Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pulling Together Canoe Society, Stop Over.

    The Pulling Together Canoe Society organizes a week plus long canoe journey every year that came through this way a few days ago. It's origins go back to the Vision Quest Journey of 1997, when RCMP and First Nation members, in an effort to improve relations between the two, first piled into traditional canoes and paddled the West Coast of BC. Talking, camping, telling stories, getting to know each other, and stopping at First Nation communities along the way.  
   The Pulling Together Society has taken the idea forward and for 16 years has put First Nation youth and law enforcement officers together on a Journey I bet none of them ever forget. 
For a number of years there was interest in bringing the Journey this way, but the logistics were going to need some sorting out, with the fast-moving river, and the more or less dead-end road for the support vehicles, for a start.  The society, with help from the nations along the route managed to get it all together this year for the first time. They got a grand send-off on the Birkenhead River last week, then traveling down Lillooet Lake and just into the Lillooet River. They had to take-out there and load onto trailers to portage around this lower stretch of river that was too dangerous for canoe navigation. They headed down-valley to the host community of Skatin where a short lay-over and some festivities and high-class entertainment were planned.

They arrived en-mass at Skatin and took over the Head Of The Lake School facility.

   I chatted a bit with a member of the Vancouver Police, he was one of the organizers and on his 6th PTCS Journey. He told me there were about 15 canoes this year, the number varies every year between the First Nations, RCMP, and various police agencies participating and I estimated with the paddlers, support vehicles and crew, there were probably 200 souls involved with the trip this year.
Half serious, I asked one of the Abbotsford Police if the paddlers rode in the canoes when their strapped on the trailers.
"That might violate a statute." he said.

   I had been contacted by the organizer to supply some high-class musical type entertainment for the days activities. Instead, I rounded-up some of the local boys, and we got together for the day, calling ourselves 'The Paddling Wiburys'.

I had a volunteer drum-tech to help set-up my kit, young Dakota is from Vernon and already has several Canoe Journeys under his belt. The weather had been a little cool and I mentioned to him it was too bad it wasn't nicer. "No way." he said, "Last year it was sun the whole time and we cooked!"

The Paddling Wiburys were a big hit with the old rock and roll standards, we had a salmon join us on stage, and the obligatory cheesy drum-solo thrown-in at the end of the last set.

    The next day, after eating, resting-up, a much deserved soak in the hot spring, and being entertained to some degree, the 2016 Canoe Journey continued on it's way, by trailer down-valley to the next host-community of Douglas, which had bought a canoe for their youth to participate in this and future events. The canoes were to be unloaded there at the head of the lake, and the Journey would be resumed, following a traditional canoe-route down the long and often rough Harrison Lake, into the lower Fraser River and ending up in Mission BC. a few days later.
    From what I've heard, like most any Journey of note, there was some rough-water and difficult times, inclement weather, a few blisters, lumps and bruises, and a few cold dunkings too, but along the way, after 'pulling together' for over a week, I'm sure both sides have a much better understanding of each other.

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