A couple who dedicated many years researching and writing about the Alexander Mackenzie (Nuxalk-Dakelh Grease) Trail have received a certificate of recognition from the British Columbia Historical Federation (BCHF).
Although they were unable to attend the award gala held in Princeton on Sunday, July 22, Hälle Flygare said in an interview from his home in Canmore, Alta. he and his wife Linda Flygare were pleased about the recognition.
“We received a letter about the award in June,” he said, adding he received a similar award in May 1989.
Anna Irwin, chair of the BCHF recognition committee, said the federation is thrilled to recognize the work of both Hälle and Linda Flygare with a certificate of recognition.
“They have spent decades researching, documenting and hiking the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail, formerly known as the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail,” she told Black Press Media.
Irwin said their determined, hands-on work and the length of time they have dedicated to documenting the trail is truly remarkable.
“The work Hälle and Linda have done represents a true labour of love: they are committed to ensuring the route taken by Mackenzie is accurately recorded. They have researched, photographed and written extensively to make sure this information is readily recorded and available for the public and researchers.”
Hälle wrote a six-volume series that includes 100s of photographs reflecting their research about the route Sir Alexander Mackenzie took in 1793 from the Fraser River near Quesnel to Bella Coola.
Between 1975 to 1986 he and Linda retraced and photographed the 347 km stretch while working for Parks Canada, BC Parks and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. They walked it six times.
One thing that always bothered him, however, was that the last section of the trail was not properly identified.
Hälle kept hoping someone would be willing to check it out for him.
Last summer Harvey Thommasen, a retired physician in Bella Coola, rose to the challenge.
Taking others with him, Thommasen went into the area several times and found the “huge rock” Mackenzie described in his journals.
Plans were made to hike the trail to arrived on July 17, 2023 at the spot where Mackenzie had 300 years earlier.
With the threat of forest fires, however, Thommasen decided to go a bit earlier and left on Wednesday, July 5, along with Peter Young, a local guide.
They hiked up to the huge rock, walked down to the three ponds or Bead Lakes and then up on the ridge and down into Bella Coola.
“The last drop down was tricky and needs to be marked better before we recommend people use the route, but for now we demonstrated it is the most likely route Mackenzie took into the valley,” Thommasen said.
“ It is fast, easy and fits all the journal landmarks.”
Thommasen said he had heat exhaustion when he got to the bottom of Burnt Bridge Creek, but they rested that afternoon and camped overnight, making it out the next day.
“It was breathtakingly beautiful and over 95 per cent was open with no bush or bush whacking.”
He said Young has already used the route to do a “cool” loop around to the heritage trail that ends up at the Burnt Bridge parking lot.
Within a few days of Thommasen sending Hälle information about the hike, Hälle had already made an update to one of his books including a photograph of Young, Thommasen and a dog named Queenie.
The amendment to the book reads:
“On July 6, 2023, Harvey Thommasen, Peter Young and faithful travel companion Queenie completed the first recorded hike retracing Alexander Mackenzie’s 25 km trek from the Rainbow Mountains to Highway 20.
They followed Mackenzie’s direct route he hiked July 17, 1793 from the “Huge Rock” guided by First Nations the Nuxalk and Ulkatcho to the Friendly Village by the Bella Coola River.”
Hälle has sold out his six volumes, but may reprint some next year, he said.
In the meantime, he said he is working on a hiking guidebook - How to Hike the 347 Nuxalk - Dakelh Heritage Grease Trail from Fraser River to Bella Coola River.
He is also focusing energy on advocated for a West Road Canyon Provincial Park and has been in touch with several people in Quesnel about it.
“It would be very good for tourism in Quesnel and Prince George,” he said.
Part of that proposal is for a 30 km connector trail from the Blackwater Road along the north side of the West Road Heritage River to the Fraser.
“Alexander Mackenzie arrived July 3, 1793 at the mouth of West-Road River which was named by him. The mouth of West Road River is the only place on the Fraser River that we for sure know Mackenzie was here. It is very historic place,” Hälle said.
There are copies of the books about the trail available at Kopas Store in Bella Coola.