Trekking Tales: Soaking up the sights en route to the “chopping block” (part 1)

Columnist Kay Knox enjoys her drive to the Lower Mainland as she travels for her hip replacement surgery

As one sets out for a long drive in mid-autumn, anxiety usually relates to weather and road conditions. Not this time. I was heading to Vancouver, my ultimate destination being UBC Hospital and a new hip three days later. Long awaited as this was, with follow-up plans all in place, I still worried about the outcome. I certainly did not expect Trekking Tales to start typing themselves in my head.

Driving myself down was a treat. (It will be a long time before I am allowed behind the wheel again.) Despite listening to interesting programs on CBC for a while, my own stories started formulating as I observed the beauty beyond the car windows. I pressed the Off button. South of Barriere where John and I had recently noticed how bright red plants covering the burned hillsides distracted our eyes from blackened trunks, a mist now floated upwards. Like a scene from a Gothic novel, just the skeletal top portions were visible, marching up to the sky.

South of Kamloops, prerequisite cup of Tim’s coffee to hand, I continued to appreciate the peaceful scenes and mountains around me – and dry roads. Approaching the Coquihalla Summit, only the craggy peaks were dusted with snow, lower slopes fall-coloured, foliage right beside me still bright green. One long, long slope was bright red and orange. Waterfalls played hide and seek in the fall sunshine, cascading down from the heavens, sparkling across smooth surfaces, through dark trees, and down jagged cliffs. I spotted sections of the old rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railroad engineered by the remarkable Mr. McCulloch in the early part of the 20th Century. A friend and I, with John driving our “support vehicle,” hope to cycle another part of it, perhaps even next year – hip repair permitting. By staying at the Coquihalla Summit for a couple of nights we can cycle downhill twice – south to Hope, and north towards Coldstream River where we had stopped last time.

The highway filling with speeding traffic as I approached Hope, I turned onto Othello Road, driving beneath golden poplar leaves. Passing the turn-off to the Othello Tunnels, I remembered my first walk where the railway line passes through those dark tunnels, above the deep canyon carved by the swirling Coquihalla River. Here I became totally turned around – trying to convince my hiking companions we needed to go that way. They ignored me!

The road wound down through thick foliage allowing glimpses of Kawkawa Lake before crossing the Coquihalla River, which knew exactly which way to flow to find the Fraser River. Signs indicate a section of the Trans Canada Trail; my bucket list challenge is to walk on a section of this in every province and territory. Hope has much to enthuse over, including murals and chain saw carvings. The police dog carving always gets me; a lightened feeling came this time when I saw a smiling German Shepherd, head partly out the window of a passing car, one ear flapping in the breeze.

Continuing on my way to the big city on Highway 7, I absorbed sunshine and unlimited fall colours in the countryside and even within the many shopping centres. Arriving at my friend’s place in West Vancouver, a bit later than expected thanks to my gawking ways, I was ready to land – and one day closer to “the chopping block”. But I was with caring, knowledgeable people.  “I’m going to be leaning on you, Mary,” I admitted.

 

“That’s what friends are for, Kay,” she responded.