The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Chasing Rainbows: Friday to Wednesday

Sorry folks: not many pictures, but lots of action!


We awoke in the van to a beautiful Selkirks morning, parked down by the Columbia River. Breakfast of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup (what else, eh!) then into town to pick up the Revelstoke Rocks climbing guide. As the climbing store wasn't yet open we cooled our heels with an (excellent) coffee at the Modern Cafe. Proceeded to the climbing shop, bought the guide and made our way to Begbie Bluffs to do some low key sport climbing to work out the kinks of a few days of inactivity.  We did a few easy routes (9, 10a, 10b). The 5.9 was a very nice arete, the 10b was interesting - not hard but a bit puzzling and the 10a was the pick of the lot. Then I foolishly jumped on an 11b one-move wonder - a dyno over an overhang - and failed dismally. (This was probably a delusion rather than a rainbow.)
It was getting very hot in the sun by this stage and we felt like we had got back into the climbing groove sufficiently so we stopped, walked back to the van and had a late lunch. To fill in the afternoon we went to the library in town, where Di massaged her brain with Lumosity while I got most of the last blog completed, partly inside and partly parked in the lounge shared by the library and the adjoining swimming pool. Back to Big Blue and dinner and then another hour of free music in the plaza before an early night, with plans to go to Waterworld the next day.


An early start saw us up at the Waterworld access by 8:00. We were really looking forward to climbing at this enticing sounding crag, a "unique and exciting place to climb, all climbs start right out of the deep waters of Revelstoke Lake" and the cliff is 90 metres high.
Sounds like a good start to the day, right? Unfortunately, no, that was not the case. In the guide it says "park well off the road due to passing logging trucks". Well, Big Blue is nothing if not big and WIDE! The shoulder isn't wide and it drops away steeply; we just could not park safely so, disappointed, we headed back to town.
The consolation was that the Farmers' Market was happening and we got some great fruit - including juicy ripe peaches, mmm mmm! - and vegies. Next we walked along to the Revelstoke Railway Museum to see what was happening there, and particularly to view the Salmon Arm Model Railway Club's display. It was fantastic, and reflected the 22 years it has been in development. It was a really intricate model railway including such detail as a group of hobos under a railway bridge cooking their breakfast of purloined eggs - the yolks of which had been painted on with a single hair from a brush. If you're ever passing through Salmon Arm on a Saturday it would be worth stopping for an hour or so to look at it. We were very sorry not to have our grandchildren with us to see the looks of amazement and delight that would have been on their faces.
Back to the Farmer's Market for lunch: a Ukrainian sausage, sauerkraut and about 4 different condiments in a whole wheat - it's gotta be healthy ;-) - bun.
Next it was on to the library again where Di did some more Lumosity training and I finished the blog. We then got the weather report, which suggested the day for us to climb Mt Gimli, one of the big goals for our climbing trip, would be in two days time, and that the weather would deteriorate after that. We decided to jump aboard Big Blue and head south right away so we could get in position the next day. Along the way, Di made the remark that it was a good thing we weren't able to climb at Waterworld, as this would mean we'd get our chance at Gimli. (Stay tuned.)
Once we neared Slocan - the nearest town to Valhalla Provincial Park - we started to look for accommodation as we thought it would be useful to have a shower and a really good rest in a big bed before driving up to the road head for an early night on Sunday, and a crack-of-dawn start on Monday. It turned out that we drove south as far as Nelson because there simply wasn't anything available along the way. At least the drive was gorgeous. Here's the route, via the beautiful Arrow Lakes:

We found a great room with a wonderfully comfortable big bed, and felt well rested when we awoke on:


