Monday, September 14, 2009

Pemberton to Harrison Hot Springs by 4x4

When you leave the Pemberton Lodge with it's magnificent pool and hottub, you take a right to Mount Currie. The comfortable pool side suite, order in Pizza that night, a late night movie, luxurious bathroom and comfortable queen bed prepare you for what might be the last trip. The new Honda CRF 250 motorcycle was on the back of my old Ford Ranger FX$ Level II. Part of the rational for the motorcycle was to reduce wear and tear on the truck as well as save on gas. The bike was just the thing for rough terrain. Maybe the truck was jealous. There were implausible explanations for everything.

"Can you get through to Harrison's Hot Springs this year," I asked him. There had been road closures in the past.
"In a truck you can, " he told me. A believable sort. Probably owned a monster truck.

Driving through Mount Currie and heading up the Duffy Lake Road where the sign for Lillooet Lake jogs left was just fine. Beautiful day. Sunshine. Blue sky. Amazing vistas. Late summer. None of the music that prepares you though for the horror film.

Easy logging road drive. . Around 45 km is where St. Agnes Hotsprings exists. St. Agnes Hotsprings is incredible. There's a $5 user charge. The change room is an outhouse but half the adults go naked. It's European that way. You can spot the Canadians dressed in blue long johns with trap doors , balaclava face masks and scarves. They think taking off their parkas in the hotsprings is a really liberal sexy living. Dragonflies abounded. I talked with a Polish guy about skin properties of algae and not too long after I was a boiled lobster and ready to hit the road again. My friend could have stayed the week. She's an exile from amniotic fluid.

The road got better and better. I figured they were opening this area for tourists as well as new logging going on. All was going well till we got to the head of Harrison Lake. Great view and then the sign said: "ROAD CLOSED. Impassable. For more information call ......" That couldn't be true. What do signs know? There were tracks on the road where another vehicle had gone. I didn't think their going in and none coming out could have several meanings. I'd already had the fatal 4x 4 thought, "I think I'll just go see."

"I think I'll just go see," I said. She'd not been 4x4 so didn't know the missing horror theme music was beginning to crescendo.

In the past that "just go see" thought has caused me no end of grief 4x4 ing. Turning back or backing out of the 'just go see' is where the excitement usually begins. There was the time when the high mountain road collapsed under my 4x4 leaving me dangling precariously on 2 wheels until I could winch myself back onto the remaining road. The returning around that part driving sideways on the wall and what was left of the road was nearly as exciting. Or the time being washed down the river in the new Ford Broncho II when the dog jumped ship and I was thankful to hook up on a fallen tree so I could winch myself out. I don't like to remember those times.

This road was difficult but not excessive for the first part. The next sign "DUE TO FIRE THE RIDGE IS UNSTABLE" could have given pause for thought. But then the hand written sign "USE EXTREME CAUTION, BEWARE OF FALLING BURNT DEBRIS" appeared.
That's when my friend bravely said, "well, there must be people driving on this road for people to be putting up caution signs, don't you think. " What good news.

That's when the road turned extreme. It was boulders and wash out going up a half mile stretch with huge pot holes and half a road missing going down. The Ranger was superb. This just kept on and on. I had to stop to tighten the tie downs on the motorcycle twice as the truck was lurching from side to side and bucking bronchoing up down the bare rock. Somehow thanks to the big tires and high suspension and nimble steering I didn't hit anything. It was such rough hard going I wasn't making any more than 5 kph , night was falling, and I was losing hope.

Just then I saw headlights and a couple of crazy First Nations guys pulled up in their 4x4 Jeep.
"Is the road open through to Harrisons? " I asked.
"Yes, A little rough in spots. We came to look at where the fire had been."All around us was a charred moon surface. I 'd been so intent on driving I'd hardly registered the bleak scarred hills.
My friend had told me that the Lillooet Fire had been in the news for weeks this summer and this was where it had broken through to Harrison Lake. The town of Lillooet had been evaculate for safety.

"It's a little rough between here and the top of Harrison's." I said. We waved each other on, smiling, friendly, the way folk are off the beaten track.

Their 'a little rough' was a 'little rougher' than my ' a little rough".

We came to a truck totalling corridor that I'll long remember in my already too memorbble 4x4 experience, that included rolling over among other things.

Hearing the road was passable though bolstered my dwindling faith.

That's when we hit death valley hill. On either side of this stretch there were the left over dead bodies of two trucks whose suspensions had been torn out by the road or truck eating monsters. It was so steep that I had to keep momentum wrangling boulders the size of basketballs and riding sideways between washed bare rocks. Thats when the road played its best trick which had definitely caught the dead truck lying on it's side. Breasting over top a man sized boulder had fallen into the road forcing me to twist and ride sideways around it with no room to spare and a gully to nose through beyond. A second truck which had it's vitals torn out by that same beast lay on the other side of the road dismembered. I got through it somehow. Maybe the motorcycle sitting high in the back was telling the truck about where to go but somehow we got through that worst spot.

What followed then wasn't nearly as extreme or exciting but still 'rough' as attested by a half dozen more vehicles abandoned torn to bits by what must have been a bunch of those bad road beasts. It was 4x4 dead alley. Later I came across a cross where a human had gone down with his truck.

A couple of hours later I caught the lights of Harrison's way off across the lake in the distance. We came out at the Hemlock Valley exit onto Highway 7 . I'd have preferred the trail ended in the centre of town with a brass band but the paved highway was just about as good. I resisted getting out and kissing the asphault. Civilization.
Late at night I was glad to be back enjoying the city of Vancouver. It's so hard to believe that such awesome outdoors is only an hour away.
The old truck and young motorcycle seemed to have bonded now. That truck sure showed that kid some mighty fine moves. I left them in the garage going over the best parts.

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