Fort St. John to Barkerville

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Sep 22, 2009

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Robert's Roost

Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Friday, August 21, 2009

August 18, 2009 (Tuesday) – Charlie Lake, BC (200 miles)

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.  Only problem was….the wood had gotten damp and we spent way too much time trying to get it to blaze.  This morning after breakfast, Wendell was eager to try out his back and legs on one of the trails leading down to the lake.  The one closest to our site was 1 km and we figured there would be some place along the way for him to sit, if necessary.  There wasn’t, but he made it down without any problem.  Nitchie loved the fact that she could run free and was ecstatic when she found two large boxers at the end of the trail.  They were very friendly and the three of them romped around like puppies.  I think it was the best time she has had in weeks.  We took the short path down to the lake and…. you’re already wondering…."what happened to Charlie Lake?”  Nitchie drank it!  But, she managed to do so without getting her feet wet.  That dog does not like the water.  We continued on the path along the edge of the lake, and were delighted to find there were still some raspberries on the vines.  We walked, picked and ate.  Finally, we reached the entrance to the next trail leading back to the campground.  This one was 1.2 km and was, relentlessly, straight up!  By the time we got to the campground, I was huffing and puffing and red as a beet.  Wendell and Nitchie were ahead of me, but Mr. Macho was definitely limping and couldn’t wait to get back to our campsite and stretch out on the picnic bench.   It was a great walk, but even with the cool temperature, there wasn’t a dry thread on me when we got back and my hair was plastered to my head

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.  It’s the tightest spot she could find and when she’s nervous, she hunts tight spaces.  While Nitchie and I curled up with a book and blanket (55 degrees outside), Wendell took the one-hour tour of the dam and plant and was thoroughly impressed with their 10 huge turbines and 10 generators.  The dam is on Williston Lake, the largest body of water in BC and the 9th largest hydroelectric reservoir in the world.  They not only supply power for BC but also are in the grid to serve some of the U.S. The earthfilled dam itself is 1.25 miles long, 600 feet high and a half-mile thick at its base.  Living near Canyon Lake dam, also an earthfill, we are not overly impressed with the size of the dam, but the power plant was rather remarkable.

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.  We are starting to see warmer day time temperatures and have even noticed the turning of the foliage.  Looks like fall is very near…..also they need rain, too.  Our campground has a “No Fires Permitted” sign at the entrance.  Bummer!

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 owner, Chris, made instant friends with our beloved pal and we felt we could enjoy the day knowing she was in good hands.  Chris and Nitchie have something in common.  They both have an irrational fear of thunderstorms.  Just talking about the possibility of thunder gave Chris chills.  She said she didn’t know whether she and Nitchie could both fit under the bed, but they might try.

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.  Of course, Wendell’s family is German but it’s from his mother’s side.  His father’s folks came from Wales and were originally “Pettypool’s”. 

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.  That was fun!  The clerk, dressed in her long skirt and blouse, tied my purchases in brown paper and string.  It showered again while we were shopping, so when it let up we made our way back to the entrance to return to Quesnel.  By the time we got to the truck, the rain was really coming down, and a few miles down the road, it started hailing.  The hail continued from several minutes and there was nothing to do but keep driving.  Further down the road, we came to a section where the street was covered in both hail and sleet.  It was several inches deep in the ditches and the temperature had dropped to 48 degrees!

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.
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