After a lovely, restful sleep in we opted for breakfast in the hotel, and why not? I had a breakfast burrito to die for - only $9.99 - while Di went for the kiddie's breakfast: one egg and a bit of fruit. We wandered around town doing a bit of shopping before finally meandering out towards Valhalla Provincial Park, home to our objective, the glorious and storied Mt Gimli. 
Carefully following directions in the guidebook, we located the correct dirt road and set Big Blue's trip meter to "0".  We had 26 kilometres to go before the parking area, and where we would start our two hour approach the next morning.
The road - always climbing - varied in condition, but was pretty good at first before getting narrower and steeper at around kilometre 16. Still, the surface was okay if not a bit rocky in places. I noticed a trail of moisture in the middle of the road, but didn't think much more than someone had some sort of water leak, and that they must be not too far in front of us. Then things started getting interesting.
At about kilometre 20 we passed a transit van (not a camper van) parked by the side of the road with "BROKEN/ OIL PAN FU#KED!" written in the dust on the back window. 
Hmmm I thought. That accounts for the moisture in the road. Another 100 metres or so we passed an SUV pointing down the hill. That was a surprise, but no alarms bells were ringing. Suddenly at just about kilometre 21 the road deteriorated badly. Steeper, looser and far more corrugated. Big Blue shuffled to a stop, waiting for directions. I eased on the gas. Big Blue was like a big bull bison at the base of a steep scree slope: full of piss and vinegar, burly and brawny and ready for action but maybe lacking in the light-footedness to skip on over this obstacle. I decided that caution was the better part of valour, especially given the evidence further down the road. Di got out to help steer a middle course, and my heart was in my mouth as I inched carefully back, slowly easing the brake off only to slowly ease it on again - and again - and again. It was an excruciating, slithery hundred metres or so where I wasn't entirely sure we were going to be okay. 
Thankfully, we returned to a firmer footing and found a spot another few hundred metres where we were barely able to get Big Blue's 19 foot length turned around. We eased back down the road a couple of kilometres to where we'd noticed a large pull-out, paused to catch our breath eat a peach and contemplate the universe. It turned out to be a lovely little campsite by a creek, unfortunately somewhat degraded by people who cared less for the beauty in front of them than they should.
There were massive cedars:

This one with Di and Big Blue in the background gives a sense of scale:

The power of plants can be seen in this cedar clinging to the top of a massive boulder:

The vegetation was akin to what you find on the coast, testimony to the coolness of the altitude and the amount of precipitation. Despite it's attractive appearance, I think this is the infamous Devil's Club (note the spiny stems):

Not a plant you want to get tangled up with. Here's a close-up of the fruit:

Okay, we thought. Plans for Gimli: foiled. What next? Di had agreed to consider climbing the 13 pitch route Yak Check on Yak Peak, and we wanted to visit Florence and Eddie, our favourite aunt and uncle in Kelowna so we resolved to head off in that direction. Yep, more driving.  Down to Slocan. Back up to Nakusp. Down to Needles to catch the ferry. By this time our relaxed start to the day was starting to catch up with us. Across the other side we started to look for somewhere good to park Big Blue. We did find just the thing: a discontinued bit of road screened from the highway and easy to level up Big Blue. Then we noticed we were out of propane, and that not only could we not cook dinner but that the fridge wasn't very cold. This was a worry as we had stuff in the freezer that we didn't want to thaw out, so we packed up and headed off again.
Luckily, before long we came to the Goldpanner Campground and Historic Village, where we could hook up to power and get the fridge back up to speed. It proved to be a fairly tiring day: one of disappointment and a dream unrealised. If you want to go to climb Gimli, you would probably be wise to go in a light, high clearance vehicle or a four wheel drive. We think that a Subaru Forester would do the trick, and both vehicles we saw parked by the side of the road should have been able to negotiate the section that stopped us, but who knows what lies beyond. Hopefully, B.C. Parks will do something about the state of the road before long. This is our route for the day, excluding the 50 or so kilometres foray into Valhalla Provincial Park:


It wasn't far from Cherryville to Lumby, the next real town. Di decided to check for a signal and email upon arrival in Lumby and I pulled over to hear her read one from one of our friends in Hobart. Not realising that's why I pulled over, she asked if we'd found somewhere to fill our propane tank. I replied "No, I just wanted to be able to hear you", but then immediately we spotted a place across the road that did sell propane. Excellent luck! While I had the tank filled, Di got out to stretch her legs and discovered an excellent little cafe. Coffee and some excellent chocolate croissants revived our spirits. Di phone Florence, who invited us for lunch. We were pretty happy despite our setback with Gimli, especially with the fridge purring away again as we motored off down the road. From Lumby to Kelowna it was a short cruise and we ambled along, reaching Eddie & Flo's place well before lunch. In the afternoon, Eddie's niece Joyce, who has met all of the rest of my family, dropped by for a chat. She is a prolific traveller, but hasn't been to Tasmania - something missing there, Joyce!
After Joyce's visit, Eddie gave us a tour of greater Kelowna, including a visit to some of the richer suburbs that have sprung up in recent years. It was interesting to hear about how Kelowna has changed from a relatively small town when Eddie and Flo moved there to what is now a city of over 100 000 inhabitants. After our tour of the city we had a great meal at the local sushi restaurant then took a drive to Peachland to see where Joyce lives, perched above the golf course that is begin rebadged as the Ponderosa Golf Club, and redeveloped by Greg Norman and a mob of backers. It looks like a lot of money is being spent there.


