2009-05-10 50 -120
Up a hill, well into the logging road network just north of Kamloops Lake.
We hadn't planned a Sunday geohash when we left Vancouver on this expedition, but we had the opportunity, so why not. Robyn's mother has Internet, so we looked up and noted the coordinates, then zoomed in on Google Maps to discover that the Kamloops graticule coordinates were accessible from highway one, via Sabiston Creek Road and another unnamed road that was both mapped and visible on Google Maps. Robyn's mother's printer didn't work, so Robyn drew a sketch map of the turnoff and the roads that would get there, getting us to within about 1.5 km of the geohash. We drove first to Kamloops itself, to visit Rhonda's mother, this being an appropriate thing to do on Mother's Day.
When we got to Rhonda's parents place, they had a more detailed backroads map, and it showed other roads, with symbols indicating the quality of each road. On this map Sabiston Creek Road was Sabastion Creek Road, and lat long were indicated (although on our page they were misprinted). It showed that the turnoff we had chosen from Sab-whatever Road was of lower quality, but that there was a better road, not shown on Google Maps, called Seven Lakes Road, that went even closer to the geohash. Rhonda's mother was much better equipped than Robyn's mother and was able to provide a colour photocopy of the map book page. Now we felt really prepared for the expedition.
We felt even more prepared when Rhonda's parents provided us with an amazingly delicious lunch of something called Kroketten which is breaded, deep fried soup. Yes, you wouldn't think you could bread and deep fry soup but the Dutch are very clever. Lunch in our bellies, water bottles filled, maps obtained. This might be the best prepared expedition ever for our team. Not a really high bar, but still.
We even invited Rhonda's parents to join us, and they agreed. We couldn't go all in one vehicle because the back of Robyn's tiny car was loaded up with camping and geohashing stuff and Rhonda's parents had a two-seater Jeep. So Rhonda and Robyn led the convoy, with Robyn driving and Rhonda navigating, out of Kamloops, onto highway one, past Savona to Sabastion Creek Road. Does Google Maps ever get it right? We took the road. It was easy to drive, with a good surface, not too much loose gravel and despite the twisty corners Robyn was driving about forty, with no need to scream and clutch her dinosaur. "Until today," she commented as they turned another switchback, "I think I have driven more on gravel runways than I have on gravel roads."
We ignored lots of turn offs of varying quality, because we knew that this road would lead us to Seven Lakes Road. The roads were all rated and both Sabastion Creek Road and Seven Lakes Road had the highest rating. Robyn concentrated on driving while Rhonda had the GPS and the maps. When we got to a signpost for Copper Creek, we turned left, away from Kamloops Lake. Rhonda's parents followed on behind in the Jeep. The road was of course laughable for them, and they later demonstrated a fraction of the vehicle's capability by hopping up onto a bank that Robyn's car would have just run into the side of.
 Animals on the road
This is multi-purpose public land, so some people buy licences to cut trees on it and others lease the right to graze cows on it. They can build fences to keep their cows from wandering too far, but they can't block the road, so every so often along the road there is a cattleguard, designed so cars can cross, but not cows. We know from that, and from Watch for Livestock signs that we can expect to encounter cows. It's part of the adventure. The first cow we saw outside of fences was just standing by the side of the road. We slowed down to pass it, in case it suddenly decided to jump onto the road, but it didn't. Another group of cows were standing and lying beside the road, but also didn't block our path. And then we came around the corner to a cattle guard and there was a small herd of cattle lounging around the other side. I suppose they tended to wander along the road and just congregated at the point where they were blocked.
Robyn slowed the car to a walking pace and rolled slowly towards the cows to see what they would do. The standing ones stated to walk away, but along the road, not getting out of the way, and the ones that were lying down lumbered to their feet. Robyn bumped over the cattleguard and slowly herded the cows along the road until they moved off to the side and let us pass. Apparently these are high tech cows, as while I was trying to find a website showing who had registered the L-crazy-L brand, I discovered that brands were superseded by eartag barcodes years ago and that barcodes are now passé too. Modern cows wear RFID tags.
The next set of cows were not blocking the road, but they had company in the form of large deer. It was funny to see the deer walk up to the fences and bound over them effortlessly, without even taking a run at it. Rhonda tried to take pictures but even though the deer seemed to hang in the air as they floated over the fences her camera wasn't quick enough to capture anything but a deer landing on the other side.
We also saw cattle chutes, loading docks for cows, and passed an apparently empty cattle truck coming the other way. There was lots of room for us to pass each other, as fortuitously we came upon the truck just as we reached a big pullout.
