Sunday, 19 May 2013

From Mountains to Coast

The drive from Calgary to the coast of BC is actually two separate drives, at least for me, taken over two days or perhaps even three if you want to wander. The first drive is through the Rockies. The second is up out of the Shuswap and North Thompson region into the Thompson Plateau, down through the Nicola Valley then piercing the Coastal Range, breaking out from Hope into the Fraser Valley.

These two drives are as different as can be despite their immediate proximity. The Rockies and its ranges represent the rugged terrain for which BC is famous. The Interior Plateau, shadowed from the rains by the Coastal range, is a drier, a sparser grass and thin forest plate between the mountains.

All of BC is amazing to me, wonderful in its diversity. This is a land of stunning variety, running from steep-sided granite slopes to wide open grasslands to lush, productive valleys. These upper plains and surrounding hills are covered in a thin forest coat of lodgepole pine, well spaced with spreads of bunch grass that cover the many meadows of the high country. It is the land of deer, moose, elk and bear. Ranchers range their cattle in these well logged woods and cougars use what trees they can to hide above, and leap down upon, their unsuspecting prey. This forest is a haven of life, and death.

My Dad and I used to hunt these plateaus, although it would be more realistic to say we used to explore them. We would traverse the logging roads cut into the hillsides, rising steep to one side and falling just as steeply on the other. Our day would be spent wandering with the vain hope that a deer, or perhaps a bear, might be foolish enough to step out onto the edge or maybe even the middle of the road, where shooting, recovery and loading would be made easier by the lack of forest slope.

Most days we would be unsuccessful, at least from the meat acquisition perspective. Yet all days were a success for us, scrambling along the back country pathways, seeing new things, discovering old and lost logging camps, abandoned towns and camping sites tucked away in the woods.

The Coquihalla Highway, rising from Kamloops and crossing over to Merrit, takes me over this plateau, transferring me to the Coastal Mountains. These rugged peaks, more distributed than the Rockies but just as massive, stand as a sentinel barrier covered thick with heavy evergreens, thatched beneath with bramble and bush prove the words "coastal rain forest" and "temperate jungle".

Then, as quickly as I rise to the land, the land falls away, dropping in steep decline down the Coquihalla River valley as that eponymous stream bursts its way into the Fraser River at Hope, mountains splitting at the root of the vast "V" of the delta, depositing me along with a million tons of earth at the top edge of the Fraser Valley where ten thousand years of silt laden freshet have made a farmland unparalleled.

I love this land, its span and scope. Around the world it is unequaled.


  1. Whenever I drive the Alcan From Alaska to the Lower 48 I just love driving through BC. It is very beautiful; a blessing from God...but I must say that my neck of the woods here in Alaska is where God gave an extra big smile and a few extra passes with his majestic paint brush. The beauty of God's creation is spectacular.

  2. Hi Denise

    I am looking forward to seeing Alaska. Ricky and I are planning to drive through Alaska in late June. We are looking forward to the trip.



  3. This is so beautiful Richard like the land you describe. I too love this land and am grateful to have lived most of my long life here.