Yale, Saddle Rock, Sailor Bar, Alexandra, Hell’s Gate, Ferrabee, and China Bar, blasted through canyon rock, openings birds swoop into, and out, deer skittish in headlights as they race the long paved stretches, panicked by their knowledge that they are inside the mountains, inside mountains, passages north and south, look down, down at the Yale midden, hollows of old kikulis, remnants of cedar burial wraps, ground dense with salmon vertebrae, and the salmon themselves, 30 pound springs, river red with sockeye, the muscular steelhead heading north, north, past where Old 97 hit the snow-covered rock slide in 1909, Maggie Lloyd on her seat in the bus, face pressed against the window: “The trees retreated, now, from the roadway and the road passed between grassy mounds, rippling flowing, it seemed, out of each other. Above them, the pine trees ascended.”; shadow of brigade trail through the trees, past lilacs and fruit trees near the Alexandra Bridge, the old bridge, injured and dying men on the slopes, the words of Radcliffe Quine still in the air: “I tell you it is a hard road to travel. You have to carry your own blankets and food for over three hundred miles and take to the soft side of the road for your lodgings and at daylight get up and shake the dust off your blankets and cook your own food for the day and take the road again.”: the grave of 14 year old Catherine Patrick, dead of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1938, Lily Clegg on the porch of the Alexandra Lodge with her pipe and sharp eyes, taking a break from the endless housework and cooking, the far-off sound of Simon Fraser on his river below Hells Gate and Ferrabee where the original road had crept along the rocks on wooden trestles: “The water which rolls down this extraordinary passage in tumultuous waves and with great velocity had a frightful appearance; however, it being absolutely impossible to carry the canoes by land, all hands without hesitation embarked upon the mercy of this awful tide”; and the lofty view down from China Bar where “sad and fatal accidents often occur, and horses and their owners are dashed to pieces on the rocks below, or drowned in the deep foaming waters rushing down the narrow defiles from the vast regions of mountain snow melting in the summer heat.
8 thoughts on “How the tunnels see the Fraser Canyon (from a work-in-progress):”
Having recently travelled through those tunnels and been inside the mountains myself, this post is especially meaningful to me. I look forward to the novella!
Leslie, I love that drive along the Fraser, then Thompson Canyon. And I’ve always been interested in how differently things look, are remembered, from diverse perspectives. When we rafted down the Thompson, I had a whole other sense of the river, its chasms, its very specific histories. And because this novella is a sort of psycho-geography, I want the land, the mountains, the water, the historical presences (real and imagined) to have their own arias…
How exciting to have rafted down the Thompson! For my 50th birthday, Chris and I canoed down the stretch of the Skeena that we drive beside so often. It was amazing to me how different everything looked from the river. In fact, from the river, you could almost imagine how things used to be before the colonizers and the settlers arrived and changed everything. I love the idea of a psycho-geography, and of an orchestra of non-human players.
Oh wonderful to have canoed the Skeena. (Do you know Sarah de Leeuw ‘ s long poem about the Skeena (thinking of voices and perspectives…)? And rafting the Thompson is glorious. Have done it twice and may go again next summer.
I don’t know that poem, but I’m going to look for it. Thanks, Theresa.
it’s a beauty, Leslie. Published by Caitlin Press in 2015, with the most glorious cover printed by Sarah and her partner on his press.
Hi T –
How coincidental, the timeliness of this piece! On the very day you posted it mom and I were driving the canyon – to Kamloops and beyond to McBride – on the way to visit a few of her friends and put flowers on the spot where her parents’ ashes were spread, the site of the original homestead. Of course I marvelled at the tunnels (a regular trip growing up) and OF COURSE, stopped at the Alexandra Lodge, which was open for the first time I could ever remember it being open. And, yes, I took pretty much the very same photos you did! And the final ‘of course’ was that I thought of you while driving that particular 2+ hours. Although we were going from Point A to Point B, I kept half-expecting to run into you. Alas, no such luck. A xoxo
A, it’s such a beautiful route. I’ve been wondering how and when — but there hasn’t been time this fall for a meander in that direction. Last fall we spent a night in Lillooet and the drive there from Lytton is another beloved route. And then from Lillooet through Fountain and to Pavilion. The book I’m working on involves all those roads so I always have the research excuse…!