 Eight Lakes
We were looking for Seven Lakes Road, so it seemed like a good sign when we saw a lake peeking through the trees. There were also buildings, looked like houses. "Is there a town here?" Robyn asked her navigator, not remembering that detail from the preflight briefing. We came around the corner where we could see the lake better. It was a good size, big enough to drive a boat on. Rhonda frowned and turned the map this way and that, checking it against the GPS. Her suspicion that this was the wrong lake was confirmed as we passed Red Lake Road. This was not one of the seven on the road we needed. We pulled over and the Jeep drove up beside us, "My navigator informs me," Robyn relayed, "that we need to turn around now." And so we did.
Rhonda could see now from the GPS track where the turn-off we missed should be: right at the tip of a recent sharp switchback. So we went back there, to discover that we hadn't missed it at all. We'd looked at it and talked about it and were reassured that we didn't have to go down a nasty little road like that. it certainly wasn't anywhere near as good as the road we were on. But it was 5.5 km to the geohash. While Robyn on her own would have chosen to park and walk six kilometres, she wasn't going to get everyone else to do that, so she drove slowly into the little road.
The main concern was the car's low clearance. It has an air dam at the front, and Robyn got out and lay down to look at the underside of her car. Most of the underside of the car had little more clearance than the air dam. Driving over a rock or big stick could seriously damage the car. The road was actually very good, but the tire ruts were deep enough that Robyn was concerned about getting the car hung up on the dirt in between, as it does in the winter when there are ruts in the snow. And rocks are more damaging. Robyn drove very slowly and when the ruts got very deep put one wheel on the centre and one on the side of the road, hoping not to hit too many branches. It was kind of amusing seeing the Jeep in the rear view mirror, patiently waiting for us even though they could drive this just like a highway.
Despite the almost walking pace of the convoy, the distance remaining numbers on the GPS slowly counted down to 1.3 km. We reached a place where it would be possible to turn around, and Robyn used it to turn around and park. There was even a sort of road, the walking sort of road, leading in the direction of the geohash. We gathered our gear and started on the next stage of the expedition.
 Walking to the geohash
With the cars safely parked we walked up the road. The Jeep probably could have driven over it were it not for a couple of fallen trees. Or maybe it could have gone right over the trees. We stepped over them and continued up the grassy trail to a fork. The coordinates lay right down the middle so we chose one that looked as if it might hook back, and it did, soon meeting up with a road that was probably the other fork. We continued along the road until the geohash was 350 metres away from us off to the right, and there just happened to be a gate through the barbed wire fence there. We opened it, crossed through, and secured it behind us, before heading up the slope. Has anyone ever been to a geohash that was downhill from the road?
Robyn did her usual trick of bounding ahead with enthusiasm, looking at the terrain as it became a little steeper and a little more thorny. She suddenly realized that her entire history of leading group expeditions consisted of sizing people up and wondering how hard she could push them before they mutinied. But even though there were parents along on this expedition, they were especially hardy parents and showed no danger of rebelling. They were enjoying themselves, marvelling at the expedition to a place close to home that they never would have gone otherwise.
One final push up the hill and we were there, at the geohash. Another triumph for Robyn, Rhonda and Rhonda's mother and a first geohash for her father. We didn't play any games, just took photos and headed back. There was a long way to go home.
 Now to get out of here
Rhonda's mother led the way back down, following a deer trail that was easier going than the direct route, but just as quick. A lot of deer had used that route, judging from the droppings. Then Rhonda's mother notes some droppings that weren't deer droppings. "Maybe this isn't a deer trail," she suggested. "Maybe it's a bear trail." Robyn thought the alleged bear droppings had come out of the back end of a cow. Others argued that cow pies were more spreading and less solid. Whatever had produced them had done so weeks ago, so it wasn't a concern. We found our way back to the fence and crossed through it to the trail again. Coming down the trail to the cars was the easy part, because now it was time to drive out.
Robyn asked the person with the map if there was a way out that would get to a better road by a shorter route than returning the 5 km along the poor road. The way back was long and known, but if the way forward were shorter, it might be a good choice. It looked as if we could hook up with a known excellent road more quickly by going ahead to Criss Creek Road than by retracing our steps to Sabastion Creek Road. So Robyn turned around again and headed that way. The road promptly got worse, with numerous ditches running across it. Robyn had to cross them at an angle to get one wheel across at a time. The road was quite well maintained, with deadfall trees cut away, but in some cases wood debris was left on the road and Robyn had to inch around it. Rhonda's parents thought at first that Robyn was being overcautious, but then they saw Robyn drive over a stick of wood just a bit bigger than the others, and it struck the underside of Robyn's car. Robyn and Rhonda cringed, but no damage was done.