In the morning we got up and had breakfast with Florence and Eddie. I had to take another group photo. It's a pity I don't have the one from 7 years ago to put alongside it but here we are:

Nice legs, eh!

Not deterred by our misfortune on the approach to Gimli, we decided to head for Yak Peak to try to climb Yak Check. It wasn't going to be too far, so we stopped off in Merrit to visit one of Di's favourite stores, a western emporium that we've stopped at on a number of previous trips. Saddles, a great range of cowboy boots, shirts and jeans as well as lots of humorous western postcards was what we remembered. Sadly the store is no more. A couple of guys suggested we could try a place north of town along Nicola Lake. Unfortunately, this place just wasn't the same, a big disappointment for Di especially. We headed off towards Yak Peak to have a look at the climb before propping the night about 10 kilometres to the north at the Britten Creek rest area. There was quite a bit of cloud about but the last forecast we'd had indicated a mostly sunny day for Wednesday. When we arrived at the base we were able to only see the bottom 5 of the 13 pitch route, but it looked great. Back up to Britten Creek, dinner and an early night. Here's our approximate route and distance for this day's travel:


Yes, you've got it. Another early start. We were both looking forward to a great day as we'd seen lots of stars when we'd got up in the night to attend to our "toilette".  And, although it was a bit early for the sun, there seemed to be lots of clear sky at the Britten Creek rest area while we were having our breakfast of banana and cinnamon buns. However, in the 10 kilometre drive south and gain of altitude to the Coquihalla Summit the picture changed. The base of the climb is at about 1250 metres, and most of the route was obscured by cloud, and it was windy and COLD! Di had already started to develop a bit of a cold herself, so we made the decision to pull the plug. Neither of us felt like embarking on a long route in the conditions that presented, where we were as likely as not to get rained off. Although it's possible to retreat from the route up to 8 pitches in, after that you're stuck with a bivvy or have to climb out. This day was the only one that had looked reasonable for the next four days, so rather than stick around on the chance that things might change we got in the car and headed off. We both really wanted to drive the route through Merrit, Spence's Bridge, Lytton, Lillooet and Pemberton out to the coast. This area is badged by B.C. tourism as the "Ranchlands and Rivers" and we love to travel through it. Yes, it's farther but a lot more interesting than driving down to Hope across the Fraser delta and through greater Vancouver to get to our destination of Squamish. 
The drive north to Merrit was uneventful, and the weather improved as we dropped down out of the mountains. 
The drive through the scenic Nicola Valley to Spence's Bridge was far too eventful. 
Actually, we almost died. 
About 29 kilometres east of Spence's Bridge, a car B.C. licence number 590 NOX - overtook us on a blind bend just as another car came around a corner towards us. If I hadn't hit the brakes hard and the oncoming car hadn't done the same, you wouldn't be reading this now and there'd be a hell of a mess on the highway. I blasted my horn but it didn't seem to make the slightest difference: the maniac just rocketed off at the same insane pace. We detoured into Spence's Bridge to see if there was an RCMP office there but the only building of a public nature was this old church:

On to Lytton, where we did call into the RCMP station and report the maniac. Lytton is on the junction of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers, a very historic but small settlement. Then it was on to Lillooet, and as we were coming into town Di suddenly remembered us stopping and having a meal at a Greek restaurant on a previous visit. It was time for coffee so we went into town and sure enough the restaurant was still there. Note the name:

Big Blue had done such a good job for the past few days I thought I'd better take a picture of him in repose in Lillooet:

Refreshed, on we went, through to Pemberton and on just south of Whistler to Yak Canyon. We did a great 3 pitch climb called Sacrilege, which the guide gives 4 stars - not quite Yak Check or Gimli but at least it was rock, and beautiful solid granite - and then settled down for the night. Here's the route for this day's travel:

That was yesterday. The culmination of a lot of running around, especially after our long trip to Revelstoke.
We slept very soundly and are happy to now be settled into Squamish Provincial Park below The Chief. This morning we did seven enjoyable pitches of climbing at Check Canyon before the rain came, but that can wait until the next post.

Cheers - and thankful we're still here!
- Doug and Di

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