We continue our Chronicles of Crossing Canada. Welcome back!
We headed out from Jasper and headed towards Hope, British Columbia, our next leg of the journey. We headed towards Prince George and then headed south on the Caribou Highway. We stopped for a pit stop and while I fuelled up, Jaime went in for a coffee and bathroom break. I have been growing a beard since Remembrance Day of 2020 and it was a little out of control, but I enjoy it. While fuelling the truck, a Sikh Transport Truck driver walked past, and his beard was epic. I complimented him on his beard, and he responded with: “you have a nice one a well young man”. There has always been a place in my heart for truckers because I used to fuel the trucks at the Esso in Port Hope before I joined the military. This simple interaction recharged the battery a bit more. This is the Canada I remember.
The drive down the highway was dotted with beautiful rivers, lakes, and especially mountains. It’s hard to imagine the amount of effort, and labour that it took to build these roads. At this point, now in the interior of B.C., there were signs on the side of the highway stating that snow tires and chains must be on transport vehicles commencing in October (less than a month from where we were). Signs warning of imminent Winter avalanche conditions and an actual gate will be used to shut the highway down if conditions got too dangerous. We switched driving in Kamloops. I thought my stress level would be fine until I saw the speed limit signs jump from 110 Km/hour to 120 Km/hour. The Highway Thru Hell is filmed here and I know why.
When we pulled into Hope B.C., we went to the camp site first. After situating ourselves at the camp and doing a little laundry we decided to head out and explore. We walked around Hope, looking at the beautiful wood carvings in the downtown park. One such carving was of Rambo from the film First Blood, titled: “You drew first blood”. We eventually stumbled upon a Fields store (I have never been in one yet), search for folding chairs. We had left our fold up chairs in New Brunswick and not having a good, portable chairs was a slight hindrance to us on this trip. With newly acquired chairs, we went shopping a grocery store around the same size as the one in our small Town of Annapolis Royal. This grocery/market had a huge selection of everything from everywhere you could imagine.
Back at the camp we relaxed knowing that we were close to our last destination on the west coast. Both Jaime and I have been to Vancouver before and decided that our last stop would be in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
We rose before the sun got over the Sirdar Mountain. Soooo cold! Coffee, shower, then we hit the road – west. Our trans Canada route continued to follow the train line on Hwy 16 towards the interior of British Columbia. More lakes and valleys, provincial parks, and the pipeline project. In under 30 minutes we were in Beautiful British Columbia!
James with Rambo (photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle)
We started to see road signs warning of variable speeds and signs warnings of inclement high mountain road conditions along the way. Rest stops were frequent and at the gas/convenient stores - no one cared about masking. And why would they?
Between Kamloops/Merritt we could see the results of the fires. The trees on the mountain sides surrounding the highway looked like burnt matchsticks. There were still some spots smoking and smouldering. The valley below was filled with smoke – visibility poor. We saw a helicopter dropping water, flying low, then soaring up and away after dropping its load on the smouldering areas.
By Kamloops, the highway opened into 4 lanes in both directions. The speed limit was suddenly 120 Km/hr. We stayed in the middle lane. We hugged the mountains, letting the fast drivers zoom ahead. We stayed out of the slow lanes with the transports flashing 4 ways as we descended for 19 kms, 5% decline. There were break lanes that made room for large air brake vehicles to slow down if needed. Sometimes the wet clouds made the visibility difficult. It was both a breathtaking and hair-raising drive. Glacier snow topped the mountains, construction, smoke, rain. We had it all!
Coquihalla River, Hope B.C. (photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle)
We arrived in Hope, British Columbia in the early afternoon. Our camp was not far from the Hope exit. Our site was on the Coquihalla River – what a view! From the river at our site, we could see the bridge where in the film, “Rambo: First Blood”, the police chief dropped off the unwelcome Veteran, John Rambo. We did some laundry at the camp laundromat before we set out to explore Hope.
Hope was a very short drive from our campsite and is nestled among in the Cascade Mountains. This small town had a grocery, variety, movie theatre and park lined with wood carvings. In the shop windows were posters of missing women, and memorial banners of orange t-shirts.
There was a wood carving of John Rambo with his gun at the entrance of the park, juxtaposed against the town’s quiet streets. I believe if someone like John Rambo – a Vietnam Vet, was searching for a place that is welcoming – the real Hope would be much more accepting than the fictional Hope, Washington in the film.
Hope B.C. (photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle)