Notes from... a prospector's diary

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From Rocks and Minerals in Canada, May/June 1979

Prospector E.R. Kidd, who worked in the Cariboo during the 1920’s, kept a most interesting diary which helps us visualize the day-to-day activities of a frontiersman of that era. The days covered in the following excerpt are June 22 and 23, 1922. The area –east of Quesnel Lake in what is now Wells Gray Park.

drawn image in black and white of man panning for gold

“Up at daybreak. Cached the items we will need for our return trip, loaded pack boards, and are ready to start out for new country. With two of us travelling together we can lighten our loads by taking only one rifle, one set of mining tools, and one camp kit. This is most important because everything we need to live will be on our backs.


“Travelled first on a portage between Quesnel and Clear Lake. Rested at mineral spring before heading up side of mountain. Tough vegetation, including troublesome Devil’s Club, but bush gradually thinned out as we climbed. Finally broke out into open park country after following game trails.

“It was sunset; we were above timber-line, and a large glacier was clearly in view. As lovely a park country as a man could wish to see. Grass was knee-high with small patches of balsam and spruce. Small, sky-blue lakes dotted the area, while small streams seeped from the glacier. Ledges of gravel told the tale of the retreating glacier.

“Many caribou were lying on the snow and ice of the glacier’s edge above us. These animals stayed up there during the heat of the day to be away from molesting flies which are a real pest in the bush. Up early and good breakfast of pancakes and caribou steaks. Our meat was hung high for we are in grizzly-bear country here. Signs everywhere, where bears have been digging for mountain whistlers.


"After breakfast headed to the lip of the glacier with pick, shovel, and gold pan. Vegetation seems to advance as fast as the ice recedes. Wild flowers bloom right up to the edge of the ice. I spotted a ptarmigan and tried, without success, to catch it by hand. Probably had a nest nearby and simply led me on a ‘decoying’ chase.

“Started across lower edge of glacier, and after about half an hour had the feeling I was walking in my bare feet. The soles of my boots were loaded with hobnails. These nails drew the frost as a magnet draws steel. The caribou helped me keep my mind off my feet, for they were plentiful here. The cows and calves were a real circus to watch. The young would mimic the mother’s every move. They were timid, but also intensely curious. Although they ran from us, they would circle and then return, getting closer to us each time so that they could get a good look at this strange new creature.

“We worked this country for two weeks without once seeing an axe mark or any sign that a single man had been here before us. We found no gold, but experienced something in a quiet way that is hard to explain. It was very wonderful being there and in that region at that place and at that time.