August 29, 2017 – This past Sunday we decided that we’d neglected the backroads for too long. Since we got the motorcycles we’ve not played out on the Forest Service roads that we used to ply back when we still had the old truck.
When I was up at Gates Creek a couple of weeks ago I’d had the High Line Road pointed out to me, high above us, carved out of the side of the mountains. It’s the way into Seton Portage from this end. The other end takes drivers up through Lilooett and around the bottom of Carpenter Lake.
I had an ulterior motive for doing the drive, I wanted to see what the road was like since one of the facilities I work with has been potentially charged with doing an enhancement project on Chinook in the area and this road would potentially be the way to drive the juvenile fish back in for release after rearing. I wanted to know what the staff would be facing driving it with a big truck filled with water and fish. I also wanted to get a handle on what the fish would be put through.
The drive up to D’Arcy was familiar, but I had to get Kirk to stop and take a photo of the sign leading in. I’d not noticed it before and it seemed both funny, given our history of taking the road less travelled and having a penchant for “I wonder what’s down this road?”, and the fact that my best friend seems to think I get lost all the time and that we are not people to travel with. My response to that is usually something along the lines of “Maybe, but we have a ton of fun and see things that we wouldn’t if we read the recommendations and followed the standard routes”.
Do you see that line on the lower part of the mountain, just above the lower treeline? That’s about where the fun begins….
But first a stop at Gates Creek where it was nice to see that some sockeye have finally shown up, and a pass through D’Arcy to smile at some of the whimsical carvings at the edge of the forest.
You just know the road is going to be interesting when the road sign looks like this…..
The High Line Road is also called the Douglas Road and, a few years ago it was designated a provincial highway. Just hold on to that fact when you see the road and where it goes….. this is a highway…. It comes complete with fabulous switchbacks and incredible vistas, and a few weird and wonderful surprises… like the crazy twisting road ahead.
And then, you can come around a tight corner on a gravel road, in practically the middle of nowhere, and encounter a sign indicating that someone beyond the trees is selling apples, cherry tomatoes, and other assorted fruits and vegetables.
From the top of the road you can look back down on Anderson Lake, and to the crazy twists ahead, and down to the ancient landslide that separated what was once a single lake. I particularly love how Anderson Lake and Seton Lake are such very different colours.
And at one of the last corners as we decended into the valley a pull off had been carved out and a picnic table nestled under the trees. It was a hot day and the shade offered by the trees made the table a perfect spot to pull out and eat the lunch we’d brought along.
The road crosses into Seton Portage at Portage Creek, also crossing the train tracks that twist through this area on their way north. I’d taken the BC Rail train from North Vancouver to Prince George when I was younger, it was a fabulous journey through some of the most scenic parts of BC.
Looking down the tracks made me wistful for those days. The regular passenger service has long been discontinued.
When we arrived in Seton Portage we turned onto paved road and it fels strage after a couple of hours on washboards and potholes. We assumed this side of the town was the good road, and it was, by comparison anyway, just not as good as we thought it would be.
When we’d looked down the valley below it seemed strange to see two lakes situated so close to one another yet such different colours. Anderson Lake is a lovely blue, yet Seton Lake was that striking glacial green. It didn’t make a lot of sense. Until we turned a corner and the “highway” ran directly through the middle of a sizable power generation station.
Though the photos doesn’t show it, there are about a half dozen penstocks running down from (and through) the hill above and to a turbine house below this plant. There is also a second turbine station, with additonal penstocks, just up the road. What was interesting was that the water exiting the turbine building was milky coloured, so that tells me that the source water somewhere up above is glacial fed and that decades of pumping have filled Seton Lake with rock flour, turning the waters that amazing turquoise colour.
But remember how I said I assumed the road on this side would be paved? It wasn’t. And once we were past the power station, it shot straight back up the mountain, offering more amazing vistas spreading out below us.
The road eventually carved away from Seton Lake and headed up and over a ridge, descending down again near the bottom of Carpenter Lake, were it crossed over via a hole blasted in the mountainside and across the Terzaghi Dam.
The water flowing from Carpenter Lake forms the Bridge River and runs down through Bridge River Canyon.
After crossing the dam, the road runs low for a short distance before climbing high above the river once more.
Along the way were some cool sand cutbanks, hoodoos that looked strangely to me like ancient Egyptian monuments in the cliff face, and an old log house slowly falling off the bank and towards the road.
On this side the landscape also changed significanlty, it became drier, very much bordering on desert conditions. When I stopped to take some photos I reminded myself to be a little cautious, this is rattlesnake country. And in several places we came to the conclusion that the standard car disposal method was to simply launch wahtever vehicle was no longer of value, straight off the edge of a cliff. In a fairly short span we found a half dozen cars that were clearly sent to their end in this manner. Do you see these two?
At Lytton we made a change to our plans and decided to not head over to the Trans Canada Highway just yet. We didn’t even want to do Highway 12. No, instead we looked at our paper map and saw a road taht snaked along the far side of the Fraser River, high above on the bench overlooking the waters below. When one drives Highway 1 you can see that there is some sort of life on the other side, and I’d always wondered what lay over here. So off we went looking for Texas Creek Road, which we found without too much difficulty.
The road was maintained well for a short distance, and then we encountered that sign we had become familair with in earlier travels on other back roads. I t read something along the lines of “This road is not maintained for the next X km”. And they weren’t lying, except that someone was taking some care with it otherwise it wouldn’t have been passable in many places. Debris flow was apparent in many spots, but it had been pushed out of the way, in some places clearly by a grader.
There was definitley no room to pass should we meet anyone, but it ended up not mattering because on this stretch of road we were alone for the two or so hours it took us to do this third leg, but it gave some stellar spots to stop and look out over the canyon below..
We really didn’t encounter many people on the entire trip, even fewer on this stretch. Not a single car came at us, and no one came up behind us. We did pass two trucks pulled off the road and a dog chased us for a kilometer or so. We passed one or two loney abodes and I was left thinking….you really have to hate other humans to want to live out here. This felt like banjo country…..
And eventually the road descended again, down towards the Fraser. I was looking at the book in my lap trying to rationalize the lack of an obvious bridge on the map. I knew this road led to Lytton…but there was no bridge. And then it dawned on me, just before rounding the last corner, that the crossing was via an old reaction ferry. I hadn’t been on one in a very, very, long time, Kirk had never experienced one. Although we’d arrived at exactly the moment that the ferry was shutting down for a half hour break, it was a nice break to get out of the truck for a bit, stretch, and have a bite to eat.
After we crossed over we were back on pavement, out of second gear, and back up to speeds over 30km/hr. It felt exhilerating and as smooth as silk.
One more stop in Boston Bar to refuel, use the washroom, take a photo of a hunter and his dogs, and make the three hour drive back home.
It was a long day, but a fabulous adventure. And while I thought the High Line Road was a road we’d done with Mom 25 or 30 years ago, we agreed that it was not, but it was still awesome. In the end it was a little shy of 700km, of which much was driven at or below 30km/hr, so it took a little under 14 hours to complete. The route is below.
And now we are poring over backroads maps again and thinking about the next adventure on BC backroads in our area…The Hurley is looking interesting…