Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Part One : The Spirit Caves, Yale BC

Yeah, with underbrush tugging at my pant legs I was climbing once more, in a party of 6, this time towards the Spirit Caves near Yale, BC.

"When will we be through this crap", I thought, with more than a little frustration. At least it was dry, wet underbrush is miserable.

No one in our bunch had ever hiked up to the Spirit caves, still, Internet directions and maps made it seem like it would be a walk in the park. A couple of my buddies had new GPS devices showing both the trail and our location - the fact they did not quite sync up was of no concern of mine. There was only one trail, my thought was just stay on it and climb up to the top.

Thankfully, we soon clear the thick underbrush and entered into the forest. The path is narrow and a single person file soon develops. I took the rear as I like taking pictures. Photography at the front of a line is a pain for a couple of reasons, you're bugging other people by slowing down the hike and you rush the shot. It is at the rear that you want to be if you are armed with a camera.

One thing, have the team carry whistles, front and back of the line, so that positions can be calculated. One blast of the whistle means "where the hell are you", 2 means "I'm coming your way" and 3 "can you give me some help here". Okay walkie talkies work so long as they are charged.

It seems ironic that the Spirit Trail starts right across the street from an old cemetery like some sort of apparition highway.  According to the Net, the caves had been named because of an eerie haunting noise that rises when the wind is blowing and yes there is plenty of reason there might be ghostly unrest in the town of Yale. Human greed, in the form of a gold rush that started in 1858 transformed the sleepy Hudon Bay Company (HBC) fur trading post, Fort Yale, into one of the most crazed, frenzied and evil spots on the Earth for a time. It is called "the wickedest little settlement in British Columbia" "a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah" of vice and violence and lawlessness".

Murder, rape, genocide, dismembered bodies floating down the Fraser River are all part of the local lore as an estimated 15,000 people, mainly Americans from San Francisco descended on Yale like a plague. So many people arrived on these river banks that for a time, Yale was the largest city west of Chicago and North of San Francisco.  Prospectors and the First Nation all piled upon each other along these narrow shoulders of the Fraser River.

Yale BC and Fraser River

As speculation fuelled the ravenous minds of the miners the Indian population was roughly handled, dispossessed of their lands; tensions grew and warfare began. A bloody "Indian War" claimed a number of lives on both sides and an American solution of militia action commenced. At some point, gold flecks are found in the graveyard alongside the Fraser so all the bodies were dug up, moved and buried a second time in the cemetary across from the trail called Yale's Pioneer cemetery.

Meanwhile, back in Victoria the government of this British colony finally wises up and realizes that there are now more Americans in the colony called New Caledonia than Brits/Canadians and, with an American militia Yale bound, the Yanks might decide to take everything and not give it back. Let's not talk about Hawaii.

Yale has perhaps the most colourful history in the BC and if spectral beings roam our world Yale seems as likely a spot as any. I pick up a rock along the trail it seems soaked in blood.

The eastern Fraser Valley towns of Chilliwack, Agassiz (Kent) and Harrison Hot Springs as well as the Fraser Canyon communities of Boston Bar, North Bend and Yale offer a rich history surrounded by both field and forest.

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