Travel in the wilderness is like a vanishing act. You disappear from the civilized world, drop out of cell range, abandon the cares and concerns of the city, the lights and the sirens, the trinkets and trivialities, and plunge into the beautiful emptiness and isolation of the wild spaces. And while there are many places in British Columbia that remain relatively untamed and untouched by the grasping hands of progress, there is something entirely unique about the Chilcotin mountains. It is a special place and it has become a sort of pilgrimage for us; a place where we can find a liberating solitude and simplicity that reminds us of what is important and worth having. This time around, we only had a few precious days to spend, but it was enough to restore the heart and soul and rid ourselves for a while of the stress and worry of our busy lives.
Every time I see the Chilcotin mountains I am struck by their colour. It is an almost indescribable shade of brown, which alternates from a light beige to a dark rusty mahogany depending on the light and the terrain. And sometimes, when the sun hits them in the morning, they seem almost made of bronze. It is a colour all its own. We drove into them over the road from Lillooet to Gold Bridge, a road which is obviously designed to terrify the uninitiated and test the will and determination of any traveller. It is a harrowing experience. They call it Highway 40, but it’s not really a highway, that’s too generous. The scenery is incomparably beautiful, but the drops are precipitous and the twists and turns force you to always pay attention. Who built this road, I wonder? What sort of men were they? Well, whoever they were, the road definitely suits the place. It’s somehow appropriate, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
For this trip, we wanted to take a pack horse with us, and thanks to Chilcotin Holidays we were able to do this. We had never hiked in the wilderness with a pack horse before so we were excited to give it a try and see how it would change our experience. We knew we’d be able to take more with us, which is not necessarily a good thing, but since we’ve yet to learn the art of packing lightly we figured it would make the trip easier on our forty-something year-old bodies.
Jones was his name. He was a veteran horse, very calm and gentle, and he was always happy to go wherever we led him. These trails were old hat to him; he was steady and poised. He went at his own pace and wouldn’t be rushed. He persuaded us to slow down and enjoy the superb scenery more often. We knew we were in one of the most divine places imaginable; why would we want to rush?
It pays to go slow when you’re climbing through mountain passes with the sun beating down on you, packs heavy on your back. It’s hard work. That’s what makes it so rewarding. The views are be spectacular, and the mountain streams taste better than any water you’ve ever had. These are welcome distractions, but your muscles will ache sooner or later, and your unyielding determination will begin to fade—you can forgive yourself for just wanting to get where you’re going and relieve the pain. Happily, there was much less of that this time, because we didn’t care where we ended up. There was no destination. This time around, the journey was all that mattered to us. If we got tired, we stopped. And while Jones grazed contentedly, we took off our packs, relaxed, and took everything in. Jones didn’t care if we stayed there all day, and neither did we.
Jason and Colette