Historic look at the Earl Grey Pass trail at Windermere Valley Museum

Exhibit on now until the end of September

The Windermere Valley Museum is hosting a traveling exhibit about the Earl Grey Pass Trail, on display now until the end of the month.

The exhibit showcases the history of the trail, from its long-time use by Indigenous peoples, right up to more recent work done to restore sections of the 61-kilometre hike that extends from Toby Creek to Earl Grey Pass, down to Hamill Creek near Argenta then on to the north eastern end of Kootenay Lake.

The display was put together by Elisabeth Scarlett, an archivist at the Kootenay Lake Archives in Kaslo.

“We had received information from a historian from the University of Victoria, Jenny Clayton, who had written for her doctoral thesis about the formation of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy,” said Ms. Scarlett. “Jenny had done quite a bit of research on the history of the area… so we used that as a basis.”

The West Kootenay archivist also wanted to include early uses of the trail, focusing on the importance of the route to the Ktunaxa and Shuswap people.

The exhibit includes some interesting historical photos, such as one of a glacier in the wilderness area, photographed in 1909 then again in 2015 to show its recession. They even have a description of the trail from an explorer back in 1866, when it was referred to as the Kinbasket Trail.

Ms. Scarlett said collecting and presenting the material, which took about four months, helped her to appreciate the valuable area even more.

“The Earl Gray trail gives you access to this wilderness area,” she shared. “It’s hard work, but you can appreciate it … It’s good that this is being preserved because we can all benefit from it. We benefit from being able to see it and appreciate it. And animals benefit from it; it allows them a place they can live undisturbed.”

While the trail is named after Earl Grey, a governor general to Canada back in the 1900’s, the trail was around long before he came upon it in 1908.

“He went from Argenta to Invermere,” shared Ms. Scarlett. “He was so impressed that he wrote to the premier of B.C. and said this should be a national park.”

The following year, Mr. Grey brought his family back and had a cabin built at Toby Creek, about 40 kilometres southwest of Invermere.

As part of a Canada 150 celebration, restoration work on the trail was done through Kaslo and District Community Forest volunteers. That inspired the museum staff to put together a display commemorating the trail.

The Earl Grey Trail exhibit started in March and April in Kaslo then spent July and August in Meadow Creek. Following Invermere, the exhibit makes its way to Kimberley for March, 2018 then will permanently reside in Meadow Creek.

To see the exhibit, visit the Windermere Valley Museum Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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