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During the past 40 years Tony and I have spent a crazy amount of time researching our home province of British Columbia. We've studied many old maps, the flora and fauna, its geology and, of course, its colourful history.
Somewhere, during our research, we came upon this photo (left). Taken by Frederick Dally in 1868, it beautifully captures an eight-mule team pulling a freight wagon on the Yale-Cariboo Wagon Road. Not only does this picture capture the era so well but, when I first saw it, I immediately recognized where it had been taken. Approximately thirteen kilometres north of Spences Bridge, we have travelled through the Great Bluff many times, but in my family it's simply called "mom's spot."
Over one hundred and fifty years have passed since wagons travelled this road, yet this part - now a busy highway - has changed very little. Every time we pass through it I experience a little pull into the past. Everyone in my family knows; there is no talking when we drive through the spot. I need quiet to savour the moment.
While I love nothing better than digging through history and and visiting every small town museum, Tony will tell you that there is nothing like experiencing history right where it happened. So it was not surprising when he came up with the idea to recreate my favourite photo with our faithful Ford.
Easier said than done. I was excited about the idea! Every time we travelled through my spot we discussed a possible plan, but the logistics of recreating Dally's photo were proving far more difficult than we expected. From the original photo, we figured that Dally had taken his picture from a small, but steep side-hill between the road and the river. That sidehill is still there, but getting to it was the problem. First, there is no shoulder to speak of on this stretch of highway; it's straight down to the river or straight up the mountain! Second, the days of slow moving wagon trains are long gone! Now we were dealing with fast moving semi trucks and tourists on a mission. There is a pull out about one km north of the spot but there was no way I could safely walk on the highway from there. What to do?
Two weeks ago, we were on our way home from a weekend away in the Cariboo. This time, unlike every trip before, we came up with a plan and things seemed to be working in our favour; we were travelling alone, it was a Tuesday (less traffic) and it was sunny! Tony drove us south, through the spot and then pulled over. We waited until there was zero traffic and then he turned around, heading back north. "You'll have just a few seconds to get out." He said. "Be ready to bail!" With my trusty Canon looped around my neck and my iphone in my back pocket, I made ready to jump out as quickly as I could.
Seconds after I slid out, I started to jump the concrete guardrail and climb the side-hill, when I heard a crunch. I turned, just in time, to watch our truck tires flatten my phone! I won't write what came out of my mouth at that moment but it wasn't pretty! Oh well.... focus on the task at hand. With my broken phone in one hand, I grabbed at sagebrush with the other and hoisted myself to the top of the hill. Once again, Tony turned the truck around to head through the spot. When he came close, I threw up my hands for him to slow down. He rolled down his window and I yelled from the top of the hill, "My phone is wrecked!" Now there was no way he could text when he was coming back for the photo. We had decided we'd give this one shot; we were going to have to wing it and hope for best.
I trained my camera on the opening. Did I have the settings right? Was that him? It was so hard to tell so I took photos of every vehicle that came through. Finally, I spotted our truck with the familiar red boat on top. I managed to take three photos as Tony went by. We finally did it!
After writing this post, I had to ask myself if all our effort was worth one photo. Short answer? Absolutely. This is what the best memories are made of.