Fort St. John to Barkerville
Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
30Trip End Sep 22, 2009
What Happened to Charlie Lake?
We arrived yesterday and got a great spot with vast woods behind us. This provincial park, like most of those in British Columbia, is delightful with large sites and lots of foliage. On the down side, it is very close to the Alaska Highway and you DO hear the sounds of traffic heading toward Dawson Creek. The weather is fantastic….in the 70's. We drug wood out of the back of the truck and actually had a campfire last night
Yesterday, we drove the 7 miles into Ft. Saint John. Although we had traveled through here in 2007, we drove past it on the highway and never actually entered the townsite. Fort St. John is the oldest settled city in British Columbia and by far, one of the largest. After traveling through so many so-called towns, I was truly astonished at the size of the place and all of the amenities. Ft. St. John is every bit as populous as Prince George or Whitehorse in the Yukon. Hey, they even have a Safeway, Subway, Dairy Queen and KFC. What more could you ask for?
August 19, 2009 (Wednesday) – Tudyah Lake, BC (170 miles) Oh, Dam!
Today’s travels took us off the Alaska Highway for awhile. Instead of proceeding to Dawson Creek (Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway), we took a side trip called the "Hudson’s Hope Loop” which took us through the beautiful Peace River Valley and on to the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and hydro-electric plant. The drive was breath-taking and often a little hair-raising with numerous 10% grades. My constant grabs for the door handle made Wendell nervous and I’m sure the floor on the passenger side is dented from my attempts to help Jake break. Thank God for that engine brake, but even with that and the truck in the lowest gear, the engine was red-lining unless Wendell used his brakes when we were descending from the visitor center at the dam. Nitchie did not like the squeal of the engine and crawled into the floorboard behind my seat
The town of Hudson’s Hope, named after the Hudson’s Bay trading post that was established there in 1805 and served both the fur trade and as the head of the navigation for steamboats on the lower Peace River until 1936. Currently Hudson’s Hope is home to a population of about 1,000 residents and is a pretty, quaint township.
From Hudson’s Hope, we traveled on to Chetwynd which is home to the International Chainsaw Carving Championship held every June. The streets are lined with elaborate carvings of everything from bears to sea creatures. Combined with the hanging baskets of colorful petunias, the streets were a delight for the eyes. We rejoined Highway 97, also known as the Cariboo Highway or the West Access Route, and continued on until we reached our destination at Tudyah Lake Provincial Park. This one is very small, only 36 sites, and not crowded at all. One possible reason could be the fact that the campground is not located near the lake. However, with very few campers here, Nitchie was able to be unleashed and she is one happy dog
Tomorrow, we’ll head for Quesnel and plan to stay in a commercial park…with Wi-Fi. We have a side trip planned for the day after we arrive so hopefully, I’ll have a good report on Barkerville to share with you in our next blog.
August 21, 2009 (Friday) – Quesnel, BC (170 miles)
We arrived in the busy little city of Quesnel on Thursday to “sweltering” temperatures of 80 ⁰F. Don’t laugh, all you folks in Texas; that’s hot when you’ve been accustomed to 60 and 70 degree days. Our first stop was the Visitor Center to inquire about campgrounds and an excursion to Barkerville. The staff at the center called Robert’s Roost to make sure they had space for us, and also called several places to find a pet sitter for Nitchie. They don’t allow pets in the town of Barkerville. Now isn’t that strange, considering the name? Maddy’s Pet Service came to our rescue and this morning we dropped Nitchie off in a lovely rural area about 12 miles from our turnoff to Barkersville
The drive to Barkerville is 51 miles from Quesnel and a very scenic one, indeed. The hills were covered with spruce and pine trees, and we crossed numerous creeks and rivers. There were no signs of wildlife other than the signs on the side of the road warning you not to hit the moose. The Accuweather forecast had shown a high of 72⁰ with clear to partly cloudy skies, but we could see rain showers and lightning in the distance. Although we got a few drops along the route, the skies held and we made it to Barkerville after a few quick stops at information and scenic viewpoints. We took one three-mile loop to a couple of ghost towns that Milepost said was worth the trip but we were a little disappointed. Many of the things along the Barkerville route and the loop were poorly marked. We stopped in the small town of Wells, just a few miles short of Barkerville. Both areas became overnight boom towns due to the discovery of gold in Slough Creek and Williams Creek. Now, with the glory days behind, the cities are simply tourist attractions showing off their old, but lovingly cared for, buildings, equipment and memoriaphilia. Barkerville takes things a step further by providing period actors to main their buildings and theater. It was very interesting going to each building and hearing the stories from their docents. One of the first ones we visited was the Wendle House and we learned that the gentleman who owned it originally spelled his name “Wendell” but in an attempt to disguise his German heritage, changed the spelling
There was a comical demonstration of placer gold mining conducted by two of the actors. Although we had seen a sluice operation before, this one was different because it was powered by a Cornish Water Wheel and flume. The children in the crowd got a real kick out of seeing those gold nuggets wash from the gravel; planted, of course. Afterwards, we ate lunch at the popular Lung Duck Tong restaurant in the old China town section of Barkersville. Both of us like “spicy” food so I ordered Kung Pao Chicken and Wendell got Spicy Garlic Pork. Both were excellent. I washed mine down with a glass of Chrysanthemum tea which I just had to try because of its unusual aspect. I mean, I’ve had Hibiscus and Jasmine, why not another flower tea?
After lunch we continued to wander the streets, peeking into the buildings and reading the information about each site…..until it started to rain. At first, it was just light sprinkles but soon we had to take refuge on the porch on one building. When the shower passed, we ventured over to the General Mercantile to make a few purchases
We had passed up the historic Cottonwood House on the drive up, but decided it was definitely worth a stop…even if it was still lightly raining. We parked and hustled over to the General Store to pay our admission and learned a tour of the home would be starting in 15 minutes, so we prowled the grounds while we waited. This house was built on the Caribou 'Waggon’ Road in the 1860’s and became a popular roadhouse offering accommodations, meals, hardware and provisions to those who traveled the rough trails. It was also home to Joseph Boyd, his wife and their 12 children. We finished our tour with a stop at the Confectionary for a scoop of ice cream. Yum!
We returned to Quesnel, fetched Nitchie who was thrilled to see us, and headed back to Robert’s Roost. It was a full day but a most pleasant one. I think even Nitchie enjoyed her “doggy day out”. Chris said she played well with the other pooches. I am just glad we found a sitter and didn’t have to sedate her. Both Chris and Nitchie survived the thunderstorms.
Now, it’s time to say goodnight. Tomorrow’s another driving day and I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep.