Friday
March 2, 2007
SGN.org
Volume 35
Issue 09
 
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Monday, Oct 20, 2014

 

 



 
The Gold Rush Trail: Hollywood-of-the-North Country
The Gold Rush Trail: Hollywood-of-the-North Country
Driving British Columbia's Fraser River Canyon from Hope to Williams Lake By Rev. Barbara Allen, CMP - SGN Contributing Writer

For thousands of years the native Sto:Lo (People of the River) subsisted along this route until the white mans uninvited presence drove them north. Ancient routes became "The Gold Rush Trail." Mostly though, gold was further north, in the Yukon Territory and in Alaska. Trails, roads, rest stops, settlements, farms, and towns came into existence where once there had been rugged mountains, fast flowing streams and rivers. Hollywood discovered the area, appreciating lower costs of shooting exteriors. Stallone's Rambo filmed here in 1981, followed in 1988 by Shoot to Kill with Sidney Poitier, Kirstie Alley and Tom Berenger. In 1994 the mountain climbing hit K-2 , then Disney's White Fang II and Old Yeller. In 2000 Sean Penn directed Jack Nicholson in Pledge. In 2001, James Spader and Leslie Stephenson in The Stick Up, followed by Hope Springs. Last summer's shooting included Afghan Knights and Wind Chill. Perhaps seeing area locations in movies made driving along the sheer rock overhanging cliffs seem familiar.

Along blasted-from-the-side-of-the-mountain Route 1, sheer cliff faces soared up from our left, the turbulent Fraser River below, right, with little or nothing to keep us from tumbling down hundreds of feet onto the rocks and into the churning waters, or protect us from infamous falling rocks. The weather looked and felt like something out of Rambo: gray, drizzling, misting, and humid. We were stopped for an hour while road repairs were in progress.

Once past the mountain rocks and river bed, the weather changed to a blazing hot sun.

Mariah's dashboard air conditioner had been carefully vetted by the GMC guru, transformed from the old refrigerant system, to the new one, charged into working condition, but now wasn't cooling, at all. I sweated in the heat, all windows open, hoping for a service station,which eventually appeared on the west side of the road. The proprietor didn't care to be bothered looking "under the hood", but peeked at the AC while checking fluids, and stated he did not have time or inclination to deal with the problem. Meanwhile we filled the gasoline tank at what seemed astronomical B.C. prices. When I asked about the service garage next door he stated angrily that the mechanic had been his good friend for decades, until a car hit and killed him the year before, while he was trying to help a motorist.

We proceeded north in the unremitting heat, stopping for a brief rest in a Provincial picnic area, which offered slight shade but swarms of yellow jackets. We didn't dare open the refrigerator for something wet and cold, unable to run the unit on propane gas would be unsafe, and we needed to keep the cold in or face food spoilage. When we got to Cache Creek, their air conditioned A&W restaurant felt like an oasis. I cannot recall root beer tasting so good. The high school girl behind the counter had difficulty understanding or remembering that we wanted diet root beer. My companion was addicted to root beer floats. The girl announced that there was no such thing as a diet root beer float since there was no diet ice cream or soft serve. We explained the root beer was to be diet, but the soft serve didn't have to be. I sipped my diet brown brew straight up, no ice or ice cream. Then became suspicious and went back to ask if she'd given us both diet root beer. She said that she hadn't since my companion wanted ice cream, so she'd given us regular root beer. We got the order straightened out and proceeded on our way, headed for the next oasis, just as desert travelers might. I don't think that the A&W staff would be able to cut it at Starbucks.

Along this route, historic stopping places might be named according to their distance from a well known location. It was in the town of 100-Mile-House that we eventually found natives, perhaps Sto:lo, People of the River descendants, drumming and chanting on a street corner at a gas station along the road. While curious about their impromptu performance, I confess to being more oriented towards finding a place to park the rig so that we could visit the shopping center's air conditioned A&W oasis for another icy root beer fix. This A&W seemed to be the town's favorite watering hole. Unfortunately, they acted as though they'd never heard of diet A&W root beer, then acknowledged they'd been out of the syrup mix for days -- at least -- and had no idea when more would arrive. I settled for diet coke and a Mama Burger, she "floated" again. We learned that while A&W root beer in a frosty mug is great on a hot day, the rest of A&W's menu was to be avoided.

We got under way again, headed for Williams Lake, arriving after the sun was low in the west, and checking into the Chief William RV park and campground which is native owned and operated, and where I learned that a three day Pow-Wow was under way, with this evening's (Friday) activities being mostly a warm up for the following two days. (The drummers at our previous stop might have been warming up while waiting for a ride here.)

The mosquito population had escalated significantly as we'd proceeded north, thriving on misting rain, high humidity, and elevated temperatures.

Once we were parked, hooked up to electricity, the refrigerator and roof air conditioners got going. I proceeded to scout out Pow-Wow activities taking place in the new-looking log arena, hoping to find real food so that I wouldn't have to cook after a long, stressful hot day of driving, but only candy and sugary drinks were available.

Large group drums nestled on their wooden platforms, around which seated drummers, each with one beater, drummed and chanted together. Some "drums" were all male, some mixed male and female. A few young women had hand-held drums. Close by, in the open arena area, children, with adults nearby, were getting the feel of the place, beginning to practice their dancing moves before the following day's performances. I seemed to be the only non-native present, as well as the only person with a camera. Hoping that taking snapshots would not create a problem, I tried being invisible, on a bench. I smiled politely, moving about slowly, quickly lining up shots in the ever dwindling light, before returning to the R.V. It was a long, humid, uncomfortable evening during which the sounds of the drums went into the wee hours, and young natives continually walked past parked R.V.'s, talking and laughing among themselves. This was their social time in the ageless manner of young men being with young men, young women with young women, all acting as though they were not interested in the opposite-sex while stealing looks at possible romantic interests.

We discussed staying for the next day's events, but were to be on the float plane dock at Nimpo Lake at 10 a.m. Monday morning. Time was short. There were many points and places of interest missed along the way because of these time constraints. I might journey back to this area at another time, perhaps in early spring, as soon as roads were passable. But then, my experience of B.C. locals -- from the woman at the Hope visitor's center, to the angry service station owner, and ditsy staff at the A&W's -- were dubious. As we proceeded further north, folks for the most part were friendlier. I wondered if the extreme heat accounted for local attitudes.

What I had not known was how dangerous and challenging the next days journey along B.C. 20 would prove to be, with fox holed "roads", grazing cattle in the middle of the road, precipitous unprotected drop offs of thousands of feet, twist and turns, steep inclines and downward grades that would test the brakes, transmission and cooling system as well as my endurance to the limit in the ongoing heat. Nothing in my prior R.V. travel experience prepared me for this upcoming "short" leg of the trip. I also had no way of knowing that the worst driving conditions were weeks, and months ahead of me, in the Yukon Territory and Alaska.

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