Monday, October 6, 2008

One Van, Two GPSs and Six Women

What happens when you put six geo-caching friends together in one van? And then drive all the way to Fairmont Hotsprings and back?
A trip I will never forget!

I have never seen so many beautiful places in one week. And, I am sorry to say, it was wonderful travelling without any men! We could stop as many times as we wanted and not hear those travelling excuses that all men love to impart on their women...

"Oh, did you want to stop?"
"But then all those semis I passed will get in front of us!"
"You want to stop again?"
"You just went to the bathroom!"

We love them but, honestly, what are we racing for?

We decided to take the scenic route to the Kootenays, travelling along the Crowsnest Highway. It's curvy but so amazing.... full of history and views that belong on a postcard.
It would be a pretty lengthy blog if I wrote about every day so I'll share just a few of the many highlights.

On the first day we decided to take the Old Hedley Road between Princeton and Hedley. There are a few caches along this road but what I love about this route is the many pictographs you can see along the way. To experience a tangible, touchable piece of history painted there on the rock gives me goosebumps every time. I try to imagine what the artist had to say but I must admit that I love the mystery just as well.

There are over 15 different sites, some that you can see without even getting out of your vehicle. We didn't stop for too many this time but we did make sure to stop for my favourite.... the Drowned Warrior paintings. The four paintings depicted on this cliff wall supposedly tell the story of a young warrior who drowned while canoeing. See....I'm getting goosebumps again.

Close to Greenwood we made sure we stopped to look for a cache called "Look at all Those Flags!" We wondered at this seemingly misplaced tunnel. It wasn't until we got home that we discovered the story behind British Columbia's very own Sphinx.

After an amazing dinner of authentic Ukrainian food and a sleepover in Grand Forks we continued on to Fairmont. We made stops at Christina Lake, Kettle Valley Gorge and of course, the Goat Mountain Soap Company in Yahk.

Fairmont Hotsprings is a wonderful place to have a base camp when you're exploring the Kootenays. Every day one of had our "Princess Day" and got to choose where we would travel to next. From shopping the Bavarian shops in Kimberley to stepping back in time in Fort Steele... every day was a truly unique experience.

If you're a geocacher like us you really have to experience all the earthcaches that are here. Published mostly by locals, who know the area best, they take you to the most amazing places. Once you have stood under a warm waterfall or sat in a real hotspring beside a mountain stream you will be looking for the next nearest earthcache, believe me.

On our last day we decided to do a couple of good hikes. The hoodoos near Fairmont are some of the most incredible examples of geological formations in the province. We decided to hike to the top of them and found the three caches hidden at the top as well. Those finds were well worth it! My pictures don't do justice to the uniqueness of this place, you just have to go see them for yourself. Amazing!

So those are a few of the highlights...
What a wonderful trip this was with my friends. Visiting, caching, eating and making memories.

Memories to last a lifetime!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

27 Years!

Our latest trip was an annual event for us. It was our 27th wedding anniversary and we went on our favourite kind of trip... a DA trip.

Now if you've read my other blog you already know what DA stands for - it means drive aimlessly.

That is a bit of an overstatement... we do have a plan of sorts. But normally we set a particular destination in mind and then we just head in that general direction. Often (and I mean often) the road will have other little roads attached to it... those roads just beg to be explored. There may be a geocache (or two or three) along the way. OK who am I kidding? I plan the entire trip around finding geocaches alright?

Where we sleep the first night is usually a mystery and we love our trusty 4Runner and SUV tent. Best invention!

This trip took us to the area around Barriere and Maclure. After the devastating forest fires there a few years ago we wanted to see what it looked like now. It was pretty amazing to see... I had no idea the fire was so big and that it jumped the river!

We found some pretty cool caches... one called Black Pines Vista that had the most breathtaking view of the North Thompson Valley. As we were travelling up the gravel road to get to this cache Tony kept saying... who is crazy enough to put a geocache here? And I said... "well we're crazy enough to go find it!" If you're ever doing some caching in this area make sure you get this one. The view is worth the bumpy drive.

