Cariboo back road

The Cariboo Mountains come into view as the road passes Cameron Ridge and descends by Cameron Creek. (Richard McGuire Photo)

This is Part 3 about my trip to British Columbia’s interior temperate rainforest and the Cariboo region. See also Part 1 and Part 2.

I had read about a back road across wilder areas of the Cariboo region and up into historic mining town Barkerville’s back door.

I wanted to include it on my trip through the Cariboo, but there were logistical challenges. I was towing a small eggshell trailer and I was nervous about dragging it down unknown logging roads for hundreds of kilometres. It made more sense to visit Barkerville by the front door, Highway 26 from Quesnel.

I still thought about doing part of the back-road journey without the trailer as a day trip. So I camped two nights at Cedar Point Provincial Park south of Likely. And on the second day I set out along logging roads by the back-road route to Ghost Lake, a recreation site on the edge of Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park. It’s noted for dramatic waterfalls as the Matthew River tumbles out of Ghost Lake and makes its way to the Cariboo River.

The verdict: It was very good by logging road standards, but there were parts where I was glad that I wasn’t towing a trailer. You can probably make it fine with a two-wheel drive if you check conditions beforehand and take it slow. In most places it’s wide enough for two vehicles to pass, but some areas are narrow and rough. I was glad to have 4X4.

For me the trip was worth it, to be able to explore the Cariboo away from the highways. But it’s a long journey and there are large stretches where any views end at the trees.

I stopped at Keithley Creek to visit the pioneer cemetery, which was established in 1881, 21 years after William “Doc” Keithley struck gold nearby. There were little write-ups tacked up and weathered, about some of the people buried there.

One of the tragic stories was that of Ada “Lobsy” Margaret (nee Hutch) Popp. She died at age 18 in 1931 of strychnine poisoning in a suicide. She was married two years earlier to a man, Popp, who mistreated her. Her father brought her home, but two or three weeks later, she took the poison when her parents were outside working. Lobsy’s sister also died in her teens and her brother was killed in the World War II invasion of Normandy.

I backtracked a little to cross the Cariboo River as the road followed the south shore of Cariboo Lake before heading into the mountains.

As discussed in the first part of this series, this is a unique interior temperate rainforest. It rained on some of the drive and was mostly cloudy throughout, but the forests were a lush green and the streams were flush with water.

Throughout the trip you are teased with glimpses of the Cariboo Mountains only to lose them as you drive through coniferous forests amid volcanic rock formations.

Crossing over Cameron Ridge and descending by Cameron Creek, the glimpses of the mountains were becoming more frequent.

Some areas were clear-cut logged, which perversely opened up views of the mountains.

The Matthew River Falls were a good point to turn around and head back the way I came – after checking out the falls and Ghost Lake, of course. At this point, it was raining.

On the trip I had four black bear sightings, one on the road ahead of me as I turned a corner. All wanted nothing to do with me and headed into the woods before I could see much.

The road certainly wasn’t busy, but I did encounter other traffic fairly often – both recreational and industrial.

I returned to Cedar Point Provincial Park and got ready to head south the next morning for the final stage of my journey – the Upper Fraser River.

To the northeast of Likely, on the way to Keithley Creek, the route crosses to the north side of the Cariboo River (Richard McGuire Photo)

Approaching Keithley Creek, you pass along the north shore of Cariboo Lake. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Keithley Creek was established by American William “Doc” Keithey when they struck gold in 1860. This cemetery was established more than two decades later. Grave markers have been restored, and a local society has left weathered accounts of the lives and deaths of some of those buried there. (Richard McGuire Photo)

One of the tragic stories posted at Keithley Creek Cemetery is that of Ada ‘Lobsy’ Margaret (nee Hutch) Popp. She died at age 18 in 1931 of strychnine poisoning in a suicide. She was married two years earlier to a man, Popp, who mistreated her. Her father brought her home, but two or three weeks later, she took the poison when her parents were outside working. Lobsy’s sister also died in her teens and her brother was killed in the World War II invasion of Normandy. (Richard McGuire Photo)

On the south shore of Cariboo Lake there is basic camping at Ladies Creek Recreation Site. Looking up to the end of the lake, the mountains are now visible. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The road climbs through forest past Mount Barker toward Three Ladies Mountain. Streams like this one are flush with water from this interior rainforest. (Richard McGuire Photo)

