An Ode to Chase BC.
What I didn't know then
I spent many restless teenage summers vagabonding through Chase BC, always ending up at Little Shuswap for an afternoon of sun-tanning and jumping off the pier.
The sleepy hamlet of Pritchard, on the South Thompson River, was home for a week or two. That’s where my grandma lived – on the river, beside the bridge.
Pritchard consisted of a corner store with gas and cold beer and is where the Greyhound stopped alongside a busy stretch of railway and an old wooden bridge that spanned the river. I spent more than a few hours sitting on that bridge thinking about life, but mostly thinking of what I was going to do for the next few weeks.
Armed with a cassette player, and plenty of time to interpret the world through music, I still remember Bobby Gentry’s haunting voice singing – “I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge and drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge”.
For me a visit to the Shuswap will always find me contemplating what, besides himself, Billie Joe McAllister dropped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
It was during my last summer in Pritchard that I gained a genuine appreciation for the wonders of the area. Maybe it was that I discovered poetry, and the nuances of daydreaming, but mostly I think it’s because Chase is where I met my first love.
He had a guitar, a canoe and could drive the family tractor – I had a Polaroid, cassette player and all the sass of a big city girl. Together we wrote freedom songs that unlike the fading photos from the camera remain etched in the recesses of my now mature, and slightly more focused mind.
Recently, when I was invited on a Discover Chase Tour I couldn’t resist signing up for a romp down memory lane! Would I find the magic, rediscover hidden gems – would I recognize the melodies that made this place so special? I did, and I hope you indulge me my reflections as I share the many delights of Chase BC and area, and the best way to experience them.
Today, Chase is a lakeside village of about 2,500. The intimacy of the community helps preserve its rich yet humble heritage with locals passing settler stories and indigenous legends down through generations.
Recent archeological excavations suggest that in 1649 A.D., well before Europeans settled the region, thousands of indigenous people lived where Little Shuswap and the mighty Thompson formed an indigenous trade route to the coast.
Stunningly preserved pictographs can still be seen on the cliffs surrounding Little Shuswap.
A visit to the Cultural Centre at Quaaout Lodge offers a glimpse into the rich indigenous heritage of the region. Guided tours, a drum making class, and informative paddle to the pictographs provide a unique and spiritual experience. Even if you don’t book a paddle tour you really should visit the property to check out the kekuli (indigenous winter home) and sweat lodges - replicated from the memories of Knowledge Keepers as passed down through time immemorial. If you call ahead you might have the opportunity to participate in a traditional smudge, more commonly known as a smoke-filled ceremony performed to cleanse the body and mind of angst and negativity.
Chase is located on traditional Secwepemc lands, home to Ts`utswecw Provincial Park, formerly known as Roderick Haig-Brown Park, one of the most important sockeye salmon breeding areas in the world. A traditional indigenous ceremonial naming resulted in the park being given back it’s authentic name by the Secwepemc people.
This year is dominant in the migration cycle, with millions of Sockeye Salmon predicted to make their way home through the Adams River. Over 600,000 visitors will converge to witness the epic run which sees the rapids teeming with crimson red Sockeye thrashing and heaving their way upstream.
The seasons biggest salmon event, the Salute to Sockeye – Adams River Salmon Run, occurs between September 28th and October 31st.
foraging at Turtle valley bison ranch
Besides listening to music and falling in love I found time to go fishing with my grandma, an expert fisherwoman and better forager. We spent many an afternoon gathering mushrooms, wild asparagus, and berries to supplement corn and salmon feasts.
She would fish, I would tie a big old inner tube to a lumbering Ponderosa Pine and float. I discovered this was the best way to suntan, slathered in oil, my cassette blasting Diana Ross’s “Theme from Mahogany”. These are the fondest of memories, especially when my granny would nonchalantly ask, “do you like the things that life’s been showing you?”, winking knowingly, as she prepared to cast her next line.
One of the places we would go foraging was the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, when it was still a local cattle ranch. Five generations in the family, the Ranch and farm now hosts “Ranchfest”, a dinner series that includes foraging tours, the perfect introduction to the wild and native foods of the region.
