Paddling the South Saskatchewan River: Old Bindloss Ferry to Estuary

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

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Close encounter of the rattler kind and storm of the sesquicentennial behind us – Ma Nature went all out with a noisy and bright light show for Canada’s 150th – we launched two canoes and a single kayak at an old ferry site on the South Saskatchewan River. Heading downstream, we were searching for a little r’n’r – with a dash of history on the side.

Paddling the South Saskatchewan River

In honour of Canada’s 150th year, we decided to forgo modern forms of transport for a couple of days and paddle our way back into history – before planes, trains and automobiles – back to a time even before this great country called Canada came into existence.

Our starting place was the old Bindloss Ferry site, five kilometres (3 miles) downstream of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield. The crumbling remains of a concrete approach for the ferry crossing was perfect for sorting gear away from the mud. It’s early July. River levels are dropping. The spring melt is pretty much done, making canoeing and gravel bar camping a little easier.

Boats ready to launch for our 3-day river adventure. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Day one’s route would take us on a gentle, approximately 21 km (13 mi) float down through the coulees of the Middle Sand Hills, past deer grazing along the still-green grasslands, beaver plying the waterways, and cliff swallows dipping into the mud on the riverbank to build their clay castles in rocky outcrops.

Sandy Point Bridge over the South Saskatchewan River. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

We continued to a point just below Sandy Point bridge and its established, but busy campground, where an open sand and gravel and rattlesnake-free shoreline became home for the night. Nighthawks serenade from above as we sit riverside, watching the sky turn golden.

Sunset on the river. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

River Day Two

The second day – with almost 32 km (20 mi) of river travel – should have felt a little more difficult. The light push of the wind, the warmth of the sun and the catch and release of sauger – tiny fish in comparison to the massive sturgeon that inhabit the South Saskatchewan River – had us drifting along without much of a worry. Popping back and forth along the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, the river meandered effortlessly in a northeastly direction.

A gaggle of geese pulled up onshore as we drifted by. Three young owls took practice flights in the low trees along the bank. Sandpipers ran along the mudflats. A great blue heron flew effortlessly downstream.

Ma Nature held true to course and gave us a little test of wind in our faces for a short stretch of the journey. She relented, came back in from behind and allowed us to drift down using umbrellas as sails. The ghostly abutments of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) bridge that spanned the river in 1914 came into sight.

Canoe hounds could care less about the ghostly railway abutments in the distance! (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Long abandoned, the concrete pillars on a midstream island provided the perfect backdrop for camp – with ready-built shade. Unloading quickly, it was all hands in the cooler for happy hour. Deer crisscross the river up and downstream. Beavers swim around us. White pelicans bob in slow upstream eddies. Relaxed? Oh yeah – nature’s medicine is working its magic!

Camp perfection! (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Final Float to the Pullout

We can hear the meal bell from the nearby Hutterite colony as we prep for a leisurely breakfast. Reluctantly, we load up and drift down past the flood-blasted muddy confluence with Red Deer River. The channel becomes a wide flat lake for a short stretch. Tip: stay river right to avoid having to walk on water across the shallow sections.

After the confluence of the Red Deer and the South Saskatchewan, the river stretches across like a lake. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

It is somewhere right in here, on river left, that Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) explorer, surveyor and trader Peter Fidler built Chesterfield House in the fall of 1800. HBC established the trading post on the South Saskatchewan River to provide competition for the Northwest Company (NWC) and other Canadians trading for fox, wolf, badger and beaver pelts with the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and Gros Ventre in southern Alberta.

It is also somewhere right in here that his First Nations wife, Mary Mackegonne, gave birth to their third son George on November 10th of that same year. Fidler and his family would spent two seasons at the original post before it was abandoned due to increasing tensions with the Gros Ventre.

The post was resurrected in the winter of 1804/05, left for almost another two decades and then rebuilt as a temporary trading post and palisade about seven km (4 mi) downstream of the confluence in 1822 – the same year Peter Fidler passed away in his post at Fort Dauphin. In April of 1823, Chesterfield House was abandoned for good.

Sadly, there are no visible remains of either trading post, but the fact that we were paddling alongside the past was some kind of Canada cool.

