Barkerville to Lac La Hache and Dempsey Lake, Road Houses of the Cariboo Wagon Road

 Ice sheets falling off our awnings as we packed up camp Friday morning bid us farewell to Wells after a hard frost settled during the evening. Our route from Wells west and south was stunningly beautiful accompanied by the brilliant fall colours.

C19290A8-DA3D-4740-8D19-A00410BF96D2Our first destination was Quesnel where we topped off diesel tanks and picked up some supplies. Travel back down the now paved Cariboo Wagon Road 🙂 took us towards Lac la Hache – the site of an important roadhouse on the CWR – as well as (more importantly at this moment 🙂 ) the modern day site of one of the best bakeries in the world – Lac La Hache bakery, owned and run by a German family of bakers. Our pull off the highway next to the bakery was copied by a number of other RV’s – all with the same objective – the bakery 🙂 We had ordered ahead, a good thing as the line up (including folks speaking a number of different languages – Asians and Europeans ) stretched out the door and we probably could have used a wheel barrow to transport our treasures back to the RV’s.

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This bakery should be on everyone’s stop – highly recommended is the Pioneer bread and the streusel cakes. http://www.lac-la-hache-bakery.sfobc.com

Roadhouses of the Cariboo Wagon Road

Many of the roadhouses which provided food, team changes for the stagecoach and rest stops along the Cariboo wagon road were built to maximize potential profits based on the best guess as to where contractors hired to build the various sections of the road would actually end up putting the road. Between Cottonwood and Richfield the route of the CWR was changed three times, putting some roadhouses out of business – one can only wonder if some gold or access to future profits changed hands during the rerouting. Mile zero of the CWR was Lillooet – the end of the line was Barkerville. The road houses were located at Ashcroft, Hat Creek ranch, Clinton, Pollards Cornish Ranch and Road House, 59 Mile House, 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, 108 Mile Ranch, 118 Mile house, 150 Mile House,  Quesnel HBC store and Cottonwood House. Areas chosen for roadhouse construction was generally fertile with good grazing for animals and favourable growing conditions for vegetables and other food crops.

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Unfortunately most of the original Road House buildings have burnt down at some point – wood stoves, stove pipes running up through halls accessing rooms above the kitchen and sitting areas below, wooden construction and open flames are not a good combination. A little liquor was probably involved in some cases as well 😉

The history of the Cariboo Wagon Road contractors is a colourful one including characters such as Pegleg Smith, Malcolm Munro who ended up bankrupt with time spent in a Federal Penitentiary for mismanagement of funds and G.B. Wright who delayed certain parts of the road in order to maximize the profits from his paddle steamers that plied the Fraser.  It seems that history does repeat itself…..

Our destination and residence for the next 10 days or so is Dempsey Lake

a few miles north of 108 Mile Ranch. More to come as we explore the history of the area. 

 

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