Monday, July 4, 2011

Smither, BC and the Mid-Summer Music Festival

Continuing on from Fort St. James, our next destination was either Smithers or Hazelton, British Columbia. We don't have a set itinerary, so the decision as to where we will stop and for how long is made that day. Some towns just seem to feel right the minute you arrive. Smithers felt right. It is a vibrant community with lots of activity on Main St. Of course, some might say that I liked Smithers because it had a brew pub on Main St. To be perfectly honest, it is true, but I also appreciated the free Wi-Fi.

The campground we chose is just a few miles west of the town center on the Yellowhead Highway (16). The Glacier View Campground aptly describes this very well run establishment. A grand view of the glacier dominates the scenery from each of the camp sites. The grounds were well maintained and the bathrooms were immaculate. Rose, the proprietor, clearly works very hard to present her guests with the finest experience. Our only grudge was that Facebook and other web sites were blocked.

We arrived on Wednesday, June 28th and decided to stay for the weekend on account of the occurrence of the 28th annual Mid-Summer Music Festival that was scheduled to start on Canada Day, July 1. On Thursday, under overcast skies and drizzle we hiked to the twin falls at the base of the Kathlyn Glacier (also called the Smithers Glacier or the Hudson's Bay Glacier), we attempted to hike to the glacier, on the Glacier Gulch trail, but the trail was blocked by snow in narrow but steep snow shoot that would have been dangerous to cross without a rope and mountaineering axes.

Soon after we arrived back at our campsite, what we believed was a vintage Airstream pulled in. As soon as the new arrivals were settled, Sarah went over to introduce herself. The trailer had obviously seen better days and had been neglected for a long time. It turned out not to be an Airstream, but a Streamliner. According the Jason, the new owner of this trailer, the Streamliners were made by two former Airstream employees who thought they could improve on the Airstream design. Jason's trailer was a 1960s era model. While he has done a lot of work on it, there is much more to be done.

Along with his wife, Laura, and their two young boys, Locke and Cache, they was moving from Vancouver to find work near Smithers or Hazelton. Sarah and I enjoyed this young couple's company, and we were continually delighted by the boy's exuberance.
Jason and Locke with the Streamliner in background
Laura reading the true story of Smokey the Bear to Locke

Laura told us about the farmer's market held on Saturday mornings at the visitors center in town. We made sure to get there early and we were rewarded with a great find. One woman had fresh morel mushrooms. Sarah and I had not had these delectable treats since our college days. We bought half a pound and used them to make a mushroom and Israeli couscous dish to go along with our grilled salmon that evening.

Farmer's market in Smithers
The music festival was held at the fairgrounds and camping was available. However, dogs were not permitted. While speaking to the gate attendants, I mentioned our disappointment with the no dogs policy. She said, that we could just camp outside the grounds in the huge meadow that was used as the parking the lot. When we returned for Saturday's events, we took the trailer with us and parked at the far edge of the meadow. We enjoyed the music very much. The styles were very eclectic and nearly all the performers became part of the audience when they were not on stage. Two of our favorites were bands called Headwater and The Fugitives, both from the Vancouver area. Jason and Laura joined us after the festival ended for pie and tea.
Cache on stage

Young revelers

Sunday morning was bright and warm. From our meadow campsite we could see the snow capped peaks of the mountains south of town. After a leisurely breakfast, we went to the grocery store to pick up some fresh vegetables that weren't available at the farmer's market then continued west on the Yellowhead Highway. The Old Town of Hazelton and the Ksan Historical Village was a stop on our way to our next destination. This village depicts the life of the Gitxsan people before their contact with Europeans. Unlike other First Nation peoples of British Columbia, they were not nomadic. Everything they needed was available for them at the confluence of the Bulkly and Skeena rivers. They fished for salmon and made massive lodges from the huge cedars present here. They were highly skilled wood carvers as evidenced by the totem poles, wooden masks and wooden boxes they made. I was as much intrigued the highly decorated wooden boxes. The Gitxsan people were the first native Americans to made square boxes out of wood. Using a single piece of cedar that had been meticulously cut from a clear log, they made scarf cuts where the corners were to be. They then steamed the scarf area and bent the wood to make the rights angles. Besides being used to store belongings and food, they could be stacked and used as dividers in the lodges to make private areas.

Totem pole

The Gitxsan have struggled to maintain their culture and clan hierarchy despite living through a period of time when the practice of their beliefs and the clan governmental structure was banned.

Now we are off to Stewart, British Columbia and Hyder, Alaska. Stay tuned.

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