Empressive – packing five adults, two dogs, two canoes & a kayak into one return shuttle vehicle! (Photo: Megan Kopp)

If You Go:

  • Our trip ran from the Old Bindloss Ferry in Alberta at Km 255 (5 km east of the CFB Suffield boundary) to the Estuary Ferry in Saskatchewan, just past Km 320. We covered 65 km distance on the South Saskatchewan River easily in 2 ½ days.
  • We accessed the put-in point at the Old Bindloss Ferry landing on the north side of the river. Range Road 2-3 is graveled down to a band of willows just above the river, but be aware the lower section is not maintained and may have washouts in wet weather.
  • A second vehicle was left at the take-out point at the Estuary Ferry (talked with ferry operator to ensure that where it was parked was okay before leaving)
  • Buy a copy of Prairie River, by Dawn Dickinson and Dennis Baresco. It may be dated, but the cultural and natural history information and maps inside this small volume are still valuable. You can find it online in books at Paddle Alberta’s store.
  • You can access additional maps online at Alberta River Basins. Flow levels can be monitored by accessing the Alberta Rivers: Data and Advisories Mobile App on this same page.

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Barkerville, B.C. – A Grave History

Written by: Megan Kopp

At its peak in the 1860s, the gold mining town of Barkerville, B.C. was the biggest thing west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.

The ghost town today sees a mere fraction of the number of people that once clomped along the wooden sidewalks off Williams Creek in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains. Past glories have become faded memories. Stories of what life was like back in the goldrush era need to be carefully curated and fleshed out by historians. One surprising way to uncover life is to look at death. Cemeteries are devoted to remembering lives, and the historic Barkerville Cemetery is no exception.

Walking Back in Time

We tromped along with a small group on a guided tour, passing the site of the Royal Cariboo Hospital before arriving at the hillside resting place for miners and soldiers, surveyors and shopkeepers, doctors and lawyers. Most came from Canada and the United States. Others travelled to Barkerville from as far away as Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and Germany.

Grave marker for Peter Gibson – the first person buried in the Barkerville Cemetery. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

31, 21, 32, 24, 25 – many people died young in the goldfields. Peter Gibson was the first soul to be laid to rest on July 24th, 1863 in what was then known as the Cameronton Cemetery. Peter, 31, died of typhoid fever. He worked for John ‘Cariboo’ Cameron before his early demise.

Cariboo Cameron was a miner who struck it rich with a claim on Williams Creek. A small township grew up around his strike. Not surprisingly, it was dubbed Cameronton. Cameron himself died on November 7th, 1888. At the age of 68, Cameron is one of the oldest people buried in the cemetery.

Sidenote: Although Cameron was a noteworthy citizen, it’s the tale of his first wife – who is not actually buried in the Barkerville cemetery – that is even more memorable. Seriously, who has “two caskets, three funerals and four burials?”

By 1866, the Barkerville Cemetery had 27 graves. There were no Chinese or Native burials in this graveyard – a reflection of the time. Most of the burials were men – a reflection of the population demographics during the goldrush.

Women of the Goldrush

One notable woman buried in the Barkerville Cemetery is Janet Allan. The marker on her grave reads:

Sacred
to the 
memory of
Janet Allan

The Beloved Wife of
William Allan
Native of Fireshire
Scotland

Who departed this life
September 1870

Aged 42 years

Sometimes I wish we could rewrite these tributes. There’s an interpretive sign just outside of the town of Barkerville that tells so much more of Janet’s story.

“…dressed like a man, drank like a man, and died like a man…”

Janet was actually better known as ‘Scotch Jenny’ – a well-respected woman who showed kindness for the sick. Apparently this store keeper’s wife also dressed like a man, drank like a man, and died like a man (when the carriage she was driving plunged over a bank into William’s Creek on September 7th, 1870).

Costumed tour guides lead regular hikes to the Barkerville Cemetery. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Today, our journey to see Scotch Jenny’s final resting place was less of a hike and more of a stroll up the 750 metre (1/2 mile) long, accessible trail from St Saviour’s Anglican Church – along a portion of the old Cariboo Wagon Road. Guided tours to the Baskerville Cemetery run on a regular basis, departing from the church.

Go ahead, take a walk and discover life through death with Barkerville’s fascinating grave history.

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What a Rush: Barkerville, B.C.

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Most people have heard of the California ‘49ers. Many know of the Klondike stampeders heading up to the Yukon in 1898. But what about the gold fever surrounding Barkerville, British Columbia? It lies smack dab in the middle of the western gold rush timeline.

Barkerville

Connecting to the Past

I have three reasons for having a soft spot for the Cariboo gold rush story. One, because I lived in the Cariboo as a child.

Two, because my grandpa – William Hill – worked the old slag heaps in Barkerville, searching for overlooked gold in the 1930s. He also searched for gold in the nearby abandoned mining town of Quesnelle Forks in 1940s.

Wedding photo
Married at The Forks (Photo: Dave Blanchard)

And because, three, we chose that abandoned mining town, at the junction of the Cariboo and Quesnel Rivers, as the site of our wedding.

Since we were driving by Barkerville – on our way to paddle the Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit – with friends who had never heard of Barkerville’s epic tale, we just had to make a little detour and show it off.

Billy’s Story

William ‘Billy’ Barker was a working-class English prospector. He started in the California goldfields in the mid-1800s. As the gold played out, Barker joined the thousands of other miners who headed north to what is now British Columbia.

The goldseekers followed the Fraser River inland in search of rich ore. Eventually, Billy and many other miners found their way to Cariboo.

William ‘Dutch Bill’ Dietz made the first strike. William’s Creek – which runs through Barkerville – is named after him. A town grew up around the strike. It was called Richfield. Billy Barker tried his luck a little further downstream of Richfield.

On August 17, 1862, Billy and his seven partners found gold at 52 feet. Billy’s mine-shaft was the deepest around. In just two days, the miners pulled out over 1700 grams (60 ounces) of gold.

The rush was on.                      

Most of the gold was found during the first five years of Cariboo gold rush. William’s Creek and two of its tributaries produced $30,000,000 of gold between 1861 and 1898.

Barkerville became the heart of the Cariboo when a 650-kilometre (404-mile) wagon road from Yale, B.C. was built to haul gear in and gold out of the goldfields. It was finished in 1865. Barkerville was the final stop along the road.

Historic wagon rides
The end of the Cariboo wagon road. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Barkerville Today

Barkerville is the largest living-history museum in western North America.

Today, the tourist attraction features over 100 restored buildings.

There are stagecoach rides, live theatre, old-fashioned photo studios and guided tours.

Watch for costumed interpreters roaming the streets, playing the roles of historic characters.

Barkerville: By the Numbers

  • 1868 – The town is destroyed by fire and quickly rebuilt
  • 1894 – The town’s namesake dies a pauper in Victoria, B.C.
  • 1924 – Barkerville is designated a Canadian National Historic Site
  • 107 – Heritage buildings
  • 62 – Replica buildings
  • 1958 – Barkerville is declared a Provincial Heritage Property
  • 50,000-60,000 – Number of annual visitors today

Finally, if you go:

Barkerville is located in central British Columbia, about 85 kilometres (53 miles) east of Quesnel, at the edge of the Cariboo Mountains.

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Hiking the Chilkoot Trail: Historic Gear Checklists

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Posted in one of the cooking shelters at Sheep Camp, we found a sheet of paper with historic packing list suggestions for men and women planning to hike the Chilkoot Trail through Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon.

Read the lists below and – after you research to learn that oakum is tarred fibre used to plug cracks, that mackinaw is a water-repellent woolen cloth and you stop laughing at the fact that women were advised to bring both house and knitted slippers – you will appreciate why the Chilkoot Trail became the world’s longest museum of discarded gear!

Gear for Men – as listed by Pierre Berton in his book, Klondike, p. 245

  • Three suits of heavy underwear
  • A mackinaw suit
  • Two pairs of mackinaw trousers
  • A heavy rubber-lined coat
  •  A dozen pairs of wool socks
  • Half a dozen pairs of mittens
  • Two over shirts
  • Two pairs of snag-proof rubber boots
  • Two pairs of shoes
  • Two pairs of blankets
  • Four towels
  • Two pairs of overall
  • A suit of oilskin clothing
  • Five yards of mosquito netting

Groceries:

  • 400 lbs flour
  • 50 lbs cornmeal
  • 50 lbs oatmeal
  • 35 lbs rice
  • 100 lbs beans
  • 40 lbs candles
  • 100 lbs granulated sugar
  • 8 lbs baking powder
  • 200 lbs bacon
  • 2 lbs soda
  • 36 yeast cakes
  • 15 lbs salt
  • 1 lb pepper
  • ½ lb mustard
  • ¼ lb ginger
  • 25 lbs evaporated apples
  • 25 lbs evaporated peaches
  • 25 lbs evaporated apricots
  • 25 lbs fish
  • 10 lbs pitted plums
  • 50 lbs evaporated onions
  • 50 lbs evaporated potatoes
  • 24 lbs coffee
  • 5 lbs tea
  • 4 dozen tins condensed milk
  • 5 bars laundry soap
  • 60 boxes matches
  • 15 lbs soup vegetables
  • 25 cans butter

In addition, one must bring these items: steel stove, gold pan, three nest of granite buckets, a cup, plate, knife, fork, two spoons, two frying pans, coffeepot, pick, hand saw, whipsaw, whetstone, hatchet, two shovels, three files, draw-knife, axe, three chisels, twenty pounds of nails, butcher knife, hammer, compass, jackplane, square, Yukon sled, two hundred feet of rope, fifteen pounds of pitch, ten pounds of oakum, and a canvas tent.

Our gang geared up at the bottom of the pass. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Gear for Women – as suggested by Annie Hall Strong in The Skagway News on December 31, 1897

  • 1 pair house slippers
  • 1 pair knitted slippers
  • 1 pair heavy-soled walking shoes
  • 1 pair arctics
  • 1 pair felt boots
  • 1 pair German socks
  • 1 pair heavy gum boots
  • 3 heavy all-wool stockings
  • 3 pair summer stockings
  • 2 pair summer stockings
  • Moccasins can be purchased here of the Indians. The tall bicycle shoe with extra sole would make an excellent walking shoe. In the way of wearing apparel, a woman can comfortably get along with:
  • 1 good dress
  • 1 suit heavy Mackinaw, waist and bloomers
  • 1 summer suit
  • 3 short skirts of heavy duck or denim, to wear over bloomers
  • 3 suits winter underwear
  • 3 suits summer underwear
  • 1 chamois undervest
  • 1 long sack nightdress, make of eiderdown or flannel
  • 1 cotton nightdress
  • 2 pair arctic mittens
  • 1 pair heavy wool gloves
  • 1 cap
  • 1 arctic hood
  • 1 hat with brim broad enough to hold the mosquito-netting away from the face
  • 1 summer dress
  • 3 aprons
  • 2 wrappers
  • 2 shirtwaists
  • some sort of gloves for summer wear; to protect hands from mosquitoes

Bedding:

  • 1 piece of canvas, 5 ft x 14 ft
  • 1 rubber blanket
  • 2 pair, better 4 pair, all wool blankets
  • 1 feather pillow
  •  A ready-sewed tick will be very nice to have, for it can be filled with dried moss and makes a good pioneer mattress.

“An old miner would no doubt laugh me to scorn for suggesting a little satchel or handbag, but the comfort derived from the hundred and one little extras a woman can deftly stow away in it will doubly repay the bother of carrying it.” – Annie Hall Strong

Yup, I always take a little handbag… of course mine is called a backpack.

What’s the most favorite piece of gear on your backpacking checklist?

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Hiking the Chilkoot Trail: Dyea to Lindeman Lake Section

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

It was dubbed the World’s Longest Museum.

Overloaded and frantic to reach the goldfields near Dawson City in the Yukon, Canada, the stampeders of 1897-98 abandoned much of their gear along the Chilkoot Trail – especially during the first 41 km (26 mi) of the trail from Dyea, Alaska to Lindeman Lake, British Columbia.

Time and nature have had a lot of time to remove all traces of this crazy rush. Will there be much left to discover as we wander along the stampeders trail close to 120 years later?

They Called Them Cheechakos

Many of goldseekers taking the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea to Lindeman Lake and beyond were ill-prepared. They struggled get themselves and their gear up the trail, over Chllkoot Pass and down to Lindeman Lake where they could build a boat to go a little further. Old-timers called them Cheechakos. Cheechako is a Tlingit word for greenhorn.

Each stampeder was required to haul one ton of goods up to the scales at Chilkoot Pass. It took the average stampeder three to four weeks to pack his goods from the water’s edge at Dyea to shores of Lake Lindeman.