We travelled all the way up the west side of the North Thompson, crossed over the bridge at Barriere and made our way down the East side of the river. We treated ourselves to a lovely night at the Howard Johnson & dinner out but the best part of our day was the spectacular sunset that we shared from our hotel room patio. Absolutely breathtaking.

The next day we decided to travel west to the #1 and go home through the Fraser Canyon instead of taking the Coq. I love the Coquihalla highway when I'm in a hurry but for spectacular scenery the Canyon is my favourite route.

Of course, before we even hit Cache Creek, we had to take some side trips. Tony haD always wanted to explore the area around Deadman Creek so we took a little detour. Except for spotting a young eagle on the hoodoos it was pretty uneventful. Then as we turned a corner we saw something 'slithering' into the bushes in front of us! It was a very big rattlesnake!! I have only seen one rattlesnake in the wild before this so this close encounter jaggled my nerves just a
bit...especially when Tony decided to try and 'coax' it back out with a stick! crazy man....

After a wonderful lunch at Herbie's in Cache Creek we meandered down the Canyon, finding new caches all along the way. Before we knew it we were crossing the bridge at Agassiz. "Hey!" I said, "That's the beach where we camped the first night of our honeymoon!"

The man I married 27 years ago looked at me and said, "I know... I thought you'd want to see it today so I drove this way just for you."


Monday, June 23, 2008

Geocaching the Hard (but best) Way - the Spirit Caves Trail

Don't get me wrong... I love 'easy to find' geocaching. The "drive-up and grabs" that you can get without barely leaving your vehicle. Those are the type of caches that bring up your numbers and let you log another find when you don't have time to spend all day caching. I have hidden a few of those myself to tell you the truth. But those are hardly the ones we remember, are they?

From the very day I read that there was a cache hidden in the Spirit Caves above Yale, I was intrigued and knew that one day I would have to find that geocache. So many times we had driven through the canyon and had seen that little sign that says "Spirit Caves Trail" but I really didn't have the motivation to go there until now. It's amazing, even to me, that all it took was a little piece of tupperware to get me up there.
My two friends and I finally set a date and looked forward to a hike to remember. We were not disappointed.

The Spirit Caves Trail is a climb. There is no other way to describe it. From the moment we left the road we were going up. I am not a good climber so I sure was glad that my friends were patient enough to wait for me every 15 minutes so I could catch my breath!

The trail went through some gorgeous open forest and zig zagged it's way higher and higher. It took us about 2 hours to make it to the lookout where we grabbed some lunch, enjoyed the breathtaking view of the canyon below and of course, took lots of pictures of Yale and the Fraser River.

After that nice pit stop we went on to the caves which was only about 15 minutes past the lookout. The directions that the cache owner posted in the cache notes were right on and we found the correct cave entrance within a few minutes. After that it was a different story. With flashlight in hand I squeezed my way through the cave entrance. I was just happy that I checked out the cave before I ventured inside. The cave floor right at the entrance was lower than anywhere else in the cave. In order to get inside you had to lower yourself in while stretching your legs over to the ledge across from it. I'm just glad I have long legs! Carol came inside the cave as well (Joan decided she'd brave it outside) but it was soon apparent that she wasn't going to make it out the way she came in. Her legs are a lot shorter than mine.

While I started hunting for the cache Carol started looking for another way out! Now the task was to find the cache. The cave was not too large but still enough crooks and crannies to make the searching interesting. Every time I shone my flashlight in another spot
I was certain this would be the place or a bat would come flying out at me! Finally, in a very dark spot, I noticed a few big rocks that looked a little too perfect to me. WooHoo!! I have never been so happy to say those words... " I found it!"
So 4 hours and 6km later we can claim another find. I know that if we had stayed home and gone caching around the valley we could have found 20 caches in the same time and saved ourselves a lot of time and effort. We wouldn't be sore, tired and filthy but we also wouldn't have made some amazing memories. Now when we drive through Yale I can say, "Did you know I climbed that mountain? There's some amazing caves and a geo-cache up there you know."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Other Day I Saw a Bear

To say that my husband is an outdoorsman is like saying Tiger Woods golfs once in a while.

