East from Vancouver

9 May

Tuesday

Overnight it had poured with rain and it was still coming down when we got up for breakfast. As we were not likely to get an internet connection for a few days we set about the task of sourcing some campgrounds, the satellite service was not quick and it took us two hours to come up with the information for three campgrounds, print these off and be ready to go, it was still raining.

Our route was to take us through the Fraser Canyon and the scenery would have been spectacular on a better day, the road is wide and not too twisty so enables the driver to view around too. The mountains towered high above us with snow on their peaks in most places. More than once we spotted water whooshing vertically down the rock face for thirty or forty feet, creeks swollen with the rain and spring melt water gushing into the Fraser River which itself was racing along, in some places the currents spiralled the water to such an extent it was difficult to decide which way the river was actually flowing.

At Lytton the road starts to follow a tributary of the Frazer River; the Thompson River and began to change, not only because of the road works and newly paved (tarmac) surface, but the land around us changed dramatically in character the mountain surfaces becoming less secure and gravely in nature. The rain had now stopped and everywhere was quite dry, a strong wind was blowing up the valley which was disturbing small stones and sandy debris, causing them to roll down the mountain sides and at times bounce over the barriers onto the road. It was quite alarming to look up and observe the narrow pillars of small grade stone topped off with much bigger boulders, left where larger portions had slid downhill.

Just a few miles on was Spences Bridge and Acacia Grove Campground where we intended to spend the night, a pretty campsite with trees in blossom and well tended grassy areas between firm sites. We backed in, levelled up and had a cuppa!

The site overlooks the Thompson River and a short walk down stream took us to a bridge overlooking the water. We called in at the local store but got the wrong door and entered the Café, which for a bit of a backwater I have to say was very smart and presentable with a warm baking smell coming from somewhere in the back. The very friendly lady explained that the store was through a gate outside and around the back, in the other part of the same building. She also indicated that she was sure the lady in there would have onions which were what we were looking for. We duly took the allotted route and entered the shop, stood for a while looking for onions and waiting for someone to appear. I was just about to say perhaps we should go, when from around the screen at the back of the shop came the same lady we had spoken to in the Café…no wonder she was sure there would be onions! We all laughed and I am still not sure if she was playing a game with us or just helping out the ‘real’ assistant.

As the evening wore on the sky cleared to blue and as we sat watching one of our $5 flicks I spotted a large flock of swallows/swifts flying high above the river and campground enjoying the late thermals and probably gathering there supper.

Our stay was unfortunately marred by the large volume of trains which passed by the campground on both sides of the river, there were six in the first hour and this continued through the hours of darkness, each train (and if you know the trains out here they are large, heavy and very noisy) giving four short blast on its horn. We had very little sleep until sometime after four in the morning when they mercifully ceased until around eight am. Not a campground I would recommend for a peaceful night.

Wednesday

From Spences Bridge Highway One travels through the same dry, almost barren landscape north up to Cache Creek and then east out to Kamloops. The Thompson River running in the bottom of the valley with the CPR(Canadian Pacific Railroad) track on one bank and The CN(Canadian National) on the other, the road follows the left river bank(heading east) below scrub covered hillsides. The Lodge Pole Pine beetle infestation which has decimated so much of the natural greenery in BC is even worse now than when we were in this area nearly three years ago, dead and brown trees are littered on the roadside and surrounding hills The arid nature of the landscape is slightly relieved as the Kamloops Lake comes into view; the lake stretches out in a finger towards the city of Kamloops giving a pleasant vista after the dreariness of the previous miles.

The City gives the opportunity for a little Supermarket shopping to top up the fridge. When I say City (this is for my UK followers benefit) please don’t think Newcastle or Birmingham or even Plymouth, think more of a Canadian version of Team Valley or any UK retail park and you will have the general image. There are small town shops and ‘Cities’ (population sometimes only = 4 or greater) with independent retail stores but they are few and far between in the area we have covered.

We had details for a Provincial Park at Paul Lake for a stop over, this was twenty miles from Kamloops and when we arrived almost completely deserted. We had a good choice of site, I was just a little disappointed as I thought we were going to get a view of the lake, however they were all surrounded by woodland. There was a trail down to the lake but as by now we were suffering the after effects of a wakeful night we decided to put the walking off until the next morning before we left.

Thursday

The weather had ideas of its own about us taking our lake walk, we awoke to pouring rain, it had started around three am, I heard it! So after breakfast we very lazily drove to the day parking lot and picnic area to view the lake, which was quite pretty, then drove off, not the walk we intended!

We slowly left the barren landscape and the city behind, Kamloops seems to sprawl on for miles, our good friend the train track was on the left of us for probably around ten miles out of town and there were many trains backed up and waiting to move westwards, we have previously measured (with the odometer) how long some of these trains are and one mile is not unusual, some have an engine at each end, some have two at the front one at the back and a new version we have recently spotted is an engine in the middle of the length of wagons. They are generally pulling containers and tankers, some have had coal, some seem to be carrying grain, today we saw a whole load with Canadian Tire markings (Canadian version of a B&Q/Halfords).

The more picturesque scenery was back with us by the time we were approaching Salmon Arm and we turned off the main road at Sorrento for Blind Bay, hoping to find a spot by the Shuswap Lake for lunch. There were some lovely houses along the lakeside but we found a public beach area with picnic benches and a pull in where we could stop off and enjoy the view.

Our journey continued after lunch and we did think the low cloud was going to lift and brighten the day at one point however it was still hanging in the hills when we finally chose to stop at Ceders RV. Spring has not quite arrived out here and the trees are still only just showing signs of green in many places, the Campground is being readied for the season and the owner/manager greeted us warmly (with his sixteen week old woolly pup, already the size of a small Labrador) we again had plenty of places to choose from and also a map for a trail to the river through the woods.

Not to be outsmarted by the weather, we had a quick cuppa and pulled on boots and coats and headed to the woods! It was a little damp, but not raining, it looked like not much human activity had passed along the route for many a day but plenty of evidence of animals to dodge on the path! En route we passed some tall and rotting old tree stumps and an information board told how the trees had been felled in the 1920’s, grooves cut into the trunks maybe four or five feet above ground level had held planks for the loggers to stand on enabling them to saw through and fell the tree. This meant the trees we were now looking at must be some seventy years old, they had not attained half the girth of the 1920 felled trunks and left us wondering how old those trees would have been. The trail took us to a junction of Yard Creek and Eagle River where we were able to walk on the pebbly shore, Robert was hoping to find gold…. So were many more before him…!

Our good friend the railroad was on the other bank and when we heard a train coming Robert, still strangely fascinated by these noisy pieces of machinery, lifted the camera to take a picture. As it came clearer into view we realised it was the Rocky Mountaineer, the tourist train which travels out from Vancouver on a scenic route eastwards to the Rockies. It has carriages with picture windows and some have glass roofs enabling better view of the scenery on the trip. I waved and what seemed like a hundred hands waved back, like a Mexican wave along the train as people saw us and responded to the gesture, I felt like one of the Railway Children, and as I speak am perhaps being written up in someone’s holiday blog!

As we walked back through the woodland it began to rain and by the time we were back at haRVey we were quite wet, we had however managed our walk.

Friday

Just an hour’s drive brought us to the City of Revelstoke, high mountains surround the valley in which the city lies and today heavy clouds were passing over them and sunshine was warming the valley floor. The city is one of those few which have retained an independent charm, there being a mix of newer properties and what I believe they call here ‘craft homes’ arranged in the usual grid pattern with a central retail area of small shops and none of the larger multiples. Spring has obviously only just begun to creep over the mountains and work to tidy from the winter is evident in many locations. We called at the Chamber of Commerce office for our usual chat and armful of leaflets to enlighten us about the area, also gathering information for the Icefield Parkway which we hope to visit around August time. We drove out towards Williamson Lake to view the campground there, it did not take us long to decide we would stay for the night. A lovely grassy area for parking, a brief glimpse of the lake in front of us and trees all around. Best of all absolutely NO road noise and NO TRAINS, we were sold!

We had some lunch then drove into downtown, parking haRVey and walking across the train tracks to the entrance of the Provincial Park. A walk was indicated on our map up to a historic ski jump. We had no idea what it was all about so decided we should find out. The trail was described as ‘easy’, hmm I must be getting out of shape as the assent proved quite strenuous and the sun much warmer than I had expected. We eventually arrived at the boards which told how between 1916 and 1928 historic world records were set and broken on the ski jump behind us. We puzzled as to exactly where they had jumped from and too, but when we worked it out I felt quite ashamed at having grumbled about walking up a bit of a slope! It was very high! The upper gates of the jump were thought to be too dangerous to be used for the 1931 Empire Games and it is claimed that some competitors were afraid to use them, however, the Canadian champion ignored the instruction to use the lower gates and set a new Empire record of 88m. It seems the Canadians considered him to be a national hero and the bravado comes across in the story they have recorded. When the Trans-Canadian Highway was built through the run off area for the jump, in 1961, it was eventually closed and left for the trees to reclaim the land.

Huge black clouds were fast approaching us from a gap in the mountains to the North West and we hurried back thinking there was to be a storm, we parked up near to the river and watched as the mountains opposite, already snow covered, had a little more added to their icing caps. Fortunately the storm stayed on the other side of the river, it was amazing to watch how the clouds moved through the gap and then along the mountain top heading finally southwards, a great geography lesson.

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