Interpretive signs warn that “your load may be lighter, but you face some of the same hazards. Weather can be extreme, especially on Chilkoot Pass. Start this hike only if prepared for severe conditions.”

Luckily, we’ve done this outdoor camping and adventure thing once or twice before – nobody’s calling us Cheechakos!

First camp for the Stampeders: Finnegan’s Point

Boggy sections still exist along the Chilkoot Trail today! (Photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1897, Pat Finnegan and his two sons established a ferry service. They later built a corduroy road – a road made of tree trunks laid down side by side – through the boggy areas approaching the Point and operated it as a toll road.

In the summer, this point eight kilometres (5 miles) from Dyea was the northern terminus of the wagon road. In the winter, stampeders could pull their sleds up the frozen riverbed. Finnegan’s Point was a convenient place to cache their gear and go back for another load. Our loads were lighter and we weren’t ready to stop for the night. We continued down the muddy trail to Canyon City.

Canyon City

Suspension bridge crossing the Talya River to the Canyon City ruins. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Hundreds of tents crowded this ravine in 1897. It was the first major stop for most stampeders. Canyon City was a good place to cache goods before the steep climb out of the canyon. By spring 1898, two freight companies were building power houses for aerial tramways and stripping hillside to fuel boilers and build log houses.

Wood stove left behind in Canyon City. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Within a year Canyon City would vanish. Before heading on to Sheep Camp, we took the spur trail across the swinging bridge to see signs remaining from the site of all the 1897 action. Rusted chunks of metal, pieces of glass bottles, decaying cabin logs and the rusting hulk of a boiler were found.

Old steam boiler used to power a tramway for hauling gear up to Chilkoot Pass. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

This tramway – which only ran during the last few months of the gold rush – was powered by the 50-horsepower steam boiler that was too heavy to take out when Canyon City died out. If you could afford the 7 ½ cents per pound freight charge, you could send your supplies over Chilkoot Pass via a tram. Most stampeders had to carry their loads from cache to cache.

Tripping Along From Pleasant Camp to Sheep Camp

Steep, rocky climbs are par for the course on the Chilkoot Trail. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

The trail from Canyon City to Pleasant Camp was described by one stampeder as “the worst piece of trail on the route, fairly muddy, with many boulders and with some short, steep ascents and descents in and out of small gulches.” For us, it was a little less muddy than the first day’s slog, but it did climb!

From Pleasant to Sheep – it was a transition from rock to muddy puddles for our crew.

Sheep Camp to the Scales to the Pass

The tramways that carried the wealthier stampeders’ supplies from Canyon City to Crater Lake paralleled the stream of men who had to shuttle loads on their backs. The brush has long since grown back around Sheep Camp, probably hiding a wealth of discarded supplies, but the occasional piece of rusted metal can still be seen. Tumbled piles of wood – the remains of the tram towers – can still be spotted on the hillsides.

Wooden remains of a historic tramway. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

A distinct change comes about at the scales near the foot of the climb up to Chilkoot Pass. It was here that stampeders re-weighed their goods. Professional packers could be hired to carry loads up to the pass, but they would sometimes charge up to a dollar a pound. Every ounce made a difference. As a result, the area became littered with excess gear.

Rusted metal artifacts below the pass. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

It took forty, 50-pound trips to carry the required ton of goods to the top of the pass. Climb up, unload, slide back down, reload, and wait. At times it took up to half an hour to break into the human chain of stampeders inching their way up the slope. With our single loads, most weighing under 50 pounds, it seemed relatively easy to pick our way through the boulder field to the summit.

After the pass and the final tram station above Crater Lake, the flotsam and jetsam of the goldrush era dwindles. The downhill leg of the journey on the Canadian side of the pass was little less punishing that the climb up.

The downhill hike towards Crater Lake. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

 

 

If You Go:

Read a little more about the trail description from the Parks Canada Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.

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Ireland’s Hill of Tara

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

For the life of me, I don’t know where I first heard about Ireland’s Hill of Tara.

It could have been mentioned in a book or covered in a documentary. All I know is that while visiting Dublin, I wanted to learn more.

What better place to start than a museum dedicated to the country’s archaeology and history?

Ireland’s National Museum of Archaeology & History

Treasures from Ireland’s Neolithic era to modern-day artifacts are well preserved in this carefully crafted collection. I wasn’t overly interested in bog mummies or weaponry from the Viking era.

