Friday, June 30, 2017

To Nakusp and back

We took a little trip north from Nelson following a circle route to Nakusp and back. This route allowed us to see several of the stunning lakes that run north and south through the mountains in this area. We stopped at some of the villages along the way. These places blossomed in the time of the paddle wheel boats that ran up and down the lakes before roads were built.

First stop was Kaslo, with its pretty false fronted main street and the world's oldest intact passenger sternwheeler. The S.S. Moyie logged almost a million miles carrying generations of miners, settlers, business and excursion crowds up and down Kootenay Lake. It's been meticulously restored and gives a good idea of the era before trains and cars.

Freight stored on the main deck: a fire fighting wagon and boxes of fruit for market.

The upper deck was for passengers with lounges, dining areas, plus cabins. 

This is for passenger luggage and card playing.

Note the fire fighting buckets on deck and detailed gold leaf work inside.

Here's a look at the underneath part of the stern wheel. It was run by a huge steam engine on the main deck that burned coal.

Our next stop was New Denver located at the northerly end of Slocan Lake. New Denver is across the lake from Valhalla Park, which has some of the most amazing mountain peaks I've ever seen. This is an area for heli-skiing.

The road through this area is really lovely, often following rivers with banks fringed by blooming wild flowers.  

New Denver is a sleepy little village now with a memorial to the Japanese Canadians who were sent here during the second world war. After the silver mining boom was over and the paddle wheelers stopped plying the lakes, many of these little towns were abandoned. Some of them burnt down but others remained as virtual ghost towns. These isolated places were chosen by the Canadian government as internment camps for the Japanese Canadians in the second world war.  It was a shameful chapter in British Columbia's history. Thousands of citizens were rounded up and sent to camps and their property including farms, houses, vehicles, fishing boats, was confiscated with only token payment.

The memorial in New Denver has three of the original shacks plus a community hall and primitive bath house. It's an emotional place to visit and see the hardships that were forced on these families. Men were sent to separate camps and families were split up. 

I found this home made sleigh very poignant, and also the makeshift kitchen and laundry area inside one of the shacks.

The grounds have now been planted as a beautiful Japanese garden, contrasting painfully with the squalor of the interiors of the buildings there. 

Our final stop was the village of Nakusp, which I have heard of for years because a friend of mine was born there. It is located on the east side of Upper Arrow Lake in a stunningly beautiful area, a broad valley between two rivers surrounded by amazing mountains.

We spent the night in Nakusp and drove back to Nelson the following day. Some of the roads in this area are very twisty and high up and there was quite a lot of construction and repair going on so the trip took about twice as long as we expected. But it was a beautiful drive and I'm so glad to have seen this remote area of the province.

Today is our last day in Nelson and I promise to post about this unique city very soon.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Going back six decades

Yesterday I had the chance to revisit some of my very early history at Kimberley, BC, where I lived for four years until 1951. When I was just six months old my father took a job as a mining engineer at the Sullivan Mine in Kimberley.  He was just 26 years old, recently graduated from UBC and released from the army after WWII, newly married with a wife and a baby, (me).  

My sister was born in Kimberly in 1948 and our little family lived there at 80 Howard Street until a stupid and tragic accident at the mine took my father's life in March of 1949.  My widowed mother lived in Kimberly with Jan and me until 1951, at which time we left Kimberley and moved to Vancouver.

I have some memories of the house on Howard Street and some photos of my sister and me in front of the house. So I was pretty excited to see if I could find the house and perhaps even recognize it. Well it turns out that the house has been torn down and a small hotel built there. It's actually really close to the centre of town, probably prime real estate now. But, although there are some new buildings, there are still lots of really tiny houses that date from the period when I lived there. These are modest houses with one bathroom and two bedrooms on small lots, built probably in the 1920s or the 1930s.

The house across the street came the closest to my memory of the house I lived in. It has a lot of stairs going up and a porch along the front. This one has the added roof to keep the snow off the stairs. It's not a house we'd care to live in now, although you could probably buy it for about $100,000.

