Friday, October 23, 2009

A River Runs Through It

Before the late autumn rains start in the Pacific Northwest we wanted to take one more trip around our picturesque Fraser Valley. This time we decided to cross the new Golden Ears Bridge and drive east towards the small town of Mission. It was a beautiful autumn day, sunny and quite warm, and, because there hasn’t really been much rain, the leaves are particularly marvellous this year. Beautiful deep shades of orangey-brown, ruby red and bright lemony-yellow stand out against the multi-green hues of a variety of evergreens.

Once across the bridge we usually head toward the main Highway Nbr. 7 or the Lougheed Highway as it is known. It's one of B.C. major routes following along the banks of the Fraser from Maple Ridge to Agassiz and the Harrison Hot Springs turnoff. Continuing east from that point you would eventually join B.C. Highway 1 at Hope before heading into the Fraser Canyon. Or you could make it a circle trip by crossing the bridge between Mission and Abbotsford and travel back west towards Vancouver by the much faster four-lane Route 1. Wouldn't matter which way you turned at that point; it's all beautiful.

However we didn’t turn right on Highway 7; instead we continued north through the hills and dales of Maple Ridge until we arrived at one of the oldest by-ways in the Fraser Valley, the Dewdney Trunk Road; another east-west route which takes you through the foothills and backwoods and ends in the small town of Mission. But before we got there, we discovered Stave Lake and its waterfall which has been used for many years to create hydro-electricity. Below the dam we found the spot we were looking for. A favourite fishing hole of the locals.
To our delight there were multitudes of salmon spawning in the shallow waters. It was an exciting and beautiful sight to see these awesome creatures whose God-given instinct had helped them fight their way up the Fraser with its strong currents and into this rocky stream to end their days in the place they were born. The one sad note was the fishermen who can’t seem to leave these magnificent creatures alone even in their final death throes.

How anyone thinks that landing a fish that has hardly enough strength left to perform the duty he must if the species is to continue, can be considered sport is beyond me.
But even so, the golden autumn day the woodland setting and the mystery of the salmon’s annual ritual acted together to make it a wondrous and unforgettable day.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The "Eyes" Have It.

Last time I wrote about having some work done on my eyes. The healing process went fine but somewhere along the way I caught a nasty cold (not H1N1—I think anyone who lived through the terrible flu seasons of the 1950s may have built up a little immunity to that). But, bad enough to make life miserable for a few days. So I’ve been very lazy for the last week and a half, spending time in front of my fire, drinking the odd glass of red wine and catching up on some reading.

The eyes took a little longer to heal than I thought and looked pretty ghastly along the way. But now I’m very happy about them. They make me feel younger and my friends say they actually do make me look younger too. I never thought I’d resort to “plastic surgery” and I’m sure this is the end of it, but at this point I’m not sorry. Even my husband admitted the other day that they absolutely DO look better.
Warning: A friend of mine had the same proceedure and has had some trouble with the eyelids closing. So it's not as simple as I make it sound. My specialist had me sign a waiver which lets one know there can be problems. So like any surgery, weigh the pros and cons very carefully before you make up your own mind.
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Now speaking about eyes—there’s a place in our beautiful Fraser Valley called Minter Gardens that is definitely a “sight for sore eyes” as the saying goes.

Two Sundays ago, on one of the last real summer-like days of the year, we made our way out to the eastern part of our scenic valley where the northern head of the Cascade Mountain Range begins. Here the gallant Fraser River ends its mad scramble through narrow canyons and gorges and starts a slow meander through the valley to the Pacific.

Centuries ago, a massive mountain slide swept over the area where the landscape begins to open up. Here, in an area overlooked by 7,000 foot Mt. Cheam, unique land formations left the area unsuitable for crop farming. But early settlers found it ideal for raising cattle and other animals. Tall native specimen trees added to the charm of the location, and thousands of wild geraniums, columbine, roses and bleeding hearts added a finishing touch.

As the Minter Garden’s brochure states, “It was this site that Brian and Faye Minter first saw on Christmas Day, 1977. The landscape was so unique, and the setting so picturesque, that an once-in-a-lifetime dream was born: to create one of the most beautiful gardens in the world! Their dream became reality in May of 1980.”

It took us about two hours to walk around the gardens which are striking in their beauty even in the cooler September weather. These gardens are ever evolving, and each season offers dramatic views of cool, quiet woodlands, gurgling brooks and waterfalls. There are beautiful topiary features, a rose garden and even a Japanese style garden.

Next spring will offer the blooms of over 100,000 tulip bulbs important from Holland. Then in April the rhododendrons begin their show of riotous colour amid huge cedar trees and rock wall terraces. The week after our visit, they closed for the winter. But they open again early in April, and if you’re planning a visit to B.C. during the spring and summer months, you really should include these gardens in your itinerary. It’s well worth the hour drive from downtown Vancouver and I promise, it’s is a feast for the eyes—sore or not.