Sunday Sunshine: Afternoons on the Road

Rain or shine, for me, it’s all about being on the road. I like to stop for historic markers, and keep my eye out for any, and all signage that may hint of a former overland trail. It’s almost like solving a mystery: it takes knowing a bit of background, being on the alert for clues, and then putting it all together, which in some cases only happens with luck!

Today’s #SundaySunshine is all about the clues:

Hay Lakes road sign
This road sign led me to a dead end at a T-intersection. But with help from Google and the Alberta Register of Historic Places, I discovered that the Village of Hay Lakes used to be the location of a telegraph station that went live on Nov. 20, 1877 when it passed a message from Fort Saskatchewan to Battleford. The Hay Lakes Trail probably refers to the original telegraph line, which would have provided access to the station, as well as a route north. Two and a half years later, I found the cairn below:
Telegraph Flat cairn, Battleford, SK
“Telegraph Flat was named in 1876 when the Dominion Telegraph company opened its western terminus office on this site.” The cairn is located on the west side of Highway 4, across the fields from Fort Battleford National Historic Site, Battleford, SK. Fort Battleford was the original capital of the old Northwest and an important stop on the Carlton Trail.
Post Office Ranch sign, Carlton Trail, SK
The Post Office Ranch sign is located on the Carlton Trail, SK on the way to Fort Pitt. I imagine it to once also have been an overnight stopping place for travelers, or maybe even a general store. And, what these imaginings mean is that I haven’t really done any further research. Yet.
Victoria Hotel, Bruderheim, AB
The Carlton Trail included a segment known as the Victoria Trail, which connected Victoria Settlement with Fort Edmonton. The hamlet of Bruderheim traces its origins to the efforts of a Scotsman and rancher named William Leslie, who in 1892 had taken a homestead at the present town site, also operating a store from his cabin on the Victoria Trail.”
Victoria Fancy Sausage store on 111 avenue, Edmonton, AB
It turns out that Edmonton’s Victoria Fancy Sausage & Delicatessen was originally located in Beverly, a small community on the eastern outskirts of the capital region. The Victoria Trail passed through Beverly to join up with the Jasper Trail (now Jasper Avenue) which connected Fort Edmonton to Jasper, AB.

Connections are everywhere. It’s all about finding the dots. Of course, there are red herrings out there, too, but for me, Sunday afternoons are made for this!

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.

Trail Markers

The 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race a.k.a The Last Great Race is into its fifth day. Racing from Willow through to Nome, the route approximates the old freight route, and covers 1000 miles of Alaskan wilderness. “The mushers travel from checkpoint to checkpoint much as the freight mushers did eighty years ago.” Even though cell phones, satellite tracking devices, and GPS units are standard gear today, old-fashioned trail markers remain an essential part of the historic trail.

To get a feel for what mushing in the north looks like, Blair Braverman‘s article Meet 5 of the Women Racing in this Year’s Ititarod includes accompanying photos and videos by Kiliii Yuyan that are simply spectacular. Falling snow with limited visibility, unfamiliar terrain, wild animals, and even sleep deprivation are potential threats to a team’s safety. But, losing the trail on frozen lakes or sea ice is not something a musher wants to add to that list. Open spaces on the Trail are marked with distinctive wooden tripods.

Photo of Robert Sørlie’s team approaching Nome, 2007. (Note the tripod-style log marker on the right. These tripods are used year round to mark open spaces on the Trail i.e. marshes.)

#FlashbackFriday

When Europeans began to explore the continent, circa the 1500s, they discovered that indigenous North Americans had a well-established system of way-markers in place for their trails. This shouldn’t be a surprise since First Nations peoples had been traveling over this vast expanse of land since at least the end of the last ice age, approximately 20,000 years ago.

Trail marking methods varied greatly, depending on available materials. For example, in temperate climates, hard wood trees were selected, then manipulated to form particular shapes. Trail marker and signal trees were used as tools for navigation, and as signposts for sites of a religious or ceremonial nature.  To read more, visit the Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society and Indian Trail Trees.

In more barren terrain, for example in the arctic regions of most northern countries, large single rocks and arrangement of stones acted as markers for a wide variety of activities. They were reference markers and points of navigation; they marked hunting or fishing spots, camps, food caches or sacred places. Some argue that the human-shaped inukshuk, which we know so well, today, is a post-European development. These rock structures have come to symbolize the North for many of us and many are, in fact, still in use today. For more on Inukshuk, visit Wikipedia and the The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Flashback Friday: Abandoned

The Yellowhead stretches through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and is named after the Yellowhead Pass that crosses the Rockies. The pass and the highway are both named after an Iroquois-Métis trapper, fur-trader, and explorer who worked for the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Pierre Bostonais was nicknamed Yellow Head, or Tête Jaune in French, because of his blond hair. The name Bostonais refers to his probable American origin as American traders were often identified as Boston men in French. Bostonais died 1828.

This abandoned 2-story log house, age undetermined, is still standing upright on the north side of the Yellowhead Highway, just west of Vegreville, AB. All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.

Flashback Friday: Wagon Roads

Battleford Trail Pioneer Wagonroad 1877-1907
Battleford Trail Pioneer Wagonroad, AB

The Northwestern Territories have never looked so glorious as in this last year of Grace 1902. Never were there such turquoise skies, such golden brown acres of prairie grass billowing away to the four points of the compass… We halted for dinner at “The Badger,” a neat little sod roofed shack kept by two American women of rather wide experience. We dined off exquisite Japanese china, for the West is a place of surprises and incongruities.

from “The Battleford Trail” in “The Uncollected Prose of Pauline Johnson” by Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Pauline Johnson, poet, artist, and spoken word performer with a flare for the dramatic, traveled extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and England from the 1880s to 1909 on a series of speaking tours. The above excerpt is from an unpublished manuscript, and describes the stagecoach journey Johnson undertook in 1902 between Saskatoon and Battleford on the Battleford Trail.

The Battleford Trail was a segment of the Carlton Trail system that connected the Red River Settlement in Winnipeg with Edmonton, 900 miles away. This overland route followed many of the ancient trails used by Indigenous peoples, and then the Métis. Eventually, the railroad transformed transportation patterns, roads were built, and most of the old trails were plowed under.

Alberta Highway 14 West, Poundmaker Trail

The sign commemorating the Pioneer Wagonroad is located on Alberta Hwy 14, on the south side of the road just west of the junction with Alberta Hwy 883 (west of Fabyan). Today, little evidence remains of the old wagon trails except for the ruts that exist in a few locations, and the historical plaques that describe them. Across the road from the Battleford Trail sign, and a little to the east, is a sign that also marks this route as the  Poundmaker Trail.

Saskatchewan’s Hwy 40 and Alberta’s Hwy 14 form a 369 km stretch between North Battleford and Edmonton. Designated the Poundmaker Trail, this road commemorates Chief Poundmaker’s (Pitikwahanapiwiyin’s) journey on foot in 1886 from his people’s reserve near Battleford to his stepfather Crowfoot’s reserve at Blackfoot Crossing. This journey was undertaken following his release from the Stony Mountain Penitentiary near Winnipeg where he was imprisoned following the Northwest Rebellion. He died a few weeks after his arrival.

All photos, except where noted, copyright D. MacLeod. All rights reserved.