Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vacation Trip - April 12-14

On Tuesday, April 12th, around 10:00 a.m., we left for a 3-day adventure.  Our get-away time was impressive, given that we only tentatively decided to go the evening before, and Bill planned the route some time after that.  Our first stop was in Whistler, and although we had a very good lunch and a nice walk around the village (I hadn't seen it before, though I had been to the ski hill on school trips), I didn't take any pictures there.

The next stop was by the Green River near Pemberton. Black Jack wasn't too excited about the beautiful view,  
but she loved soaking up the sun, and relaxing in Bill's arms.  If you click on the picture, you can see her half-shut eyes and the railway winding its way to the left.
I was a happy camper.  
A short distance down the road, we stopped again to hike a 1.5 kilometre trail to Nairn Falls.  Although we saw what amounted to no wildlife (I think I may have heard a bird calling once or twice), this site mentions that there are bears, cougars, and wolves in that area.  It includes some strategies for survival, should you run into a problem with any of these creatures. Nairn Falls is also well known for being home to the Rubber Boa.  This site provides a picture and some information about the rubber boa, and here is a small quote describing its characteristics.  
Nairn Falls is home to some very special wildlife. Of particular note is the rubber boa, one of the most cold-tolerant snake species. Smallest of the boa constrictor family, its average length is only 45 cm (18 inches). Its nocturnal habits mean that this shy snake is rarely observed. The boa's brown or gray, plasticine-like appearance and two blunt ends make it hard to identify as a living animal from a distance. If you see something that looks like a big brown or gray worm, please do not disturb it! 
The trail mostly looked like this, with forest on our right, a rushing river at the bottom of a steep drop on our left, and an easy-to-navigate path.  Black Jack was really, really keen to explore, and Bill kept her moving while I..  
played with my camera.
Just before Nairn Falls, there were patches of old, corn snow.  
Then, some natural steps..
that took us to the falls.  
There was a large, flat-rock area, and we spent some time exploring the view from different angles, before turning back to retrace our steps. This cross was some distance away, and although I was able to read some of the words on it, others were indecipherable.  I did make out, "She is free to wander like an eagle, she is free to soar" and the dates: 29/09/58 and 25/06/88.  Searching on-line later, I found that three people died in the falls in the late 80's, but the most probable person remembered was a young woman kayaker who missed the pullout and went over the falls. 
It was probably late afternoon by the time we finished our hike, but we decided to move on to Lillooet, rather than spend the night in Pemberton.  Neither of us could have predicted the incredible drive that followed.  For one thing, we went from Spring to Winter in what seemed like one fell swoop.  For another, the road winded through some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen.  My "truck-shot" photos cannot do the drive justice, but I did find a small youtube clip that may give you a taste.  
The terrain was layered, and full of geometric shapes.
This was the approach to Lillooet.  As I thought back over the day, the lack of wildlife sightings seemed okay, since I couldn't remember (even in my memory of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton) anything in my experience to come close to the thrill of that drive.  Just as I was accepting that this was to be a different kind of adventure, we came around a corner..
..and spotted this hawk at the top of a very, very tall tree.  Bill managed to find a pull-off spot, and I tried to get a photo.  This was the best of several poor ones.  We debated the strange appearance of this hawk.  Was it overweight?  Was it holding some sort of prey that was making it look like it had a very large belly?  After looking at it from every possible angle, we finally concluded it was just a tricky photograph, and that it was a normal hawk, possibly Red-tailed? 
Seconds later, we came around a hairpin turn, and a couple of deer were snacking in the bend of the road.  Surprised, I just managed to get this shot through the truck window as we rounded the bend.  I think I could have reached through the window and touched the deer.  This picture makes me smile a lot.  The deer was looking right at me, and perhaps thinking, "No wildlife?  Are you kidding?"  
I've just done some searching, and found that there are hybrid Black-tailed and White-tailed deer that would be called Mule Deer (and these can be found in Lillooet), so my identification is very much a guess.  Mule Deer are supposed to have very big ears,   
and this photograph attests to that fact, so perhaps..  well, as usual, any help appreciated.
We left the deer to their snack, and drove into Lillooet.  Setan Lake was the most beautiful shade of aqua-green I had ever seen!  I couldn't believe my eyes!
I took a lot of photos, while Bill, who had been driving for many, many hours, still found the energy to run around with Black Jack.   
This is one of my favourite photos.  The sunset wasn't spectacular, but I loved the way it peeked around the mountain.
I wonder if train engineers ever become blase about that view.
Part of the Seton Lake Reservoir development is an 18-metre concrete dam and a diversion canal.  I think that is what we see in this photo.  Time and time again, we would come to the crest of hills and look down to stunning vistas.
This was just one of many one-way bridges.  Both exhausted, we were happy to find a comfortable place to stay for the night, and an excellent meal at a Chinese restaurant.  
The next morning, we explored a campground and shore area where the Seton River flowed into the Fraser.  We were looking across the Seton River when we saw horses.  They had huge spaces to roam, and at first, we wondered if we were seeing the wild horses that  we had heard were in the area.  My big lens picked up this beautiful horse, who seemed equally interested in us.  No, not wild, since s/he was wearing a bridle, but what a great life that horse appeared to be living.  I thought back to our experience of Cavalia, and imagined there would be no contest if this horse were given the choice of trading places with the performing troupe. 
We walked around the corner to our left, and saw a large, stoney beach area looking over the Fraser River.  A few people were out with their dogs, but other than that, it seemed we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  We could hear loud, high-pitched bird calls, and I was happy to discover these Killdeer.
They move really quickly, and I felt lucky to get a few..
close-up shots.
Back again at the camping area, I noticed this beautiful totem pole.
Deciding to explore the town of Lillooet a bit more, we headed to a place that I had noticed the evening before called House of Jade.  What a memorable and profitable visit that was!  There were all kinds of wildlife and geological photos on the walls, and it was clear that the owner loved his life and his work.  He was a self-confessed "talkaholic" and it seemed every word to come out of his mouth was so chock full of information, I needed Bill to help me remember it all.  He told us about mountain goats and ospreys and bald eagles, and gave us directions to the spots to see them.  We also learned a great deal about jade, and Bill picked out these earrings for me.  I love them and have worn them every day since.  (Thank you, Bill!)  I wish I had taken time to learn "Mr. Jade's" name, since I wasn't able to find out a lot about him in a google search.  All I can tell you is that if you have any interest in wildlife, or in jade, or in seeing some of the neatest places around Lillooet, do drop in at the House of Jade.  I feel certain you will leave feeling that you have just discovered a beautiful treasure. 
