Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 summer road trip

I just got back from a road trip that I will remember for a long time to come. I headed out on Friday morning at 7am sharp for Merritt along highway 1 through the lower mainland, past Hope and across the Coquihalla. Things don't really get interesting until Merritt so this was the cost of entry for the trip. Around 9:30am in Merritt I had a quick coffee and filled up the car. I then headed directly East on highway 5A.

I tend to speed up in curves...
The 5A winds through very scenic country dotted with lakes and ranches. It leads to Kamloops but I headed right on Campbell Creek road to get to Barnhartvale Road. The first 10 kms or so of Campbell Creek road are actually hardpack dirt and gravel, not the most ideal road but doable and the reward for doing this is Barnhardvale Road which is a truly spectacular ribbon of windy tarmac through gorgeous rustic country. Since it is way off the beaten path, it is devoid from traffic and allows for some seriously fun driving.
Barnhartvale Road ends at the 97 which takes you back to the Trans-Canada just past Kamloops. I continued on towards Chase where I did a detour towards Adams Lake, I was curious and needed a break. This proved interesting, I ended up on another hardpack dirt road which I followed for a bit until I got to a ferry crossing.

The Adams Lake ferry
I ventured past this towards what looking like a picnic/campsite but ended up on a true dirt road, this is where I drew the line, I wasn't going to subject my poor car to these conditions so I turned around and went back to the ferry crossing. I sat by the water for a while, eating cherries and watching the ferry go back and forth.

It was lunch time when I got to Salmon Arm so I stopped and looked around a bit. I found a place called the Shuswap Pie Company where I had a lovely sage banger and apple pie.

From Salmon Arm it was another hour and a bit to Revelstoke, I arrived at the Sutton Place Hotel in Revelstoke at 3:15pm. This is a brand new ski lodge at the base of a rather impressive looking mountain. My room was state of the art, the bed being especially nice since I passed out the moment I laid down on it.

the view from my hotel room
After about an hour's sleep I headed back into Revelstoke. I wandered around for a bit and found a pub where I had that ever so refreshing beer.

this made me chuckle

I spent a bit of time looking at the local area on Google maps and noticed what looked like a windy road going up a mountain across the highway from the village. A few minutes later I found myself at the bottom of this road talking to a guy in a booth. Turns out to be a national park. We chatted for a bit, he decided to waive the entrance fee since I was going up for a look and it was late in the day. He then said the 25km drive takes about 30 minutes then added 'but in that car probably about 20. Just be careful'. I grinned broadly and took off. I was on the 'meadows in the sky parkway' which is probably one of the best bits of road I have ever had the pleasure of driving. This is a piece of pristine asphalt that winds up the side of a mountain. It has switchbacks, long sweepers, neat little twists and turns all the while presenting you with breathtaking views.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun driving up this road. When I finally parked the TT at the top, it sure sounded like it just had some serious excercise. The engine fan was going and the brakes where pinging and radiating heat. This car is such a delight to drive!

At the summit there is a small lake with a trail around it. I walked the trail but it was mosquito time so I had to hurry back to the car while being chased by a small cloud of winged arthropods. The place is beautiful though, there are several hiking trails leading to wilderness camp sites and several other trails leading to what sounded like interesting viewpoints and such. One day I hope to return here and actually have some time to explore!

The way down was fun too, I took it a bit easier and took in some of the views. Back in the hotel I cleaned up and headed to the local restaurant for some dinner. I sat on a rather nice patio overlooking yet another stunning mountain vista. By the time dinner was finished I was thoroughly done, I spent a little bit of time back in the room looking over the next day's driving route before turning off the lights at 10pm. That concludes the first day, 698 kilometers covered.

The next morning I was up early and rearing to go at 6:30am. I needed breakfast first so I waited until 7am when the Modern Cafe in Revelstoke was set to open. Some tea and a breakfast sandwich later I was on the road, eager for more driving fun. I headed East on the Trans Canada and arrived in Golden around 9am. I visited the Beanbag Cafe where I had coffee then continued on through the ever so spectacular Glacier National Park and entered Alberta around 10am. A bit later I joined the 93 heading North towards Jasper. Now this road passes through some of the most dramatic mountain scenery you can imagine.

There are a seemingly unlimited number of views, glaciers, meadows, rivers and other bits of scenery that just keep unfolding before you as you drive this road. I was staring in disbelief sometimes when rounding another corner and being presented with yet another stupefyingly beautiful view. At times I was firmly yanked back to reality by the shrill chirps of my radar detector, it seemed the cops were out in force catching hapless tourists forgetting to watch the speedometer while gazing at the scenery. I certainly got my money's worth from this gadget that day!

A bit further north is the Columbia Ice Field, which is the tip of a glacier, accessible by a short stretch of gravel road. The visitor's center looked overrun so I made a quick stop for photos then carried on.

Around 1pm, suffering from sensory overload, I pulled into Jasper, parked the car and went for a stroll. I found a little cafe where I had some lunch.

