Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Transcontinental Trek Day 7 Abbotsford to Prince George

Up at 5:45am 55F and cloudy.  I wish we had more time to explore Abbotsford, because it is considered the “Raspberry Capital of Canada” , and there is a really cool farm with lots of organically grown fruits and vegetables.

7:25am, left hotel heading north on Hwy 1 – sprinkling light rain by 7:30am. According to The MILEPOST, the West Access Route has been the most direct route to Dawson Creek, BC and the start of the Alaska Highway since 1952, when the John Hart Highway connecting Prince George and Dawson Creek was completed. Today we’ll travel as far as Prince George (about 450 miles). Then from Prince George we’ll take Hwy 97 to Chetwynd, up Hwy 29 to the Alcan Hwy and stop for the night at Fort Nelson, BC.
We are in Fraser Canyon area following the Fraser River. What a beautiful valley - lots of waterfalls cascading down from the mountains.

8:30am. Cloudy. The city of Hope rest area: Black-throated Gray (life bird!), Townsend’s & Nashville Warbler, Audubon’s Yellowrump & Ruby-crown Kinglet, Black-headed Grosbeak.

I took this photo into the light and from pretty far away, but you can still tell it's the grossbeak.  We also found this really cool slug.  It scrunches up to look like an acorn!

Stopped in at the Hope Visitor’s Center and picked up a copy of The MILEPOST and a map of BC.

We drove along the west side of the Fraser River and then crossed over at mile 51 and climbed up the mountain on the east side. The town of Yale (pop. 200) seems to be a popular place for hiking and rafting. Historically, Yale was the head of navigation for the Lower Fraser River and the beginning of the overland gold rush trail to British Columbia’s goldfields.

We drove past the Anglican Church of Saint John the Divine, which was built for miners in 1863 and is the second oldest church still on its original foundation in mainland BC.

Northbound, the highway winds through the dramatic scenery of the Fraser River Canyon and through seven tunnels. There are Amazing cliffs above the river and around every turn, we got breathtaking glimpses of the river below. The Fraser River and canyon were named for Simon Fraser, the first white man to descent the river in 1808. We are now in what is considered the dry forest region of BC and it gets pretty hot in summer.

Hells Gate Airtram carriers visitors 500 feet down to a café overlooking Hell’s Gate, the narrowest point on the Fraser River. Hells Gate was name because it is the most difficult terrain for construction of both the highway and the CPR railway.

9:30am Raining now as we cross Jackass Mtn Summit (361 M) and totally engulfed in fog/clouds. I plugged in the power converter to charge the laptop and began to smell something burning again. We pulled off in Boston Bar and dug out the backup converter. Diesel is $269/L here. Wow!

Redhill Rest Area just south of Ashcroft is sage country and summer temperatures in this desert-like region reach the high 80’s and 90’sF. The air smells amazing – Vesper Sparrow.
At the junction of Hwy 1 and Hwy 97 is the town of Cache Creek. AT an elevation of 1299 ft, it is called the Arizona of Canada with a semi-arid climate – hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters. We stopped for lunch and had burgers at Herbie’s Drive Inn. Cache Creek settlement grew up around the confluence of Cache Creek and the Bonaparte River. It became a major supply point on the Cariboo Waggon Road. We turned north onto Hwy 97 “The Gold Rush Trail” toward Prince George.
At 100 Mile House, we stopped at the Marsh got great looks at Yellow-headed blackbird, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Redheads, Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Pied-billed Grebe, Coots, Audubons Yellow-rumped Warbler, Violet Green, Tree, Roughwing and Barn Swallows.

100 Mile House was established as a post house on the Cariboo Waggon Road to the goldfields. Today the area has 2 lumber mills and is known as the “hand-crafted log home capital of North America”. An infestation of mountain pine beetle in BC’s interior has impacted forest and the timber industry in the province. The beetles prefer mature (80 yrs or older) lodgepole pine trees and the epidemic is blamed on climate change warming the winters, which enables the beetle larvae to survive.
We stopped for a coke float at the Dairy Queen in Williams Lake. This town is home of the Williams Lake Stampede, BC’s premier rodeo. Still raining. The forest is populated by spruce, pine, fir, birch and alder now.

Got into Prince George at about 6:30pm. The Days Inn is located in the city center, and we walked around looking for a place to have dinner. Eventually, we decided to eat at the Indian restaurant in the hotel – and I’m glad we did. The food was excellent!

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