Friday, February 15, 2008

Fraser Canyon

On Tuesday, I shall take one of our vehicles to Williams Lake, to the Drummond Lodge, where Graham is currently staying. This will be my home until at least the end of March.

We intend on travelling back to the Coast on the weekend, in the Torrent, to do the finishing packing, and all the other odds and sods required during a move from one home to another. We will use the last week of February to close up this home.

On my trip, I will use the Fraser Canyon route. It is one of the routes with which I am familiar, having used it many times over the years. But mostly in the Summer.

This time around, it will still be Winter. I will watch the road reports, take my time, stopping at the many, many photo opportunities along the way. It should take me, from Vancouver, about six hours...possibly seven, if I linger enough.

I am not a fast driver, and certainly do not enjoy icy, snowy conditions. But the weather for next week looks to be fairly mild. The roads should be bare and dry.

I will follow the Trans Canada Highway...Highway 1...from Hope to Cache Creek. The Fraser Canyon Route has seven tunnels between Yale and Boston Bar. These tunnels protect the traveller, in case of avalanche, yet they are eerie...and when I am in the middle of one, and a huge semi-trailer is coming the other way, I have been known to say a Prayer or Two.

Yale is one of my favourite historic towns along the way. In 1848, it was the inland terminus for the Fraser River Sternwheelers...and when Gold was discovered a short distance away in 1858 the population swelled to over 30,000 people. With only about 200 people living there now, it is difficult to imagine the energy...the spirit of adventure and the unknown...that permeated a Gold Rush Town with 30,000 souls contributing.

Yale is the beginning of the "wagon road" to the Cariboo gold fields.

Boston Bar is also a small town that boasts a huge past. It is interesting how it was named...Many of the gold seekers were Americans, and the ships that brought them came from Boston. The Natives called them Boston Men...and a town was named. It also had a fine roadhouse. History recalls stories of Boston Bar Alex, a roadhouse owner who had sufficient beds and relatively good food.

Some of the roadhouses along the Cariboo Trail were small and filthy, insect and rodent infested, with only floor space available to rest. I have read reports of food offered which was seriously beyond safety for the traveller. I have read many stories that tell of deaths which happened because of food poisoning, picked up at one of these roadhouses. And yet, many a traveller in those early days was extremely happy to find the next roadhouse along the Trail.

As I drive along this highway, I imagine myself travelling to Williams Lake...and Wagon, with either Oxen or Horses or Mules. One enterprising gentleman brought Camels from San Francisco, from the US Army, thinking to hire them out as pack animals, thereby making his fortune by carrying more goods to the Gold fields. For more than a few hilarious reasons, this venture did not work...the Camels were turned loose, to wander throughout the Cariboo.

The last sighting of the last of these poor displaced animals was in 1905, in Grande Prairie, where it died.

The will, the energy, the complete toughness of the people who travelled the Cariboo Trail is unimaginable, to me. Gold Fever is a great name for it...the insatiable craving to strike it rich, to make a mark, to be somebody...

This Fever propelled them to the Gold areas by a Trail which to this day is stupendous, with its winding, twisting way through Mountains and beside rushing Rivers. They made their way to Antler Creek and Williams Creek and others, to stake a claim. Some found Eden, others gave up and either went back home or settled in the area, becoming ranchers, loggers...and yes, miners.

If it was me, I would have stayed as well, rather than face the long, treacherous route back to the Coast.

Once I travel as far as Cache Creek, however, the rest of the way is relatively easy driving, with the exception of the snow heaves and pot holes that occur, after the highway surface has been attacked by cold temperatures so many times over the Winter. Here is where I follow Hwy. 97 North.

After Clinton, I can tell by the names of the villages, towns, and small hotels I pass, where I am on the Cariboo Highway. All these small settlements still bear the names from the mile posts where they originated. Thus, there is 70 Mile house, 83 Mile House, 108 Mile House, and so on. It is interesting that instead of measuring mileage from Yale, it was counted from Lillooet, where the Trail originated, at first.

It gets confusing; there is an explanation and great photos here, in the story of the Roadhouses and the Gold Rush Trail.

The history of the Cariboo and Chilcotin area of BC astounds me, almost as much as its minute the landscape is calm and verdant...the next, one travels through harsh and remote and unforgiving terrain. This beauty and wildness forms the spirit of the people who inhabit this area.

