour guide on the boardwalk) and looking east, back toward one of the churches near the entrance.
There is a stage coach ride that circles the town, which we declined to take part in, but the street had regular deposits left by its horse-powered engines. I did not take any pictures of this.
This shot is from the second floor of one of the buildings in Chinatown. I thought it would look more dramatic, but in hindsight, two floors isn’t much more than you’d seen someone fall in a saloon fight.
At several points during the day the amount of cottonwood seeds in the air resembled a snowstorm, something our first tour guide noted. Several of them, including the one hosting the tale of Billy Barker, ingested and briefly choked on the things. It was kind of weird.
We had a midday snack in a local bakery—there are multiple functioning businesses in the town, mostly selling food, but also offering clothing and other goods—and the turnovers we had were flaky, buttery and yummy. We spent the rest of the afternoon working them off.
We ended the day at Barkerville around 3:30 p.m. by stopping at another bakery, this time for some fudge, because fudge is the best thing ever. I got double chocolate and it came in an adorably small brown paper bag. I ate it and it was the best thing ever. The fudge, not the bag.
We wrapped up in the gift shop, looking over the supply of gifts both practical and gaudy, but held off making any purchases until tomorrow.
Tomorrow we have four tours we’re going to check out, covering early justice, the cemetery, Chinatown and more. Then we buy tacky gifts.
UPDATE: After returning from Barkerville, Jeff had an idea. His idea was to have a nap, so he did.
After the nap we had another meal worthy of home cooking. Jeff asked for a picture, so here it is in full three-dimensional color:
We spent the evening in mellow mode, doing a casual circuit around the campsite, checking out the sunset (not very spectacular tonight) and of course, there was a fire. The god rays in this shot were not created in post-processing. These are genuine unsimulated effects, generated by a lot of smoke before we had a lot of fire.
And then we had fire.
And then we had hot chocolate and turned in for the night.
Mosquito bite update: One new bite near the base of my right thumb and some others, but there are so many now I’ve lost track of it.
Day 3 – Tuesday, July 3, 2018 Lac La Hache, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Barkerville
We left Lac La Lache early in the morning and I counted a few more mosquito bites. By the end of the day I had bites on the following areas of my body:
Conclusion: Mosquitoes have seen too many Dracula movies. Also, mosquitoes suck. That is both a joke and a statement of fact.
Barkerville was our destination today and we planned on doing it in two stages, with stops at Williams Lake and Quesnel along the way.
We stopped at Williams Lake to buy a few more groceries, filling out that “inevitably forgot something” list. Sadly they were sold out of those clip-on mosquito repellent things. I suspect it would have worked in reverse on me, anyway, but it would have been nice to have at least tried it out.
After that we had a quick break at a “rest area” (really, just a place to pull over) where I took yet another shot of the dandelions that grow by the millions along the highways.
Our next destination was Quesnel, but we only stopped to get gas from a station that had full service. I didn’t even know those still existed. One day all gas will be pumped by Amazon drones that magically descend from the sky to your moving vehicle. The guy who filled the tank smiled. The weather was pleasant and in the high teens, so maybe he was happy about that.
From there we ventured off Highway 97 and onto the winding Highway 26 to our last destination, Barkerville (technically the Lowhee Campground, but it’s only 2 km away from the town).
It started to shower and Jeff got to test his now newly-installed wiper blades. They worked very well. The temperature fell from 22 to 15. The showers stopped as we got to the campground, only to find we had power but no water. This did not please Jeff. Options were considered. Brows were furrowed. We took the stop and set up camp after realizing that exactly one camping spot out of 87 had both power and water. Not surprisingly, it was unavailable.
We consoled the loss of water with hot dogs for lunch. Also, the public washrooms are conveniently across the road from us, in case we feel like flushing someone else’s toilet.
The weather continued to be a mixed bag, but slowly improved, with the sky clearing and the sun coming out.
The sunset was very dramatic and very pretty. The colors in the photo below don’t do it justice, nor does it illustrate how rapidly the colors went from vivid red/orange to gray.
Here’s an earlier shot of the sunset, with people in the distance walking the campground loop:
And our first official campfire of the trip. Hooray!
The fire danger level here is actually Low, which means the chance of a fire ban coming into effect while we’re here is basically zero.