Chef Chris Whittaker takes visitors on a foraging expedition that ends with a delicious bison bolstered meal. Designed to celebrate the best BC has to offer, guests are invited to explore the properties many trails, as they learn about sustainable farming and the role bison play in Canada’s Slow Food Movement. I suggest you book in advance.
making a difference
Adjacent to the Farm is the Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge where charming equine refugees peer curiously through an aging wooden fence. Abused and abandoned donkeys, mules and ninnies live at the Refuge where they roam the property sharing the Valley with their larger than life neighbors at the bison farm.
The Refuge charges a minimum fee for an educational introduction and overview of how and why the sanctuary came to be. After familiarizing oneself with the history of the Refuge, visitors are invited to partake in a self-guided tour, and the opportunity to scratch the ears of these lovable creatures.
Getting in the swing
These attractions didn’t exist during my summers spent in the area, nor did Treetop Flyers Zipline where brave souls soar high above Chase Falls and the scenic canyon corridor. Home to death defying mountain goats, and the town swimming hole, a zip through the canyon is the perfect way to take in the scenery.
If you don’t have time to experience the full zipline experience you can partake in the solar powered “Screaming Eagle Swing” that includes a slow crank to 100 feet, followed by a full strung archer’s release. Reminiscent of an eagle swooping for prey, those who ride will be rewarded with a stunning view of the valley – albeit at close to 80 kilometers an hour your gaze will linger just long enough to catch a glimpse of Little Shuswap glistening on the horizon.
The actual distance to the lake is a mere two kilometers by foot or five minutes in a golf cart, both sustainable modes of transportation that are easy on gas and the environment!
The Village of Chase is the only community in Canada where golf carts are licensed to roam the streets (pilot project) alongside pick-ups, the occasional tractor and wayward donkey.
Centennial Park Beach breasts the shores of the village and is home to the now rebuilt 300-meter wharf, a worthy replica of it’s predecessor whose “weathered timbers bore witness to young lovers whose initials were etched deep into it’s ancient and all-knowing timbers.
The wharf from my youth has been replaced by a contemporary replica whose cement boardwalk strikes a bold juxtaposition against the blue hues of the lake. A modern-day lovers lane bound for graffiti and late-night rendezvous set alongside an emerging waterpark made for family fun, that's the next chapter.
a vintage village
The Village, it’s beaches, and boundless activities are family fashioned and activity focused. Many, like the local hiking trails, lazy river floats, paddling, and cycle and skateboard park named after Dr. Vagyi, the quintessential rural physician of the region for over 40 years, ensure there is an abundance of places to SIP, EAT and PLAY in the area.
A guided historic tour with Historian David Lepsoe brings the settler stories and indigenous legends of the Village to life, creating a colourful and culturally informative vignette sprinkled with tidbits and tips.
Heritage Buildings and quaint little shops line the streets offering an abundance of wares and services, most of which are locally crafted. I recognize the buildings; the exteriors remain the same while the shops have comfortably shifted their purpose easily straddling the transition to urban-inspired coffee haunts while retaining the intimacy of a time since past. On this visit we stopped for lattes and a London Fog in the “Inside Out Coffee House” located in the now relocated Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building.
cool summer vibes
The daytrip stirs memories creating a mood of melancholy content that finds me humming to Stevie Nicks ‘Landslide’ singing the lyrics inside my head, “time makes you bolder, children get older and I'm getting older too”, realizing it’s all good, jack knife or spray paint, tack shop or boutique - Chase has matured into a stunning tourist destination.
If you arrive to the village on a Tuesday in July or August, plan a visit to Memorial Park on the banks of Little Shuswap. This is where cold beer and great local eats accompany the cool vibes of summer tunes. The Lakeside Summer Music Festival pumps out classic sounds that are certain to create epic memories of your visit to Chase and maybe, just maybe - there’s a boy with a guitar and a sassy city girl singing an “Ode to Billy Joe” somewhere in the crowd.