In the summer of 2016, Henderson Productions and Poggio Amorelli B&B set off for a culinary and photographic journey through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and Alaska. Stories of the Road is a series of snippets of that journey. Stay tuned over the coming months for additional stories of this and other journeys.
We tanked up our RV in Ft Langley and hit the road through the fertile fields between Abbotsford and Hope, British Columbia as we departed Vancouver. Cabbage, cattle, corn – neat rows of a highly agricultural area along the CN/US border w the North Cascade Range as a backdrop with pretty blue skies as we drove east into the sun.
We journeyed through Hope and headed north following the Fraser River to the historic town of Yale. It had been huge during the gold rushes as a major riverboat stop until the railroad passed them by and left them to slowly decay. These days it’s a “historic” camp to visit but really just a beat up old motel across the street from a mish-mashed general store.
Roy was off to the side selling “lures and tackle” and leaning up against the tailgate of his truck w several buckets. I asked him what he was doing and asked if I could take a couple pics of him. He was panning for gold. His plastic pie-pan-shaped plate was tilted back and forth on an angle while he used a squirt bottle to slowly push water to the bottom of a small pile of silt. As the silt floats down into the water puddle, the heavier gold flakes stay on the top. He kept moving the whole time we chatted and eventually had a small collection of flakes to suction up into another water bottle for storage. The water bottles were palm-sized and he had about a quarter inch worth of water and flakes collected so far this week.
He offered to take us down to the riverbed and loan us some kit if we wanted to give it a try but we thanked him for his offer and declined. I went back a little bit later and asked him which was more lucrative – selling lures to the tourists or panning? He said “panning for sure. Not enough folks come up here with no gear.” Sly grin and a slight nod as we moved on our way.
We also met Elsie, a native American woman selling “Fresh Bannock” off the front porch of the store. There was a collection of four locals shooting the shit that I approached and asked “What’s bannock?” And they all pointed to Elsie. She beamed and jumped up to showcase her fried bread with various options of toppings. It’s made with “no yeast, unlike some others who don’t do it traditionally,” she confided. “And it’s fried in an electric skillet NOT a deep fryer.” We, of course, bought one. Took her advice and opted for her favorite “plain with cinnamon sugar topping”. Other options were the jalapeno or the blueberry raisin but she was quick to point out the “sweet one is baked not fried”. Looked like a dry scone to us. It tasted like it sounds. An un-risen donut: chewy and a bit tough as it had been sitting in the cooler for an hour or so and lost its warmth. But she was a sweetheart and absolutely thrilled to have someone to teach.
We carried on to our planned lunch break in Lytton with a parking spot found just one block from the Farmer’s Market. As we got out of the RV, we saw two young women in black slip dresses and strappy sandals coming out of the Health Department which started our daylong speculation.
Here’s what we know. Victoria, Gabe and Chantal are traveling up to the Yukon to “take Victoria home” in a 70’s era lime-green VW Camper Bus. Gabe told me he bought it “from some old guy on Vancouver Island who had kitted it all out” but it looked like an old hippie camper van to me! They had bedrolls and backpacks stuffed in the back and were lounging inside sharing a bunch of grapes next to a non-working sink (no tap) unit and squished in next to a 50-gallon jug of water with a pump screwed in on top. Legs and tattoos and stuff all comfortably conjoined in a jumble as they told me they had bought it then been down to Oregon hoping to stay. Their visas ran out and they had to come back up but when I asked if this was a summer break from school or a vacation they avoided the question. I was very entertained. Victoria doesn’t want to go up north “especially at this time of year but I have no choice. I have to go home.” Don’t know. Thought I’d pried enough to not ask any more questions. But as we were leaving the market a half hour later we saw both girls push Gabe into the Health Department while they waited on the street. Interesting. LOVE a good story.
The Lytton Market was absolutely delightful. Had a great time with about 10 stalls chatting with the vendors about their gourmet garlic and local honey, the giant and colorful heirloom tomatoes and the 3-generations of native women with their beadwork earrings. Got a hot tip to walk a block away to see a super laden peach tree with success. Made ourselves some sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and croissants and hit the road again feeling refreshed and energized by the stories we heard.
At Lytton we switched to following the Thompson river and lucked out catching the raft groups running through the spectacularly colored rapids down the canyon! We saw trains following the course of the river – first came the river as the primary source of travel after Sir McKenzie traversed the entire northwest in search of a passage across Canada. Very much like our Lewis and Clarke, his research created the road map for a series of river routes and forts to aid and protect the fur traders. Then came the gold rushes and homesteaders in the mid-19th century who mostly arrived via steamboat to find glory and fortune. By then it was lucrative and the railroads got engaged with Chinese labor to lay most of the track following the course of the rivers. The tracks still carry the majority of goods into and out of the great plains and forests of BC and the Yukon with roads coming in last in the transportation evolution.
We were delighted to see multiple trains with their rust and blue and orange colors along the vibrant greens and blues of the Thompson and Fraser rivers for most of the day including another lucky break – catching a long train in the distance as we stopped to see the Last Spike commemorative sign for Canada Rail.
We drove through high chaparral for much of the day but crossed Spence’s Bridge into irrigated green fields of the area around Cache Creek, known as the “Phoenix of Canada” for their extreme summer temperatures. It was in the high 80’s today in late afternoon but if the fields weren’t irrigated they were Sonoran Desert beige.
I took a brief afternoon nap and we had a short supply stop in Williams Lake before pulling in to Kelly’s Campsite at McCleese Lake at 7:05 PM. No vacancy. It’s a Friday night. Peak season. Lakeside campground. DUH. So we pressed on to Cariboo Camping arriving at 7:32 PM to a lovely spot just off the highway with clean bathrooms and pretty trees. Worked for us!