I gave myself an hour before heading off again. Heading West out of Jasper along hwy 16 before heading South on hwy 5 in the direction of Clearwater which was my destination. I quickly realized I may have been a bit too ambitious with the distances that day since it was going take me another 3 hours to get to Clearwater. By that time I was thoroughly fried! When I finally arrived at the B&B I had booked for the night, it turned out after some time waiting around, that there was a mixup with the reservation and they didn't have a room available. I was refered to another B&B, the Red Top B&B. The frist thing I noticed when I pulled up was the Dutch flag and when the owner came out to greet me it turned out she was Dutch. Quite the coincidence! She then pointed at a tiny cabin set in the garden of the B&B overlooking a lush valley with hills in the background.

This is where I was going to spend the night, it was just big enough to hold a bed and a microscopic bathroom. Quite interesting. The shower worked and the bed was soft so I was happy.

The B&B's back yard...
I had a shower, spent some time wandering around the property, then got back in the car and headed for Dutch lake where The Painted Turtle restaurant is situated. It has a lovely patio overlooking the lake and soon after I was sipping on a beer.

It wasn't until I got back to the B&B when I realized quite how tired I was. I covered 802 kilometers that day in a total of 8.5 hours of driving (hmm that makes for quite the average speed!). The odometer was now at 1500 kilometers. This is impressive but looking back also a bit unfortunate. I passed by many great looking spots for quick stops, a dip in a lake or a walk. These I had to ignore since I wanted to get to Clearwater at a decent hour. When I booked the B&B I said I would be there around 5pm, interestingly enough, I pulled up to the first B&B at exactly 5:03pm!
I did manage to meet the other guests at the B&B who also happened to be Dutch. Their 7 year old boy quickly caught on and produced a soccer ball. I spent my last shreds of energy kicking it around before thoroughly passing out in the cabin.

At some point during the night I woke up and was startled by what I thought was a person peering through the window but what was actually a tree. Also, shuffling noises outside that most likely belonged to small animals got my imagination going. Such folly, I really should get out more!

The next morning I was up early again, was presented with a lovely Dutch style breakfast by my host and hit the road by 8am. I headed South on the Yellowhead towards Litte Fort where I turned West on the Interlakes Highway that cuts straight across the Cariboo towards hwy 97 just south of 100 Mile House. This is lake country, the jagged mountain peaks of the Rockies are replaced by soft rolling hills, little streams, swaths of pine forest and lakes, lots of lakes. Very pretty and rustic country, with hwy 24 a very nice and smooth road that makes for great driving. When I reached Lone Butte I noticed a secondary road heading South with a sign saying '70 Mile House'. I knew I was going to pass 70 Mile on the way down from 100 Mile so I decided to head down this one. I am glad I did, this road called Watch Lake Road was even better than the 24, it must have been freshly paved earlier this year because it was completely smooth. When heading down these types of roads I am always nervous about the pavement ending at some point but this one didn't disappoint. At Watch Lake, the road T-junctions at a ranch overlooking the water.

There I headed further West along another inviting road:

Around 9:30am I arrived at Green Lake. This one is quite large and dotted with camp and picnic sites. It is really amazing how many places to explore there are around BC, this is an area that I had never been before and it turned out to be full of wonder. Since I was making great time and had much less of a driving schedule this day I stopped along Green Lake and sat by the water for a bit, taking it all in.

An hour later I joined hwy 97 just South of 70 Mile House and headed towards Lillooet. I was now entering familiar territory, I have driven the Duffy Lake Road many times now and was looking forward to doing it once again. Highway 99 just before Lillooet skirts a rather dramatic canyon just past Pavillion and the road gets very narrow at some points, including a blind corner that goes through a single-lane tunnel. Crazy stuff but the views are always spectacular.

The last part of the drive was a bit disappointing, it was extremely busy on the Duffy Lake Road, I guess on a sunny Sunday in August this is to be expected. It was particularly bad though, I have never experienced this road so busy. Since it is extremely narrow and windy, this means spending long periods of time stuck behind minivans doing 40km/h and slowing down to a crawl before every turn. At some point I gave up all hope of a spirited drive, turned on some music and just went with the flow. I did manage to blast past a large number of cars and even a couple of sport bikes on a rare straight bit of road but that was about it. I also had a close call with a small SUV that was coming from the other direction, obviously going too fast and going wide in a very narrow turn, crossing over into my lane. Luckily I was on the alert and managed to avoid a collision. I am surprised my left wing mirror is still intact, it was that close.

At 1:30pm I stopped in Whistler's Upper Village to visit the Sunday farmer's market for some lunch.It was 31 degrees and very busy so I had a quick sandwich before getting back into the car and heading home. I was quite amazed at the crowds along the Sea to Sky, every parking lot, trail head and lake was utterly crammed full of cars, with sometimes cars parked right along the highway with people walking back and forth. Madness given the thick stream of traffic in both directions. At 3:30 I entered Vancouver and soon after pulled into the garage at home.

This was a trip to remember, I realized just how much there is to this province (and country!) that we haven't seen yet and how much there is to expore and discover. BC is truly a driver's paradise and you can get highly rewarded if you are willing to go off the beaten path and explore the side roads.

The last act of this trip was performed last night. The TT was covered in a layer of dead bugs which needed to be removed since they are very bad for the paint job. I had to get some industrial cleaner to get them all off but the car looks nice and shiny once again.

Finally, an overview of the entire route, all 2074 kilometers of it (a bit blurry, click for a larger view):

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