Saturday, November 26, 2005

Aventure en Novembre

It goes without saying that outdoor adventure in British Columbia in the winter months is cold and wet. But for the prepared and committed (resigned, if you're still learning to love this province), it has its rewards.

According to the meteorologists, today's temps were to hover between 0c and 5c. And depending on where you lived in the valley, the POP would be minimal or guaranteed.

When we got up, old Sol was well into the sky. The bright yellow light was so welcome after well over a week of fog so thick it put me in mind of Mordor. We couldn't pass up this opportunity to get out with the kids. It has been literally weeks since we've all been out together.

So we hotted up a thermos of chocolate and a thermos of Cheryl's patented vegetable soup, grabbed our copy of 109 Walks in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, bundled up the kids nice and warm, and piled everyone into the van.

Cheryl found a short walk up near Harrison Lake that starts near the hotsprings hotel there and goes out to Whipporwill Point. We're working our way through all 109 walks with the kids, so this seemed like a good opportunity to do a walk we had not done yet.

Our spirits were dampened a little by some rain that started to fall as we came over the crest of Mount Lehman coming into Abbotsford. But they picked up again when we came out from under the shower just past Clearbrook Road. On impulse, I decided to take the Sumas exit and headed north to Mission.

The kids were somewhat incredulous as we explained to them that Mommy used to ride her bike from Mission to Abbotsford and back each day to go to school. The province is widening the highway now, but for years it's been a very busy two-lane artery with shoulders in name only. The extra lanes in each direction and 3 foot, almost 4 foot shoulders are very welcome. In fact, this is where Cheryl and I switched seats and she took the wheel for the rest of our drive up to Harrison Lake.

The reason I took us north is that one of the most scenic drives in the Lower Mainland exists between Mission and Agassiz on the Lougheed Highway - Number 7. Sure it's got more twists, turns, ups, and downs than the Trans-Canada, Highway 1. But it more than makes up for that by giving you lots to look at and ponder as the miles spin away under your wheels.

Every year I see cycle tourists riding along the Trans-Canada (which they can, east of Abbotsford) or maybe on the side roads of Sumas Prairie, and I wonder why they pound the pedals for so little reward (except maybe in April when the tulips are out)? Especially when they could be riding on the Number 7.

From Mission, Number 7 meanders east through fields of corn between the Fraser River on its right and the Coast Range on its left. Along the way you pass through little villages like Hatzic, Lake Errock, Harrison Mills, and Kilby.

You can turn off by the Sasquatch Inn and go up to the Hemlock ski resort or the Morris Valley road further into the Chehalis back-country. It's been years, but I went up there once on a canoe trip down one of the fish-streams that fed into the Harrison River and down to the beach at Kilby.

It was about half-way between Mission and Lake Errock that the weather turned sour on us. If I recall, it was as we were passing a road-side stand that was selling both free-range eggs and boxes of Christmas oranges. Because the sleet was falling half-heartedly, we decided to press on. Because the good weather was following along behind us, I figured there might be a chance of some sunshine by the time we pulled into Harrison Village.

We crossed the bridge at Harrison Mills, which is down to one lane these days because they're either repairing it or widening it. I couldn't quite tell from the signs. On the other side, the sleet let up and we had some hail instead. We were afraid at the time of asking if things could get any goofier weatherwise.

Thinking back now, the hail made sense as the area between Kilby and Agassiz is known for it's consistent winds. I remember bicycling with Richard through there one summer afternoon and passing some folks who were packing up their hang-gliders. Luckily, when you head east, the prevailing winds are with you and not agin ye.

There's a small mountain you have to climb between Kilby and Agassiz. I don't know what it's called, but at various points the road winds around some shoulders and the trees clear away so you can see some fantastic views of the Fraser River and valley below. I'm pretty sure the area on the other side of the river that you can see is called Rosedale. It's the furthest east part of Chilliwack before the southern side of the valley squeezes in close to the Fraser.

I mention the mountain because what goes up, must come down, and in this case, it goes down in precipitous fashion. I remember finding this downhill pretty intimidating on a loaded touring bike. It's only marginally better in an enclosed vehicle.

Perhaps I am making it out to be worse than it really is, because I did manage to pedal all the way up on the way back with an only-slightly-less loaded bike. I guess you'll have to ride or drive it yourself and make up your own mind.

The clock is telling me that I'm making this way too long, so I'll cut to the chase. We got to Harrison Lake. The long drive precipitated a dash to a public facility. The meteorological precipitate also soaked the people dashing to the public facility, which postponed the walk to Whipporwill Point indefinitely.

We piled everyone back into the van and decided to head back west.

We turned off the Lougheed just past the Ruskin Dam and headed to Stave Lake. We never made it there because your humble navigator sent Cheryl down the hill instead of up it, and we ended up at Hayward Lake instead.

Even there, we were stymied, sort of. B.C. Hydro shut down the Hayward Lake trail for the season, so we did Harry's Trail, which goes around the beaver pond next to the lake instead. The kids thought this just fine and a good time was had all around.

We consumed our lukewarm chocolate and soup in the gazebo near the parking lot and considered ourselves well adventured for the day.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

On the washroom run - we ran the whole length of Harrison Beach in sleet downpour of freezing rain and hail to find the washeroom was closed for the season. Then ran to the pool and used theirs. Then were all soaked THROUGH by the time we got back to the van at the other end of the beach!! Even with "water resistant" coats! (not rain coats or goretx though as it was so nice at our place - lesson re-leared ALWAYS take your Gortex!)