Sunday, August 9, 2009

Following Alexander Caulfield Anderson Around British Columbia, Part 6

The outgoing New Caledonia brigade left Fort Alexandria on May 2 1846, and this year, Alexander Caulfield Anderson travelled south with them. From Kamloops, Anderson planned to explore for a new brigade trail that would connect Kamloops and Fort Langley.
Anderson was confident he could find a good horse road between the two posts. On May 15, he led his men along the south shore of Kamloops Lake and crossed the Thompson River to follow it west. The explorers crossed both the Deadman and Bonaparte Rivers, and followed Hat Creek west through Marble Canyon. So far, this was familiar territory. The trail that Anderson and his men followed was the route by which the Fraser River salmon were delivered to Kamloops every summer.
Anderson and his men arrived on the banks of the Fraser River and set up camp near the native fishing village where the Kamloops employees traded for salmon.

Below the fishing village, the Fraser River flowed into a steep-sided and broken river trench, and in the distance loomed Fountain Ridge. The proposed track passed down this rugged river bank and over Fountain Ridge, but Anderson saw it was impossible to take horses through this broken land.
The first photograph is of the Fraser River below Fountain Ridge, and shows the river trench that the Fraser River flowed through at this point. To the left is a photograph of the mouth of Bridge River, where it flows into the silted Fraser River south of Fountain Ridge.
On the morning of May 20, the exploring party crossed the Fraser River in canoes borrowed from the natives, and followed the west bank of the river as it curved around the end of Fountain Ridge. They crossed the mouth of the Bridge River by the native bridge that existed there for many years. After a ten-mile hike down the Fraser's rough banks, they arrived at the mouth of the river the natives called Pap-shil-qua-ka-meen. This rapid-filled river (Seton River) tumbled downhill from two isolated bodies of water that wound between high mountain peaks.
The party broke for a meal at the head of the first lake a short distance upriver, and looked at the narrow stretch of water that lay before them. The twelve-mile long Seton Lake curved between precipitously sloping mountains that reached a thousand feet into the air, and Anderson saw that the tops of the ridges were white with snow.
The photograph above shows both Anderson Lake (to the right) and Seton Lake (to the left), from the top of the ridge that separates the two lakes from the Bridge River valley. To get to this point from modern-day Lillooet, cross the Fraser River and travel west toward Carpenter Lake, following the signs to Shalalth. The road will take you over a ridge of land and down the mountain's south slopes to the shores of the lakes -- with many switchbacks and spectacular views.
But the road we take to get to Anderson and Seton Lakes today did not exist in Anderson's day. From the east end of Seton Lake, Anderson's party walked the lake's north shore to the strip of land that separated the two lakes. The photograph to the left is of Seton Lake, and its north shore is to the left side of the photograph.
Anderson had already suspected that this route could never make a good brigade trail, but he now knew this trail could never be traversed by the two hundred horses of the typical brigade.

Still, the men were halfway to Fort Langley and they had no alternate route. They camped that night at the place where the lake jogged westward, close to a sizeable native village.
Anderson wrote in his journal:
"A ripe strawberry was picked here this evening. But the background is the most rugged and dreary-looking tract I ever met with; nor had I any previous conception that so mountainous a region could exist so near the banks of a large stream like Fraser's River."
At the end of Seton Lake, Anderson crossed over a wooded point of land to another lake, and walked a few more miles up the shoreline of Anderson Lake before stopping for breakfast on a low point of land. The steep, bare mountains that ringed the first lake had faded behind them, and rounded tree-covered hills had taken their place.
The photograph above is of Seton Portage -- once called Birkenhead Portage. Years after he first visited this place, Alexander Caulfield Anderson named Seton Lake and Birkenhead Portage for his cousin and childhood playmate, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Seton of the 74th Highlanders -- who, in 1852, drowned in the troopship Birkenhead off South Africa.
In the final photograph, we are looking west down the length of Anderson Lake toward the Lillooet River (nowhere near the town of Lillooet) and Fort Langley.I visited this place in 1993. As I came up the many switchbacks above the lakes, a golden-biege bear tumbled down the hill and landed on the road directly in front of my car -- a foot in front of the hood. The bear glanced at me with dark-rimmed cleopatra eyes and kept on running. Just as he disapeared down the slope, a truck's hood edged around the corner in front of me, with two men leaning forward to find the bear they had frightened.

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