Newsletter #182: July, 2020
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
For a change of pace, I am inviting subscribers, especially those unfamiliar with the plateau landscape of south-central British Columbia, to join my wife Rita and I on a 1-day circle road trip that we made just over a week ago.
We’d like to share a small piece of the landscape that we feel so honoured to live in, and that I have been so privileged to photograph for the past 35 years.
Celebrating the 16th year of writing this photographic Newsletter.
Rita and I Went for a Day-Drive; Join us!
Two weeks ago, Rita and I drove to Lillooet for a celebratory meal at the Fort Berens Estate Winery. Fort Berens, a wonderful supporter of local tourism and featured winery at our last book launch, recently opened a restaurant; a fabulous excuse for a road trip! We decided to take the whole day and turn it into a circle tour, returning via Lytton, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton. In total, approximately 400 km.
Lillooet has both a rich aboriginal history, and post-settlement history, which is connected to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Some of my subscribers may wonder why our home town is called 100 Mile House. ‘100 miles from where?’; people ask. The answer is ‘Lillooet’, often referred to as ‘Mile 0’; the beginning of the Cariboo Wagon Road, the overland route to the gold rush town of Barkerville. Once the largest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco, Lillooet sits quietly on the banks of the Fraser River on the lee side of the towering Coast Mountains.
We left early, travelling south on Hwy.97 in a rain storm.
With time on our hands, we drove slowly, enjoying the Cariboo landscape; chatting, sipping our coffee, and stopping frequently to make photographs.
As we travelled south, the hues of light changed constantly, reflecting their beauty in the many lakes we passed by.
Sculpted by two more recent ice ages, the remains of an ancient volcanic landscape can still be seen along Hwy. 97 north of Cache Creek.
After turning west along Hwy. 99, we passed beneath an old limestone quarry which had recently been idled indefinitely. While in operation, I never photographed here; however, in its quietened state, the patterns of excavation took on new meaning.
Continuing on past the Fountain Indian Reserve, the chimney remains of an old general store had Rita and I reminiscing of visits to the store several decades ago.
The Edge Hills and higher Marble Mountains form the backdrop to beautiful sage covered terraces high above the Fraser River Canyon.
Over 3 million years ago, lava and ice formed a great divide near here. Waters of the present-day Fraser River carried glacial flours and volcanic salts north through a broad valley to the Arctic. During these times, the fertile terraces like the one seen in this image, were formed as lake bottoms. When the glaciers of the Wisconsin Glaciation were gone, the Fraser reversed its flow and followed new contours south toward present day Vancouver.
Gentle forested slopes with grassy benchlands and deep ravines provide a diverse habitat for a wide range of wildlife species. We often see California bighorn sheep along this road.
We stopped frequently to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the Fraser River Canyon. The railway tracks below us once belonged to BC Rail. They reminded me of the year 1992 when I travelled 50,000 km chasing trains and light while photographing for my book publication BC Rail: British Columbia’s Great Train Adventure. The book sold 10,000 copies, and the imagery was used in ad campaigns for several years. It was one of my most memorable photographic assignments.
Just beyond the railway tunnel seen in this photograph, the rail line begins the steepest thirty-mile assent in North America. To travel as a rail passenger from Vancouver to central BC was a spectacular journey, and adventure!
Entering the town of Lillooet.
Our destination, Fort Berens Estate Winery.
The reward! Lillooet is considered the hottest place in Canada. It was only 30 degrees that day; no wonder that cooled glass of white wine was so delicious!! (iPhone image)
The view from our table overlooks the vineyards, township, and mountains beyond.
To make our day-trip a circular route, we travelled south-east from Lillooet to Lytton along Hwy.12. Once again, the winding road offered breathtaking views of the Fraser River below.
Whoops! As we rounded a corner, we were met by a family of California bighorn sheep. I made this image through my windshield.
The town of Lytton is where the silt-free Thompson River meets the glacial-fed Fraser River. From here we joined the Trans Canada Highway and traveled north towards Cache Creek.
Over the years I have discovered several locations to photograph CN and CP trains as they travel through the dramatic Thompson River Canyon.
A CN freight train rumbles slowly southward, always in danger of falling glacial till.
As luck would have it, after scrambling down a steep slope to a treeless viewpoint, another freight train appeared, just in time for me to make this photograph.
I wonder what the engineer thinks about as he travels under avalanche sheds through this dynamic landscape.
Geological history on display.
After over 40 years of travelling this route, this section of track remains my favourite. I am drawn to the contrast between the simplicity of the horizontal and vertical lines juxtaposed against the complexity of the coloured rock wall.
Several years ago, I met a railway engineer who told me that this section of the highway and railway is in the most unstable section of land in the whole province of BC. I think of that every time I drive through here!
As our 1-day road-trip comes to a close, we approach 100 Mile House in a rain storm; just as we had left it 12-hours earlier.
Because the highway through the Fraser and Thompson river canyons travels north-south, the weather and lighting conditions change dramatically and frequently. Depending on the time of day and year, I could continuously photograph this route and see the viewscape in a different light, each trip.
The images above show only a fraction of the entire canyon route and portray the light of only a single day.
It’s a drive I always enjoy.
See you next month!