HBC (1849) Heritage Trail from Sowaqua Creek
September 2014 with Anne, Murat, Nellie, Daphne, Bev & Bill R.
This is the one that isn’t the Tikwalus, First Brigade or 1848 trail, which is the one in the Fraser Canyon. This trail was built in 1849 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, led by Chief Trader Alexander Caulfield Anderson and guided by local First Nations, as a route to get their furs from the interior of B.C. and Alberta to the west coast. Previously, they would float everything down the Columbia River to Fort Astoria on the Oregon Coast, but in 1846 the Oregon Treaty established the 49th parallel as the US-Canada border all the way to the Pacific and that route was cut off. In 1848, the First Brigade Trail was built from Fort Yale (near Hell’s Gate in the lower Fraser Canyon) to Fort Kamloops, following routes that had been used by First Nations for centuries. This route was quickly found wanting, and the Company established a new route from Fort Hope via Peers Creek and the Tulameen River to the Nicola Valley. The trail was used from 1849 until the mid 1860s when it was largely replaced by new higher quality routes such as the Cariboo Wagon Road – the 19th century equivalent of the Coquihalla replacing the Hope-Princeton Highway.
Much restoration work was conducted by the Okanagan Historical Society in the late 1960s, and in more recent years the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning, along with local First Nations and others, has worked on upgrading the route, a work still in process. For more details, see http://hopemountain.org/trails/hbc-heritage-trail/. The 1848 trail continued to be used for many years by trappers, prospectors and such, and in latter days it became a popular hiking trail; also recently restored by Hope Mountain Centre and others, it is now known as the Tikwalus Heritage Trail.
There are several sections to this trail, which currently runs a total of 55 kilometres but will total 75 when work is completed. We chose to hike the middle section between Sowaqua Creek Forest Service Road off the Coquihalla Highway and Jacobson Lake off the Tulameen, and camp in subalpine meadows at Campement du Chevreuil (Deer Camp).
The hike in from Jacobson Lake is reportedly relatively easy and short, but we went in the hard way. The hike to the campsite was only about four kilometres, but the elevation gain of 720 metres means a net grade of 18%. However, the upper portion was much more gradual, and the grade on the climbing bit was more like 25%. The trail is in fairly good shape and easy to follow, but a climb like that is not for everyone. Especially with overnight packs.
They say the from here are excellent, but the clouds took away most of the views. The weather was spitting and reasonably cool for the hike in, and we had just enough time to set up camp and have an early dinner before the rain began, which continued most of the night after we retired to our tents. Not all that comfortable for some – one person (whose identity will not be revealed here) suffered “wardrobe malfunction”, the waterproofing in both her rain jacket and boots failing simultaneously and completely. Her extra pairs of socks turned out to have been left on the bed at home, leaving her to camp and hike in wet socks for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday we explored the trail further east, over the shoulder at the north ridge of Mount Davis, past the rumoured views of Palmer’s Pond, and toward the next campsite at Conglomerate Flats. The trail on this side of Mount Davis is more heavily travelled and has more gradual slopes, and the campsite is more flat and open though without the views that Deer Camp is supposed to have.
The rain persisted most of the time, though there were occasional moments where it appeared that the sun might be thinking of coming out (or at least the clouds thinning a bit). Or maybe it was wishful thinking. Each time, one or two of us took the opportunity to encourage Wet Socks with the hope that the weather might be improving, though it didn’t help her mood much. Neither did the “Hurry Curry” backpacking dinner she’d had the night before, but she gamely managed to keep going.
From Conglomerate Flats, we followed a rougher and wetter sort-of trail, meeting up with two hikers who had come up from Jacobsen Lake, to Grant’s Pond, a lovely subalpine lake in an amphitheatre. We had lunch there during a brief respite in the rain, then explored the shore of the lake and watched over a hundred large tadpoles and one large adult frog and one small frog (Columbian spotted frogs) scuttering in and out of the mud, before hiking back to our camp for what we hoped would be a drier night. Bill R built us an excellent fire for warming up and drying clothes (wet socks and all).
On Monday, before we hiked out we walked back up to the north shoulder of Mount Davis for improving views of Tulameen Mountain, which were completely in clouds the previous day. The hike out was, of course, mainly in sunshine. Both the hike in and out were rather slowed by the large quantities of blueberries and huckleberries alongside the trail. One father was at the campsite with two young sons on the second night, and they had actually packed in with store-bought blueberries. Possibly the most unnecessary pack item ever.
We saw one mule (black-tailed) deer not far above the campsite, as well as three or four elk. Birding highlights included a surprising count of thirty grouse, assumed to be Sooty, a number of Red-breasted Nuthatches, and one Northern Harrier. Two very small (under one centimetre) western toads on the lower trail on the hike out.