Serene to awesome

The 115km ride from Hope heading northward to Lytton was brilliant. For much of the day we had the Fraser River in sight (800M litres of water per minute passing through a section of the Fraser Canyon known as Hells Gates), numerous thunderously long trains rumbled on both sides of the river, old highway and bridges to explore, plenty of elevation and diverse scenery. Not to mention the Big Horn sheep? – see last photo.

The southern stretch of Fraser Canyon is a major transportation corridor to the Interior from “the Coast”, with the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways and the Trans-Canada Highway carved out of its rock faces.

Towards the end of the day we rounded Jack Ass Mountain where soon after the environment went from high rainfall, tall timber, waterfalls etc to a semi arid. The contrast was startling as the photos below will bare out. At Lytton the Fraser River and the Thompson River join to become the Fraser River. Jack Ass mountain is named for the muletrains that ventured north to the Cariboo gold fields; apparently some did not make it over the bluff and perished in a fall hence the name. Apparently the hill has taken its fair share of oxen, steamers, RVs and trucks as well. (Reference: Wikipedia)

At the end of the photos is two short video clips. 1) The Fraser River and 2) Train passing just North of Lytton, near our campground for that night. There are more photos in the Gallery / British Columbia / 17th May Hope-Lytton.

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3 thoughts on “Serene to awesome

  1. I hadn’t looked at your blog for a week – and look how much I’ve missed. Sorry, it’s a bit of a dull comment, but I’m really enjoying reading your blog – and entries from your guest bloggers. Has all that gorgeous scenery worn off yet? Cheers Helen

    • Hi Helen, Yes everyday brings a new experience and something else to write about. About to head into the Rockies so hopefully the weather clears a bit and we can get some good photos. regards Alistair

  2. Your post about Jackass Mountain has triggered many childhood memories. We had relatives in Clinton, BC, in the Cariboo, not far from Kamloops. We would often visit them in the summer and at Christmas. While I was always excited to go there (particularly for Christmas which was always in REAL winter, as opposed to Vancouver where our two seasons are rain/nice weather) I was also terrified and couldn’t sleep for days before the trip. During our stays, I lived in anxiety about the return home. This was largely because of Jackass Mountain.

    When we started going to Clinton, we travelled the “old highway”, which crawled along the edges of the canyon, often wending its way high up one side of the many mountains, then down the other, with precipitous cliffs and very narrow roadbeds. In about 1957, “they” started building the new, modern highway you travelled on, a major undertaking, given the terrain. Many of my memories are not just of the terrifying original road, but also of the increased horrors of the construction zones we had to pass through.

    The very worst part was Jackass Mountain. Before construction began, this was the worst part of the journey, because the road seemed steeper and higher here than any other part of the canyon. It became infinitely worse during construction.

    The car would often have to creep even closer to the cliff’s edge. There were long patches of muck that the car had to slide through, with machines waiting to pull through those vehicles that got stuck. In places, temporary diversions were built that went even higher than the original road. Unimaginable! We often had to bounce over big rubble from the blasting that was done to shave the cliffs to make room for the roadbeds. Frequently, we had to stop for long periods of time, waiting for the workers to set and fire blasts INSIDE the mountains, for the tunnels that you travelled through on your bikes. As a young child, all I could see in those interminable waits, was the whole mountain being blown apart and our family with it.

    You have to remember that we were travelling in big old cars, very often in the rain, sometimes snow, and, for some reason that I would like to be able to ask my father, often in the dark. It was completely terrifying, more so after I did a project on the Fraser Canyon and Cariboo Gold Rushes in 1958, the year of BC’s centennial, when I was in Grade 5.

    I learned how the Royal Engineers built the first road, much of which we could still see as we travelled on the other side of the canyon. (I wonder if you saw the few pieces that are still visible as you cycled through). It was considered one of the most challenging construction projects in the British Empire. The road had to be built as the access route to the gold fields of the interior during the 1850s and 60s. It was known as the Cariboo Wagon Road, though thousands of would-be miners walked the whole way, rode jackasses and horses, or had ox carts or handcarts. Now, here comes the source of my nightmares.

    As you pointed out, many animals, vehicles and humans have ended their days by crashing down the sides of the canyons. But what really captured my imagination were the stories about the camels that were imported by some enterprising entrepreneur, who thought that they would be perfect for transporting goods to the interior. After all, camels could go weeks without water and could live on scrub vegetation. They were renowned for carrying large amounts of cargo, were strong and resilient. So this fellow, with dollar signs in his eyes, imported about 25 two-humped camels from Asia via Arizona and set up business.

    He soon discovered that the camels couldn’t carry as much cargo as advertised in the conditions of the canyon. Also their tender feet, well-suited to desert sands but not the jagged rocks of the wagon road, were carved up and bloodied. Even leather booties that were made for them didn’t help. But most significantly for me, many camels tumbled down the sides of the canyons to their deaths.

    It was this sorry picture I had in my mind before, during and after our treks to Clinton. For some reason, the stories of others dying on the way through the canyon didn’t resonate as much as that of these poor, displaced camels, dying in what must have been bewildering circumstances for them. My childish heart was broken at the thought of these creatures being taken from their natural surroundings and dying in this place where nobody understood them, where they were just seen as beasts of burden, money makers, and probably, in the end, a waste of money and disposable. I identified so much with them that during before, during and after our trips to Clinton, I was tormented by visions of the camels falling down the cliffs and me with them.

    As I write, I’m taken right back to those days (and nights) when I stood (yes, no seat belts) or sat in the back seat of the car, feeling sick and terrified, looking down those cliffs we skirted so closely, watching myself and those camels sliding down to the rushing river below. Nowadays, when I zip through the canyon in a car, I still see these camels and experience the sensations that I felt as a child. Thanks for the memories!

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