To feed the fire, we followed a Forest Service access road and chopped up some legal deadfall. Well, Jeff chopped, I loaded the truck, as I am not to be trusted with a chainsaw.
Before dinner we road our bikes along the 2 km path to the Barkerville Reception Center. And yes, it was uphill all way—literally. It was much faster coming back. We paid for the campsite, two days of Barkervilling and had hamburgers for dinner. Yes, hot dogs and hamburgers on the same day. How can you tell we’re camping?
We did a few more walks around the campsite, had s’mores around the fire for dessert (of course), then retired for the evening at the ungodly hour of…10:45 p.m. I was hoping to see the sky filled with billions of stars by this time but it was still too bright. If I went back out I’d probably just add to my bite collection, anyway.
Tomorrow we go to see Barkerville. I will be wearing head-to-toe netting.
Day 2 – Monday, July 2, 2018 Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, Lac La Hache
Today was another day of travel, our destination the provincial park campsite at Lac La Hache, north of 100 Mile House.
We left the frigid climate of Kamloops just past 10 a.m. after a yummy breakfast of eggs and toast. Yes, I have this every single day. It’s still yummy.
The weather continued to be unsettled, with cloudy skies and temperatures struggling to reach into the double digits.
We stopped to rest at the Big Bar REST AREA at the Bonaparte Plateau.
We did indeed help keep it clean.
Our next major destination was Cache Creek, where we stopped for gas. Since that’s all we did and one PetroCan station doesn’t look dramatically different than any other, I have no pictures. But here it is on Google Maps:
After that we arrived at 70 Mile House (about 262 km north of Vancouver if you could ignore all roads) and got propane. Here’s a shot of both the 70 Mile General Store (we bought a barbecue starter for $2.49) and Jeff getting propane.
And some flowers next to the highway with a handsome red 18-wheeler roaring by.
After this the weather took a turn for the wet, with the rain coming down hard enough at times that Jeff kind of regretted not putting on the new windshield wipers he bought in Kamloops.
We arrived at Lac La Hache around 2:30 p.m. and the campsite was virtually deserted, as most people were heading back from the holiday weekend while we were crazily doing the opposite. With the camper and trailer parked in stall 46, we settled in for evening, eschewing fires and barbecues because we’d be skipping out early in the a.m.
Here is Jeff going his best, “What , me worry?” look regarding the rain.
It let up shortly after we got to the camp, so we went for walking through what turned out to be a semi-abandoned trail adjacent to the campsite. This is when the mosquitoes descended to feast upon me and lo, they had a rich harvest. Keep in mind that due to the weather, I was wearing jeans, a hoodie, had the hood up and my hands shoved into the pockets. The only exposed flesh was my face and neck. Surely I would notice a parasite sucking the blood from my peripheral vision.
I did not.
I got four bites: one on my forehead, one on my cheek, one on my upper lip and one on my neck. The Calamine lotion in the trailer became my new best friend. Jeff claimed he escaped getting bitten because he “tastes bitter” to which I say, “Pfft!” and yet I admit it is a mystery. Maybe they can sense fear or something and home in on it.
I killed one in the trailer tonight using a box of Alleve, and it did in fact make me feel better. Thanks, Alleve.
With the weather no longer seeming so much like December, we ventured over to the lake itself for one of those “take in nature (and pray you don’t get devoured by mosquitoes)” walks.
This is the scary-looking culvert you go through to pass under the highway to get to the lake. I resisted the urge to start honking like a car horn—but only just barely.
The lake is very nice and filled with lots of water, just as you’d expect. Across the way was a strange and very tall tree which turned out to be a cell tower and is probably the reason we can check Facebook tonight instead of living like complete savages. I call this picture Our Lord and Savior.
Pretty pink flowers at the lake:
The day picnic and boat launch area discourages several varieties of fun. I’m guessing this sign is so big after a couple of boats collided, sending Kokanee everywhere.
In the parking lot was, of course, a van painted in homage to Woody Guthrie (available for rent).
We returned to the campsite, had a traditional home style dinner of chicken and veggies, then walked back to the lake because the sun came out, reminding us that is was actually summer. The Woody Guthrie van was gone. But in its place we saw frolicking marmots.
Finally, we settled in for the evening, with the temperature now 12ºC, downright balmy compared to earlier.