In The Wake of David Thompson

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
November 6th, 2008

If your idea of a great summer getaway is paddling over 3,000 km through three different provinces, then you’d be right at home with Jan Micklethwaite. Jan and four other local paddlers will be telling their stories at the Miner’s Hall this Sunday night as a fundraiser for the Rossland Museum.

Successfully completing an epic 63 day trek by canoe from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta to Thunder Bay, Ontario, the local group joined over 300 fellow paddlers in following the route of the fur traders to mark the bicentennial of David Thompson’s exploring and mapping of the area.

The trek started with over 300 participants, but by the end only 63, including the hardy Rosslanders, completed the entire journey.

“We started from Rocky Mountain House in Alberta and re traced the route of the fur traders to focus on three things,” explained Micklethwaite. “First is that this is the bicentennial of David Thompson’s explorations in this area of the world. In 1811 he made it to the mouth of the Pacific, which was his ultimate goal. The second was to focus on the waterways in Canada which are really underutilized as recreational opportunities. In fact, during the brigade we rarely saw any other canoes; we didn’t even see very many power boats. We have this fabulous system of waterways across our country and hardly anyone is using them. The third thing was to focus on history. We brought the brigade as a historical re-enactment to the communities along these waterways to focus on Canadian history and getting people to pay attention to the role that their community played in the history of the country.”

Many of the people who showed up to paddle as part of the event were people who had never paddled before, including many retirees. The oldest paddler on the trip was 87 and the youngest just four, with all ages represented. Setting out to paddle 3,300 km as a novice, Micklethwaite claims, quickly turns you into a good paddler. “It was the sort of thing that we had people who showed up and had never paddled before in their lives. You had to become a good paddler or your canoe-mates would throw you overboard [laughs].”

To gain some experience of paddling as a team, and to test out their brigade, the group got together in the summer of 2007 for a two week test trip on the Columbia River. Starting at Canal Flats the group made their way up to Golden, over to Revelstoke and down the Arrow Lakes to Trail. Everything went well, and the group hopes to continue that trip in 2011, paddling from Trail down the Columbia to the Pacific for the 200th anniversary of David Thompson’s trip down the same route.

This Sunday evening the group will be telling their story to raise money for the mine tunnel restoration at the Rossland Museum. Featuring five storytellers, a documentary, live music, and plenty of great photos, the evening promises to be fun.

“We have a compilation of slides that we and a whole bunch of other people have taken,” Micklethwaite explains. “We’ll be doing that as a visual collage along with the music of Rodney Brown who is a folk singer that accompanied us a lot of the way. He has fantastic original music which is basically historical in content. We’ll be playing the music along with the slide show and then we have a 55 minute documentary film that was made by a young filmmaker who travelled the whole distance with us. He borrowed a camera from KSBS and put together an incredible documentary that pretty much lays out the whole journey.”

If you’re interested in the history of David Thompson, or just love a great story, doors open at 7:00, for complimentary coffee and desserts, and the program starts at 7:30. Tickets are $10 at Pro Hardware or the door.

Categories: Arts and Culture

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