we arrived at the Chilliwack RV campground where we planned to stay while
visiting friends, we came upon two small blazing grass fires on the small strip
separating the access road and the highway, just before the park entrance. To
make matters worse, a truck had lost a part of its load on the highway bridge
across from the entrance and that load had fallen into a creek below. Dodging between
service vehicles there to deal with these situations, we just squeezed through
and into the campground. The fires were quickly extinguished, however the were
visible reminders of just how dry the ground was. A day later, the only
evidence of the prior day’s drama was the missing metal upper structure of the
bridge guard rail and black patches on the ground.
Chilliwack is about one hour inland ("up the river”) from Vancouver. Mountains views are everywhere along with broad pasture land and fields of crops. It is a very pretty community with the old section of town being located north of the Fraser River and the newer area being south developed on what was a former military storage area. The architecture is modern and unique giving the Garrison area character as you can see in Slide 1.
Slide 2 shows us with our long-time friends, Bill and Luciena, in front of their home. We toured around the community with them as they pointed out the various military and government training facilities and museums within Chilliwack and then took us out to the farm areas. We learned that some of the largest dairy farms in Canada are located in this valley. One operation milks 4,000 cattle daily! Technology is playing a larger role with plans being made to install the first German made robotic milking system in North America at a nearby farm. It was evident from the corn fields that this has been a very dry summer with short cornstalks and brown leaves indicating severe heat stress. There were several wildfires reported just to the east in areas we toured over the next couple of days.
We went to the see the church that Bill is the lead pastor of, met Michael, the associate pastor, who is a son of our former associate pastor from Mississauga, Ontario. His dad worked with Bill in that church and now Michael is working alongside Bill in this church. We also saw the new Christian school building that was recently completed after construction stopped when only partially completed during the financial crisis. The old building was located adjacent to the Church and it was razed and the land is full of new housing units.
The next day we drove to Hope, BC and enjoyed lunch in the Owl Café, which had various owl specimens looking down on the eating area together with wood carvings of owls around the exterior. It seemed to be a popular eating spot. From there we went to see the Hope Chainsaw Carving Competition, an annual event, which was being held while we were in the area. The creations were truly works of art and some were auctioned off while we watched. Slides 3 to 6 show some of the work in progress demonstrating the detail that these wood carvers put into their art. Slides 7 to 9 show the craftsman at work. The noise of buzzing chainsaws together with fine cutting saws and rotary tools is deafening if many are working together. Many of these carvers come from the US and great distances away in Canada to compete and show off their handiwork.
Slide 10 was a table that was created at this event (among many others) and it was auctioned off while we were watching. This one sold for $300, many others fetched more. The grand finale auction was planned for the afternoon of the next day. Slides 11 to 13 show some of the award winning sculptures from previous events. We spotted many similar wood carvings decorating the downtown cores of many towns we passed through on our travels. Hope, BC is no exception, there are literally dozens of these crafts spotted throughout the town.
We left Hope and drove to see the Othello Tunnels and Bridges just outside of town in the Coquihalla Provincial Park. Many of us have seen no longer used railway right-of-ways converted to walking or biking trails, however it is unlikely that you have seen anything quite like these tunnels and bridges. During the construction of the coast to coast railway back in the beginning of the past century, these tunnels through the mountains were hand cut and bridges built from the riverbed upwards. The planning, execution and aligning of the huge rock tunnels and bridges is almost unimaginable when you look at this mountainous area and rivers with sheer rock embankments. The planners who surveyed and laid out the initial locations were fans of Shakespeare and they named each of the tunnels after Shakespearian characters, Othello being just one. Slide 14 shows us (Jane took the photo) standing in front of one tunnel and Slide 15 shows Jane and I about to enter it. Jane has always been cautious about bridge crossings (some would say she fears crossing them) and tunnels are a close second, so she is reading the overhead sign with some trepidation! She followed us, taking pictures as she walked (Slide 16 & 17). Just so you know she was with us, we traded positions and I caught her cautiously walking on a rock bridge (Slide 18). Slide 19 gives an idea how far down and treacherous the tunnels were from the top. One can only imagine how the surveyors and planners were suspended from the top while marking where the tunnels were to enter the rock face and how, incredibly, they were able to cut these tunnels straight through to the other side of the mountains. This work was necessary to forge the railway connection to the west coast and join it with the Prairies. All in all, a great close-up look at a man-made wonder.
The next day we ventured closer to home to see the Blue Herons which frequent a nearby area. Unfortunately with all the hot weather, we were only able to see a few nests high up in the trees, but no birds. We saw close up how low the rivers and creeks were and fully understand why the lower mainland is on water conservation measures.
We’ll complete our tour of lower BC in the next message.