I’m used to encountering cattle and deer on the road, but this was different, A black bear was standing there as I turned a corner on a logging road near Maeford Lake to the northeast of Likely, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Rocky crags like this, no doubt formed with volcanic rock, are a common feature along the route as it passes by Maeford Lake. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Cariboo Mountains come into view as the road passes Cameron Ridge and descends by Cameron Creek. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Cariboo Mountains come into view as the road passes Cameron Ridge and descends by Cameron Creek. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Cariboo Mountains come into view as the road passes Cameron Ridge and descends by Cameron Creek. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Cariboo Mountains come into view as the road passes Cameron Ridge and descends by Cameron Creek. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Matthew River tumbles out of Ghost Lake over a series of dramatic waterfalls. It continues northwest, flowing into the Cariboo River. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Matthew River tumbles out of Ghost Lake over a series of dramatic waterfalls. It continues northwest, flowing into the Cariboo River. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Matthew River tumbles out of Ghost Lake over a series of dramatic waterfalls. It continues northwest, flowing into the Cariboo River. (Richard McGuire Photo)

There is recreation site at Ghost Lake on the edge of Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park. (Richard McGuire Photo)

I camped two nights at Cedar Point Provincial Park, south of Likely, while I explored the Cariboo. This is the view from my campsite. Too bad about the mosquitoes. (Richard McGuire Photo)

I left my Triple E Surf-Side eggshell trailer back in camp while I toured the back road. (Richard McGuire Photo)

 

 

Travels in Central B.C. Part 2 – The Gold Rush Trail

A coach makes its way down the streets of Barkerville pulled by Belgian and Percheron horses. Barkerville, the scene of B.C.’s gold rush starting in the 1860s, has been reconstructed and brought back to life. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The British Columbia gold rushes that started at the end of the 1850s and boomed throughout the 1860s played a major role in opening up the B.C. Interior and its transportation routes.

On the second part of my trip to Central B.C. in late June, I explored some of the routes traveled by gold prospectors and miners around the upper Fraser Valley and beyond.

I visited several old mining communities, the most noteworthy of which were Quesnel Forks and Barkerville.

Quesnel Forks, near the present community of Likely, was established in 1860 and for a while was a major supply centre for the Cariboo Gold Rush.

Built at the confluence of the Quesnel and Cariboo rivers, the community was a jumping off point to other gold discoveries in the region. For a while, it served a transient mining population of a couple thousand.

Quesnel Forks boomed for a short time, but when the Cariboo Wagon Road was finished in the mid-1860s, the route bypassed Quesnel Forks, instead directing mining traffic through Barkerville.

A decade later, most of Quesnel Forks’ population was gone. A small community of Chinese miners and merchants remained. By the 1950s, the last residents had either died or moved and Quesnel Forks became a ghost town.

Today it is a peaceful place with a maintained cemetery in which many of those buried were killed in mining accidents. Community volunteers have restored some of the town’s old buildings, while others are little more than remnants of a foundation and pieces of wood.

I visited Barkerville first, even though it developed later than Quesnel Forks. Barkerville was built on the site of a gold strike in 1861 by Billy Barker and others.

It is 80 km east of Quesnel by Highway 26, which was built along the old Cariboo Wagon Road.

Barkerville had a population of 5,000 in the mid-1860s, when it became a regional mining centre. More than half the population was Chinese.

Since 1957, Barkerville has been developed under the B.C. government as a tourist attraction. Some of its buildings are more or less original, while others have been rebuilt based on whatever historical records exist, or based on how similar buildings of the time may have looked.

When you walk through Barkerville today, there are interpretive actors in roles of people from the 1860s. Some of the building interiors are done up to make them look as they might have in the heyday of Barkerville, including objects from that time. Others provide eateries and other services to tourists.

Although the restoration is very well done, today’s Barkerville lacks the grittiness shown in 19th century photographs.

I camped two nights at Ten Mike Lake Provincial Park outside Quesnel and two nights at Cedar Point Provincial Park near Likely as I explored the region.

Here are some photos from Barkerville and Quesnel Forks. I’ll have more in a coming post from some of the explorations of the region.

