Last week Rebecca and I went on a road trip to Kamloops and Kelowna, where we caught up with some friends and family. Spending hours in the car may not sound like fun, but it was great to spend some quality time together and enjoy the beatiful British Columbian countryside. Taking a trip to Kamloops up mountain roads like the Coquihalla is a scenic joy – and our destination provided a learning experience too.
Next month Kamloops will celebrate the bi-centenary of the first European fur traders arriving and establishing trading posts. They were not the first people in the area, with a number of First Nations bands, primarily from the Secwepemc, already living a semi-nomadic existence of hunting, fishing and gathering in the area. The name Kamloops is derived from the Secwepemc word Tk’emlúps, which means the place where the rivers meet.
I know all this because I visited the Kamloops museum, which has a good exhibition providing a social historical account of the First Nations history of the area. It also has a display on life in Victorian Kamloops, with a particularly fascinating account of the Chinese diaspora living in the city in the 19th Century.
These are complemented by exhibits on geology and fly-fishing – the later is important because of the area’s large and well-stocked rivers. Wandering around, I felt the museum lacked an overall narrative that tied these interesting spot displays together, but help was at hand in the souvenir passport I was given on my way in.
A gold rush, followed by ranchers arriving to provide the miners with food, brought people in to populate the new permanent settlement. The railway arrived in 1885. Along with the rivers and the later arrival of highways and the airport, that helped established the city as a transportation hub for BC, according to the passport.
Afterwards, I headed back outside to a town sweltering in the belated arrival of summer as uninterupted sun started sending thermometer mercury towards 30 degrees celcius.
The land around Kamloops was still tinged green from the unusually wet early summer, but a day later the valley filled with smoke from wildfires in Colorado, USA. It provided an early warning of the danger the province faces in the summer as tinder dry forests, thunderstorms and human carelessness can be a dangerous mix. The Strait of Georgia was also in a smoky haze on our return to Vancouver Island two days later.