Finding bliss in the Shuswap

August, 2011

What a concept! Day hikes on some of the Shuswap’s most spectacular trails followed by community dinners and fantastic concerts and dances. “Routes and Blues” was the brainchild of Roots and Blues executive director Hugo Rampen, who was inspired by the very successful Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breten.  Now in its 15th year, this festival is held during October to celebrate the beauty of the fall colours in locations throughout the island and includes hikes and cycle tours on some of the region’s famous trails.

Nearly 700 people attended the five concerts (the George Leach concert in Squilax was unfortunately cancelled due to an illness), and amazingly the Shuswap’s most remote community, Seymour Arm, attracted the greatest numbers. It was as Rampen described, “a magical evening with the full moon rising,” as young and old danced on the ball park lawn to the African rhythms of Alpha Yaya Diallo and enjoyed watching the amazing dance gyrations of band member, N’Nato Camara.

The concert series was so successful due in part to the efforts of two university students who worked with Roots and Blues this summer to set up and promote the concert series. Ivo Kestens was here all the way from Holland on an internship as part of his leisure management program and was joined by TRU Tourism program intern, Kate Beauchamp. Together, they developed the branding, website, poster and map brochure, as well they worked with each of the communities involved. It was, as they described, a rewarding and invaluable experience for both of them.

Trail Alliance director, Carmen Massey, coordinated the hiking program, and she is ecstatic over the results.  Key to the success was the interpretive program that coincided with each of the hikes that focused on so many aspects including first nation history, geology, settlement history and nature. For the Enderby Cliffs, Splatsin elder Randy Williams began the hike with a drumming ceremony and later explained the strategic importance of the area to his people, who once numbered upwards of 10,000. He also described how the women once used Reeves Lake for purification.

For the White Lake to Blind Bay hike, the group learned about native plants from naturalist Trish Wallensteen, heard stories about the past from local old-timers Alan Wilson and Mary Pakka, and explored what some believe is an old silver mine that extends forty feet into a rock face. On the Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park flume trail, the hikers appreciated the insights from archaeologist Celia Nord, who described the likely impact on the local salmon run when the flume diverted most of the water from the creek to send the logs down to the river.

We helped with the hikes in Albas Provincial Park and up the new trail to the Scotch Creek Lookout, which drew the most hikers and resulted in some new members for the Alliance. It was wonderful to see folks from Salmon Arm experiencing this part of the lake for their first time. Albas is indeed likely one of the best trails in the Shuswap, as it includes a series of five spectacular waterfalls along with a rocky trail that is also fun to hike. As well, this area has remarkable heritage values, as it was the site of an enormous flume and a water-powered sawmill, with remnants still visible. And this area was once a small community, where trapper, prospector and namesake Al Bass lived at the turn of the last century.

There are so many benefits for our region from the Routes and Blues project, including community and tourism development, education, health, and improving awareness of Shuswap geography. Not only did it provide an opportunity for local people to visit and learn about other Shuswap communities, but it also allowed these communities to partake in part of our famed Roots and Blues culture. And for each community, the project raised both fun and funds, as they shared part of the ticket price and all of the profits from the meals and beverages.

There is already talk about carrying on with the success again next year and possibly including cycle tours, heritage walks and canoe and kayak tours. You can help make it happen by passing on your support and encouragement to the Roots and Blues team or by taking the 10-question survey online at routesandblues.ca. Can you think of any better way to find bliss in our fabulous Shuswap?

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