Harvey Mountain Trail – making connections

Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017

It’s impossible to stay indoors when the weather is like this – warm, bug-free and with the added pressure that you know it can’t last. So Lynn and I head up Harvey Mountain Trail to walk one of my favourite Babine Mountains loops. As we begin our climb, I think about how these trails start off steep, with no gentle warm up. For a few minutes the loudest sound is my heart pounding as it overcomes its initial surprise that I’m making such inconsiderate demands. Soon things settle down and I hear a creek on my right. It fades in and out of earshot as the trail switches back and forth and you never see it unless you go looking for it further up. I don’t know of any name for it, unless it’s the Harvey Creek Joe L’Orsa refers to in his history of the Babines.

The air has the heavy smell of September – vegetation turning into next spring’s compost. Brilliant clusters of bunchberry. The columbine gone to seed, scraggly daisies in the gravel.

We hear a woodpecker enjoying a Sunday brunch, golden-crowned kinglets at one sunny turn, a hawk screeches once, twice, and then falls silent. Lynn scares a ruffed grouse and her chicks out of the thimbleberries. We come to the first viewpoint and look back down the canyon toward a valley choked with fog. The morning flight from Vancouver circles, looking for an opening.

The packrat hotel

Rounding the corner of the next switchback, I catch of whiff of packrat. Always right here, at a rocky outcrop. And as you walk through the smell and beyond it along a straight, relatively level stretch of relief for your heart, you come to the remnants of Peavine Harvey’s cabin. When we first hiked this trail, you could step inside the cabin – now there’s a jumble of tumbled down boards, a few metal scraps, and fireweed poking through the debris.

The remnants of the cabin

This is where you can finally see the creek, but you have to go look for it. If you don’t make the switchback turn you’ll see a small trail leading over to what there is left of it this time of year.

Dry rock where the trail crosses it at the base of a steep cliff. Up above, the creek is a trickle, a little riff and gurgle before it disappears again. If you keep going along the base of the cliff, you’ll come across old evidence of the work Peavine put in over the years, but the main adit is a pile of rocks.

According to Joe’s history of the Babines, Peavine Harvey was already digging into the flank of this mountain as early as 1905. “The Pack Train claims were owned by C.G. ‘Peavine’ Harvey, Chas. (‘Charlie’) Barrett [Barrett Hat, Barrett Station all named in association with nearbyBarrett Lake, in turn named after Charles Barrett, early settler and c1900 owner of the Diamond D Ranch], and Jno. Charleston, and were what later became known as ‘The Harvey Mine’.” By 1909, he had excavated “41 feet of tunnel, four open cuts and a shaft 35’ deep.”

In 1914, Peavine moved his family to the land either Eli Fletcher or Peavine himself originally pre-empted. Joe writes, “Between 1915 and 1918, C. G. Harvey shipped approximately 25 tons of ore.” In 1919, a “new trail to the Harvey property, from the wagon road up Driftwood Creek, was constructed….On the Harvey Group, at that time owned by C. G. Harvey and W. J. Larkworthy, considerable work was done, including a shaft sunk to a depth of 40’.”

In the early days, I suspect it was pretty much all men and pack horses coming up this way. And the “new trail” Joe writes about was likely built with crosscut saws, pickaxes and shovels – it’s hard to imagine. Shipping ore? Pack horses or wagons? I remember Ralph Dieter telling us how he’d run/walk to town and back for the mail. It was really faster than horses, he said. Later mechanized activity turned this into a road and as you’re hiking towards the top, it goes straight up into the alpine where remnant tracks are still visible. I suspect these last tracks come from activity Joe reported for 1971-72. “Driftwood Mines cut a grid and did other work on Harvey Mountain. The project was then abandoned.” Peavine had died in 1945 and I never heard word that Gordon did any mining.

Before logging began in the 1950s (see Driftwood Creek Bush Mills), the trail was not the industrial corridor I thought it must have been from the amount of prospecting that was going on. Joe’s history refers to a letter his mother, Harriet, wrote after her return to the family home in 1964:

“Take for instance the Driftwood Creek road above Harveys’. Twenty-five years ago, this was probably the most beautiful forest road in the Valley, winding along the edge of Driftwood Creek and bordered by towering evergreens. “Sunny Point” was a tiny Paradise and a stopping place for many.”

Once on top of Harvey Mountain, the history all falls into place. Looking back and down, I can see, visible above the morning fog, the big hayfield just above our house, a hayfield that Eli Fletcher was cutting over one hundred years ago. I can see the route Gordon, Peavine and Katherine followed with Billy Kirtin into the canyon.* I can trace the creek all the way to its headwaters above the Joe L’Orsa cabin in Silverking Basin.

I can also see signs of activities that precede any of the settler community.  The rugged outcrops, dizzying goat descents, their dustbaths, their scat and a few scraps of goat hair caught in the vegetation. The crackling of the lichen the caribou preferred when they lived in these mountains. The horned larks flocking up before they leave.

We wander across, eat lunch looking down on Number Six Lake, and nap in the sunshine before we start the descent.

A creek trickles and bubbles down through scenic grottoes, the crackling lichens from up top giving way to mauve gentians, stalks of fireweed gone to seed, ratty little fleabanes, shabby monkshood. Brilliant hellebore. As we follow the creek we leave, for an hour, the Driftwood watershed. This creek drains into Lyon Creek, Ganokwa Creek, Canyon Creek. We circle around the mountain, see the town is now as clear and sunny as we’ve been all day. We walk down, back once again to Driftwood Creek. We’ve been out for six or seven hours and haven’t seen another person all day. Heaven.

*The Harveys show up many times in this blog: check out Gordon Harvey – tenacity and transience.

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