Chetwynd - A long life in the Rocky Mountains

Chetwynd - A long life in the Rocky Mountains

A long life in the Rocky Mountains


Today, visitors to Chetwynd, B.C., can expect to find an established community nestled in the foothills of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains; it is a place rich in both recreational activities and art.

But before the dozens of chainsaw carvings that distinguish the present-day town were ever set on display as public art, the area was an untamed ancient flood plain; the only carving that took place for early pioneers like Erna Maria Pruckl was carving out a new life in the entranceway to northeastern B.C.’s mighty Peace River country.

To impart to others the experience of pioneer life on Canada’s western frontier, Pruckl published an autobiographical book in April 2010 entitled A Journey Beyond: A Chronicle of Pioneer Life in Canada.

Through personal sketches and photos of the area, journal entries, letters and editorial commentary, Pruckl’s account conveys the sometimes joyful, sometimes heartbreaking and always adventurous experience of life as an early settler.

Raised in Vienna, Austria, Pruckl left the Viennese milieu of curtsies and bows to accompany her husband, petroleum engineer Franz Joseph Pruckl, to discover a new world—the Wild West of Canada.

The couple broke ties with Austria in 1951, arriving in Halifax and taking the train to Edmonton, where Franz would seek employment at the newly discovered Leduc oil findings. After two years of living and working amid Edmonton’s generally flat terrain, the Pruckls decided to take a trip on horseback to the Rocky Mountains.

“The mountains were in our blood; we loved them,” said Pruckl. “With two saddle horses and one pack horse, we spent a whole summer and fall in the mountains, mostly living off the country. We loved the Rocky Mountains.”

After some consideration, the couple decided in 1954 to take another trip to the Rockies and look for land on which they could build a ranch. Heading north from Jasper National Park, Pruckl said, they ended up in British Columbia.

“We found a valley in the foothills of the Rockies,” she said. “It had exactly the characteristics we had in mind.”

Through hard work and perseverance the couple staked their land, built a successful big-game hunting business and raised a family on a horse and cattle ranch.

Over the years, Pruckl said, the untouched nature of the wilderness where she and her now-late husband built a life has given way to technical progress, with the community of Chetwynd growing into the delightful town that it is today.

“During the summer you find beautiful places for golfing, campgrounds, hiking trails, outstanding boating at Moberly Lake and the rivers all around,” said Pruckl, adding that ample opportunities for angling and canoeing as well as visits to the nearby Tumbler Ridge Dinosaur Discovery Museum and Kinuseo Falls make Chetwynd a worthy RV destination.

In the winter, Pruckl said, it’s a short drive to the ski slopes at the pass on Highway 97 going toward Prince George, and that snowboarding and snowmobiling plus ice hockey, figure skating, cross-country ski races and curling are all part of the winter fun.

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