Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Road to Silver Beach.

After finishing the build, I needed to test the "Off-the-Grid" capabilities of the Mack. The opportunity came my way in the shape of job; working as a Park Operator for BC Parks. Based at the remote Silver Beach Provincial Park in Seymour Arm.

Nearly two thousand kilometres is a long way to go to work but it was for 2 months; mid-July to mid-September. The journey was during the hottest days of the Summer. Worrying about over-heating tyres kept the speed down and it took three days to get there.

The last fifty kilometres were on Forestry Service Roads. Rough gravel beside the Shuswap Lake that filled the living quarters with a fine coating of dust, even with the windows closed.

I camped next to the storage shed and park compound; just a stone's-throw from the beach. It was the best spot to catch the sun for the solar panels. All the campground was shaded by tall trees.

I arrived in mid-season, so everywhere was busy. The lay-out of the campground was old-fashioned and not suited to today's huge RVs. They were very close to each other and I was glad to be away from the main camping area. 

The village of Seymour Arm has a marina and floating convenience store. It was the source of all my food and drink during my stay; apart from the Wheelhouse Pub and the Country Kitchen restaurant.

Seymour Arm is not connected to BC Hydro, the provincial electricity supply company. All power comes from private generators and solar panel systems. Tap water has to be boiled before drinking although there is one drinking water tap for the village, supplied by the community's water purification plant. The campground has three taps but no flushing toilets or showers. The lake water temperature was pretty warm when I arrived so I made do with a daily swim to keep clean.

Besides the Silver Beach campground; I had another drive-in campground and seven marine access provincial parks to look-after. There was a speedboat for the park operator to use; moored at the marina which also supplied the fuel on-account. It was 14 foot long with an 80 horse-power Mercury outboard; made of aluminium, it was ideal for beaching at the boat-only parks.

Luxury house-boats are a very big part of the tourism on Shuswap Lake. Four big rental fleets are frequent visitors to the marine parks. My job was to keep these areas litter-free and tidy. I visited boat-only sites every other day and the drive-in campgrounds every day.  

Another part of the job was to check on the Albas Falls. This is a series of five cascades on Celista Creek with footpath running from the lake-shore; up one bank of the creek, across a bridge at the top and down the other side. I had to collect litter, check on signage and report any fallen trees or damage.

The Albas Falls are a very popular hike; both with boaters and the campers at the drive-in Albas campsite. I didn't get to hike the picturesque falls as many times as I would have liked; the work-load was so heavy that I didn't even have time to shave.

Overall, the weather was very good during my stay. Only one big storm hit the beach although smoke from forest fires in British Columbia did cut visibility for three weeks at the end of August. 

The storm brought down a big tree on one of the Silver Beach pit-toilets. Luckily, nobody was inside at the time. Cleaning the pit-toilets was also part of the job; it was a bit more than holding your nose, kicking open the door and lobbing-in a couple of toilet rolls. But not much.

My day started at 7 o'clock in the morning with an early morning trip down the lake to the furthest of the day's marine parks. The best part of the day with no-one else out on the water. The high-light of my time on the Shuswap was when I came across a moose, swimming across the lake in the early morning.  Black bear, beaver, eagle and osprey could also be regularly seen from the boat.

After the 20th of August; the campground was nearly always empty during the week. The Kawasaki side-by-side was invaluable in collecting rubbish from the bear-proof bins and for running to the marina. 

With less work to do, I was able to relax more and do touristy stuff for myself. This included watching the sockeye salmon run in the Seymour River.

By September, the marine parks were almost always deserted. Beautiful places with names like Encounter Point, Two Mile Creek, Wright's Landing, Beach Bay, Fowler Point and Bug House Bay; etched in my memory forever.

The view from the window of the truck. Silver Beach, Shuswap Lake and the jetty of the Wheelhouse Pub.

Two Mile Dump; the lumber operation of Canoe Forestry Products. Logs floating in the lake, waiting to be towed to the sawmill.

When it came time to leave; I took a chance by heading back to the Trans-Canada Highway on the Forestry Service Road known as the Gorge. Follow the power lines that come from the Mica Dam were my instructions. 80 kilometres of gravel instead of  50 but saving a hundred kays overall.

I knew it was only re-opened recently after some land-slides but didn't realize that construction crews were still finishing the clear-up. The track was really rough but dry enough for two-wheel drive vehicles. 

The hills were steep and single track. Meeting a loaded logging truck was a distinct possibility on the twisting hillsides but didn't happen. 
Shuswap Lake is in the shape of an "H" with four arms that join at "The Narrows."
Salmon Arm, south to the town of the same name.
Main Arm that goes towards Sorrento.
Anstey Arm that goes north from Salmon Arm at the Narrows
Seymour Arm is what you have with short sleeve shirts.

On checking the Mack at the end of the dirt road revealed it had taken it's toll on the underside of the motor-home. Broken rear leaf-spring, weeping diesel tank and leaking front hub seal; probably costing two months wages to repair.
The road in from the West: Squilax to Seymour Arm. The final 50 km is gravel.
The road out to the East. Seymour Arm to Craigellachie. All gravel and rocks and terrible.