KLAHOWYA VILLAGE – The sun is shining, people are smiling and Mike Retasket and Cheryl Chapman are signing a traditional First Nations blessing song. Doesn’t get much better than this, I think, as I stand there, conspicuous in my early-21st Century clothes, the only person in contemporary garb, as the good folks from Klahowya Village send off the 1861 Gold Rush Pack Trail Ride party in Stanley Park.
The only dark cloud is the mosquitoes. Not the ones here – the monster killer blood-sucking insects in the Cariboo… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
If you haven’t been this First Nations village set up by the park’s miniature train, you’re missing something. It’s run by the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C. and the grounds are full or artists, storytellers, kids running around with their dream-catchers and villagers in traditional dress. On stage with me are Mike and Cheryl and three members of the R.E. Living History Group who will be making the ride from Keithley Creek near Willaims Lake to Barkerville next week. Lisa Peppan, Dave Funk and John Harper are also in period costume (which can present challenges, given the warmth of the day and Dave’s red serge coat). The only other guy up here in modern dress is Keith Henry, CEO of Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C. He’s giving us a great introduction and saying nice things about New Pathways and the RELHG and the crowd are snapping away (Clicking away? Pixelling away? What word to use when everyone is using digital cameras…).
I have to babble away about the Tracebook aspect of the trip and I am still wondering about the miracles of technology that will allow us to receive posts from the 10-member 1861 Gold Rush Pack Trail riders despite the fact they’ll be in some of the wildest and most remote terrain in southern B.C. when one of the realities of recreating life in the 19th Century is driven home by John. He’s a seasoned actor from Edinburgh who will portray Royal Engineer surgeon Dr. John Seddall during the trip. He’s just off the plane (although he did live in B.C. previously) and he’s discussing the vicissitudes of life on the trail when, in his Scots droll, he sends shivers down my spine.
“I’ve hee-ard the mosquitoes up in the Cariboo are fee-arsome creatures,” he says.
Mosquitoes? Oh, yes, the Cariboo mosquitoes. Beside me, Lisa Peppan laughs.
“I intend to catch one, skin it and mount it above my fireplace” she says with every appearance of sincerity.
Now, I have had some experience of these mosquitoes – well, they call them mosquitoes in the Cariboo, but I’m rather convinced they’re actually a species of vampire bat – and it hits me that Lisa, John, Dave and the rest of the crew will not be able to rely on modern repellents. Indeed, John is assuring the crowd he will have to mix “a wee poultice and all sorts of medicinal concoctions” while I’m trying to figure out just how they’re going to avoid being eaten alive.
The answer – at least in theory – is providing by Cheryl, who also happens to be Co-chair of the New Pathways to Gold Society.
“Plantain,” she says. “Already got some ready.”
So the First Nations are already preparing to rescue our poor European travellers (a fairly common theme in B.C. history). Well, that’s good, I think. But will it work? Check out the Tracebook Core page next week and find out…