Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WIPpet and Crossing the Rockies

Right now I'm working on those scenes that take Cat further west in her crossing of the Rockies in mid November. Sometimes it feels a bit incongruous to be warm and inside while writing these scenes.

Although I've hiked around Jasper and Banff in the summers, sometimes it's hard to visualize what Cat and Kane experienced as they plough through heavy snows on snowshoes. 

My fallback is to read everything I can find and to stare at old paintings and photographs to bring the reality of winter alive.

Winter Hikers in Canada w/Snowshoes (Source)

Today's also WIPpet Wednesday, the day we share a snippet from our work in progress (wip), somehow based on the date (25 minus 11 = 14 sentences).

To set the scene: Catriona, disguised as a boy, travels with a Hudson's Bay Company brigade across Canada to Fort Vancouver. It's 1842. The small party of 7 has made it through the Athabasca Pass. Along the way, I've learned how to make snowshoes from pine boughs and how to build an emergency tent out of a blanket. Here, Cat has her first crossing of the Wood River:

After a short conference, two of the strongest men made a chair of their hands for Mary Lane to sit upon. Cat watched as they carefully carried her across the Wood River, holding her aloft when the water ran shoulder deep. Then it was Cat’s turn. Though she was one of the smallest, she was not carried. Cat gasped as the ice-choked water reached her chest and lifted her. She grabbed the hands of the man next to her. Each man in the chain supported the next as they crossed to avoid being swept away.

“I’m glad that’s behind us,” said Cat as she pressed the icy water from her leggings and jacket.

“Dinna be so fast to celebrate. We have a few more crossings ahead.” Thurston pointed at the snake-shaped river ahead of them, its swift current breaking into little white waves in the center with ice chunks clumped along the bank. Pine trees heavily laden with snow grew near to the river’s edge except where avalanches had wiped the hills clean. The men slid and stumbled along steep banks of icy gravel. 

Before the afternoon, they crossed the Wood River another thirty-six times.

Again, to peek into the process I use, here's a photo of a sternwheel steamship I found online that was once used to take tourists on the Wood River to see the white water. Dated 1902, the photo inspired some of my description. And it wasn't winter!

The S. S. Revelstoke near Revelstoke, 1902
(Klopp Family Project)

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