Now that new life has been breathed into a centuries-old trail linking the B.C. Interior to the coast, a local filmmaker is hoping to raise the profile of the route and the volunteers who whipped it back into shape.
Known as the HBC Heritage Trail, the 74-kilometre route begins near modern-day Hope, crosses the Cascade Mountains, and terminates just outside the Similkameen community of Tulameen near Princeton.
The trail was completed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1849 to give its fur traders access to the B.C. Interior, although it followed much older paths established by First Nations.
Use of the trail declined, however, as more routes were cut into the wilderness during the gold rushes in the latter part of the 19th Century.
It wasn’t until seven years ago that volunteers with the non-profit Hope Mountain Centre began re-establishing the route, complete with 10 overnight campsites, for recreational hikers, the first of whom took to the newly reclaimed trail last summer.
Among them was Summerland man Erick Thompson, an avid hiker and filmmaker.
“It was an incredible experience to be out in that part of the world, and the work that’s gone on to make that trail accessible is considerable,” he said.
“This is why I’m interested in doing the documentary: To shed some light on both the trail, because I think it could become a very important hiking route for visitors and people who live in the area, but also to highlight this volunteer work and the funds the Hope Mountain Centre raises to do the work.”
Thompson is hoping to raise $10,000 of his own through a GoFundMe campaign to allow him to shoot the documentary this summer, then enter it in festivals.
The film will include interviews exploring the early and late history of the route wrapped around beauty shots giving prospective hikers an idea of what they’re up against.
Hope Mountain Centre program director Kelly Pearce is excited by the prospect of his group’s efforts – and favourite hiking trail – gaining a wider audience.
“I think it’s a great idea, because capturing the scenic beauty in the film will really help to get peoples’ imaginations fired up,” he said.
Pearce noted the film’s timing couldn’t be better, since 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The trail, he explained, helped the Hudson’s Bay Company – and later the Crown – establish a foothold in what is now B.C. that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the help of a Similkameen chief known as Blackeye.
“If he hadn’t shown that route to them, they may have pulled back and struck to the eastern side of the Rockies,” said Pearce, adding that would have increased the chances of modern-day B.C. becoming part of the U.S.