Geocache Route 3
Blue Sky Country
Across the rolling, semi-arid landscape, you get a taste of both desert and ranchland and hints of thousands of years of First Nations presence.
This route has seen great aboriginal leaders gallop in state with their entourages, eccentric English gentlemen playing cricket amidst the sagebrush and hardened ranchers set up oases of culture and comfort. Easily seen by car, it will tempt you to saddle up and hit one of the many trails off the main road for a buckaroo holiday.
This circle tour takes you through sun-drenched vistas under brilliant, blue skies: perfect for families and the more adventurous. You can get your passport stamped at participating Visitor Centres, businesses and partner organisations near each site.
May 31, 1870: Mr. and Mrs. Beam doing well. I bet Mr. Barnes, a packer, I can get them to Washington Territory, pick up my herd and meet him for tea in Ashcroft before summer ends…
This sage brush-swept spot situated strategically where two valleys meet, Cache Creek is a natural rest stop and home base for exploring everything from fossil beds to wineries. Located at the junction of the Trans Canada Highway and 97 North, this semiarid desert oasis served the First Nations for thousands of years before becoming an important stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road in the 1860s. Cache Creek carries on its tradition of hospitality today with year-round activities and events.
For more information about Cache Creek, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Cache Creek
- The McAbee fossil beds, just 13 km outside Cache Creek, preserve over 80 prehistoric plant species, innumerable insect species and rare fish.
- The Bonaparte Bend Winery produces fine, natural wine made with 100 per cent B.C. grown fruit.
- Arrowstone Provincial Park preserves large stands of old growth Douglas fir in a remote, pristine habitat that is still easily accessible and offers quality camping, wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities.
June 10, 1870: Beams insist on staying here a few days. In no hurry to return to Washington Territory. Packers grow impatient. This is good grazing land. Perfect for ranching.
A century ago, Englishmen here played cricket among the cactus and staged “fox hunts” over the sagebrush using specially trained coyotes. Walhachin was a quixotic Camelot dreamed up by an American entrepreneur. Founded in 1908, it boasted a luxury hotel, fine homes and all the comforts of Old England. World War One and the collapse of a crucial irrigation flume spelled the end of its heyday. Today, Walhachin survives, poised above the Thompson River.
For more information about Historic Walhachin, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Walhachin
- American Charles Barnes tried to turn ranch land into rich fruit orchards and elite estates. Characters like Cecil Rhodes’ nephew found their way here between 1910-1914.
- By 1913 Walhachin boasted a lavish hotel, post office, general store and many other comforts – but not a single church.
- A flume system brought water 20 miles to the orchards. A storm in 1918 destroyed much of it and the orchards soon withered.
June 15, 1870: Mr. Beam’s horse was startled by a snake this morning and threw him. He is much scraped, but okay. Mrs. Beam insists he see a doctor in Savona.
Savona has always kept up with the times – even when it meant moving the entire town. In the 1800s, the village sat on the north side of Kamloops Lake, the last stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road from Cache Creek. Travellers boarded steamship here for Kamloops. But when the CPR arrived in 1885, its line was on the lake’s south side. Undeterred, residents moved every building across the ice-covered lake to the southern shore.
For more information on historic Savona, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Savona
- In 1866, Savona saw the launch of The Marten, thought to be the first steamboat built in B.C.’s Interior.
- A trip up scenic Deadman Creek Road, west of Savona, yields sights like the incredible volcanic lava cliffs infused with dazzling mineral highlights bordered by rolling ranchland dotted by crystal clear lakes.
- East of Savona you’ll find the “$100 View” Lookout & Rest Stop – 180 degrees of spectacular views that were featured on the old $100 bill.
July 3, 1870: Met up with Charlie Guichon – he likes this territory. Keeps talking about setting up a ranch and maybe even a hotel.
In the midst of the Nicola Valley, the historic Quilchena Hotel is a sort of time machine that can whisk travellers back to an ear where Victorian elegance mingled with the Wild West. The bullet holes in the saloon bar – and the stories of how they got there – are just one example of its rich history. The descendants of the original ranch owner, Joe Guichon (who purchased the “Home Ranch” in 1882) operate the Quilchena Cattle Company as well as the Quilchena Hotel and Store.
For more information on Quilchena, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Quilchena
- By 1890, the Quilchena Cattle Company was the largest stock ranch in the region, running 2,000 head of cattle.