We left House of Jade, and immediately went to check out some of the places we had learned about.  I think (but am not absolutely certain) that this is another section of the Seton River.  We looked across at the sheer cliff, and scanned for signs of the mountain goats the man had said hang out there.  He had even described their favourite spot, but I didn't have a lot of confidence that we would be lucky enough to actually see one.  Suddenly, I noticed a teeny white spec about two thirds of the way up,
and when I zoomed in, could just make out this fellow.
S/he seemed (to me) to be nonchalantly wandering across the cliff without a care in the world except to find a tasty morsel of food.
Then, s/he lay down!  How is that possible?  (I think there may be two goats here.)  
There were other little birds singing all around us, and I took a moment to check out this lovely Towhee.
Bill and Black Jack did some exploring, and found the osprey nest the man had told us about. I was more and more impressed with his knowledge, and with his ability to give great directions.
A zoomed-in shot of a very watchful osprey.
We continued on to the Old Bridge, another spot Mr. Jade had told us about.  Can you make out the osprey nest at the top in the centre?  You can get a sense of perspective and some wonderful photographs of that bridge at this site.
Bill found the structure, and the old bolts fascinating.
I was interested too, but the structure of the nest (unoccupied when we were there) also fascinated me.  I am just beginning to understand that it takes time for birds to develop their nest building skills, and I think, some have more talent for it than others. The sticks seem to be woven in a particularly beautiful style in this nest.
Our next stop was Cache Creek, and again, we were in for a spectacular drive.  The railway tunnel in this picture had me thinking once more about train engineers and whether they ever get used to seeing views like this.
We had to stop for a few moments because of some construction, and just as we were starting up again, I saw a flash of black and white, and felt that it may have been an unusual bird.  Bill pulled up the truck (in spite of very few safe spots to do this), but there were only some geese in sight.  Could I have been mistaken?  Was it my imagination?  I felt sort of stupid as Bill waited patiently with me, and finally, we continued on.  Then, another flash.  This time, Bill saw it too!  He pulled up again, and I managed a poor, but distinct, shot of a first ever bird for me - a Magpie.  I think its official name would be a Black-billed Magpie.  There were several of them hanging out together.  They are incredibly beautiful in flight, and I would have loved to get a better photograph, but was thrilled for the opportunity to see them.
We kept an eye out for the wild horses we had heard about, and thought for a while that the ones here may have been wild.   
They appeared to be unbridled, and boy, did they ever have a lot of space to roam in, but I could make out some sort of house or structure in the distance, and think they were probably part of someone's livestock.  We wondered why anyone would have so many horses, and whether there was a riding stable on the property, but never found the answers to our questions. There didn't appear to be a lot of grass for them to eat, but they seemed to be a good weight, and I was hopeful that they were enjoying a good life.
We wondered when we saw trees like this, about the forest fires in the area around Lillooet.  We knew there were some particularly serious ones in past years that required evacuations.
I don't like seeing cattle all that much, since all I can ever think about is their eventual end.  However, I do appreciate those that get to live an outdoor life for as long as they are permitted to live.  Here, a woman on horseback..
and her dog do a job as I have always imagined old-style ranching to be.
All the way along the drive, both Black Jack and I had our eyes peeled.  I don't know if she felt as I did, that to close our eyes for a second would be to miss something important.  Here, a frozen waterfall was magnificent.
Mr. Jade had told us about Pavilion Lake, and we stopped for a few minutes to check out its beautiful emerald green.  There has been a lot of research investigating the freshwater microbialites.  (That link will take you to a very interesting blog and description of the research.) Parts of the lake were frozen, but this section had thawed and we walked as close as we could get to the edge.  It was getting late, and I am sure there was much that we missed.  Perhaps, we'll come back here some day for a closer look. 
My memory fades a bit here.  I think we stopped for a brief look-around in Cache Creek, and then continued on to Lytton.  Somewhere along that road, we had this very exciting wildlife view.  Mountain goats close-up!  To say my heart was pounding would not adequately describe the sheer joy and awe of seeing them. 
They are so sure-footed, they can even use one leg for scratching, while looking absolutely stable on the other three.  Rocks were sliding down onto the roadside, but the goats were king of this terrain.
We wondered it this was a family group, and if there was a hierarchy as to where each goat was permitted to roam.
Stepping down so gracefully,
nose already to the ground to check out the next bite.
Onward and up.
Black Jack didn't spot them at first, but here, she follows Bill's gaze.  Her heart, Bill said, was pounding too.
One last photo of these beautiful animals, and we were on our way.
Our next stop was to check out Lytton, the place where the Thompson (on the left) and the Fraser Rivers meet.  You can see the completely different colours of water.  We went on a bit further than Lytton but I forget the place where we finally chose a spot to rest for the night.  What I do remember vividly are Bill's words, as he came back to the truck after booking the rooms:  "The girl said if we go out for a walk with Black Jack, we should be careful of Cougars.  Then, she added, 'I'm not kidding.'"  After that, I was pretty much terrified of exploring that area, even though I knew my fear was irrational.  In fact, we had been in cougar territory for most of the trip, but there was something chilling about getting the warning straight from a local.  Yikes!
The next morning, it was pouring rain, but we had a wonderful breakfast.  (I am so sorry I've forgotten the name of the place, but will update this if I remember it, because it really should be checked out if you are ever in the area.)  When we left the restaurant, the rain had changed to snow.  I hate driving on snowy roads, but if I have to, my driver of choice would be Bill.  He inspires so much confidence, I was even able to enjoy the winter wonderland scenery. 
By the time we reached Harrison Hot Springs, the sun had come out, and it was summer again.  I don't think I can ever remember such a variety of weather in just three days.
This white-capped sparrow was singing up a storm,
and (I swear) followed my request to face me and continue singing.  What a cooperative and beautiful little bird!
We enjoyed a wonderful walk along a trail by Harrison Lake.  Signs of Spring were everywhere, and the snow storm a distant memory.  I enjoyed my first latte in two days, and then we continued on to..
another spot we had visited on New Year's day.  It was a boat launching spot close to Harrison, but we were welcomed on the neighbouring private property of John and Mary Monroe.  This time, I made sure to learn Mr. Monroe's name, as he has set up the most wonderful bird and small critter retreat you could ever ask for.  Not only that, he had no problem at all with letting me take pictures.  I love this place, and hope to revisit it again soon.  Thank you, Mr. Monroe! 
He told me this squirrel had just moved in recently.
There was a huge flock of Dark-eyed Juncos enjoying the feast provided for them.
And, hummingbirds!  They came back again and again to the feeder set up by the window.

