the marriage of rivers

We’re on a little road trip, a spur-of-the-moment whim to travel into the Thompson-Nicola area for a few days. We drove up the Fraser Canyon, a route that is deeply nostalgic in all kinds of ways. Signs remind the traveller of the goldrush and the building of the Cariboo Wagon Road begun in 1860 and the highway winds past the old Alexandria Bridge, the lodge, a hundred small reminders of those times. And this was the route my family took regularly when I was a child  — I recall my father announcing various places along the way (“Children, look at Jackass Mountain!” or “We’ll stop in Spences Bridge to stretch our legs” or “If you don’t talk until Boston Bar, we’ll have ice-cream…”). I loved the hot air — the Canyon is like a funnel in summer and there are wonderful archival photographs showing how the Native people used the heat and wind to air-dry salmon on racks above the river. I always hoped to see a rattlesnake but had to wait until I was an adult to see one on a road near Cache Creek. I loved the pines and the wildflowers and waking in our tent in the mornings to the smell of sage.

This is also the route John and I took on trips to the Interior with our own children so there is an added layer of nostalgia as we remember camping at Skihist, stopping for ice-cream at Boston Bar, walking a length of the old Wagon Road near Lytton. And there’s now another layer too as we stood at the Skihist picnic area and looked down to see the Thompson River racing towards it marriage with the Fraser and recalled rafting that length a few years ago with Forrest, a special gift to celebrate his successful defence of his PhD dissertation on British Columbia history. Here’s the Thompson, seen on a cold March day:

the Thompson River

We’re looking forward to taking Brendan and Cristen on the rafting adventure this August (to celebrate their defences a few years ago and now Brendan’s appointment as a tenure-track professor of math at the University of Alberta) when I hope the water will look less forbidding than this. (Seriously, that raft trip was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done! We paddled from Spences Bridge to Lytton, swirling out at the end in the wonderful confluence where the Thompson and Fraser Rivers meet, two colours of water flowing side by side for a time, then merging…)

And here’s the little pre-1900 Nlak’pamux church at Pukhaist which I’ve looked at in its isolation below the talus slope as long as I can remember. My father pointed it out when I was a child and I pointed it out to my children and I hope it will still be there in years to come so I can show it to my grandchildren…

old church at Pokhaist

4 thoughts on “the marriage of rivers”

  1. Ooh, Theresa, you’re awakening my nostalgia, too…. Both sides of my family hailed from Kamloops, so the Fraser Canyon was our regular trail from the coast. I’ll add a few tidbits, if I may….Spuzzum (best place name)…memorizing the order and length of the tunnels….the old Alexandria bridge….the mysterious Alexandria Lodge that could never make a go of it….the stretch through Lytton as hot as Hades….the totem pole outside the restaurant at Boston Bar….the point of interest sign that read “The Ghosts of Wallachin”…..the distinctive grey-green colour of the Fraser…the wooden church at Spences Bridge…

    Enjoy your road trip!!

  2. Thanks, Andrea! You’d be sad to see the Alexandria Lodge, with a For Sale sign on it this morning. And the ghosts of Walhachin — well, I ended up writing a novel about those ghosts (The Age of Water Lilies) and a few years ago, to my great delight, I was invited to read there for International Women’s Day (I don’t think I was anywhere near as good as the Ashcroft Bellydancers, who were wonderful, but there you have it…) and then I slept in a building which was the post-office in the second incarnation of Walhachin, behind the house which Isa Bennie grew up in — she was the mother of Gordon Parke, whose family settled the Bonaparte Ranch and the Upper Hat Creek Valley. Isa’s early suitor was Gordon Flowerdew, a hero of the Battle of Moreuil Wood. Beautiful haunted country.

  3. Definitely have to buy your books now 🙂 I drove into Wallachin, with the kids, a few years ago. I felt a strange vibe – I’m sure quite different than when it was originally populated. You’ll definite understand the hold it’s had on me all these years… Very cool you did the reading there.

  4. It certainly has an interesting, well, spirit of place. It’s as though it exists as a series of transparencies — the past, the present — which are constantly shifting. The Soldiers Memorial Hall, with its sprung floor, has photographs, objects, and so forth from the various occupations of the village. And occasionally I meet people who know someone who grew up there. A neighbour on the street I spent my teen years on in Victoria was actually the man who designed the bungalows in the original townsite — Bert Footner — and his daughter Mollie told my mother about her childhood in Walhachin. I remember Bert coming out on the street to admire my horse when I rode him as a girl of 14. How strange, the frail strands of history…

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