New book tells of mountain trail

A new book about local history strives to tell the story about the wilderness in the Ningunsaw Pass before it becomes a more modern area.

Margaret Spiers, Terrace Standard


A new book about local history strives to tell the story about the wilderness in the Ningunsaw Pass before it becomes a more modern area.

Through This Maze: Iskut River to the Nass 1867 – 1940 by Margaret Vanderberg tells about those who tried to find the best trail through the mountains and the difficulties they encountered.

It’s a short book at 88 pages but packs in a lot of details, drawings, archival photos and photos from when Vanderberg was there in 1980.

The book tells early stories of Bell II and Bob Quinn Lake, north of Terrace, including details from the journal of surveyor P.J. Leech, which is followed by 11 stories of people who worked or travelled in the Ningunsaw Pass, which connected Bell II to Bob Quinn, long before there was a road, says Vanderberg.

She believed Leech’s story should be told in clearer language, and set out to do just that.

“When you read P.J. Leech, either his article or journal, you haven’t a clue where he was because he didn’t have the names of the places except Ningunsaw [Pass],” she says, “and one of my purposes was to make it clear and easy to understand.”

And the book  answers the questions, “Who was Bell-Irving?,” “Where in the area can you find the Telegraph Trail today?” and “Who was Bob Quinn?”

The book had been on her mind since the 1970s when Vanderberg first saw Leech’s journal but it’s only in the last two years that she put it all together.

When she was working at Bell II – back when Ernie Kriese was building it – waiting tables and pumping gas, loggers were working around Echo Lake, close to Bob Quinn.

“[The loggers were saying] ‘there’s some kind of wire getting tangled in the skidders.’ I’m thinking ‘didn’t you know there was a telegraph trail here?’” says Vanderberg.

The story goes that Leech was looking for a way from Telegraph Creek to Kisipiox. He made a wrong turn by going up what we now know as the Nass River and missed the trail, she says.

He found the Gitxsan, who guided him to Kispiox for a price, which was lucky because by that time he was well into the Interior, says Vanderberg.

Leech kept a journal of the trek and made pencil and ink drawings, some of which are in the book.

As for the telegraph trail, logging in that area destroyed the telegraph line but it now has received a Heritage designation, Vanderberg says, and she plans to put coloured ribbon on the remaining wire to mark it where it’s close to the highway near Bell II. With the area getting closer to changing with mines about to open up and the power line being built soon, Vanderberg hopes the book will provide an introduction to the history of the area as it was.

“..I wanted some introduction to the history [of the area] to be in the hands of the people working on the power line and the mines,” she says. Through This Maze is on sale at Misty River Books.

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