I went straight for the sparkle – the Tara Brooch.

The Tara Brooch. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

The Tara Brooch is not old – in the sense of Ireland’s Neolithic past – but this 8th century, ring-shaped, cloak fastener is undeniably captivating.

Made of cast and gilded silver, the early medieval brooch has fine, filigreed gold panels and is studded with amber, enamel and coloured glass. It includes animal and abstract motifs.

I never realized that the Tara Brooch didn’t come from the Hill of Tara, located northwest of Dublin. It actually came from a place near the seashore at Bettystown in County Meath. Apparently a dealer attributed its source as being Tara in order to increase its value.

The brooch was a loss leader. Tara itself was the actual gem.

After spending time pouring over the display about the site, I knew we’d have to experience Tara for ourselves.

On the Path of Greatness

It’s a graveyard – true. But the Hill of Tara in County Meath is much more than just that. This famous passage-tomb burial site was used for more than 1500 years.

It is where Ireland’s kings claimed their power.

It is said that this was where St. Patrick announced the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

It is where Daniel O’Connell – the “Liberator” – rallied upwards of three-quarters of a million protestors in 1843 to seek freedom from Britain.

Tara of the Kings

The Hill of Tara looks non-assuming at first glance. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Teamhair na Rig, or Tara of the Kings, includes a series of graves, tombs and temples.

It is a spiritual sanctuary.

The oldest visible monument is the passage tomb of Drumha na nGiall – the Mound of the Hostages. It dates back to the third millennium BC.

Christian graveyard and church at the base of the hill. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

According to the informational pamphlet I picked up at the visitor centre, Tara’s power declined by the 6th century AD.

Paganism gave way to Christianity, “…and the title of ‘king of Tara’ became a symbolic prize for ambitious kings seeking to become the most powerful ruler on the island.”

Many historical and mythical figures are associated with Tara. The site was central to the creation of an Irish identity.

Today as you walk the grassy mounds, surveying the countryside, the passion and politics of this low-lying hill and its man-made monuments are palpable.

If You Go:

The site is open from mid-May to mid-September, 10 am to 6 pm daily. Tara is located 12 km south of Navan, off the N3.

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Ireland’s Trim Castle

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Trim – the word sounds precise, with little excess. Trim Castle – on the River Boyne – is just the opposite. It is the largest Normandy castle in Ireland.

Historic stone structures always draw my attention and Trim was no exception. We had to stop and take a look.

Arriving too late in the day to take advantage of a guided tour and entrance to the keep, we strolled the grounds as the clouds lifted and the sun peeked out.

Surveying the grounds. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

The castle was started by Hugh de Lacy in 1173. It was completed in the 13th century. The curtain wall encloses an area of over 1.5 hectares (about the size of one and a half rugby fields).

Interpretive panels through the grounds explain major features of this stone landmark, but we chose to wander at will, trying to get a sense of what life must have been like in Hugh de Lacy’s world.

In 1172, when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the river Boyne to the north and marshy grounds to the south. The hill on which the castle stands was easily defended.

The Keep at Trim Castle. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Three years after choosing the location, de Lacy’s original wooden fortification had been replaced with the Keep. It housed the Lord’s private and administrative apartments. Gazing at its pock-marked façade, it’s remarkably easy to visualize the lords and ladies inside, sitting by wood-burning fires discussing the state of affairs.

The Keep was later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat.

Trim Castle’s entrance gate (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Trim Gate was built around 1180. It faces northwest, with its half-round gate-arch set high above the moat. A forward tower or pier would have received a bridge over the moat. The gatehouse was rebuilt early in the 13th century.

Defensive viewpoint on the curtain wall (Photo: Megan Kopp)

The south curtain wall with its D-shaped towers was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Step in close and look through the slotted archery windows.

As the town and roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. It’s precise design suits Trim.

Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.

View from Trim Castle across the river Boyne towards the Augustinian Abbey of St. Mary and its belfry tower, the Yellow Steeple (Photo: Megan Kopp)

P.S. If the castle looks vaguely familiar and it’s been niggling at the back of your mind, but you can’t quite place it, I’ll let you off the hook.

