August 17, 2015

Concluding travel on the Cassier, then the Yellowhead and the Cariboo Highways

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

The turnout/rest area that we stayed at the last night on the Cassier Highway, photos of which I included at the end of the last post, is in an area that frequently experiences avalanches. We learned from the story boards in this rest area that this highway has a number of sections where there are avalanches, either naturally occurring, or set off by explosive charges to reduce the risk. There are many gated sections that can be automatically deployed to stop traffic during high risk times, or when explosive-induced avalanches are planned. One, that we read about, left the highway blocked with 6.4m (21 feet) of snow and closed it for well over a week while the snow was cleared. There are workers who study avalanches, trying to accurately predict them and also decide when it is best to set explosives to begin one. One sombre story showed the photos of three avalanche study workers who died while working in the area when a sudden avalanche took their lives. There is danger in this area for sure. The next morning, we completed our trek on the Cassier highway and turned east on the Yellowhead highway. At the highway junction we found that we had both cellular phone and data service. We have learned on this trip that there are places where connectivity, which we often take for granted, is non-existent.  As a friend said: "Isn’t that wonderful!” It is, unless of course, we run into problems. Thankfully we did not have any issues requiring outside contact during these lapses. Had we needed help, we have OnStar on our car that defaults to satellite communication if and when cell reception is unavailable.

One prominent feature of the Yellowhead highway (#16) is that it meanders along following rivers, not mountains. This path allows large open, rolling pastures land where animals graze and corn or hay are grown for animal feed. As one travels on this highway you immediately becomes aware of the great number of long logging trucks travelling on the highway, both full of logs and running empty. The empty ones usually have one half of the trailer stacked on top of the other to significantly shorten the vehicle on the return trip. Signs are posted along the road warning of the dangers of wide swinging turns made by logging trucks as they turn on and off the highway.  We found one of their destinations later on in this trip.

We entered Smithers, BC and stopped for lunch just off the highway. I did a GPS search for the post office in town and was surprised to find it was on the front of the building where we stopped. What are the odds of that happening, we wondered? Then after lunch, we checked our email messages and confirmed our schedule for meeting with our long-time friends, now living in Chilliwack. We discovered that we had an extra couple of days before we would meet them and decided to check out the Municipal RV Park, literally just around the corner from the post office and where we decided to stay over the weekend. We learned that the church pastor in Smithers for our denomination, was the brother of our pastor at home. Interestingly, our pastor’s first church after graduating, was in Telkwa, BC, the next town east of Smithers on our route. Lots of "God moments” here.     

Further east, we passed an unbelievably large log and wood processing plant with huge inventories of logs and finished product. Unfortunately, we could not find a safe place to pull over to stop and take pictures. We concluded that there would be others and there were. Just a little further east, we came to the town of Vanderhoof, which is the geographical center and logging capital of British Columbia. We concluded our journey on the Yellowhead at the city of Prince George, where we joined the Cariboo highway (#97). We stayed safely off this highway junction on the parking lot of the casino located there.

The next morning we came to another log processing plant and we were able to stop and take pictures. The first two slides in the Logging Photos shows the height of the log piles as measured against some tall utility power poles. Slide 3 shows one of the huge sawdust piles with sawdust constantly flowing out of a conveyer belt housing onto it. All day long, trucks and large equipment move the ever growing pile away. Slide 4 shows a pile of logs which runs as far as the eye can see. It is difficult to gauge how large this log pile is from a picture, although Slide 6 gives an idea of the height and size when using an empty logging truck as the gauge. Notice how long the truck is in that photo, then look at Slide 5 which shows a truck loaded with logs ready to be unloaded.  Those log piles seem to go on for miles around the perimeter of the plant with a steady flow of trucks coming in to unload. There is a lot of wood there!

In the finished product section (Slide 7), you see processed wood in neat, large stacks ready to be loaded onto trucks and nearby rail cars. Just as you see the logs coming into the plant, you see trucks, like the one in the foreground and long trains on the nearby rail lines with cars loaded with finished wood products. Some of the wood is wrapped in white plastic. Again the photos really do not do justice to the size of the areas occupied by the processed wood. These are large plant operations and a major economic driver in the BC Interior.   

Continuing on our way, we came to Williams Lake which is a very scenic town on a lake with a mountain backdrop. The Tourism Discovery Centre shown in Slide 1 was built by two local, world-renowned log building companies from large logs and local wood. It is an awesome structure, overlooking the town centre, with a great view of the lake. Inside, in addition to some excellent video productions that put you in the middle of the exploration of Williams Lake, there is this red compact car loaded to the building’s roof with everything to take along to enjoy an adventure in this town and the area. (Slides 2, 3 & 5). What an effective way to make the point! Even the lamps in one of the video rooms are unique, as Slide 4 shows a replica pot belly stove lamp.

Outside, there was the monument of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion Tour (Slide 6). Rick Hansen, a native of Williams Lake became a quadriplegic at the age of 15 and with the encouragement of many in the town, his family and others, he dreamed of and began his Man in Motion World Tour covering over 40,000 km (25,000 miles), through 34 countries on 4 continents and raised $26 Million  (CDN) for Spinal Cord Research. The first of four stainless steel supporting panels is entitled "You Can Make a Difference” showing that even people with significant disabilities can reach their goals. The Second is "Never Give Up on Your Dreams” and covers his 1985 Tour. The Third is titled "Anything is Possible” in which Rick describes his dreams and aspirations for a Canada where people with spinal cord injuries will walk away, where even his home town will be accessible to all and wheelchairs will be consigned to museums among other dreams. The Fourth panel lists the sponsors that contributed to the costs related to this monument. In Slide 8 is the route that this tour followed around the world traced out on a globe.

Behind the Visitor Centre, there is rock outcropping which is shown in Slide 7. A tall flagpole with a Canadian Maple Leaf Flag flying is at the top for all to see.  


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