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The Tulameen Trail
by [?]

Did you ever “holiday” through the valley lands of the Dry Belt? Ever spend days and days in a swinging, swaying coach, behind a four-in-hand, when “Curly” or “Nicola Ned” held the ribbons, and tooled his knowing little leaders and wheelers down those horrifying mountain trails that wind like russet skeins of cobweb through the heights and depths of the Okanagan, the Nicola and the Similkameen countries? If so, you have listened to the call of the Skookum Chuck, as the Chinook speakers call the rollicking, tumbling streams that sing their way through the canyons with a music so dulcet, so insistent, that for many moons the echo of it lingers in your listening ears, and you will, through all the years to come, hear the voices of those mountain rivers calling you to return.

But the most haunting of all the melodies is the warbling laughter of the Tulameen; its delicate note is far more powerful, more far-reaching than the throaty thunders of Niagara. That is why the Indians of the Nicola country still cling to their old-time story that the Tulameen carries the spirit of a young girl enmeshed in the wonders of its winding course; a spirit that can never free itself from the canyons, to rise above the heights and follow its fellows to the Happy Hunting Grounds, but which is contented to entwine its laughter, its sobs, its lonely whispers, its still lonelier call for companionship, with the wild music of the waters that sing forever beneath the western stars.

As your horses plod up and up the almost perpendicular trail that leads out of the Nicola Valley to the summit, a paradise of beauty outspreads at your feet; the color is indescribable in words, the atmosphere thrills you. Youth and the pulse of rioting blood are yours again, until, as you near the heights, you become strangely calmed by the voiceless silence of it all, a silence so holy that it seems the whole world about you is swinging its censer before an altar in some dim remote cathedral! The choir voices of the Tulameen are yet very far away across the summit, but the heights of the Nicola are the silent prayer that holds the human soul before the first great chords swell down from the organ loft. In this first long climb up miles and miles of trail, even the staccato of the drivers’ long black-snake whip is hushed. He lets his animals pick their own sure-footed way, but once across the summit he gathers the reins in his steely fingers, gives a low, quick whistle, the whiplash curls about the ears of the leaders and the plunge down the dip of the mountain begins. Every foot of the way is done at a gallop. The coach rocks and swings as it dashes through a trail rough-hewn from the heart of the forest; at times the angles are so abrupt that you cannot see the heads of the leaders as they swing around the grey crags that almost scrape the tires on the left, while within a foot of the rim of the trail the right wheels whirl along the edge of a yawning canyon. The rhythm of the hoof-beats, the recurrent low whistle and crack of the whiplash, the occasional rattle of pebbles showering down to the depths, loosened by rioting wheels, have broken the sacred silence. Yet above all those nearby sounds there seems to be an indistinct murmur, which grows sweeter, more musical, as you gain the base of the mountains, where it rises above all harsher notes. It is the voice of the restless Tulameen as it dances and laughs through the rocky throat of the canyon, three hundred feet below. Then, following the song, comes a glimpse of the river itself–white garmented in the film of its countless rapids, its showers of waterfalls. It is as beautiful to look at as to listen to, and it is here, where the trail winds about and above it for leagues, that the Indians say it caught the spirit of the maiden that is still interlaced in its loveliness.