Trim Castle was dubbed York Castle for the 1996 movie Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

Read more about our Irish adventures at:

The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry, Ireland

Ireland’s Brú na Bóinne

Getting to Know Guinness: Going to the Source in Dublin, Ireland

 

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Getting to Know Guinness: Going to the Source in Dublin, Ireland

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

You can’t go to Dublin and not have a pint of Guinness. It would be like going to Italy and not eating pasta or visiting California’s Napa Valley and not having a sip of wine.

I decided my first taste of the dark brew should be as close to the source as I could get – St. James’s Gate brewery. It all started here, more than 250 years ago.

In 1759, 34-year-old Arthur Guinness signed a lease for the rundown St. James’s Gate brewery in Dublin. Perhaps he foresaw the success of his business venture. Guinness leased the brewery for 9,000 years, paying less than $75 a year in rent. The business met and exceeded Arthur’s dreams,  passing from father to son for five successive generations.

One thousand casks were handmade each week. Each was individually numbered. Provided the casks were kept in good condition and could be repaired, they could be used for over 10 years. Oak was eventually replaced by mass-produced metal casks and coopers and their craft disappeared. Photo: Megan Kopp

St James’s Gate brewery was only four acres in size when Arthur took it on. It was not in the best of shape and had little in the way of brewing equipment. Arthur quickly turned it around. By 1769, he was exporting his ‘porter’ beer to England. Porter differs from ale in that it is brewed with roasted barley, giving the beer its distinctive dark colour.

By 1862, the Guinness trademark label was introduced. It included Arthur’s signature, the legendary Guiness harp symbol (a medieval Irish instrument known as the O’Neill or Brian Boru harp) and the Guinness name.

Today, as you walk into the Guinness Storehouse and interpretive centre at St James’s gate, the original, signed paper lease – no longer in affect as the property was purchased before expansion – lies on the floor under a circle of glass.

Wander upward past bins of Irish-grown barley – 100,000 tonnes of which is used at St James’s Gate alone every year. Read about the eight million litres of soft water that flows from the Wicklow mountains into the Guinness brewery every day. Gaze in awe at the copper – a massive metal brewing tank which held up to 600 barrels – or 172,800 pints – of the black liquid. Continue up the seven floors of displays – which from the bottom rise up in the shape of 14-million-pint glass of Guinness.

I raised a glass towards the end of the tour – and took my first sip of the black brew.

Utter perfection! Photo: Megan Kopp

It’s no wonder that Guinness Stout is sold in over 150 countries around the world and that ten million glasses are imbibed daily.

This St. Patrick’s Day it will be ten million and one – sláinte!

Read more about our Irish adventures at:

Ireland’s Trim Castle

The Stone Circles of Cork & Kerry, Ireland

Ireland’s Brú na Bóinne

 

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First Time Visit to Guadalajara, Mexico

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Disclosure: This post contains Affiliate Links.

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

That’s the first question people asked us when we said we were heading through Guadalajara. We were travelling by bus from Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

There are no guarantees of safety on any trip. While that may be true, we felt completely comfortable stepping out on foot on our arrival late afternoon to explore. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city. However, its historical center is easily explored on foot.

Time for a Historical Walkabout

From our hotel room, we headed north for one block on Avenida Ramón Colon. Turning west on Calle Francisco I. Madero for one block and north for three blocks on Avenida 16 de Septiembre, we arrived at Plaza de Armas.

This welcoming plaza was remodelled in 1910 for Mexican Independence centennial celebrations. It frames a charming wrought-iron bandstand that was brought in from Paris.

An Orozco mural in the Palacio de Gobierno, showing Miguel Hidalgo signing for end of slavery and Benito Juarez signing for Mexico’s independence. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

The Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco – government palace – lies on the eastern edge of the plaza. It is an impressive two-storey, Baroque-style structure. The building was completed in 1790. Peek inside for a glimpse of the murals painted by José Clemente Orozco.

On the northern edge of Plaza de Armas lies the imposing Catedral de Guadalajara. Construction of this massive cathedral was ordered by Philip of Spain. Building began in 1568.

Catedral de Guadalajara starting to glow as evening approaches. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

The cathedral wasn’t officially finished until 1618 – and even then construction was ongoing. The original towers were square. Damaged by an earthquake in 1818, they were taken down and replaced with the current Neo-Gothic towers in 1848. The brilliant yellow tower tiles come from Sayula, a small town south of Guadalajara.

