Trip re-enacts historic gold rush trek

The lure of gold is taking a Nanaimo nurse and his son back in time for a journey along the Cariboo's rugged Gold Rush Pack Trail this week.

Members of the R.E. Living History Group on horseback during a previous expedition.

Members of the R.E. Living History Group on horseback during a previous expedition.

The lure of gold is taking a Nanaimo nurse and his son back in time for a journey along the Cariboo’s rugged Gold Rush Pack Trail this week.

Gord MacIntosh, his 17-year-old son Jesse and eight other ‘living historians’ set out along the Gold Rush Pack Trail between Keithley Creek (near Williams Lake) and Barkerville – the route blazed 150 years ago to bring gold seekers to the area – today (Aug. 3).

The group will travel by horse over the rugged route through alpine and sub-alpine terrain using period-authentic tents, food and equipment so they can experience what it was like for prospectors, engineers and civilians making their way to Barkerville, once a gold mining boom town and now a living museum.

MacIntosh expects the 40-plus-kilometre journey through the Cariboo mountains will take four days.

Kitted out with wool clothing, moccasins and a capote – a loose overcoat made from a Hudson’s Bay Company blanket – MacIntosh is dressed as a guide. His son is posing as a young member of the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers, sent to the Crown colony of B.C. on its founding in 1858.

The group will sleep in canvas tents and eat simple foods that would have been available 150 years ago, such as oatmeal, bannock and smoked meats.

“If someone were to inadvertently walk into the camp, they would be transported back to 1860,” said MacIntosh. “That’s the idea, to try to bring history a little bit more alive so it’s not stuck in a museum. It brings more of the human side of things.”

MacIntosh got interested in historical re-enactments after a Grade 4 field trip to Fort Langley National Historical Site. He’s participated in numerous re-enactments along with his son and daughter over the years – he and Jesse just finished camping out for four days at Fort Langley, posing as trappers.

The pair plan to camp at Barkerville after the horseback trip, still in their period costume.

“The dressing up is pretty fun, being able to play someone else,” Jesse said.

His father is expecting lots of mosquitos and a range of weather conditions.

“Every once in a while, people need to experience a bit of discomfort to be able to appreciate what they have,” said MacIntosh.

One concession the group will make to modern times is placing geocaches along the route so that GPS enthusiasts can retrace their footsteps. The group will also post to Tracebook, a heritage-minded social media initiative jointly sponsored by Barkerville Historic Town and the New Pathways to Gold Society.

The ride is a partnership between the New Pathways to Gold Society, Barkerville Historic Town, the R.E. Living History Group, Aboriginal Tourism B.C. and the District of Wells. It will be filmed by JPS Media Works of Vancouver, producers of the popular “Simon Sees” series of travel videos.

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