[History Town] In Barkerville the weather is never gentle

History Town 2015 (Oregon Trail) by vanstralen

* Please note: waggon is spelled correctly, 1860s-style. 😉

Last week, on the morning of September 1st, I jumped into my van to make the relatively short drive from Wells to Barkerville. The vehicle’s windshield seemed to be coated in morning mist, so I flicked on my wipers to clear it… but it didn’t clear. It didn’t clear because it turned out the mist wasn’t mist after all. It was a solid coating of ice.

Once my windows had thawed out properly I drove down the highway and saw that most of the mountaintops surrounding Wells had been decorated overnight with a soft sprinkling of icing sugar – the first snowfall of our September season had arrived. When I got to Barkerville, I put my costume on and then walked slowly, carefully and completely ungracefully down the slick, frost covered boardwalk toward my morning tour group. While a giant hoop-skirt and slippery walkways may be full of comic potential, I was certainly not hoping to provide it.

I have often remarked that in Barkerville the weather is never gentle. If it’s hot it is stifling and dusty; if it’s cold it is usually accompanied by pelting rain, hail or snow (even in the summer). When you work as an historical interpreter in Barkerville, you have signed on to work in conditions that no one warns you about in acting school.

The weather may not necessarily be a selling feature for our site, but I wouldn’t wish it to be any other way. Interpreters in Barkerville are here to tell the story of our gold rush, but we are also here to represent that story, in body as well as spirit. We are here to wear hoop-skirts and bustles and wool suits and felt hats, and to be rained and snowed upon and coated in dust. We want you to see our hems caked in mud and our hats dripping with rain. We want you to see us just as our historical counterparts would have looked while negotiating muddy, flooding streets or disappearing temporarily inside of swirling dust storms. The earliest pioneers who made their way to the Cariboo goldfields didn’t scale these mountains to sunbathe or relax. They came to work hard in conditions that would make you shake your head in disbelief, no matter how long you’ve lived here.

We rarely encounter visitors who complain about our formidable natural conditions. Most of our guests revel in it, to be honest. They appreciate the authentic setting our weather provides, free of charge. Being in Barkerville when it leaps to life with a summer storm  is something like being on a giant movie set while the most thrilling (if not necessarily comfortable) sound, light and atmospheric special effects show swirls around us.

Mercifully, though, Barkerville’s weather rarely stays the same for very long. Storms are impressive and short. Hot, sunny days can turn dark in an instant. The weather changes quickly and often. In fact, our current report insists that temperatures will rise again over the next day or so, just in time for our Labour Day long-weekend and Barkerville’s 12th annual Williams Creek Sports Day and Goldfield Bakery Pie-Eating Contest. Regardless, whenever you head our way, please don’t let the weather stop you… because it won’t stop.

And, really, why would you want it to?

– Danette Boucher

The above one-panel cartoon (originally published September 5, 2015) by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the fourteenth of twenty weekly entries that were logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2015 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing the quirkier side of living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!