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Wanda's Adventures: Gold Rush Trail (pt2)

Clinton, BC

This is part two of my vanlife-type travel from the Lower Mainland north along some of the most scenic roads in the most stunning regions of my home province of British Columbia. Weekly updates will be posted on Wednesdays for the duration of my trip. I hope you'll meander along with me. Part one can be found here.

As I enter the second stage of my adventures with Wanda, I'm learning a lot! There are still a few things about nomadic solo travel #vanlife I'm figuring it out but I've become a whizz at calculating water and power consumption. I've got camp setup/strike down to a 30-minute routine. I've had a shower most days. I've got the toilet thing figured out so I don't have to put on boots to pee in the night. I have done laundry using my handy Scrubba bag. I've learned to stop on reserve land for firewood, at a cost of less than half what the park rangers sell it for. I continue to practice flying my drone when I'm not surrounded by trees. (yes, I've flown into trees twice, already!)

I have driven through the coastal rainforest and zig-zagged up and down mountains with stunning views everywhere, and few places to stop and enjoy the views. I am making a point to stop at every viewpoint along my way.

As I officially hit the Gold Rush Trail at Lillooet, I pulled into a city-owned campsite, called Cayoosh Creek Campground. I wanted a real shower when I didn't need to calculate water usage. I wanted a sunny lot for power and a good cell connection to get some work done. It was close to town and the highway. For $30 CAD I got a great site ($20 extra, if I wanted power). The showers were clean and had lots of hot water with excellent water pressure. A day-use pass is available for $5 to use the showers. There is also a sani-dump station on site, for an additional fee. The neighbours were an added bonus

I'm enjoying the local stories of the First Nations, explorers, gold-seekers and early settlers, especially those from the First Nations' perspective. History tends to record the European perspective but I'm trying to imagine how these others moved through the rainforest, to the desert, over multiple towering mountains, or following the banks of fast-flowing waters. When the first explorers arrived, there was a great deal of co-operation between the Indigenous peoples and the newcomers. The First Nations people were essential to the early prospectors, providing canoes, food, and guide/translation services. That would change as the immigrant population increased and forced their ways upon the native population.

Over the course of a few months in 1858, thousands of prospectors would travel up the Fraser River and deeper into the Interior, along the Thompson River, searching for gold. This sudden population boom caused tensions between the miners and the First Nations people living in the area. The Secépemc (Shuswap) people wanted a negotiated agreement with the miners and the new Colony of British Columbia before allowing the miners on their territory. Several brief battles were fought. Secépemc towns were ransacked and burned; men, women, and children were murdered.

I went to visit the Village of Clinton. The Aboriginal people called this area, Pethdethd (white earth). Early fur trappers called it "Cut Off Valley". The settlement began to grow in 1860 as a roadhouse at "Mile 47" (47 miles from Lillooet) of the Cariboo Trail, making it an ideal stop for travellers and miners en route to Barkerville. By 1868, with the development of the Cariboo Wagon Road and the Gold Rush, more families moved into the town, and it became a bustling stop along the Gold Rush Trail. As is common for many of these boomtowns, it burned down several times and much has been lost or rebuilt. The Village has erected informational photo signs of significant places of interest along the main streets, making a self-guided walking tour.

I began at the Government Offices and Jail site. The original building was burnt in 1919 but several years later were rebuilt using a similar design but added a second floor for the living quarters of the Police. Today, it is the municipal offices of the village.

The Clinton Memorial Hall is where the annual Clinton Ball is held now. The Hall has a special hardwood spring floor, which is said to be one of the best dance floors in the country. The first invitation-only Ball was held on New Year's Day in 1868 in the Clinton Hotel. The earliest Balls lasted a week with dancing every night. Local ladies spent months planning and ordering their gowns from far off places. Now, over 160 years later, the Ball is a single night, with guests dressing up in their best and dancing the night away.

A significant portion of the newly arrived prospectors came from China, after a very long ocean journey. Due to discriminatory attitudes and laws, they were not allowed to file first claims. As a result, these miners worked their way up the Fraser River taking over sites that the white miners abandoned. Although most had moved to the Cariboo region to become miners, many set up businesses such as laundries, general stores, and restaurants. Most never found the "Gold Mountain" or return to China and lived the remainder of their lives in this area.

Clinton is a town with a long history of Chinese setttlers, boasting one of the first "Chinatowns" in North America. The original Chinatown was on both sides of the Cariboo Highway and was an important part of Clinton during the 180s. Chinatown had cafés, shops, and laundry services used by all members of the community. Unfortunately, few buildings remain but there are many artifacts housed in the village museum.

It was because of the thousands of miners travelling through the Fraser Canyon and Cariboo that Governor Douglas ordered the building of the Cariboo Wagon Road stretching from Yale to Barkerville. Today's Cariboo Highway follows the original route closely. In the 1860s, a group of miners in Lillooet had a brilliant idea of using camels as pack animals. This was not a success as their soft hooves were unsuitable for the rocky environment and they were known to be quite destructive. The miners let the camels roam loosely, the last camel died in 1905.

The Palace Hotel was built in the late 1880s as commercial businesses and settlement increased. This was the favourite lodgings for many officials, judges, and other distinguished guests who had business in the courthouse and agent's office next door.

I was in Clinton on a Sunday, which meant it was market day. First I stopped at the Trading Post.

Then I discovered the market at Hunny's Drive In..

I enjoyed the many delightful little displays and antique/junk shops as I walked around.

What a fun stop along the Trail. I'm looking forward to exploring more as I head deeper into the Cariboo.


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