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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Fish That Weren't in Hicks Lake

We're nearing the U.S. border!  On Tuesday, September 23, 2019, we moved from Lillooet, B.C. to Harrison Hot Springs, east of Vancouver, B.C.  We had periodic rain that afternoon and Wednesday, so we confined our activities to a long walk into Harrison Hot Springs and soak in our campground hot tub.  We also did some research on local fishing.

Today, the weather was supposed to be nicer, so we planned a fishing trip to Hicks Lake, which is in Sasquatch Provincial Park.  The park includes several lakes and ponds.  One end of it borders Harrison Lake, on which Harrison Hot Springs is located.  Harrison Lake is the largest lake in Southern British Columbia, at 37 miles long and up to 5.6 miles wide.  It is fed by the Lillooet River, which arises west of Lillooet near Pemberton, B.C.

We did some research and found that Hicks Lake, a little over 1 mile long and about half a mile wide, has been stocked regularly with rainbow trout.  Fishing reports said that cutthroat trout and whitefish are also present.  It was nearby and about the right size for us to fish from kayaks, so we planned that outing for today.

We were just getting ready to head out when we met a fellow resident of our campground, a fisherman, who reported to us that Hicks Lake has very few fish because its waters had reached over 72F this summer due to the exceptionally warm and dry summer in this part of British Colubmia.  Some things he said made us doubt the precise accuracy of his statements, so we decided to try our luck anyway.

It had been a sunny morning, about 64F, when we left our campground, but by the time we reached Hicks Lake, it had clouded over, the wind had picked up, and the air temperature had fallen to 57F.  The winds had also kicked up sizeable waves on the lake, which made the fishing conditions less amenable than we would have liked.  Here is how the lake greeted us as we arrived:

We decided to give it a try anyway, because we've become confident in our ability to fish small lakes and read where trout might hang out.  We rigged our kayaks and set out on the water:

Hicks Lake is a beautiful mountain lake, set among green mountains on all sides, with towering spruce down to its lakeshore:

Kathy headed to the east shore and the northernmost of two islands, while David set out for the southern island:

Here was the south island.  We hoped that we might find trout on one of the shores of either island, or between the two.

As we started to fish, we stirred up some migrating Canadian geese, who were not overly pleased with our arrival.  One flock flew off in honking disgust, but this pair chose patience, consulting with each other as to whether they should fly off, or simply paddle a little further away from the human intruders.  They decided to take the less extreme measures, and the humans floated by without harrassing them.

As we fished, the fog on the water slowly lifted, but the wind perservered.  While we did not feel the wind as we drifted north with it, we felt its chill and the slop of waves against the prows of our kayaks when we tried to paddle against it.

The lake boasted a few rocky points that were interesting.  Much of the shallow shoreline was littered with large deadfall lying just under the surface, which made fishing just off the banks more challenging than usual.

On the far rocky point in this photo, David encountered a fisherman and his wife who were set up in camp chairs on the north shore.  She read while he cast his line for trout.  As David passed, the fisherman announced that he had caught a 12 inch cutthroat trout.  This made us all the more jealous given that we had seen absolutely no results -- not even a nibble.

Kathy worked her way over to a stream inlet and David, after drifting down the eastern shore of the lake, paddle over to join her on the northern end of the west shore, in a corner near where the lake was emptied by a large stream.

We compared notes.  No nibbles.  No fish rises.  A cold wind.  Waves.  Clouds threatening rain.  It was lunchtime.  We decided to beach the kayaks, have our lunch, and call it a day.

We guess the trout won the battle today.  Well, we did console ourselves with a lunch of trout salad wraps, made from trout we caught the other day.  And we assured ourselves that there would eventually be another opportunity, somewhere else, to find a trout dinner.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Bridge River Valley

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hi Blog!

On our last day in Lillooet, we decided to explore the Bridge River Valley. The Bridge River is a 75 mile long river that flows from the Coast Mountains into the Fraser River. It is located just six miles north of Lillooet. The once mighty Bridge River was nearly completely diverted into Seton Lake through a tunnel in the mountains as part of the Bridge River Power Project. From our vantage point, you can see the deep channel the river once filled.

Just as we started up Highway 40 toward Gold Bridge, a couple of spruce grouse crossed the road.  We had to gently remind them that the road is a dangerous place for vulnerable birds such as they are.

For the most part, the 65 mile drive was paved, but there were sections of the highway, taken out by rock fall, that were regraded and graveled.

The road alternated from being high above the canyon floor, to right next to the river with rocks hanging over our heads.

We passed dozens of waterfalls along the way. We loved this whimsical sign next to an impressive falls:

We noticed a golden eagle flying down the river valley. He/she stopped to perch in a dead tree. We waited to see if they would fish for salmon, but he/she was only interested in resting.

