On how steep a grade do you tow your trailer? We found our new high last week. Last week’s drive was one of the most beautiful and certainly the most harrowing we’ve experienced. Almost the entire distance from Kamloops to Pemberton the views were just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Half the distance had excellent roads. The other half were the worst paved roads we’ve ever traveled, bar none.
Our route from Kamloops was Highway #1 to Cache Creek, then a short stretch north on #97 north to pick up #99 south toward Whistler. The bulk of #99 was narrow and without shoulder, and in countless places suddenly the road surface would be like a twenty feet long pothole, causing the truck and trailer to pitch up and down wretchedly. We were sure all the hangers would be off the closet rods and one or more roof lockers might be lying on the floor. But no damage whatsoever!
Highway #99 (if we should call this stretch highway) has at least a half-dozen one lane bridges over Cayoosh Creek, Gott Creek, and others. A few of these we found with new bridges under construction. We stopped for fifteen or twenty minutes while the flagmen decide whether northbound or southbound will have the route next.
The most challenging aspect of the drive was the steep grades. Our trip mapping program (by Trailer Life) highlights every section which has more than a 6 percent grade. Steeper than this can be a little challenging for some tow vehicles or motorhomes, you probably know. And how about ten percent, eleven percent, and fifteen percent? Yeah, really 15% grades. We didn’t know highways have these — or how we would manage. It was fine towing downhill in second and first gear, the engine provided almost all the braking we needed.
A couple of places we stopped for the view, it was just too great. Tremendously steep deep gorges, and peaks rising straight up above us. We were glad for the stops too. You know, grab some more cookies out of the pantry or maybe visit the washroom in the RV. A young couple on big motorcycles stopped at this outlook while we were there. They asked if we would snap their picture. So they returned the favor for us. We played tag with them the remainder of the trip to Pemberton.
Our destination was to have been Alice Lake, near Squamish south of Whistler. We had a little less than two hours remaining when we decided we just didn’t need to go so far. We had passed ourselves several times in the switchbacks and half feared the trailer would bypass us on a couple of the grades. We pulled into Nairn Falls Provincial Park near Pemberton. It is another very nice provincial park, if a little close to the highway.
The sites are large, nicely graded, and covered with fine crushed gravel like the sites at Paul Lake. The natural growth is much thicker here because the annual precipitation is double or triple that of the Kamloops area. So the sites have a little more privacy but it hardly matters at all — the peak occupancy is past. School started for September, the long weekend is over, and even the Europeans are probably flying home by now.
We didn’t know we would have so much “fun” driving . The views and landscape were worth it, maybe. But in retrospect, maybe it would have been more enjoyable and easier on the transmission and brakes to have driven Highway #1 the entire route through Vancouver. We could have gone up to Whistler another time, and the highway from Vancouver to Whistler is perfect, thanks to hosting Winter Olympics 2010.
We made the grades up and down, thanks to great engine, transmission and brakes. Next time we see a 15% grade warning we know a little of what to expect. Oh yeah, we won’t try this in freezing weather. And we would drive this route again, but perhaps at a lower speed than the posted 60 km/hr maximum to dampen the bumps a little.