Perfect Plazas and More!

Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres with Irene (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Plaza de la Rotonda lies to the north of the cathedral. This shaded green space is home to a monument built in 1951 to honour a select group of Jalisco artists, scientists, politicians and others notable figures. Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres was previously known as the Rotonda de Hombres Illustres de Jalisco (Rotunda of Illustrious Men of Jalisco). Because teacher and humanist Irene Obledo Garcia joined the group in 2000, the name changed.

Heading east we strolled through Plaza de la Liberación – Liberation Square – towards Teatro Degollado, seated at the far east end of the plaza. Construction began in 1856 on this Neoclassical theatre. The portico – or roofed structure supported by columns – includes a marble decorative wall surface over the entrance. The stone depicts Apollo and the nine muses.

The Teatro Degollado and its impressive tympanum (decorative marble surface) above the entrance. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

We walked behind the theatre along the Paseo Degollado. The tiny Plaza Fundadores includes a sculpture of Dona Beatriz Hernández de Sánchez Olea. She is one of the city’s heroines.  Dona Beatriz helped bring about the foundation of Guadalajara City in 1532.

Statue of Beatriz Hernández in Plaza Fundadores. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Strolling down the paseo, we ended up at the art-strewn Plaza Tapatio and the Cabañas Cultural Institute.

The Cabañas Cultural Institute

Cabañas Cultural Institute (Photo: Brad Kopp)

This Neoclassical building was originally built as a charitable institute to house orphans, the elderly, the poor, and the sick. The building was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is now a museum and cultural center.

From here, we worked our way down the stair off the plaza to the market – another story of its own!

It may have been our first time visiting Guadalajara while on our way to Guanajuato – but it won’t be our last.

If You Go:

Hotel Morales was not only well-located for strolling historic sites, it was elegant and had efficient, friendly staff.


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Pipe Springs National Monument

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Travelling from St. George, Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, we were looking for a place to pull over to make lunch when we saw a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument. Washrooms and maybe a picnic table – perfect!

We didn’t know anything about the site, but with hunger sated and a National Park Pass already in hand, we thought we’d pop in and have a quick look.

Two hours later we managed to pull ourselves away.

Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)

A Mormon Tithing Ranch
Pipe Spring National Monument was established in 1923, but it started as a Mormon Tithing Ranch. Mormon pioneers in the 1870s often paid their tithes to the church with livestock – not cash. The Southern Utah Tithing Office often accepted cattle as tithes and the stock was sent to Pipe Spring.

In 1870, the Mormons began building a fortified ranch house at Pipe Spring. Master stone masons Elijah and Elisha Averett and dozens of workers laboured for over a year and a half to build Winsor Castle, named after the first ranch manager.

Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)

The “castle” is made up of two separate two-storey buildings that face each other. Rock walls at either end enclose the courtyard and join the buildings together. Large wooden doors on either end are wide enough for a wagon to pull through. One building was the home of the ranch manager and the other offered extra bedrooms, cheese and butter-making rooms built over the spring, and a telegraph office.

A Telegraph Office
When the transcontinental telegraph went through Salt Lake City in 1861, Brigham Young was inspired to create a communication network owned by the Mormon Church.  After 1864, Civil War-surplus telegraph materials were cheap. The Deseret Telegraph system was started in 1866.

The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)
The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)

Pipe Spring became a telegraph station in 1871. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Luella (Ella) Stewart was the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring. From 1871 to 1888 at least seven women operated the telegraph instruments at Pipe Spring.

Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart - the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.
Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart – the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.

A National Monument
The Mormon Church sold the property to a private owner in 1895. In 1920 the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather, passed by the spring on a road trip. Mather believed that one day Americans would explore the West in their own cars and he believed that Pipe Spring would be a perfect stop in between Zion and Grand Canyon. It took him three years of lobbying – and money from his own pocket to help buy the Pipe Spring property – before it was declared a national monument.

If You Go:

  • Don’t miss walking the Ridge Trail. It’s a short climb up to the top of the low cliffs that overlook the monument. The views are spectacular.
  • Pipe Spring is 45 miles east of Hurricane, Utah on AZ State Route 389. For more information about Pipe Spring, visit the National Park Service website. http://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm

 

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