- The Quilchena Hotel opened July 3, 1908, and soon became the valley’s social and recreational hub.
- Gather around the pot-bellied stove and swap stories over a hot cup of java in the Quilchena Store, once a bustling depot on the stage coach route. Built in 1912, it continues to offer a treasure chest full of gifts, supplies and local lore.
July 15, 1870: Enrique rode into camp with word that half our herd has been stolen! Sent the Beams south with two packers and headed up the Lower Nicola after the rustlers.
In the heart of the breathtaking Nicola valley, this community has earned the title of Canada’s country music capital as host of the renowned Merritt Mountain Music Festival. The area’s musical heritage goes back 5,000 years and today you can still catch a First Nations powwow. That history – as well as European settlement starting in the 1880s — is all on display at the Nicola Valley Museum.
For more information about Merritt, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Merritt
- After coal was discovered south of “The Fork” in 1885, the community dubbed Forksdale sprang up near the coal mines. The town’s name was changed in 1911, honouring William Hamilton Merritt, a mining engineer and railway promoter.
- Merritt’s walks rock. Local tours include the Merritt Walk of Stars, the Rotary Walking Routes and the Heritage Walking Tour.
- Rotary Park is the place to catch cultural activities ranging from First Nations powwows to Indo-Canadian dancing and summertime Music in the Park.
July 21, 1870: Stolen cattle recovered. Thank goodness! But we are far out of our way. Must doubleback to Guichon Creek. Mr. Barnes may win his bet yet…
A little west of Merritt, you leave the sagebrush and the cactus behind for a landscape of forest-clad hills and green fields. Lower Nicola is an easy-going and scenic community that still manages to offer outdoor enthusiasts activities year-round. Used for millennia by the First Nations and a welcome rest area for herders like Nan Sing, this is an area of pristine and varied ecosystems. Hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, camping, horseback riding and fishing are just a few of the holiday activities for travellers to indulge in.
Three Fun Facts about Lower Nicola
- The road up Promontory Mountain offers spell binding views of the Cascades, Coast, Cariboo and Monashee Mountains.
- Chataway-Pimainus is the perfect spot to chase the elusive trout, take a postcard-perfect picture or just do nothing.
- For a leisurely evening, play horseshoes at Smith’s Pioneer Park. If you need a break from all that tranquility, Lower Nicola has stock car races at a 0.75 mile dirt track that attracts competitors from across B.C.
August 3, 1870: There is a brush fire up north. Must head west and cross over to Ashcroft. We lose time and every day counts! I hate to lose to Barnes…
Nestled in the mountains surrounded by lakes, streams and vast forests, this area was the breadbasket for First Nations people for thousands of years. It yielded riches of another kind after copper was discovered. In 1971, the “instant town” of Logan Lake was built here. The unique Visitor Centre is situated inside a 195B Bucyrus Erie mining shovel with a 13-cubic metre bucket. Today, the community is a magnificent base from which to enjoy the peaceful outdoors.
For more information on Logan Lake, check out www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Logan Lake
- West of Logan Lake on highway 97C you’ll find the Highland Valley Copper; one of the largest ferrous open pit copper mines in North America.
- Parked beside the Visitor’s Centre is a giant 235-ton haulage truck, donated to the municipality by Highland Valley Copper.
- A stroll around Logan Lake may yield a glimpse of a deer, moose or some of the ducks and other waterfowl who like many other travellers love to spend the summer here.
August 31, 1870: Ashcroft at last! Barnes had to pay for the tea – I won my bet. Still a long road to Barkerville, but I said we will make it before the snow. So Barnes and I have another wager…
Ashcroft has been at the hub of transportation history in the Cariboo since the days of the B.C. Express Company and Wells Fargo. Stage coaches gave way to the railroads as both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National put lines through this strategically-located community on the banks of the Thompson River. Since 1858, it’s also been ranching country and cowboys of all kinds – First Nations, European, Mexican and Chinese – used Ashcroft as a welcome way station.
For more information about Ashcroft, please visit www.exploregoldcountry.com.
Three Fun Facts about Ashcroft
- You can live the cowboy experience at resorts like the Sundance Guest Ranch, where you can sit poolside after a long day of roping and tying.
- Horsepower of another kind can be found at the N’lakapxm Esgle Motorplex, which offers drag races, nostalgia races and more.
- Those who prefer good old-fashion walking can take in Heritage Park’s “Walk Through Time” display and experienced life in a gold rush shanty and other interpretive displays.