Monday, September 23, 2013

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway

It's called McCulloch's Wonder. A railway engineering marvel that took nearly 20 years to build. It traverses incredible canyons, mountains & rivers, winding its way through some of the most breathtaking vistas and views on the planet.

In 1910 Andrew McCulloch was hired as the Chief Engineer of the Kettle Valley Railway. It would be the project that would forever define his career. He was an avid reader of Shakespeare and to this day you can still see that influence... Juliet Creek, Othello Tunnels, Iago Mountain. They all are names inspired by this passionate man. After the KVR opened, it was a main route for moving goods from the interior of the province to the coast and the railway thrived for many years. But then declining demands for moving ore, fruit from the Okanagan and other goods forced the inevitable closure of the line and, sadly, the last section of the railway was closed in 1990.

But fortunately for us the KVR has been reborn into a remarkable trail for hikers, walkers, cyclists and explorers. Tens of thousands of tourists, from all over the world, come to experience the wonder of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. And since this 'wonder' is basically in our back yard we thought it was about time we did too. Together with four of my wonderful friends we started to plan our first biking/geocaching trip.

The KVR is approximately 600 km long so obviously we weren't going to tackle it in just one trip! The most
popular section of the trail is the Myra Canyon route but we decided to save that for another time. On this trip we decided to visit Tulameen.

Tulameen? Where is that you say? Well let me tell you that Tulameen, British Columbia is one of my favourite places in BC. It is a quiet little "cabin town" just north of Princeton and about 3 hours from Vancouver. Once upon a time this land was the hopeful destination for thousands of gold miners, searching for their fortune. Today the air is heavy with the echoes of their past. Ghost towns like Granite Creek and Blakeburn are waiting to be rediscovered and lovely little Coalmont lingers on still. If you're a history lover, there is no better place to explore in BC than Tulameen.

We rented a gorgeous little house right in Tulameen called The Front Porch. This adorable little cottage went way beyond our expectations. It was clean & well stocked, beautifully decorated and just a few metres away from the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. If you're planning a visit to this area we highly recommend the Front Porch as your home base.

On our first day, after a hardy breakfast, we got on our bikes and got started biking up the KVR. There are about 70 geocaches between Tulameen and Brookmere. We cycled along beautiful Otter Lake, water on one side and mountain on the other. It was just breathtaking. Most of the caches along the KVR series are pretty easy finds. They aren't meant to be difficult, they are meant to get you out there. And we were sure loving being out there.

Signing the logbook

We were starting to think, well this is nice. Nice bike ride, nice easy caches and then we came to SITC#5 Thank You Kris and Jordy - GC2ZEJD. Once we read the cache page we knew that one of us would be "up a tree" - literally. At this point I have to digress a bit and explain that we are a group of "mature" women. Now we don't consider
ourselves old, in fact we act like teenagers most of the time, but the reality is that 3 of us are already grandmothers! Tree climbing isn't something we do very often any more. But you know, there is something to be said for pushing your boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. After a lot of encouragement from my fellow cachers I was the one who made the climb. I haven't been that excited to sign a logbook for a long time!
The next day we took our bikes to Princeton and then biked the KVR from Princeton to as far as the HooDoos cache. This gorgeous section of the KVR includes one of the many tunnels along the trail. This tunnel travels underneath the Hope-Princeton highway and is about 300 metres long. At first we thought, "piece of cake!" but then, when we got about half way through, we were very happy that we brought our flashlights along! It was so dark we couldn't even see the bikes we were sitting on! After the tunnel we crossed the Tulameen River and rode along some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Our main goal today was to reach an earthcache called "The Red Wall" and we were so glad we did. This unique and historically significant site is not to be missed. Wow.

Before we knew it our first biking adventure was over. Fortunately we had no mishaps or flat tires.... just some aching, under-used muscles and some sore backsides! And it was all worth it...we collected a lot more "smileys" to log, spent time with dear friends and gained a hundred more memories to cherish.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Caching in the Nahatlatch Valley

signing the logbook
 OK... I have to admit, I've always been jealous of cachers whose significant other is also into caching but today was my birthday and Tony, my husband, knows that this is the one day I will say... "I want to go geocaching all day with you and I don't want to hear any complaining." He gives me a major sigh and then goes out to pack the truck.
love our truck
Fortunately for me, he's totally at home in the woods, he loves exploring logging roads and he also owns a great big Ford F250 4x4. When I need to get up to the top of a mountain, he is my hero.

So today, on my birthday, we decided to head up to Boston Bar. The plan? Getting up to the Nahatlatch Forestry Lookout Tower and grab all the geocaches along the way.

See the tower?
We left Aldergrove at about 8am and were in Boston Bar by 10. Crossing the bridge into North Bend, we turned onto Chaumox Road and soon arrived at our first cache of the day...NV Series - The Fairy Ring Field (GC3PQQH). The NV Series (NV is short for Nahatlatch Valley) is an awesome bunch of caches put out by the Hannilake-Harrisons. I was very impressed with each cache we found in this series... the hides were inventive & creative, they were clean and filled with interesting swag and they were all hidden at safe pullouts along the road. One hide (GC3PRX7) was especially well done but that's all I'm saying! You just have to see that one for yourself!! Then, surprise, surprise I even got a FTF! (GC4E5JE) How cool is it to be first to find on your birthday? Only a true geocacher can appreciate how special that was for me.

Amazing view from the top!
So it was all smooth sailing, finding cache after cache, until we tried to find the road up to the forestry lookout. We had read some previous logs that mentioned that the road up had been a bit hard to find but we thought "we have our mapbook... we'll be fine." NOT. Turns out that the BC Backroads Mapbook is not quite accurate in this area and we ended up taking the wrong road for a while. DO NOT take the road to Keefers... take the road to "Wilderness Ranch" and you'll be good. In hindsight I should have printed the satellite map from which would have been very helpful at the time.

Tony and the tower
Once we found the right road I was so excited and I was also very glad I wasn't driving! This is definitely a 4x4ers dream road and takes some skill to navigate. There are some serious hairpin turns, some major boulders to navigate around and quite a bit of deadfall after the tower. If you have a big truck we would recommend that you park at the tower and then walk to the last three caches in the series. We just made it through the deadfall with only inches to spare. There is nowhere to turn around at the last cache so you will have to back up for quite a while unless you continue forward about another 800 metres down the road. We found a grassy spot there that was big enough for our truck.

The Nahatlatch Forest Fire Lookout was rebuilt by the Four Wheel Drive Association, SWATT, some geocachers and BC Rec Sites & Trails. What a project to undertake! Wow.
The "Rebuild" geocaching series was created by Trixnbun in honour of the rebuilding of the Lookout Tower and the entire series is such a great tribute. The hides are not difficult and I love that the hints are good so that there is no unnecessary wear & tear on the environment. Every once in a while we'd get a glimpse of the view of the Fraser Canyon and it would just take our breath away. Finally we arrived at the lookout and we were so excited to see the brand new rebuilt tower. The view from this spot is truly amazing. I'm sorry to say the pictures just don't do it justice. You have to see it in real life. Spectacular.

Making lunch inside the tower
After a great lunch (with birthday cake of course) inside the tower we finally decided it was time to head back home. 26 caches later we are a lot more tired, a little more bruised and I was, apparently, another year older!

And it was SO worth it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Sunshine Coast - Our Journey to Texada Island

Around the beginning of December we start to dream... of green forests and quiet beaches, ocean views and no traffic. We dream of our next trip to Texada Island.

Travelling to Texada Island requires a trip up the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. This road trip is one of my favourites in our province. It involves windy roads, three ferries, great big forests and lots of geocaches! And so much more for the explorer in you.

After getting off the ferry in Langdale we make our way first through Gibsons. Now if you're from Canada you know that Gibsons is home to Molly's Reach of the Beachcomber's TV show that ran from 1972 to 1990. If you have no idea what I'm talking about just click here. It's a Canadian icon and part of our genetic makeup! This great cache (GC137C1) will give you an awesome view of 'the Reach'.

Continuing north we meander through the beautiful little town of Sechelt and then through places with lovely names like Redrooffs Road, Halfmoon Bay and Maderia Park. Just past Maderia Park, to the north, is Mount Daniel. Historically Mount Daniel served as a spot of local aboriginal importance. Young teenage girls were isolated at this spot to assemble rocks in "moon circles" as way of entering puberty. The hike up to to the top of Mount Daniel is about 3km one way. The view is incredible and of course there is a cache there... (GC20PZK). If you have time then make your way up Mount Daniel.

After Mount Daniel we're almost at Egmont and the next ferry to Saltery Bay. But wait... before the ferry, no trip up the Sunshine Coast would be complete without a side trip to the Skookumchuck Narrows. Skookum means 'strong' and chuck means 'water' and that's exactly what you will witness at this incredible display of nature... very strong water. Skookumchuck Narrows forms the entrance of Sechelt Inlet and before broadening into Sechelt Inlet, all of its tidal flow, together with that of Salmon Inlet and Narrows Inlet, must pass through Sechelt Rapids. On a 3 metre tide, 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrows connecting Sechelt and Jervis Inlet. The difference in water levels between one side of the rapids and the other sometimes exceeds 2 metres in height! There are, of course, a few caches in Skookumchuck Provincial Park including a very educational earthcache (GCMXRA).

Now it's time for the ferry to Saltery Bay (don't you just love that name too?). This ferry is a little cozy one compared to the ferries that cross to Vancouver Island but we just love it. We grab some soup & crackers in the gift shop and settle down by one of the big windows and just soak in the incredible scenery of Nelson Island and Captain Island. It is just spectacular.

Finally we are on the last leg to Powell River. As the crow flies we've only traveled about 144km but really there is no where in British Columbia where you can travel "as the crow flies!" Going around inlets, skirting mountains and the odd ferry trip makes the trip to this point about 6 to 8 hours long, depending on ferry waits and how many geocaches you stop for!

Powell River is a gorgeous little town with beautiful views of Texada Island, Malaspina Strait and Vancouver Island (waaay in the distance). Originally home to world's largest pulp mill, Powell River has grown into a adventurer's playground. From hiking to beachcombing, from geocaching and everything else in between... Powell River is the destination for outdoor enthusiasts!

We spent the night in the cozy Westview Centre Motel which we love. It's clean, very affordable and minutes away from the ferry to Texada (though their driveway is an experience!) and then, the next morning, we treated ourselves to an awesome breakfast at the Marine Inn. There is nothing like a cup of tea, delicious eggs benedict and a view of the ocean all rolled into one!

Finally it's time to take the last ferry to "our island." Yes, we have to admit that Texada Island has become our island. It feels like coming home. We drive up to our 'Retreat' and the weights and worries of reality slip away. We are here once again and it has been worth every mile to get here.

If you'd like more information on exploring Texada Island, check out some of our previous posts.