From Vancouver to Barkerville, BC is about 750 km (466 miles), a distance that we’d often travel in a day but this summer it took us more than a week! No, we didn’t have car trouble or any other misadventures; we simply took our time and enjoyed the sights. Rather than taking the most direct route home from Vancouver the way we usually do, we decided to follow BC’s historic gold rush trail and we were in no hurry. What a great way to travel!
Billy Barker’s discovery of gold on Williams Creek in 1862 triggered a stampede of thousands of miners to the area. Travelling the Cariboo Waggon Road, their trip through steep canyons, raging rivers and high mountain passes was a long and arduous one. Many of today’s highways follow that trail and along the way many remnants of their journey remain for today’s traveller to explore.
Searching for geocaches led us to many sites that we might otherwise have missed… Cemeteries like this one just outside the historic community of Yale where graves date back to the 1860s, some 40 years before the part of Canada that we call home was settled.
And churches like St. John the Divine Anglican, also in Yale, which was built in 1863 and is the oldest church in BC that still stands on its original foundation.
The early 1860s saw the construction of a series of roadhouses along the banks of the Fraser and Thompson rivers. Usually within a day’s ride of each other, these were places where weary travellers on their way to the gold fields further north could rest for the night, have a meal, and water and feed their horses. At historic Hat Creek Ranch between Cache Creek and Clinton, the location of one of these roadhouses, the buildings stand as they did in 1901 but some were built as early as 1860. We spent an afternoon there exploring the exhibits and even riding an old time stagecoach!
Next to Hat Creek Ranch is the very interesting Stucwtewsemc (Sluck-TOW-uhsen) Native Interpretation Site where we were able to see how the original occupants of the area lived. I have studied both the coastal and the plains natives quite extensively but I knew virtually nothing about these people who lived between the two. I found the kekuli lodge, or pithouse, particularly interesting. Built half underground and half above, a typical kekuli housed between 25 and 30 family members, from grandparents down to grandchildren, throughout the winter months.
With so much to see and do along the way, some days we didn’t travel very far at all. When we left a campground in the morning, we often had no idea what that day would hold or where we’d sleep that night. For example, one day we travelled only 112 km (70 miles) from Clinton to Lac La Hache Provincial Park but along the way we found six geocaches, hiked to the Mount Begbie fire lookout tower named after the swashbuckling chief justice who established law and order on the BC frontier during gold rush days, and played 18 holes of golf on the beautiful 108 Mile Resort course. I’d call that a productive day, wouldn’t you?
Now that we’re home and have internet access again, there’s much more to share including our visit to Barkerville itself but I’ll save that for future posts.