Striking it Rich: Escaping to our mystical golden forests is an adventurous antedote to ageing
Like a fountain of youth, creeks spring from deep within the forested Cariboo mountains bringing with them a wealth of gold. Breathtaking pristine mountain valleys provide a soothing sanctuary for recreational activities such as gold panning, rock hounding, hiking and exploring historic pioneer gold rush trails.
In the 1860?s, historic accounts estimate that more than 3,000 international pioneering prospectors made it through BC?s dangerous Fraser Canyon. The lucky ones unearthed massive deposits of gold in and around historic Barkerville gold rush town in central BC.
One of the lucky ones, Billy Barker, a 43 year old Englishman for whom Barkerville was named, struck a rich placer deposit in 1862. His gutsy gold strike, 52? below the main street of the town, was so rich that he had to hire a bodyguard.
As well as goldminers, the town?s many entrepreneurial merchants benefited financially from the world famous Barkerville gold rush. Hurdy Gurdy dance girls were there. They charged customers $1 for each dance. A pound of butter also cost $1 (more than $20 in today?s figures).
Today, Barkerville is a national treasure: an historical Mecca for almost 100,000 tourists from May to September each year. Talented character actors dressed in 19th century costume perform daily offering us a hearty chuckle at our human nature.
Striking it rich in BC?s gold country may be more about the future though, than the past. Experts believe that most of the world?s gold is still in the ground and that our resource-rich province is virtually unexplored.
Six years ago, in the year, 2,000, a gold-rich ore vein was discovered a few miles to the south of Barkerville and Wells. A staking stampede ensued both from helicopters and on the ground. All the available ?hard-rock? claims were promptly staked. But where and how do we pan for gold in the gravel? Is there any left?
In 1992, a private, serviced campground was set up near Barkerville historic gold rush town and provides a retreat for tourists. Cariboo Joy R.V. Park has a nearby private creekside gold claim where recreational prospectors can pan for gold. Guests discover a healthy escape while relaxing by the banks of one of the many famous gold-bearing creeks. Gold panning lessons, equipment rental and Claim Staking consultations are available.
When I grew up in Australia, gold panning meant sharing space at a murky billabong with scorpions, eels and dingoes. Once here in Canada, a treasure map led to the magical gold rush trail and Wells. It?s not too late to pursue a dream, I thought.
During the 19th century Australian gold rush, Great Grandfather, George Robert Keats, made history. He beat the odds and built a hotel and several rental homes in Sydney following his success in the goldfields. He was pursuing a dream in his middle years.
Making middle-age profitable is a challenge. There are plenty of middle-aged and senior adults, however, who offer their greatest contribution to society in their later years. Colonel Sanders, who began KFC in his early 70?s, is one of them.
Wells is at the heart of Western Canada?s exciting gold frontier. It is a character 1930?s mining boomtown. And the locals are fairdinkum folks. (Aussie word means: true blue). It is a young, virtually undiscovered village, the gateway to a fun-filled adventure and perhaps a success story waiting to happen.
The feisty late Fred Wells was ahead of his time. He came to Wells from the USA in the late 1920?s. He believed in the existence of a gold-rich ore vein in the Barkerville area. Geologists believed he was a nut case. Eight kilometers from Barkerville, in 1932, he poured his first gold brick. A bustling community of about 5,000 grew up around Fred Wells? Cariboo Gold Quartz mine in Wells.
One of Wells? early young developers is now in his 90?s and presently living in West Vancouver. He tells me that, during the Depression of the 1930?s, the town of Wells was the only place in BC where one could find employment.
Today, entrepreneurs of all ages keep the dream alive. Wells could have become a ghost town, when, in the 1960?s, a lower gold price forced the closure of the Goldmine. But investors are breathing new life into the community.
When I started Cariboo Joy R.V. Park in 2001, it was a lifestyle choice; a lifestyle choice with a higher purpose. Despite that the rustic town of Wells had almost become a ghost town, a small building on about two unkempt acres seemed to hold promise. Now, as well as treed sites, full hook-ups and washrooms, guests can enjoy other fun-filled healthy activities as well as local gold panning and rock-hounding.
Other activities include Dance Lessons. You could discover or re-discover your dance talent. Cha Cha, Mambo, Fox Trot, Waltz, Samba and Jive lessons are available at the campground.
This holiday is easy on the finances too. Nature offers us the best of everything. Wildlife viewing and bird watching, swimming, canoeing lakes and miles of spectacular hiking trails are nearby.
The secret to striking it rich in the goldfields is not necessarily underneath the surface of the enchanting mountains. Your vision of gaining wealth might be your health. Whatever it is, the mystery is yours to discover. The mystical Cariboo Mountains beckon those with a dream.
Do you believe that the gold rush is just history? Pioneering explorers of the world are taking a second look at the Barkerville Area. If you bring an ATV, you are one of them.
You ain?t seen nothin? yet.
Joy Stepan owns and operates Cariboo Joy R.V. Park.
The Campground is the closest serviced campground to Barkerville Historic Town.
Joy is a consultant in gold rush country, and she operates Gold Safari Tours and offers information regarding the staking and sale of gold claims. As well, Joy is an Aussie National Ballroom and Latin Dance champion.
She has written historical articles for BC Rail?s Onboard magazine.
Toll Free: 1-888-996 GOLD (4653)