LITERARY LOCATION: Telegraph Creek, the only town on the Stikine River, about 260 km upstream from its mouth. Accessible by the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and Highway 57, via Dease Lake.

A former Western Living editor (1980-1987) and a longtime Georgia Straight travel columnist (having first contributed to the Straight in 1974), Welsh-born journalist Andrew Scott is the unparalleled expert on West Coast place names. The tiny but venerable village of Telegraph Creek is his favourite place to visit. After it arose with the discovery of gold in 1861, the community became the gateway for two gold rushes in the Cassiar (1874-76) and the Klondike (1898-99). Briefly bolstered by construction crews for the Alaska Highway, Telegraph Creek endures in Tahltan territory as a poignant reminder of B.C.'s pioneering past.

[SEE Andrew Scott's personal essay on his travels BELOW]


Andrew Scott's well-researched The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia (Harbour 2017 $24.95) is a revised and updated second edition of an important book from 1997, with several new sections, thirty additional photos, a number of maps, an appendix and a detailed index. In it Scott explores the successes and failures of the many idealistic intentional communities that have appeared across BC over the past 150 years, from the "model"; Christian villages of the missionaries, through the Doukhobors, the Brother XII cult and the counterculture era, to today's sophisticated co-housing projects.

"Many communities discovered hardship, disillusionment and failure," he says, "but new groups sprang up-and continue to spring up-to take their place."

With engaging first-person accounts, the book affords detailed and reliable records of communalists such the early Scandinavian settlers who, with great stamina and courage, created utopian colonies at Bella Coola, Cape Scott and Sointula. Scott similarly relates the history of the Emissaries of Divine Light, who went forth from their base at 100 Mile House to build hotels, own a jet and establish branches around the world.

The 1960s and '70s are a particular focus, from the Sunshine Coast's many communes, which set off a storm of hostility from locals, to the Ochiltree Organic Commune in the Cariboo, which rebelled against hippie standards to embrace meat-eating and coffee-drinking.

More than a compendium of astounding misadventures, this book offers Scott's intriguing analysis of what moves people to search for paradise as he sifts through the wreckage of the utopia-seekers' dreams to lay bare the practices and philosophies of today's intentional communities.

At the outset of 2010, Andrew Scott won the Lieutenant Governor's medal for best B.C. historical book from the B.C. Historical Society for his monumental Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia (Harbour 2009). In April of 2010, Scott's Encyclopedia also won the Roderick Haig-Brown Prize for best book about British Columbia. [SEE REVIEW BELOW]

Accepting the second award, Scott said, "I'm glad the Encyclopedia worked out as well as it did, because I sense that Harbour had a tough time coming up with just the right person for the job. i.e., someone willing to devote three years to writing half-a-million words and 4,000 entries. In other words, someone a little bit insane.

"When I got to 'M' -- and its sneaky little offspring 'Mc' -- I was definitely feeling that English had too many letters in its alphabet, but by the time I reached 'Z' I was wondering what I was going to do with myself after it was all finished.

"Well, the folks at Harbour had an answer for that. As Vici Johnstone, general manager at the time, said: 'Andrew, your work has just begun.' She was referring, of course, to the book's production-a massive job. So I'd like to thank all the folks at Harbour for their incredible work, but three people especially: Audrey McClellan, my editor; Anna Comfort, production manager at the time; and Peter Robson, who whipped the 500 images and maps into shape.

"The whole process was like dealing with one of those giant runaway snowballs you often find in comic strips; the damn thing keeps getting larger and larger, and it's all you can do just to keep out in front of it. At least, that's how I felt. But the staff at Harbour were undaunted. You would think they put together an encyclopedia every week.

"I'm thrilled to win this particular award because Roderick Haig-Brown is a hero of mine. I hope that, by potentially deepening our understanding of the land, through the names we give to its places, my book can, in a curious sort of way, honour Haig-Brown's legacy."

Andrew Scott has been a Vancouver Sun reporter, Alaska Airlines Magazine publisher (1987-1989), a Globe & Mail editor (1989-1991) and a major contributor to the Encyclopedia of British Columbia. Andrew Scott has hundreds of credits as a freelance writer and is the recipient of eight Western and National magazine awards. His work covers a wide range of topics and often deals with environmental issues.

A monthly Georgia Straight column called Ecotourism, renamed Coastlines in January of 1988, led to two volumes about his journeys and kayaking discoveries along B.C.'s shores. His partner, artist Katherine Johnson, "was by my side (or slightly ahead of me) on most of these journeys." Here Andrew Scott reminisces about his travels in B.C.:


There are many places dear to me in BC, for many reasons. Some are close to my heart because of the people I visited them with and the personal events that took place there. Others I've been drawn to because they had unusual features or pasts. A number are remote and hard-to-reach, which often seems part of their appeal. A few simply have intriguing names (think Calamity Harbour or Swindle Island).

Over the years, I've spent much time exploring the province's geography and history-both to educate myself and to satisfy my wanderlust. I try not to get too hung up on destinations. As we're often reminded, it's the journey that's important, and most good journeys end up taking you places you had never dreamed of. But having a destination can get you started on a journey. And destinations that have beckoned you strongly over long periods of time are probably worth reaching, as they're sure to show you something unexpected.

In 1977 I hitchhiked to the Yukon to visit a friend who had scored a summer job in Dawson. At the turn-off to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway I stuck out my lucky thumb and caught a terrific ride: all the way to Whitehorse, 1,157 kilometres north. Five hundred kilometres in we passed through the one-horse hamlet of Dease Lake, where a gravel road branched off the highway and corkscrewed its way to Telegraph Creek. Now this was a road I'd always wanted to go down. It followed, I'd heard, a hair-raising but truly satisfying route that wound partly along the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River and ended just beyond one of BC's most historic and isolated villages.

I couldn't, of course, abandon the ride to Whitehorse; that would have been crazy. So we drove on. As the junction receded in the mirror, I wondered if I'd ever pass this way again, and if so, how many years in the future that might be.

Well, 35 years, to be precise.

My second time through Dease Lake I was driving, rather than hitching, with my wife Katherine, rather than a kind-hearted but long-forgotten stranger. We were sheltering in motels, not tents. The steep, narrow 112-km Telegraph Creek road was much the same, supposedly, as it had been before, with one-lane bridges and sheer drop-offs, but also with fabulous views of the Tanzilla, Tahltan and Stikine rivers.

This was Tahltan First Nation territory. We saw age-old fishing camps and village sites, and clambered out to the edge of the Grand Canyon, searching in vain for the mountain goats that cling to its cliffs. Three hundred metres below us the muddy, swirling river boiled between its stony walls. The canyon is one of the most difficult and dangerous river descents on the planet, and no one managed to navigate it until 1981, when a group of kayakers succeeded.

Of old Telegraph Creek, little was left: an ancient church, a few decrepit miners' log cabins. The former Hudson's Bay trading post, transformed into a cafe, was closed for the summer. The silence was overwhelming, the only sound a whispering in the cottonwoods. The massive Stikine surged just a few metres away. I tried to imagine what this place might have been like in the late 1800s, when it was the limit of river navigation and a noisy customs and transfer point for miners en route to the Cassiar and Klondike gold rushes.

The only place to stay was at Glenora, 30 kilometres further on. Glenora had also been a gold rush staging spot, though no trace of this history remains. Instead, an intrepid couple, Rick and Barb McCutcheon, run a bed & breakfast there called Up the Creek. After a glass of wine and a meal of sockeye salmon and vegetables fresh from the garden, they showed us their paradisal property-the only destination they had ever needed-where they had hand-crafted a home and small farm, raised a family and become part of a tight-knit community. We slept well that night in our own little cabin, the valley holding us in a soft embrace. The summer light slowly faded. A leafy fragrance wafted us to sleep. For a few fleeting hours, at least, journey and destination became one.


CITY/TOWN: Halfmoon Bay

DATE OF BIRTH: Nov 26, 1947

PLACE OF BIRTH: Swansea, Wales




AWARDS: BC2000 Book Award (for Secret Coastline), 1994 National Magazine Gold Award for Personal Journalism, Western Magazine Awards for Science, Technology and Medicine (1995), Best Article, BC (1994), Editorial Innovation and Impact (1994) and Travel (1986)

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia
The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in BC


Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia (Harbour, 2009)
The People's Water: The Fight for the Sunshine Coast's Drinking Watershed (Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, 2009), with Daniel Bouman
Secret Coastline 2: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap, 2005).
Painter, Paddler: The Art and Adventures of Stewart Marshall (TouchWood Editions, 2003).
Secret Coastline: Journeys and Discoveries along BC's Shores (Whitecap, 2000).
The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in BC (Whitecap, 1997).

[BCBW 2015] "Outdoors" "Art" "Place Names"