Here, in the valley of the North Thompson River, we have many places to go, roads and trails to explore, and wondrous sights to see. It’s impossible to pick a favourite, but the gravel road between two bridges – Highway 5 over the Clearwater River and the blue bridge across the North Thompson is way up there.
Recent spring walks, two hiking poles essential for propelling me these days, had much of interest. Often with a friend and a borrowed dog or two, we watched the early opening of the leaves and spring blossoms, checked out recent beaver activity, and are now observing the rapidly rising rivers. Perhaps we can no longer access the “island” at whose shore we skipped flat stones into the river’s current not long ago.
The confluence of those two waterways is a magical place with the remaining pits of the kekuli houses, many now opened up to show just how big they were. These were the homes of the Simpcw people in days gone by; less historical is the fact that my first ever Trekking Tale was born there! The sounds from the past keep the place alive as did the modern day high-pitched chatter of a young cyclist out with her dad. They looped through the trail which looks very different now that the underbrush has been cleared away. Solitary fisher-folk test its possibilities for food as the First Nations people once did. For much of the year the difference in colour of the two rivers is evident well downstream, past North Thompson River Provincial Park. Our community’s namesake river deserves both its present and original name which included the French description: Eau Claire.
The steep sandy hills above the road are home to many swallows. One round open “dwelling” was the source of discord among four birds as I went by recently. Holes all looked similar to me – but this one must have had some of those special qualities beloved by all real estate agents! Well below the myriad openings a man with a shovel and pick-up took loose sand for his own purposes. Along this lengthy slope, initials inside hearts, thoughtful sayings and sketches are often neatly carved into the compressed surface between the swallows’ homes and the accessible sand at the base, so useful in the slippery, wintry months.
The road is inaccessible to wheeled traffic then, and not very exciting for snowmobiles, but it’s perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Perhaps the ice will be swirling along on the river’s surface, crystals tinkling or crushing against each other; maybe the surface will be frozen with just a few openings to show frosty water swirling below. A week, or even a day later, everything will have changed. For spring, summer and fall, cyclists, walkers, dogs, and vehicles taking their dogs for a walk, are along this road.
In the fall, varied colours are reflected in the calm, gently flowing water. The dike from the sewage lagoon to the blue bridge and beyond has the riverbank on one side. On the other are the remains of Weyerhaeuser which both intrigue and annoy me. “What did this once look like?” I wonder, viewing the concrete foundations, rail lines and piles of refuse. “What a waste!” says another voice from within me. “This is the perfect location for a park, playground and picnic.” I’ve asked, and been told that the clean-up costs to reclaim this lovely location are too onerous. Perhaps it will happen some day. Just imagine – a wiener roast in town – right beside the North Thompson River. Then the picture is complete!