As part of the Bridge River Project, a dam was built on the Bridge River. The resulting Carpenter Lake stretches west and above the dam for 35 miles.

We made our first stop at Gold Bridge. Located at the confluence of the Bridge River with its south fork, the Hurley River, and perched just above where the Bridge River becomes Carpenter Lake, Gold Bridge began as a freewheeling merchandising and services center supplementary to the company-run gold mining towns, and in its heyday had a large commercial roster ranging from insurance and stockbrokers through to bootleggers and "sporting houses". We stopped for lunch at the old hotel and cafe.  The only other patrons were two men who had apparently taken their yellow canoe out on a local lake.

Just across the street was the General Store. However, since today was Sunday, it was closed.  That was just about all there was in Gold Bridge.

After lunch, we continued our journey up to Bralorne, a historic Canadian gold mining community some eighty miles west of Lillooet. We drove high above the Hurley River, which is a major tributary of the Bridge River.

Gold has been the central element in the area's history going back to the 1858-1860 Fraser River Gold Rush.  In 1897, three men hiked in from Lillooet to Cadwallader Creek looking for gold. They made three claims:  the Lorne, Marquis, and the Golden King. These would form the core of the complex of claims which became the Bralorne Mine. The district was one of the few bright lights in the BC economy during the Great Depression.  In a seven-year period in the 1930s, the mines of the Bridge River produced $370,000,000 in gold.

After the last gold mines closed in 1971, Bralorne sat abandoned and forgotten for many years, its empty buildings bare and open to all who wanted to strip or damage them. Private owners purchased many of the homes and have worked to improve them.  With recent increases in the price of gold, the mine has reopened and the former head office of the Bralorne Pioneer Gold Mine is being turned into a museum to the local history of gold mining. 

Just across the street from the old mine office building is the temporary headquarters of the history museum. Most of the artifacts are boxed up waiting to be cataloged and installed in the mine office building. However, we did learn a little about the area from the docent.

After checking out the museum, we headed back down to Gold Bridge. This doe stopped to watch us as we made our way down.

As we drove, we got this magnificent view down Cadwallader Creek toward the Bridge River.

Our next stop was the Haylmore Heritage Site in Gold Bridge. Will Haylmore was the original and long time gold claim mine recorder in the Bridge River Valley.  Will lived near Gold Bridge where he had his home and office and his own placer mine. The Bridge River Valley Community Association has restored one of the buildings on the property and is planning to restore the site further.

The site operates as a Tourism Information Booth and a place to purchase locally produced artisan’s goods. You can also pan for gold!

Never one to turn down an opportunity to strike it rich, Kathy proceeded to pan away.

Eureka! We now have a few more flecks to add to the collection. At this rate, we'll be able to retire soon.

Before long, we began to wind our way back down the Bridge River Valley. At the upper end of Carpenter Lake near Gold Bridge, the Bridge River meanders through a mud flat or estuary.

The blue-green water has an almost milky quality from the glacial silt.

As with most of our stays, we wish we had more time to explore. Our next stop is Harrison Hot Spring where we hope to soak our cares away. 

Until next time - Keep Smiling!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hiking Downton Creek Trail to Holly Lake

One of the reasons we like to explore unknown areas is that we like to discover hidden jewels.  Today we found one.

We were looking for a pretty hike near Lillooet, B.C. where we are camped.  An acquaintance from our campground lent us a hiking guide that gave us lots of suggestions.  The one that seemed most interesting was called, "Downton Alpine Lake Trail."  It advertised a steep but medium-length hike to a beautiful alpine tarn.  That sounded like our kind of hike.

We drove 24 km south on Highway 99 to the Downton Forest Service Road, where we crossed beautiful Cayoosh Creek --

-- and then followed pretty Downton Creek --

another 11 km to a junction, where we turned uphill and drove another 3 km to our trailhead.   The drive up to the trailhead boasted stupendous views, such as these peaks and glaciers:

The drive wasn't without it's unexpected twists and turns.  We had to cross a wooden bridge that had been closed due to deterioration.  We were careful to assess the bridge's strength before driving our Jeep across it.  The we found that B.C. and forestry agencies have ceased to maintain the road, so we encountered swales, gullies, rocks and boulders, and sometimes had to do our own road maintenance to get through:

As we approached our trailhead, we spotted this rugged peak that told us, somehow, that it would figure large in our hike (we'll call him, "Mr. Peak"):

As it turned out we would climb up and around that peak to get to our destination.  But not before admiring the beauty of the Downton Creek Canyon as we started the hike:

We left the Jeep and still had not reached our trailhead when we stumbled on these giant mushrooms next to the old forest road!

Finally!  The trailhead!  Now to start the climb.  We started at about 6,000 feet elevation, having climbed over 5,000 feet in our Jeep into the Cayoosh Mountain Range above Lillooet.

Halfway up through the timber cut with young spruce and the mature spruce forest above it, we came upon some remarkable boulders, and Kathy couldn't resist having her photo taken with one of them:

We crossed a meadow sloping up and down the side of the mountain, then descended into a bowl behind Mr. Peak and hiked through an open wetland with one or two streams burbling through it, presenting us with minor stream crossings.

We were to be amply rewarded, because, as Kathy ascended to a minor ridge, she discovered gorgeous little Holly Lake sitting proudly in a cirque, just the cutest glacial tarn you've ever seen, and as pretty a glacial lake as we've ever seen:

Here's another view of Holly Lake --

-- and yet another straight across the tarn toward Mr. Peak:

This is a better view of Mr. Peak behind Holly Lake:

While Kathy finished her lunch, David took a stroll along the lakeshore and, further down the lake, took a photo back up to where we had lunch:

After enjoying our lunch of veggie wraps and some big swigs of water, we turned around and started back down the trail.  We had climbed over 1,000 feet to about 7,000 feet elevation.  It was after 3:00 pm, and the late afternoon sun was easier on some of our photos, such as this one of a stream we crossed heading back across the mountainside meadow:

By about 4:00 pm, we reached our trailhead and started our hour's drive back to our campground in Lillooet.  Our forest road stretched out below us into the Cayoosh Creek Canyon:

We made it back to our campground in Lillooet by dinnertime, and Baxter had a chance to take a campground walk while we enjoyed an early evening campfire.  Across the Fraser River to the east, the descending sun was only lighting the tops of the far peaks, making for a picturesque evening.

We sat, eating our dinner, gazing at the fire, and talking about the day's hike.  We agreed that this area has the potential for many more hikes and adventures.  It's too bad that we only have one more day here before moving on.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fishing Fountain Lake

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hi Blog!

After yesterday's epic drive on the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, we were looking for something to do close to home. We had received a number of tips about different lakes to fish. Once we checked out the stocking reports, we knew Fountain Lake was the lake for us. What we didn't know was that Fountain Lake hosts an annual Pilgrimage.

Pilgrims began making the trek to Fountain Lake in 1976. Between 40-100 Cathholic pilgrims camp at Fountain Lake, in the heart of B.C., every year for a weekend of prayer and socializing. Lucky for us, the Pilgrimage was in August.

Fountain Lake (also known as Kwotlenemo Lake by the First Nations) hosts four separate recreation site areas. A good boat launch is located on the northern end of the lake. Here is our view from the boat launch.

As Kathy shoves off, Dusty waits patiently for our return. Our weather today was the best we've had for weeks. There was a light wind blowing with temperatures in the 70's.

The Fountain Valley is located to the east of the Fraser Valley in a high plateau.

When we first set out to fish, we try to read the lake to figure out where the fish are feeding. We decided to start at the north end and let the wind carry us down to the south end.

We noticed plenty of bug activity. This little dragon fly decided to take a break on Dave's kayak.

While Fountain Lake is a BC Recreation Site, there are a number of houses on the lake shore.

As the wind pushed us done the lake, we cast toward the short and stripped the line back. Dave had the most luck, landing three nice big fat trout. Kathy was able to land one, but had two very exciting encounters with leaping trout that both managed to escape without landing in the net.

We beached the kayaks on the south shore of the lake to have lunch.

With four fish in our creels, we decided that we would call it a day and just paddle back up the east side of the lake, taking in the scenery as we paddled by. We thought this totem pole on the lake shore was pretty cool. Not to mention how fluffy the weeping willow seemed.

We've often talked about a for-ever-and-ever house along the shore of a small like. However, this tiny house may be a bit too tiny.

As we made our way back to the boat launch, the winds began to pick up. However, the boat lauch was tucked in a quiet corner of the lake.

Not bad for a day's work.

One of the local residents came by to see how we did.

After cleaning our fish and packing everything back up, we decided to follow Fountain Valley Road south until it connected back with the Lytton-Lillooet Highway. It is considered a scenic drive in the tourist brochure.

As it turns out, the Fountain Valley was part of the old River Trail, which ran up the length of the Fraser River. It was used by freight wagons and travelers bound northwards to the Cariboo goldfields. The trail through Fountain Valley climbs a steep grade from its southern end which means that we would have a steep decent back to the highway. What started out as a two lane paved road soon changed into a narrow one lane gravel trail.

Having survived our backcountry adventure, we settled into camp and began the preparations for our trout dinner. First, the veggies were cut and cooked in the grill pan.

Next, the trout were stuffed with fresh peaches and thyme and wrapped in tin foil.

After slow roasting, it was time to dig in! Bon Appetite!