Wednesday, August 10, 2005

a b.c. travelogue - 3

Barkerville



Friday - 3:00 p.m. We’ve checked into Hubs Motel in Wells, and are paying our admission into Barkerville, ready to take a trip back about 150 years.

Barkerville is named after Billy Barker, whose discovery of gold on Williams Creek in 1862 started a stampede of 100,000 prospectors over the next eight years. They traveled there on the road we’ve just driven, called the Cariboo Wagon Road. Some of the towns along the highway we’ve just passed (100 Mile House for example) were named for their distance from Lillooet, where a cairn marks Mile 0 of the Cariboo Wagon Road.

Barkerville is a town that is laid out along two main streets. Building after old building is set up in the old way for visitors to peek into through a grill or through glass panes.




The rooms have been intentionally casualized with things not totally tidy ... clothes draped on beds, kids’ puzzles partly put together, laundry hanging on clothes horses or lines (especially in the Sporting House, where it’s lingerie that’s drying beside the stove), to give the impression someone was momentarily called away (little vignettes, frozen in time for future generations to come and gawk).





Especially touching is the Chinese section of the town with its crowded bunkhouses and wok kitchens. Of course there is also the Chinese laundry and restaurant. There is a whole building devoted to Chinese heritage with, as you come in, whining Chinese zither music playing in the background.

We go to two live presentations. At 3:15 we celebrate Evening Prayer in the Anglican Church (St. Saviour’s - #11 on our map) where the 1962 edition Prayer Book is used and the bearded but young rector follows the Service for Young People. He hands out songbooks, but then forgets to get us to use them. I think he was in a rush, because he sensed some of the kids were antsy to be at the schoolhouse presentation by 3:30.


Then at 4 p.m. we watched a one-hour live theater presentation, "Drovers and Dust" – very funny and lively and the actors are all fine singers, musicians and dancers.



We wander around Barkerville some more after the show gets out, though I’m tempted to go back to the car to get my sweater. It has become overcast and quite chilly.

We leave Barkerville around 6, after exploring only one street. But we’re hungry, so it’s back to Wells for dinner at the Northwood Restaurant – a spacious place, old, formica-ish, where the waitress (an incredibly thin middle-aged woman with a skinny pony tail banded in three places so it hangs like a braid) handles the waitressing of the entire place efficiently, cheerfully, and all by herself. We have burgers with cheese and mushrooms and a heap of crispy fries full of fat and carbs and very comforting and stick-to-the-ribs.

Later we tour the town of Wells. It looks like the real ghost town with its collection of run-down shacks and buildings with pastel square fronts in the old frontier town style. All have seen better days with their peeling paint and sagging or missing boards.

Next morning, we go back to Barkerville to tour the street we missed yesterday.



We come upon the elaborate Cornish waterwheel contraption the miners erected to help wash the gold (I think – we don’t stick around for the demo).


Before we leave the Barkerville, we discover a vibrant and very alive community in this town that celebrates the dead past. In the embankment next to the picnic tables there is a veritable gopher city (or some sort of ground squirrel).



We also visit the cemetery on the hill.



We leave Barkerville, to do a little local exploring. Twenty-eight km. down a gravel road, we come to a lake – the first in a chain, called the Bowron Lakes and well known for their canoeing.

We turn around here, and retrace our steps down Hwy 26. Near the junction to Hwy. 97 we also drive in to Cottonwood House (the last rest stop for gold rush miners before they traveled the final two days into Barkerville, and where today, a wedding is in progress!) The kitchen of CH is especially interesting, with its tin walls and ceiling (to help guard against fires). Here is the dining room’s tin ceiling.


At the junction we continue north down Highway 97 to Prince George, where we turn west onto Highway 16. A few hours later we get to Vanderhoof where we’re most grateful for our cozy room at the Siesta Motel.

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