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Whistler Jasper

1st June 2010

Hike to Nairn Falls, Long Trains and Kamloops

Panoramic View of Kamloops Lake      (please use scroll bar)

    At 3am it sounded as though Shannon Falls was cascading onto the van roof. An hour later it had intensified to Niagara Falls. After a while it stopped, only to be replaced by random dripping onto the roof from the surrounding trees, a form of medieval torture.
Nairn Falls
    I asked the camp official about the roads up to Kamloops, and everything he and others had told me was absolutely correct. The road to Pemberton was exceedingly twisty, so I took a welcome break and hiked up to Nairn Falls. My legs felt good after all the city walking I had done, and I could have gone on for hours. The Nairn Falls have not got the height of Shannon Falls, but the sheer power as they thundered down a narrow canyon was unbelievable. It was mesmerising, but I snapped out of it to chat to Jenny and Paul, an English couple about my age, who were also doing some touring. Jenny had lived in British Columbia at one time, so she knew it intimately well. I shared my itinerary with them, and she advised me of routes and stopping off points in Alberta. The Icefields Parkway was already on my agenda, and she said it was a "must see". They too had recently done a spot of whale watching from Vancouver Island. I mentioned to Paul that I did not go overboard with Whistler. He tended to agree; he was last there in 1994, and said it had changed beyond recognition since then. I suppose the Winter Olympics would have an impact. Jenny spotted a cross up on the cliffs by the falls, and we wondered why it was there, and how did anybody get there to erect it. We wished each other well for our prospective journeys, and I made tracks for Pemberton.
Mountainous Terrain
    Pemberton to Lillooet, as advised, was precipitous; huge long climbs with umpteen hairpins, up into the mists and snow fields, followed by exhilarating descents. I encountered numerous snow-chain pull-in signs again. In addition, I was now coming across many instances of avalanche and landslide area warnings. This would be a hostile environment in winter. For all that it was full of beautiful vistas all the way as the road hugged the mountainsides, rivers and lakes before having no option but to climb over mountains. The mountains here were craggy and precipitous, the rivers emerald green and the lakes turquoise blue. I guessed this was the sky part of the "Sea to the Sky Highway 99".

Lillooet on the Fraser River
    The curse of the charging circuit warning lamp returned to haunt me. This time I stopped the van, and with the engine still running, disconnected the control socket. The lamp went and I thought I had isolated the problem. However, when I put the socket back in, the lamp stayed out, so really I was none the wiser. Another time perhaps.
    Lillooet was a small, spread out community sited on the Fraser River. The main feature of this community was the huge marshalling yard. Long trains of grain, ballast and miscellaneous materials were hauled across the mountains, and I guessed this was a stopping off point for distribution and locomotive swapping. The trains were indeed long. I watched one creeping up a valley like a very long millipede; it must have been about a mile long, with three locomotives at the front to pull it up. I didn't stop to see if there were further locos in the middle, which often is the case. The trains can sometimes be 300 wagons long.
    From Lillooet to Cache Creek the landscape changed dramatically. It was obvious that these mountains had suffered the ice ages, and had a more rounded appearance, resembling the Pennines in a way. Massive coniferous forest had been replaced by brushwood and pastures with cattle grazing. The road stretched interminably on with very little traffic.
Long Train Coming up the Valley
    Cache Creek to Kamloops was a straightforward highway drive, with only the scenery to stop one getting bored. I pulled off at Kamloops Lake for a photo opportunity. Just in front of me was an old school bus parked up, the yellow paint being replaced now by a weird shade of maroon, and decorated with numerous framed paintings of all manner of subjects. Its old-timer owner, Bruce, was sitting on a wall by the bus cleaning the adhesive off the back of an old picture frame with his knife. I greeted him and sat down for a chat. He had bought the bus a while back, and was now touring in his converted bus. His ongoing itinerary was British Columbia in spring and summer, and the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada in the winter. He had been touring for 8 years now, and maintained contact with family and friends via the internet. Bruce hailed from Belleville, Ontario; descended from folk who fled Pennsylvania many generations ago to loyally stick with the English in Canada. I chatted about my time in Ontario 30 years ago: Gananoque, Smith Falls and the Rideau Canal, and he was most impressed that an Englishman had even heard of them never mind visited them. Our conversation covered a multitude of things, but I can't remember how it shifted on to cow manure, and how Canada used to export it to the UK a long time ago, and import back railway lines. I told him the lines probably came from the steelworks where I worked during a gap year. Small world. We also moved onto politics, and boy was he not impressed with some of the changes Mr. Bush brought about. He could not understand how he got into power. My response was money talks, to which he wholeheartedly agreed. (When I was with Don, he was absolutely scathing about Bush, he said most Americans were). I was curious about his old bus, it was looking a little dilapidated. I asked him if it had to have annual checkups similar to the UK MOT. He laughed out loud and said ,"Hell no. Once a vehicle is over 25 years old, they don't test it anymore. They figure that if somebody keeps a vehicle that old, they must have a vested interest in keeping it in good shape". Hmmm.... We watched a very long train winding along the far side of the lake together, then I wished him good look with his ongoing adventure, and made the final run into Kamloops.
Bruce and his School Bus
    Kamloops is a small 'city'; it's called a city here but I would call it a town. It is also in an area known as 'cowboy' country. I had noticed various rodeo centres on the way across from Cache Creek, and fields full of horses. The main street had its fair share of eating establishments, coffee houses and bars, and seemed affluent enough; probably because the telltale signs of industry could be seen on the outskirts. There was nothing to write home about though.
Paul Lake Campsite
    The Information Centre put me onto Paul Lake campsite about 25 mins out of town. It was in a beautiful location, within woods surrounding a lake. Amenities were to be as expected out in the sticks, pit toilets and that is it. I can live with that; a day without a shower is fine. I went over to see my neighbours who came from near Vancouver. They were having their trip of a lifetime travelling all the way up to the Yukon with their trash camper-trailer as they called it. It looked like a palace to me, enough room for servants at the back. We talked about their English and Irish connections; all Canadians I have met so far seem to have connections with the old mother land. We discussed the problems they have with immigrants in Canada; not much different to our problems. When it got round to my itinerary, I went through it with them, but mentioned that Mexico is a day visit because it is so dangerous, particularly near the border crossings. The chap then told me about a French couple he had met up in Jasper. They had shipped a camper van over to the tip of South America, and were working their way up to Alaska before shipping it back home. When he asked what the most dangerous country was that they visited, the response was the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The border between Mexico and USA was nothing in comparison. At the southern Mexican border, everybody walked around with sub-machine guns hanging around their necks; nobody wore uniforms so you couldn't tell who were police and who weren't. Wherever you stepped, a shady character would walk up and ask to see your papers. You couldn't argue with a gun, so you had to produce your passport. The shady dude would flick through the document and stoke his stubble, whilst holding his other hand out, rubbing his fingers across the palm; no option but to give him money. There were a million and one 'officials' at that border. Fortunately that area was not on my agenda.
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Whistler Jasper

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Last updated 7.6.2010