Just got home from a wonderful adventure in the Merritt to Boston Bar area of British Columbia!
We had 6 trucks and 8 awesome people. Overall, virtually nothing went as planned - and we had an injury - but it was an unbelievable beautiful weekend and much was learned.
I knew that the late snow melt was going to be an issue, but it was much larger than I thought. We essentially had a very warm snow run. Recovery gear and mechanical skills were tested!
I'll outline the weekend and we'll start posting pictures to this thread as we go.
We all met at Sumas for the border crossing at 6 pm. As we headed north on Canada Hwy 1, we pulled off at our planned dinner spot before Chilliwack. We lost two trucks as they headed on up the highway. The Subway was completely backed up so it took the 4 trucks awhile to get back on the road, but as we neared Hope, the missing voyagers popped back on the road like they were waiting for us! They had no idea we were there so they were as surprised as the rest of us when they saw us in the rear view. All back together, we headed up Hwy 5 toward Coldwater to get to our first camp near Murray Lake. It was getting dark when we pulled off exit 236, so we were pretty bummed when we went 1/2 mile and found a steep, deep section of snow across the road. We decided to double back to a "bivouac" site we saw back near the highway. When we arrived, we found a huge piece of dead fall standing in the middle.
No worries, a winch and the Silky Katanaboy (these are a MUST HAVE - no more need for a chainaw!) made short work of the standing firewood donor.
The mosquitoes were awful but we had a great fire and better conversation.
(be sure to ask John G. sometime "how big were those mosquitoes" - the answer is very entertaining:)
Blocked at the south entrance to the "Spius Creek Complex", we headed to Merritt to get fuel and check out a northern approach into the area. Things went well and we made it to the Silver Lake FSR cutoff.
We aired down for more snow adventure.
There was no way to get to Silver Lake due to snow depth, so we took an un-mapped spur to see what we could find.
We found more snow of course, but a hopeful group tried to make a road about 35 ft across the snow field to hard ground.
Ryan N. takes a run at it.
It turned out to be too challenging, but we did some winch recovery (along with MaxTrax) and then decided to head back down to see if we could make it across the Spius Creek FSR to Boston Bar. Things looked promising for about 3 miles, but then we climbed to about 3600 ft and into the shadowing part of the mountains. Our dear Leader (that would be me), firmly planted his truck in the ditch. After valiant recovery from the team, we decided to head back down to the sunshine by the Silver Lake FSR and have a lunch break by a snow melt raging creek.
We packed up some split firewood that a kind person had left behind (for us!) and had fun climbing a shortcut out of the site. We decided to hit the highway to try and make our night 2 campsite before dark. The route would take us back through Merritt, where we fueled and aired up, and across Hwy 8 along the Nicola River to the Frazier River, and then down to Boston Bar where we would head up the Nahatlatch river to the lakes. I was very excited to share the best campsite I've ever been in with the group (hold that thought, but not too tightly). Our first major delay was when our dear Leader blew a left front tire at 55 mph. This was very exciting and since it was due to a sidewall puncture, we can only imagine that a stick or a spike was lodged in there up on the forest road, and then came out with higher pressure and hwy speed.
After a harrowing experience with the hi-lift, the spare was on and we were back on the hwy - still time to make camp before dark (ominous music). All along the valley on hwy 8 the Nicola River had run it's banks. The water was milky brown as the snow melt pulled farmland along with it.
We made Boston Bar at about 7pm and headed straight for the Nahatlatch FSR. The Frazier River has two sets of RR tracks - one on each side. After we crossed the river at North Bend, we found the longest train in the world just sitting on the tracks.
We waited...and waited....and then at about 7:40 the monster started to move. As it picked up speed, we noticed that we weren't running out of train. We were running out of daylight, but not train. Finally, the crossing cleared at about 8:00 pm. We took off to the Nahatlatch FSR with hopes of getting to the campsite soon. The road was pretty rotten with potholes, so we were getting bounced around and dusted up. One of the trucks lost it's headlights, so we tightened formation to light the way. The river was an absolute torrent with all the melt. We passed several empty campsites that would have been perfect had I not had the ideal site in mind. Finally -we made it....and every site was full. We continued on for awhile until, completely dejected, I radioed " let's head back down river - paradise is lost, no joy....repeat no joy". John G. and my passenger John C. noted simultaneously as we passed back by THE-BEST-CAMPSITE-EVER "hey - isn't that an open site just past the place we wanted to go? Sure enough, I missed the vacancy at the site just down lake from where we were targeting. We all pulled in, set up camp and started a fire. It was about 9:30 pm.
We woke to overcast skies but the lake was beautiful. We were having coffee and starting to fold up camp, anticipating we were going to head up Kookipi FSR a ways to see the tremendous falls that kick up during the melt, among other things. As we were packing up my truck, Keith N. came over to John C. and I to say "sorry guys, but I seemed have done myself in" - or something to that effect. He showed his left hand and we were greeted with a deeply cut ring finger at the first joint - ring still attached. John C. guided Keith back to a picnic table while I fetched my emergency kit.
We determined the ring had to be cut-off before we could dress the wound, so John C. asked around for a set of dykes. John G. came through and we cut the ring from the back side, then spread it for removal from the finger without causing more injury. Ryan N. assisted by lending tape (mine had all dried up - check your kits for quality) to the gauze.
We all packed up and headed to Boston Bar to seek emergency medical assistance. The paramedics in Boston Bar took a peek and immediately recommended that we go on to Hope. We all got down to Hope about 11 am and, after dropping Keith in emergency at Frazier Valley Hospital headed over to the Home Restaurant for breakfast to congratulate ourselves for our remarkable rescue :) We made sure Keith and Ryan were set, said our goodbyes and headed home. We received texts from Keith and Ryan a few hours later with reports that all was well and they were headed home...after 10 stitches.
What we learned:
- While the melt is dramatic and interesting, it's probably best to visit Thompson-Nicola in the
fall to avoid snow blockage
- Hi-Lift jacks are useful, but demand respect
- Silky Katanaboy saws render the chainsaw redundant
- NWOL folks are about the most interesting people on the planet
- Care should be executed when packing up a Tepui RTT whilst wearing a wedding ring
and finally...if you're on a schedule avoid roads with Canadian Super Train crossings.
More photos and video to follow.