Yesterday afternoon we took a train ride into the old Sullivan Mine. I wanted to see where my dad had worked and where he lost his life. I've never been in a mine before and I have to say that it wasn't a wonderful experience: cold, dark and noisy. On the left you can see the train heading into the opening to the mine. And on the right our tour guide, who was miner for decades, explaining how the blasted the ore out and loaded it into cars.

These photos are of the powerhouse for the mine, where power was generated for all the mining activities. 

This belt ran the compressors and it was operated by water for many years. it still functions. The belt is made from continuous strands of hemp rope.

The Sullivan Mine continued operating for decades; it closed down permanently in 2001 and since then Kimberley has reinvented itself as a recreational centre featuring festivals, a theatre company,  and a faux Bavarian ambience. It has a nice family ski hill, miles of paved bike paths, and lots of kayaking and camping and canoeing. It's actually a really beautiful area, the second highest town in Canada at 3700 feet and the air is gorgeous. This is one of the covered bridges built across the creek in the centre of town.

We spent two nights at the Trickle Creek Lodge at the bottom of one of the Alpine ski hills. It was a great place to stay and we enjoyed dinner there last night.  Here's Harry enjoying ribs and a salad at the bottom of one of the ski lifts as the sun sets.

We spent the evening fantasizing about what it would be like to move to Kimberley. This often happens to us when we travel; we think about selling up and moving. Once we get home, reality surfaces though. We liked a lot of things about Kimberley: the fresh air, the cute little downtown, the Alpine meadows. But I think it would always remind me of the losses from my early years.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

On the road--through Grand Forks, Creston, and Cranbrook

The past couple days we've been travelling through some really beautiful but isolated parts of the province. Most of the time there's no cell service at all, except when passing through towns and villages, which are not that close together. We've been going up and down over mountain passes and through lovely river valleys and along lakes. The Kootenay Rockies includes several mountain ranges: the Monashee, the Columbia, the Purcells, the Selkirks, and the Rockies, all running basically north and south. In between the ranges are lakes and broad valleys with gorgeous farmland.

Here is some of the country we've seen.

Both Grand Forks and Creston are agricultural areas quite close to the Canada-USA border. They have a population of around 5,000 people and a small downtown area.  Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway runs through them both. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Grand Forks, right downtown beside the old courthouse, now housing an art gallery and tourist information bureau. It seemed quiet but there were big trucks rolling through all night long.

That evening there in the Rotary Park across the street there was live music, country of course, and a farmers market the next morning. This is obviously the cultural centre of the town.  

Next morning we pushed on to Creston, another agricultural area, even more remote. Although it does have a movie theatre on the main street, seemingly catering to the teenaged audience. We met a young woman in a restaurant there who grew up in Victoria and has lived in Creston for four years with her husband and two young daughters. While she likes some things about the life she says the weather is difficult because it's too hot in the summer and there's too much fog in the winter. It also gets a lot of snow, as evidenced by sets of stairs around town that are covered by metal roofing to keep the snow from piling up.

This stairway led down to the field where the Creston Farmers Market was going on. We purchased our usual bag of cherries plus some dried cherries and dried Italian plums for the road.

Yesterday it was on to Cranbrook, the largest city in the area which features the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel with many restored CPR and other rail cars. Here are a few photos from that fascinating experience. Many of the cars had been modernized in the 1950s and 1960s and the amazing inlaid woodwork was painted over with light green paint. The restoration work is really fabulous. 

Can you imagine someone covering up this beautiful work with green paint? Here's a before and after photo of one of the cars. The one on the left was modernized and the one on the right is the other side of the same car after it's been restored.

We also saw an American railway car even older, from Spokane, built in 1907. Unlike the CPR cars, these were all made of wood and there are very few examples left.  I like the photos showing the really old parts of these before they've been restored.

Apparently a few of these rail cars were saved because they were purchased by families to use as summer cottages.

This last photo is a part that has been restored showing the inlay and the stained glass windows.

Today we're taking a rest day in Kimberley, a town where I lived as a young child. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.