Richard McGuire

Click on thumbnails to view as gallery with larger images:

A horse carriage makes its way past the Barkerville Anglican Church, erected in 1869 and still on its original site. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A priest rings the bell on Barkerville’s Anglican church. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Two women of Barkerville work in a garden next to the school. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A coach driver and his horses — a Belgian and a Percheron — take a break in downtown Barkerville. The 1860s gold rush town has been reconstructed and populated with interpretive actors. (Richard McGuire Photo)

This Barkerville interpretive actor complained to a local woman about his terrible toothache. He was reluctant to take her advice. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Barkerville interpretive actors do a scene in which a local woman offers a man a potion for his toothache — a potion intended for every ailment except toothaches. (Richard McGuire Photo)

To relieve the pain of a toothache in a man’s right cheek, a woman slaps him in his left. The interpretive actors carried out this scene at Barkerville, B.C., a reconstructed gold rush town. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A dental business in downtown Barkerville promises painless tooth extraction. Barkerville is a reconstructed gold rush town east of Quesnel, B.C. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A reconstructed saloon in Barkerville, B.C. shows that these gold rush drinking establishments were sometimes quite small. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A group of tourists travels through Barkerville on a stage coach pulled by Percheron horses. Merchants and local residents wave to them. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Three interpretive actors at Barkerville play out a discussion about the future of the British Columbia colony in the 1860s. The woman at left argued for remaining a British colony. The man on the road favoured joining the United States, while the man on the boardwalk at right argued for joining the new Dominion of Canada. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Three Barkerville characters chat outside the gold rush town’s theatre. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Barkerville theatre is used today for variety stage shows. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Some of the 19th century interpretive actors were hanging out around the theatre in Barkerville. At right is Richard Thomas Wright, who wrote an excellent history book titled Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The print shop of the Cariboo Sentinel shows what a newspaper office might have looked like in the years after it began publishing in 1865. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Lead type was set by hand at the Cariboo Sentinel, which published from 1865 to 1875 in Barkerville. (Richard McGuire Photo)

At the edge of Barkerville’s Chinatown is the Chinese school. Pictured, the young teacher could be a disciplinarian if students spoke out of turn. (Richard McGuire Photo)

In this Chinese lesson, Barkerville visitors spent 45 minutes learning the basics of speaking Mandarin, writing Chinese characters, and how to do arithmetic with an abacus. (Richard McGuire Photo)

This store sold basic goods near the entrance to Barkerville’s Chinatown. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Tourists explore the streets of Barkerville, which has been restored to resemble the gold rush community in the 1860s. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A stage coach carrying a couple of tourists makes its way up the main street in Barkerville. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A blacksmith works in his shop in Barkerville. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Tourists and interpretive actors wander around on Barkerville’s main street. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A barbershop in Barkerville advertises that if your hair is falling, you can get it restored before you go bald. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Many of those buried at Quesnel Forks cemetery came from far and died in mining accidents. (Richard McGuire Photo)

A rusting vehicle and a log cabin are remnants of another time in the ghost town of Quesnel Forks. Local volunteers have restored many of the old buildings from the 19th century gold mining town. (Richard McGuire Photo)

An old truck decays in the bushes at Quesnel Forks, a ghost town. The 19th century mining town was still inhabited in the mid-20th century. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The house in the background was known as Missy Kim’s house after Yee May Kim, a purchased bride from China. Some of the buildings of Quesnel Forks have been restored by local volunteers. Others, like the one on the right, are in a more ruined state. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The Tong House in Quesnel Forks housed a Chinese fraternal society in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Leo “Shorty” Lahaie was the last full-time resident of Quesnel Forks. In the background is his restored cabin and to the left is his shed. The retired miner moved into nearby Likely and died in 1979. (Richard McGuire Photo)

The inside of Leo “Shorty” Lahaie’s cabin, now restored, looks pretty sparse. (Richard McGuire Photo)

An old woodstore and oven sits in the restored cabin of miner Leo “Shorty” Lahaie, the last full-time resident of Quesnel Forks. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Lupins and other wildflowers paint a colourful canvas along the road from Quesnel to Barkerville. (Richard McGuire Photo)