One last shot of this happy little squirrel, and then we walked down to..
the waterside, where I watched Buffleheads in flight.
There were also Redwing Black birds, but I couldn't get the hummingbirds off my mind, so we went back to enjoy a few more sightings in Mr. Monroe's yard.
This time, a Steller's Jay agreed to pose.
On the road home, we stopped at the same place we had watched Bald Eagles and Trumpeter Swans on New Year's eve.  No wildlife at that moment, but I took a shot of the blueberry fields for old times sake. 
Doing this post has taken a bit of time, but it has been almost as much fun as the trip itself.  Sort of like doing everything twice to go back and remember the highlights.  Thank you, Bill, for a fun-filled trip.  And, thank you, readers, for allowing me to share it with you.


  1. It is clear to see you truly are a happy camper, Carol! Love the natural steps, the pathways and waterfalls. So sad that perhaps more than one person lost their lives in this gorgeous setting, possibly when kayaking. One would expect a lot of wildlife in some areas you visited. Sometimes they camouflage very well. The vivid aqua of the lake is almost unnatural, reminding me of a painted pool. The pretty snowy scenes made me thankful that we left winter behind in the Lower Mainland. This was an extensive journey with too many gorgeous captures to mention. However, my favorite is also your favorite … the sunset peeking around the mountains overlooking the serenity of a lake. Thanks as always for sharing your amazing journey. :)

  2. What a wonderful adventure! I think you and Bill have a talent for finding the beautiful and interesting in all the things you see and do! I feel as if I have been travelling with you! You would love being in Uspallata also... the colours of the Andes and the trees have kept me busy with my little point and press camera!