We just returned from a ten-day road trip, from the source of the Columbia River at Columbia Lake to its exit to the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. Along the way, we had stops in ten State Parks in three states, many great hikes and bikes, and some memorable restaurants and local wines en route.
What struck me about the journey was the great attention given along the way to the cultural and natural heritage features of the region in the form of visitor centres, interpretive trails and promotional literature. Indeed, our entire route was united and focused around the theme of the Lewis and Clark expedition during 1800-1811.
Hand it to the Americans to capture and use Lewis and Clarks adventures in a patriotic, absorbing and historically significant story of empire building.
All along the way, I was thinking of our own David Thompson and his surveying and geographical exploration record that puts Lewis and Clark in the shade.
I was moved to ask the ranger at the very worthwhile and informative visitor centre at the end of the route in Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington why they did not mention David Thompson in their displays. He had no idea who I was talking about!
Which brings me to my point. I know that David Thompsons achievements have been celebrated here over the past several years. We have a small historic site at his camp at Kootenae House near Wilmer and a fine statue of him and Charlotte Small at the entrance to central Invermere.
But doesnt he merit more than that? Not to say that we should emulate the Americans and duplicate their efforts to enshrine the legacy of Lewis and Clark throughout the region they travelled. And we are a long way from ever matching their culinary skills and viticulture.
Perhaps the opportunities for an enhanced recognition of the travels and legacy of David Thompson here (and in Alberta as well as the U.S.) could be something the current study of the Columbia Valleys cultural heritage could explore. To these consultants I would recommend On the Road with David Thompson, a book by Joyce and Peter McCart which gives an excellent review of his travels in relation to todays highway systems.