The man that I married eats, sleeps & thinks about being outside. If he's not out there hunting, fishing, scouting, or hiking he's planning the next time that he will be. Of course when you put in the time, like he does, every once in a while you get the days that you will never forget.

So it is for this reason that Tony has had his fair share of animal encounters. A few weeks before our wedding he managed to crack two ribs escaping from a sow black bear with two cubs. Then there was the black bear that decided to use him as a punching bag. When he arrived home that time he was covered in blood, but still standing! whew... And then once, while deer hunting, he was stalked and attacked by a cougar. He managed to come out of that encounter with barely a scratch. I can't say the same about the cougar!

Usually I am the recepient of these tales after the fact and when he gets home. He has this amazing ability to weave a story as he elaborates on every detail. I can listen to him tell the same ones over and over. But once in a while I get to see it for myself.

We had been camping at Barnes Lake with our friends and were on our way back from a little side trip to Oregon Jack Provincial Park (we went to see the pictographs there). We had just rounded a corner when Tony said, "There's a bear!" I was still processing the word 'bear' while he was making his way up the mountainside with our new camera racing after it. At first it seemed as if the bear would disappear in a hurry. In fact it stood on its hind legs and huffed quite a bit. I take this as not a good sign. Tony takes it as a sign to get closer.

After that it was as if the bear decided to pose for a spread in Outdoor Life. Slowly it meandered to a stump and put his elbows on top of it. "How about this?"

"No? Something softer? A little prettier? These flowers look nice. Let me sit behind them."

We probably stayed and took pictures and watched him for about 1/2 hour while he gave us ample opportunity to take these amazing photographs.

Of course my favourite is the one of my outdoorsman and his 'voguing' bear.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On the Trail with Our Friends

This weekend we went camping with some wonderful friends to Monck Park. This is the 4th year that we've made this annual trip with them.

The first time we went it was to find some pictographs in Hedley and to visit the Mascot Mine. What an awesome weekend that was.
The 2nd time we went to Tunkwa Lake and made quite the climb to see the paintings in the caves of Mount Savona.
Our 3rd trip was to Barnes Lake near Ashcroft. We took a side trip to Oregon Jack Provincial Park to experience the magnificent limestone cliffs and the awesome paintings there. While at the lake the guys enjoyed the fishing while Joan, Carol & I hiked to a geocache overlooking Ashcroft. (I had discovered geocaching about 6 months before this trip.)
So these annual weekends with our friends have become an accumulation of searching for pictographs, fishing the lakes and hiking for geo-caches. As far as I'm concerned it really doesn't get any better than this.
This weekend:
The "Dreaming Shaman" is one of my favourite pictographs in the province. I would love to know what the painter was thinking when he created this one. You really can imagine the dreams in his mind when you see it.

We decided to find a cache called "The Heartland of BC" that was near our campsite. Unfortunately we took the trail beside the lake and ended up increasing our terrain rating from 1 1/2 stars to about 5 stars! In the end it was all good when Werner found the cache under some rocks. The view from this cache site was unbelievable.

That afternoon Joan, Carol and I went and found two more caches close to the town of Merritt. "Segregation" was a unique cache beside a portion of the town cemetery. We didn't understand the name of the cache until we saw the cache site... then it made total sense. What an interesting bit of BC history.

We still had some energy to spare (or so we thought) so it was off on another hike and seek. This time we were looking for a cache called "Music Country." The trail went up and down, and then up and then down! Finally, as we were running out of steam we got to where we knew the cache was hidden. Another gorgeous spot and well worth the effort!

The next day, to our surprise, the guys asked if they could come along caching with us, so off we went again to the west hills of Merritt. After a little bit of confusion with the directions we found "WC." We were treated to yet another amazing view of this cute little town. The last cache of our trip was called "Eagles over the Top" and it sure lived up to it's name. Not too hard to find except for the need to crawl through some barbed wire... it was a wonderful way to end the day.