Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tikwalus Heritage Trail

Wednesday July 11th, 2012 A small band of 9 hikers (Hermann's Hikers)  assemble in a pull-off to the side of the highway just past Spuzzum, B.C. about 50 km north of the Town of Hope. The roar of big transports seems to magnify in this part of the Fraser Canyon. We take moment to read and appreciate the new Tikwalus Heritage Trail signage (April 2012) before heading off into the forest. The map shows the 13 kilometer round trip we are taking and the 788 meter elevation gain we will climb. The day is clear and still cool as we are on the west side of the slope and in shadow. The trees seem to welcome us as we begin our ascent.

"The air" one of my companions remarks, "is so clean". Travelling through valleys of deep green to viewpoints giving glimpses of the Fraser River below, to the fine plants that dot this landscape with colour it is easy to understand why this would be regarded a spiritual place. Every step seems to take me further and further from the everyday trials and annoyances that seem to beset one. I feel my heart and eyes start to open to the splendor of the forest.

The Tikwalus Heritage Trail, also known as the First Brigade Hudson Bay Company HBC trail, enjoys a special, well deserved heritage status.  It is here that the Nlaka' - pamux and European first work together.  In 1847   the Hudson Bay Company is desperate to find an alternative route to the Columbia River now that the, American, Oregon Territory has been created. Alexander Caulfield (A.C.) Anderson is given the task of finding a way to connect Fort Langley to Fort Kamloops and the rich trapping areas in the northern part of what is then known as New Caledonia. Anderson forms an alliance with Chief Pahallak to improve the arduous  Tikwalus Trail - with some path clearing and widening perhaps, the 400 pack animal and 50 men trains might be able to make it through.  Through the winter Chief Pahallak make the preparations with tools left for them by the HBC.

The HBC come back pleased with the amount of trail work done by Chief Pahallak and the Nlaka' - pamux people. Over the next two years, 3 mule trains of men, animals and furs are brought through these forests onward to Fort Yale, where the furs could be ferried to Fort Langley and eventually shipped to Europe.  After this, an easier route to the interior of the Province from Fort Hope was located and given preference.

Cedar Culturally Modified
After the HBC use of the trail, it reverts back to the uses the First Nation people of the area had enjoyed for thousands of years.  Hunting deer and harvesting some of the 300 species of plants along the trail to give sustenance; berries, mushrooms and the ever important cedar.  Along the trail, remains some of the "culturally modified" cedar trees used in so many ways. The tough outer bark was became roof and floor materials and the fibrous inner strand material; clothing, baskets, and mats.

This is also a place for contemplation, renewal and perhaps if one is lucky finding one's shna.m spiritual helper.

In 1858, a dangerous and dark period of time fuelled by the greed for gold begins.  I have touched upon this in a previous article called Gold, Alchemy and Yale Today.  Very quickly the canyon becomes home to up to 30,000, mainly Californian, gold miners overrunning the Nlaka' -pamux people destroying salmon beds and generally tearing up the countryside.  The nearby town of Yale becomes known as "the wickedest little settlement in British Columbia" "a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah" of vice and violence and lawlessness".  Very soon after, armed conflict between the miners and first nation people breaks out.  Americans, form local militia groups and the "Canyon War" starts to heat up.  To avoid the perilous Black canyon and ambush, the Tikwalus trail once more finds usage by non-natives.
Door and Stone Foundation
On our hike, we find a number of settlement indicators, the foundation of a building, the fireplace hearth of "Lake House" and a number of pots, stove pipes and pans that we imagine extend back into this precarious time of "gold fever'.

Governor Douglas in 1858, quickly creates the colony of British Columbia to quell any thought of Americans annexing New Caledonia.  In a very real sense the Province of British Columbia is forged from the events that happen here in this narrow part of the Fraser Canyon.

Turning away from the historical significance of this trail, our group is reminded that this is living forest and that nature has its own destructive forces as evidenced along the trail in the form of fire and wind damage.  We come to a clearing of types, a blanket of young green trees and undergrowth under the remains of a dead forest scorched by some fire that must have roared like an inferno along the ridge we are walking along; surreal and beautiful all at the same time.

After the Forest Fire

At the top of the climb we find a pleasant camp site complete with an outhouse, a food cache and seating. The views of the Fraser River and canyon below are our reward for the 3.5 hours needed to ascend the trail.

View from the top of the Tikwalus Heritage Trail ©

The Tikwalus Heritage Trail is well worth a hike and the status that has been conferred upon it. The signage is excellent and I'd like to give thanks to all the groups that contributed to making this such a thoughtful experience.

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