Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

The Editor’s Desk: Stop and smell the pines

In the headlong rush from Point A to Point B, it’s important to make time to explore the unexpected

Last month I had occasion to write about the New Pathways to Gold Society, and funding they had received to help communities along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road. I knew I was placing the story on a colour page, so went hunting for pictures to go with the piece, and was particularly taken with one that showed a tiny church. It was identified as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, between McLeese Lake and Quesnel near Alexandria, and showed a tidy white building with a bright red roof, nestled among deep green pine trees. A dirt road that was the site of the Cariboo Wagon Road ran within a few feet of the front door.

I used the picture, then thought no more about the church. Two weeks ago, while on holiday, my husband Christopher and I were travelling north on Highway 97, heading to Prince George to visit our son. It was a glorious Cariboo day: the sun was shining, the highway was almost empty, and I had plugged my iPod Classic into the car’s sound system and had John Williams’ glorious score for Raiders of the Lost Ark blasting through the speakers.

(As an aside, I am not much of a person for tech gadgets, but you will only pry my 160GB iPod Classic out of my cold, dead hands. It was designed to do just one thing — store vast amounts of music and video —and it did that to perfection, so of course Apple discontinued making it in 2014.)

Anyway, there I was, zooming along the highway (while observing all posted speed limits) near Alexandria, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a flash of red to my left. I turned my head, and there was Our Lady of Perpetual Help, about 100 metres distant from the highway.

I immediately began slowing down, looking for a place to turn around; somewhat to the consternation of my husband, who had no idea what was happening. I explained things to him as I pulled off onto a side road, turned around, and headed back down the highway to the aptly-named “Church Road”. We bumped our way along it for a short distance to the church, where I got out of the car but left the engine on, so that as I made my way up some overgrown steps and along a short weed-covered path to the door, “The Raiders March’ played in the background.

I didn’t really think the door would be unlocked, but tried it anyway. To my surprise it swung open, revealing a dimly-lit vestibule. I crossed the few feet to the inner door, which was also unlocked, and rather gingerly pulled it open.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the clean and tidy interior, filled with sunlight from generous windows on both sides, that greeted me; someone clearly maintained the tiny church (the Grade 6/7 class from St. Ann’s Catholic School in Quesnel, in partnership with the Knights of Columbus, as it turns out). Windows at one side overlooked a tiny cemetery, and a visitor’s book on a table indicated that we were not the first people to stop there recently, although on that day we had the place to ourselves.

A sign indicated that the church had been built in 1940 and fallen into disuse in the 1960s, when the highway — which used to pass right beside it — was rerouted to its current location. The sound of passing vehicles was faint and intermittent; for the most part there was only the soughing of the wind through the pines, with John Williams providing the soundtrack.

The stop only added a few minutes to the journey, but was well worth the slight delay. It’s a reminder that history of the most unexpected sort is never far away; you just have to keep your eyes open and be prepared to stop and smell the pine trees. Next time you’re journeying from Point A to Point B, make time to do just that; I’ll leave the choice of background music up to you.

Columnist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

View from front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., shows the site of the Cariboo Wagon Road, and later Highway 97, directly beside the church, with the rerouted highway beyond. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

View from front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., shows the site of the Cariboo Wagon Road, and later Highway 97, directly beside the church, with the rerouted highway beyond. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Interior of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Interior of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Cemetery beside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Cemetery beside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Alexandria, B.C., Aug. 27, 2020. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Just Posted

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Corey Harkness, who is free on bail, is slated to make his first appearance in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Dec. 14, 2020. A trial date has not yet been set. (COREY HARKNESS/FACEBOOK)
Accused in Cache Creek homicide will stand trial

Corey Harkness, 33, is charged with second-degree murder

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Most Read