Later Robyn ran over a small tree branch about the thickness of her wrist, and it pushed the whole car sideways. Robyn's car is strictly an on-road vehicle. We were expecting to meet up with Criss Creek Road, but after a few crazy bends in the road we came out at a T-intersection that didn't really match the map. Robyn was getting cranky and wondered where this went. Rhonda checked the GPS co-ordinates against the map's lat/long markings, and determined that we had somehow got onto a smaller side road from Seven Lakes road, and that about 5km on the right fork it connected with Criss Creek Road. Rhonda's parents volunteered to go on a scouting expedition, so Robyn and Rhonda waited in the car and had a snack while the Jeep zoomed off, Rhonda estimating that it would be back in under fifteen minutes. Robyn then took the map and checked the co-ordinates from the GPS again, then handed them back and sighed. "It wasn't that I don't trust your map-reading ability," she said, "it was because it would have been much more convenient if you had been wrong." Rhonda's parents returned within fifteen minutes, and reported back that the new road was okay for Robyn's car, with one fallen tree to go around, and it connected to a much better road. Plus Rhonda's mother said cheerfully, "We chased a bear off the road for you." It was a small bear, so they didn't stick around to see if its mother was going to come out and defend it.
We made it along the road, the worst part being, as advertised, the fallen tree, right at the very end where our road met the better road. Robyn went to the right of it, up a sloping bank, and Rhonda reminded her to leave extra room to allow for the car to tip sideways as it climbed the slope. It worked, and the car didn't slide. We were on the good road.
It wasn't an excellent road. It still had potholes that Robyn had to avoid, but as Rhonda put it, "You are now averaging a speed that registers on the speedometer." We meandered along that road, up and down and along. We went across a bridge and Robyn yelped in indignant surprise when she discovered that there were potholes on the bridge. How can there be potholes on a bridge? Why was there dirt on a bridge to have potholes in? Mysteries.
We came out at a cattleguard that had a road sign at it, and knew we must be almost back to civilization. We had reached Deadman Vidette, an odd name for a road, but an excellent road with smooth packed flat dirt and a comfortable cruising speed of 80 km/h. No parts fell off Robyn's car, so it was all good. We passed some buildings in a little town. Robyn asked Rhonda if she knew what town it was. Robyn spotted the words Indian Band on the side of a schoolbus, but missed the beginning part, at the same time Rhonda saw the name of the place on a sign.
"What was it called?" asked Robyn.
"I don't know," replied Rhonda. "I just know that it was Indian because it had a seven in it."
The local Salishan languages use the Arabic number 7 to represent a glottal stop after a vowel, so a seven in the middle of a word is a giveaway that you're looking at a native word, usually a place name or band designation. We passed some longhorn cows, also on the road, and then transitioned to pavement so smoothly we didn't even notice we had left the dirt. Finally we came out at the trans-Canada highway. Hurray!
 Dinner and a long way home
After we had been driving on the highway for a while, Rhonda's phone rang. A couple of reception-induced disconnects later we determined that it was a suggestion from her mother to eat dinner at a truck stop before we headed home. Good idea! Rhonda knew where the truck stop was, but forgot to tell Robyn to take the turnoff, so we got to take the next exit and do one more U-turn before reaching the restaurant. Rhonda's father's first words to Robyn on their arrival: "fire your navigator." Robyn did no such thing, and in fact after dinner handed the car keys over to Rhonda for the Coquihalla drive. Rhonda drives it often, and Robyn was fatigued from all her pothole watching on the logging roads.
Robyn woke up feeling refreshed when Rhonda pulled off the highway in Merritt because now she was fatigued, so we swapped back and pushed on towards Hope. There was almost no traffic, and a long stretch of highway 5 had just been repaved and had no road lines. Plus it started to rain. Black night, black road, wet road. By the time we reached Hope it was time for another break. The town of Hope had closed for the night however, with the gas station attendant denying access and nothing open anywhere.
We found our way to the Trans-Canada highway, which increased in familiarity the closer we drove to Vancouver. Robyn dropped off Rhonda and drove home, afraid to look at the time lest knowing it make her feel more tired. Robyn fell into bed, more tired and sore than after biking 100 kilometres.
 GPS Tracklog and Analysis
The tracklog tells the tale of the mountain roads. It appears that the navigation onto Seven Lakes Road was correct, but that the rating given Seven Lakes Road by the backroads map book was overly optimistic. And then shortly after the waypoint where we parked our cars we somehow got off Seven Lakes Road and onto an even worse little road, connecting Seven Lakes to Sebastion Creek Forest Service Road. Yes, Sebastion with an E now. It must have been a fork in the road where we took the way that looked like the main road but wasn't. We could have got onto Sebastion Creek Forest Service Road from Sabastion Creek Road in the first place by turning left after crossing Sabiston Creek. Yes, one word, three spellings. I guess it's traditional now. Sebastion Creek Road brought us out to Criss Creek road, and the bridge with the potholes crossed Criss Creek. It all makes perfect sense in post-analysis, but there's no way we could have figured that out in advance. Even if you're on the right FSR you can be in the wrong place.
In future we'll take a tougher car if we need to go off road.
| Robyn & Rhonda earned the Double Mother Geohash Ribbon