The Duffey Lake Route

Posted by Howard on Oct 8, 2010










Having lost a half day's travel in traffic jams and shopping paralysis on Thursday, I was eager to get an early start Friday and secured agreement to go light on breakfast but it still wasn't exactly a crack-of-dawn start. Nonagenarians wake up early enough, but it takes them a long time to rev up to cruising speed. Just getting socks in place can run ten minutes of sighing, groaning, arguing, philosophizing about the aging process--and don't try to assist. Luckily there was a coffeemaker in the room and the vending machine in the lobby dispensed rubbery criossants and we finally got moving at about 8:30.

The forecast was for clear and sunny weather and I was looking forward to some good scenery going through the coast mountains but it dawned so foggy I had to put the lights on high beam to see a car-length ahead. Our mood was correspondingly heavy and grey. But as we gained altitude climbing up to Cayoosh Pass the fog vanished.

"Look!" Edith squealed as the high, glaciated spires of the Joffrey Peaks poked up. "Isn't that wonderful!"

I couldn't have had a more appreciative audience for the scenic wonders we were passing through. 










"Get a picture of that," Munga suggested as we cruised around the end of Duffey Lake, with its Lake-Louise-like setting, so I did.










"Will you just look at that thing!" he said again as a dramatic bluff reared up out of Cayoosh Creek canyon, so I stopped and clicked it, too. 

One is tempted to say the two nonagenarians were as excited as a couple of kids, but I have taken kids on similar excusions and found them not nearly so engaged as these two. You'd think they had never seen the coast mountains before but they both had been over this route, Munga many times. 










Coming up to Lillooet, the landscape underwent its astounding transformation from coastal green to Interior brown, changing in the space of a few miles into a different world. Following a family tradition I braked the car at the first sight of sage brush at the east end of sparkling Seton Lake and got out to tear off a branch of the fragrant shrub, which I placed over the air vent so its perfume would spread through the car. Munga laughed delightedly, rembering how he had taught us to do this the first time we had taken a trip to drybelt country back in the 1950s. Its scent, redolent of ratllesnakes and cactus and lonely pack-horse trails across open country, accompanied us for the rest of the trip.










We stopped in Lillooet for a take-out brunch and followed the dramatic Fraser canyon up highway 99 through the romantic, isolated Fountain-Pavillion plateau-country where horse culture still reigns supreme and the event of the year is the rodeo, marvelling at how the watercourses cut their way through the dry-as-dust landscape without promoting the slightest fringe of green.










Then highway 99 turned away from the river and past Pavillion Lake, whose blue was so intense it bit into the eye and on the left the sheer rock faces of Marble Canyon presented a geological tour-de-force of ever-increasing drama that brought more oohs and awws from the passenger area. We had all seen it before, but either it had never radiated quite so brightly or we had just forgotten just how extreme the beauty of that country is. Peaks of experience like that can't be fully preserved in memory and have to be re-experienced occasionally or they fade to a dull approximation. That would be the theme of this trip

More tomorrow