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Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Fraser River Valley

Location: Cache Creek, British Columbia
Population: 1037

The journey begins! I caught the mid-morning ferry over to the mainland (I took the bald eagle flying over the ferry terminal as a good omen!) where I met up with my parents and we started our trek north into Canada. We crossed the border near Abbotsford and while following the highway out of town you leave civilization behind in a hurry: no more traffic, no more cell phone coverage, no more billboards or gas stations or convenience stores. We're just a few hours north of the San Juan Islands and we are face to face with raw, natural beauty.


The first part of our drive took us along the Fraser River. This is the same route millions of salmon - the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, and summer sustenance for the Southern Resident orcas - take en route to their spawning grounds. The steep walls of the valley embrace you as you wind along the road, at times near river level and at times a thousand feet or more above. All slopes except those that are nearly vertical are blanketed with fir trees. The low-lying clouds encase you from above, but occasionally lift enough to reveal the snow-capped peaks of the mountains.


We broke off from the Fraser near its confluence with the Thompson River, and as soon as we started following the Thompson the geology was notably different. Gone are the dense coniferous forests and dark gray, craggy rocks, and they are replaced with sparser stands of pines and gravelly concentrations of minerals ranging in color form white to red. As we progressed even the trees thinned out and were surprisingly replaced with sagebrush and other semi-arid plants, an unexpected sight I wouldn't associate with south-central British Columbia.


These first few days will encompass a lot of driving as we press our way north, but that doesn't mean there won't be great wildlife to be seen or viewpoint stops to take photos. Today, I saw a respectable 19 species just from the ferry or far, including a couple of surprises - two new year birds in the black-billed magpie (163) and western kingbird (164).

I have already been warned that bald eagles are like crows in Alaska, but can the intrigue of such an impressive bird ever really wear off? We shall see, but so far it is has not. Here is one perched right in its nest just across the river from the main highway:


We also passed an osprey nest that was on a telephone pole just feet from the road. One parent sat in the nest, while this one sat on the pole just across the way:


We stopped for dinner at the Log Cabin Pub in Spences Bridge where the only other customers were a group of eight that had ridden in on their Harleys. Then it was on a few dozen more kilometers to Cache Creek, our stopping point on this first night and one of the many towns in the region that was formed during the gold rush era. It's the largest town we've passed since leaving Abbotsford, and our hotel here has all the amenities from wifi to....wait....what's this rubber mat on the floor? Oh, it's a "majestic boot tray"....of course.

5 comments:

Julie said...

I'm guessing that you crossed the Canadian border at Sumas, Wa. Believe it or not, I lived there for 4 years and never visited the San Juans until returning to California.

But, what a fun trip you are on, Monika! I look forward to hearing about your adventures and all the wildlife you're seeing.

Monika said...

Julie - You're right about Sumas. That's crazy that you didn't visit the islands until you left the state, but not unusual - I'm continually amazed at how many people from the region haven't been out that way.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - that scenery is awesome. lots of Ospreys here in FL but no baldies yet. Hope the canadian biting things aren't ass voracious as these here - rather face a pack of wolves, Jaws and a few tigers than walk the Rook Birding Trail in shorts again!!!!!!

Have fun

Dave

T and S said...

Lovely images of the Fraser River Valley...Thomas

Amanda said...

Hello,

My name is Amanda White, and I am teacher for a nonprofit organization, children's choir, grades K-2. I am trying to put together a video project as a visual aide to help my students learn the words to the song that they're learning, "Where Go the Boats," set to the poetry by children's poet, Robert Louis Stevenson. In it, it mentions, "...away down the valley..." pertaining to the river.
I really liked your image of the the Frasier River Valley.
May I please use this image for my class? Let me know.

Many thanks,

Amanda White
Willamette Girlchoir
Salem, OR