08-Dec-2002 -- My first Degree Confluence, by Douglas A. Hastings
Winter has socked the valley with cloud. Dull and Gray. For days the weather has reflected my mood. Perhaps it is the other way around. The phone rings. My gloomy thoughts are dispelled for a moment. The phone rings again. I pick up. “Hello?” I ask still groggy from sleep. “You want to go on an adventure?” asks the familiar voice on the other end of the line. “Yes.” I respond, almost too quickly. “Chuckle” replies Dave, “I’ll pick you up in an hour. Oh, yeah. Pack your snowshoes.” Click. He hangs up.
I set the receiver back on the phone. I am thinking “Yes! This is just what I need. It will feel good to get out of the house.” Hmmm, what will I need? I start going through my mental checklist of things to pack for a day hike. This wasn’t the first time that Dave had called me up with short notice to go on an adventure. I was ready. The snowshoe thing had me a bit worried but I wouldn’t let him know it.
Dave arrives and I throw my stuff in the back of his Suzuki Sidekick. He briefs me on the trip… “Remember that website
that I was telling you about? There are two major degree confluences near Kelowna. Which one do you want to do?” I interrogate him further and glean enough information from him to come to a decision. 50N, 120W. It is not too far out of town and the logging roads seem to get quite close to it. We start off. First stop, Tim Hortons.
As we drive west on the 97C we are gaining altitude. We enter the layer of cloud that seals the Okanagan valley. It seems just like heavy fog. But it’s not thick enough to slow our driving. The mist gradually thins and we are driving under a sunny blue sky. We continue up the highway until the Bear Creek FSR exit and turned off. Left, under the highway, we follow the forestry road as it loops back toward the east. We come to a fork in the road. We try the left fork. It leads back to the highway.
We begin to realize that this is not the road that we need to be on, but we continue up it to see where it goes and to get a better idea of exactly which road it was. As we go on, the road meanders through some cattle fences and then follows some power lines of to the north-west. We stopped for a bit of fresh air then turned around and headed back to the fork.
Following the “right” road this time it also ran under the highway then heads roughly north-east. The road winds east and then we took a turn off that heads north. This road put us just over one kilometre east of the confluence. We turn the truck around and park. There is not much snow on the ground so we leave the snowshoes. It is breezy and the sun is getting low (15:00).
Back at Tim’s Dave had shown me how to operate the G.P.S. device. Now, at the truck, he talks me through how to set a way point (I guess he wants to find his truck again). We had already set the confluence into the GPS so now it points the way. Of course the map shows a big swamp in between us and our target. We mull over our options and choose a direction of travel. The terrain is light coniferous forest. There was an obvious cut block further north up the road and the land has signs that cattle have grazed here in the recent past. The bush-whacking is easy. The winter cold has the forest opened up and the cows have made convenient trails for us to follow.
When the cow trails stop going our direction we head cross-country into a slightly hillier region. After a few minutes we come to the edge of the swamp. It looks like a large grassy field. I take a few cautious steps and find that the ground was firm. The field would be very wet and mucky in the spring and possibly summer but at this moment it was frozen. We made good time cutting across to the other side. We picked our way into the tree line. The forest here is mixed deciduous and coniferous and it is denser than before. We are within a hundred metres. After a bit of walking in circles we arrive at our destination.
We are in the middle of nowhere. Dave takes some pictures. We both have a snack and then set the GPS to show us where the truck is. We then head off. It is dusk now. It will be dark soon. We travel directly toward the truck (which is not the direction from which we approached the confluence). Skirting the tree line, we take paths of least resistance, cross the north end of the swamp, and head up through a forested hilly region. South, down a swampy section then through a short swath of trees and out into a cut block, we then follow the tree line around to the right and it leads us to a logging road. We see the sidekick from here. A quick march and we are back to the truck.
It is cold. By the time we get our packs loaded and get in the vehicle it is dark. We decide to try heading back to Kelowna via bear-creek forest service road main but after a few kilometres we change our minds as the road is getting slick and we know that there are steep and windy sections coming up. So we turn around, back track and head down the highway the way we came. The highway is icy enough to have us worried. On the way back we talk of doing this again, plan strategies and tactics on getting other degree confluence points and what equipment we might need. We arrive home tired, safe, and looking forward to the next adventure!