The people I've met from the Cariboo seem far more free of what some people might consider the necessities of life. The people I've met take what comes without flinching. They consider the outdoors an essential part of their lives...the outside temperatures might be -23 C, with blowing Snow...and the usual, laconic comment is, as they stamp their feet...Dirty weather. And then it is business as usual.

Here, on the Coast, that kind of "dirty weather" would shut down Ports and Airports and Roads...and most definitely, businesses. But not in the Cariboo.

Granted, the Northern residents are familiar with this kind of weather; whereas Coastal inhabitants are not. But extreme Storms of any kind, be it Wind, Snow, Rain or Heat Waves, hamper what is considered normal routines on the Coast; and cause much complaining amongst the residents.

Me, included.

It will be refreshing to live amongst people who take what comes with impunity. Who just get on with it...and use a sense of dry humour whilst doing so that I find infinitely attractive. A different viewpoint towards life is always refreshing, with much to learn.

My road trip will be a part of this journey towards a new life and new customs and ideas. This move, with only a few bumps, has flowed smoothly from the very beginning.

And so, I have no reason to believe that my little trip won't be exactly the same.


  1. Anonymous6:35 a.m.

    I keep learning about British Columbia and would love to visit this part of the world one day. Maybe when I finally make it to Montana (which I having been wanting to see for years), I'll just come on up to B.C.

    Bare roads in cold climates are so reassuring. I am temporarily in a cold climate and icy walks and roads are scary. We all need traction in the surfaces under our feet. Least I do.

    Safe travels to the new home and I hope all the details go smoothly. It truly is an adventure and I look forwards to reading more about the experience.

  2. Loved this post Marion, it was so informative, many thanks. It looks an exciting location you are going to live in, I hope that very soon you find a place that suits you both.

  3. We just saw a documentary on how your Canadian rockies were formed by the pacific plate pushing under the continental plate of nowaday Canada. In doing so the mountains were formed of sedimentary rock rife with fossils from ancient sea beds which were western Canada long in the past. On the other hand, our Rockies are mostly metamorphic and contain few fossils of past life.
    I suspected that Williams Lake was in the flatlands but now wonder if it may be in the mountains, which would be nice.
    We are so looking forward to spring down here but the Canadian air seems to pour down relentlessly.
    Thanks for the photos.

  4. Good luck with the new home and all of those adventures!

    I loved the pictures.

    Thanks for sharing.
    :-) Beth

  5. When I make trips, I always imagine what it was like before automobiles, paved expressways and fast food places. I could do without the fast food, but the first two I am glad to have.

    Exciting adventures ahead for you. I envy you.

  6. Anonymous4:47 a.m.

    I wish you a safe journey. It's hard until there is time for the new home to become familiar. While I'm not posting on my blog I am still visiting. My best.

  7. I always feel as if I am sitting right beside you as you write about your journey. You have the knack of description that leaves one comfortable and full of knowledge. I am confident that there will more stories as you progress just promise to keep taking us along.

  8. Marion, I must admit I am a bit envious. There was a time in my life, way before marriage and children, that I wanted to just take off for a year into areas such as you describe. I continue to wish you well on your journey. Keep up with the great writing and inspirational photos.

  9. Thank you all.

    Having just returned from Williams Lake, I would say without reservations that this area clutches my heart with its beauty, freedom, and wildness of Spirit.

    The trip North and back went smoothly; I so enjoy the Fraser Canyon Route. It certainly kept me awake!

    We have bought a home; it is situated on three plus acres; with a well and septic system, all of which checked out. We move in on March 31.

    My next post will be all about the new home and a few photos taken, mostly, out of the window as we travelled back.

    This week will be taken up with the movers, changing addresses and so on. I will be using my gmail address until we get hooked up to the internet.

    Lots of new experiences and awesome tales to tell, already...Graham has given me a laptop for my birthday. I am looking forward to writing over the next month in the motel.

    Thank you all for being so supportive and patient with my late will be hectic for the next little while.

    The hours are passing so quickly; soon it will be March 31!

  10. the more i read, the more i love to read about your exciting journey, Marion, thank you for sharing. The words and pictures you give are inspiring.

  11. Thanks for keep us posted, Marion, and congratulations on finding your new home! I look forward to reading about it....