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Fort St. James author chronicles wilderness adventures in latest book Sleeping with Horses

Joyce Helweg talks about her time traversing off-beaten tracks, history and adventure
Fort St. James author Joyce Helweg’s latest book, Sleeping with Horses, is a collection of stories spanning decades of horseback adventures in the region . (Taylor Hansen photo)

Fort St. James author Joyce Helweg released her latest book “Sleeping with Horses” this month. The captivating narrative delves into Helweg’s remarkable escapades of horseback journeys and wilderness camping across the expansive landscapes of British Columbia, undertaken alongside her husband and friends.

There is also a lot of history in her book, said the 75-year-old author who has chronicled over three and a half decades of scouting the areas around the region.

The stories retell a lifetime of horse packing expeditions, including traversing historic, old gold rush trails and venturing deep into the heart of the province. On a lot of these off-beaten tracks, there’s nobody there, she says

“It is like the last frontier. You might run into an old prospector or a gold miner or somebody that is hunting, but for the most part, it’s not well travelled, and that is what we enjoyed the most.”

But then were these journeys safe back in the days? To which she replies, no one was ever hurt in the 35 years they did this – the key to it being, lots of preparation.

It is safe, but you have to be careful, and you have to be prepared, you have to know where you are going and you have to be able to figure out how to get to where you’re going and get back without getting lost.

Then ofcourse, talking about the horses, central to these adventures, Helweg said they always made sure they had good horses under them.

“You didn’t want to take a renegade horse up there that was going to get you hurt, because it was would have been a long time for a turnaround ride out, or for somebody to come get you because we had no communication gadgets back in the days.”

Helweg’s motivation behind the book stems from a desire to preserve her cherished memories for her grandchildren.”It’s a different world and when people don’t travel with you, they don’t see that part of you unless they were there with you,” she said.

“If you want the world to know what you’ve done in your life, you have to document it right.”

Born in Prince George and a resident of Fort St. James since the age of three, Helweg credits her writing with a deep sense of connection to the rugged beauty of the region.

“It’s stories that I wanted my grandchildren to know and to remember, just to explain to them how much adventure that we had, and know that it was always available for them.”

Despite facing physical challenges in recent years, including her husband’s passing in 2014 and her own health setbacks, Helweg’s spirit for adventure remains undiminished. Her last expedition in 2016 marked the end of an era, as she reminisces, “My back gave out after that.”

Sleeping with Horses is available for purchase at Lakeside Pharmacy in Fort St. James, the Vanderhoof Co-op and Books and Company in Prince George.

About the Author: Binny Paul

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