Snowshoe through past, present, future in Quesnel, Wells
For time immemorial, the lands now known as Quesnel and Wells have been home to the Lhtako Dene First Nation, who hunted, traveled and lived here, using snowshoes for winter travel. The Wells area is also traditional territory to the Xat’sūll First Nations, the northern most Secwe̓pemc Nation. This feature tells some of that story.
Lhtako Dene/Xat’sūll territories — Snowshoeing’s beauty as an activity is its simplicity, its accessibility, and its deep cultural resonance. Almost as long as there has been snow on the ground and people in northern BC, people have been snowshoeing. Going back hundreds of years, Indigenous peoples have used snowshoes to allow them to step lightly over the snow to access hunting and trapping areas, even in the deep winter snows.
To learn more about that heritage and how it shapes us even now, some friends and I met up with Luna Ildzi, local Elder from the Lhtako Dene Nation, at 10-Mile Lake. As we surveyed the land, she shared traditional knowledge and language with us, giving us a deeper understanding of travelling in winter on snow in the areas we now know as Quesnel and Wells.
WATCH: snowshoeing and winter culture in Lhtako-Dene and Lhtako Dene/Xat’sūll territories
"Long ago, our ancestors lived here and used the land for its lakes, berries, medicines, and to hunt moose, deer and caribou.
Our ancestors made snowshoes from young spruce and used moose or deer hides to hold the spruce together. Our ancestors used snowshoes to travel a long way," Ildzi said.
This need for snowshoes in order to stay fed contrasts with going out for a gentle stroll on the lake to get some exercise and burn the calories from the previous night’s visit to the Barkerville Brewery.
(In Quesnel, stop by the store my partner and I own, Rocky Peak Outfitters in downtown Quesnel, to get some local tips on the best location based on current conditions. We also rent snowshoes.)
With new perspective, thanks to Ildzi, we strapped into our snowshoes and stepped out onto the snow-blanketed frozen 10-Mile Lake and hiked in silence while we pondered the Ancestors who surely stepped on this same frozen water, in their search for winter fish and wild meat.
To venture further afield for more challenging terrain, head to wintry Wells BC (80km), an hour drive east of Quesnel on highway 26. There, they live for winter and celebrate every element of it: the snowy beauty, the coziness of a crackling woodstove in a colorful cabin, and the immediate access to every style of winter activity that you can imagine (snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, alpine touring, snowmobiling…).
As soon as we arrived in Wells, we met up with Dave Jorgenson and Cheryl Macarthy at the Frog on the Bog Gifts for a cup of hot coffee and a slice of cheesecake to fuel up before our next outing. They rent snowshoes to visitors and if you stay in one of their cozy historic cabins, snowshoe rentals are included.
Once we had warm and full bellies, we stomped back into our snowshoes and headed across the meadows and onto the gentle trail that meanders to Island Mountain Lookout, gradually building on the views over the valley and deeper into the pyramid-shaped peaks of the Cariboo Mountains.
This hike (1km each direction) was more challenging than the walk on the lake but the views all the way were worth it. Dave shared stories of the history of Wells and uniqueness of this landscape as we went. The trip to the summit meadow passed faster than our clocks indicated.
Both snowshoe adventures are proof that the best adventures involve beautiful places and great people to enjoy it with. Both things that you’ll discover around every corner when your winter trip brings you to Quesnel and Wells.
When you go
Where to snowshoe
Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park is 16km north of Quesnel on highway 97. The park is open year round and has trails for snowshoeing or walk on the lake (conditions permitting: check with locals before venturing out).
Lhtako Dene culture before you go, learn a bit of the Carrier Language with these words shared by Luna Ildzi:
Hello: Hadih (pronounced: Ha-dee)
What’s happening: Dahooja (pronounced Da-Hoo-jia)
Snowshoes: 'Aih (pronounced as a breathy Ek)
Thank you: Sunachailya (pronounced: soo-na-cha-lee-ah)
Lhtako: Where the three rivers meet (pronounced: L-tack-o)
Quesnel: Gunelh ("this how the Elders of long ago pronounced it")
Wells: Luna told us that there is no known word for Wells BC in their language. There had been a word for that area, but it has been lost in the recent past.
Gear check out Rocky Peak Outfitters in Quesnel. (And say hi to Brenda while you’re there!)
More Visit Frog on the Bog for cool local products and great eats, and book a stay at the adjoining Willow River Inn