Mounted Police Museum, & Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

The 31st day of the trip – Tuesday, May 24th – was so varied that I broke the journal up into 2 posts, the first about our coal-country stops, and this one about Prairie history – the Mounted Police, and buffalo.

We didn’t put on many miles this day – only 109 km (68 mi) in this second part of it. Clicking on the map will open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Frank Slide Interpretive Centre to Fort MacLeod and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
We reached The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod just before 3:00 pm, later than I’d planned on, so I unfortunately felt a bit of pressure to “git ‘er done”. There’s a parking lot across the street, but it’s quite small and not big-rig friendly if it gets busy. Admission to the museum was $18 – $10 for Cathy and $8 for me. The NWMP Musical Ride is performed here (this is not the official RCMP Musical Ride), but performances don’t start until July 1st.

The Fort Museum (Museum of the North West Mounted Police) in Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The museum isn’t as large as I’d expected, as much of the focus is local, but it’s still very good. This model shows the original North West Mounted Police fort.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The life of a North West Mounted Police constable in a remote detachment in the early days, with the bedroom, office, and jail, all basically in one room.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
When I first saw this display, I thought that visiting the Mounted Police cemetery would be a good addition to the museum visit, but during the research for this post, I discovered that the wooden grave markers were replaced with marble ones in 1962, and for me, that would have hugely lessened the impact of the cemetery visit.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
“Signing of Treaty #7”, by M. Lindstrom. Treaty 7 was a peace agreement between the Queen of England and the Blackfoot, Peigan, Blood, Stoney, and Sarcee Indians that secured land for the government to build the transcontinental railway. Signed on September 22, 1877, it made provision for each Native family to receive one square mile of land, for each band to receive cattle and farming equipment, and education and medical services for Native children.

Painting 'Signing of Treaty #7', by M. Lindstrom
I found the fort to be a bit challenging photographically, but there are some excellent subjects and shooting locations, and having the site virtually to ourselves made it easier.

Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
Churches always intrigue me, and the fort’s little chapel was no exception.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The chapel has two lovely stained glass windows.

Chapel at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
The centre of the fort’s parade square, with symbols which would have been meant to impress upon visitors the power of The Queen’s justice.

Parade square at the Museum of the North West Mounted Police, Fort MacLeod, Alberta
We left the museum just before it closed at 5:00, and less than half an hour later were at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This is a powerful place that I’d been to 3 times before, but this was Cathy’s first visit.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
UNESCO designated Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump as a World Heritage Site in 1981 as one of the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps, a site where, starting some 6,000 years ago, Native people hunted bison by stampeding them over a cliff.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
The interpretive centre was closed, of course, but we walked the loop trail below the cliffs, and signs along the trail told some of the story.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
Below the cliffs, archaeologists have found layers of dirt, stone rubble and bones over 11 meters thick, accumulated over thousands of years.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
After our walk, we moved the RV over to the overflow parking lot – there were signs in the main lot stating that overnight parking isn’t allowed, but we didn’t see any signs prohibiting it in the overflow lot, which has a superb view. Bella and Tucker were happy to be able to play there, even on-leash (dogs aren’t allowed on the trail), and the bawling of distant cattle intrigued them.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site, Alberta
A huge number of wind turbines, many of which we passed on the drive to Fort MacLeod, can be seen in the distance, beyond the Old Man River.

Wind turbines and the Old Man River
Our very content little girl that evening πŸ™‚

Our sheltie cross Bella
Cathy and I had seen 5 deer on our walk, and as darkness started to settle in, 3 of them showed up and were very curious.

Two of the deer cleared the fence beside us easily, but this one took a couple of minutes to decide that she could make it, after searching unsuccessfully for a way around it.

This was a beautiful spot to spend the night. On Wednesday, we had one stop to make before settling in at Cochrane for 5 nights.

Coal Days: Visiting Sparwood and the Frank Slide

After leaving Fort Steele at about 4:00 pm on Day 30 of the trip – Monday, May 23rd – we soon left gold country and entered coal country, and visits to Sparwood and the Frank Slide over the next 24 hours gave us a look at the present and then the past of coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass region. As always, we could have spent much more time in the area.

My intention had been to just drive to Fernie to overnight, but we decided to go a bit further, to the Mountain Shadows Campground at Sparwood, because it sounded like a nicer park. The distance from Fort Steele to Sparwood is 125 km (78 mi). Clicking on the map below will open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Fort Steele, BC to Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta

Before hitting the road again from Fort Steele, Tucker got up on the dinette seat, apparently needing a bit of a snuggle after being left in the rig for over 4 hours.

Murray Lundberg and his little dog Tucker in their RV
Mountain Shadows Campground turned out to be an excellent choice. It certainly ranks as one of the best-value full-service campgrounds we’ve stayed at.

Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC
The forest is lovely, the campsites are huge and level, the services are well placed, and the wifi was even good. All for $31.50 including taxes.

Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC
Our site, #8. The rainy weather continued, but we got a break from it every now and then for a few minutes, long enough for a good dog walk.

Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC
The washrooms are pretty dark and dated, but they were clean and everything worked, so no complaints there.

Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC

The leaks in the motorhome windshields had gotten worse and worse over the past few days and we now had a bucket under the worst of them, so I called ahead to Crystal Glass in Cochrane, and the manager said to bring it in as soon as we got in and they’d have a look at it.

A network of almost 5 km of walking trails (connecting to a 32-km trail) starts at the campground entrance.

Walking trail at the Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC
We had a very leisurely morning on Tuesday – we were in no hurry to leave this campground. A long walk on the trails was a great way to start the day’s exploring.

Walking trail at the Mountain Shadows Campground, Sparwood, BC
Although still promoted locally as “The World’s Largest Truck”, the Terex 33-19 “Titan”, built by General Motors in 1973, actually lost that title in 1998 when Caterpillar came out with their slightly larger 797.

Terex 33-19 Titan - the World's Largest Truck from 1973-1998
The Titan on display was the only one built. It worked in California for 4 years and then was somehow moved to Sparwood. It weighed 231,100 kg (509,500 lbs) – much less now because the engine has been removed – and had a gross vehicle weight of 548,600 kg (1,209,500 lbs). It’s 6.88m (22’7″) high, 20.09m (65’11”) long, and 7.57m (24’10”) wide.

Terex 33-19 Titan - the World's Largest Truck from 1973-1998
At 11:00, we hooked the Tracker up and headed east on Highway 3 again. This area must be impressive from the air – the top of many of the ridges is a reclaimed coal-mining area.

Coal mining along BC Highway 3 in the Crowsnest
Just over half an hour from Sparwood, we stopped at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Like many Alberta parks and museums, this one is very impressive, interpreting not only the Frank Slide disaster of 1903 – Canada’s deadliest rockslide – but also much more of the region’s coal mining history. This view looks over the cafe to the slide itself.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta
The horrific explosion in the Hillcrest coal mine in 1914 is also very well interpreted. The centre’s tagline “We have stories to tell you that you will never forget!” is certainly true. The descriptions about how hot the fires were – about what it did to not only bodies but even to the coal itself – are definitely memorable.

1914 explosion in the Hillcrest coal mine
Everything about the centre is impressive – the displays work beautifully into the architecture, which in turn looks like it belongs in that location.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta
We spent the first hour watching 2 movies, about the slide, and then one with a wider focus on coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass region. Then there are other movies around the centre, including this one with aerial views of the slide, which really does need to be seen from the air to grasp the size. I was surprised to read that the Hope Slide that I was at a few weeks ago is larger, though.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta
The view across the slide and down the valley. One of the notable displays at the centre described the slide that is expected to happen just up the valley, on about the same scale as the Frank Slide.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta
Me at the viewing deck in front of the centre.

Murray Lundberg at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta
We went for a walk on one of the trails around the centre, which has plenty of interpretive signs, and just after 2:00 pm, were on the road, headed for the North West Mounted Police museum at Fort MacLeod.

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Alberta

Exploring Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC

The National Historic Site of Fort Steele Heritage Town was our main focus for Day 30 of the trip – Monday, May 23rd – and we only drove 123 km (76 mi) to Sparwood following that visit.

We spent over 4 very enjoyable hours at Fort Steele, and this is a very long post, with 51 photos.

We actually began our exploration of Fort Steele Sunday evening, by taking the 10-minute walk to the Fort Steele cemetery (during a brief break in the rain) from the Fort Steele Resort and RV Park where we camped. Cemeteries can often tell a lot about a community.

Fort Steele cemetery entrance
The only early headstones we found were those of members of the North West Mounted Police. In 1887, during construction of Kootenay Post, 4 members died of typhoid fever, and their deaths are all marked by this single headstone. They were Cst. Henry Owen Lasmby (died Sept. 22, 22 years old), Cst. James Mason (died Oct. 20, 24 years old), Cst. Abraham Warner Fisher (died Oct. 25, 27 years old), and Cst. Herbert Mitchell (died Dec. 16, 23 years old). A large red granite hadstone marks the death of Cpl. Duncan Roderick MacNair, who shot himself while delirious from fever at nearby Wardner, on April 27th, 1898 – he was 23 years old.

Fort Steele cemetery, BC
A few other early graves offered the potential for information, but we could see no markers.

Fort Steele cemetery, BC
A very large number of graves are simply marked “Unknown”. My guess is that the records have been lost or destroyed, perhaps in a 1906 fire that destroyed much of Fort Steele’s remaining commercial district.

Fort Steele cemetery, BC
While our search for early information at the cemetery wasn’t very productive, the police memorials offer a glimpse at how hard life was, and some of the newer graves have wonderfully creative folk art as part of the memorial, a hint about some of the people who live in the area now.

Fort Steele cemetery, BC
Cuddling with Dad while he writes is the favoured spot of the kids in the morning, but on Monday morning, Bella wanted the chair instead of being at my feet, and forced me off the seat! Well yes, of course I could have kicked one of them off, but they looked so sweet… πŸ™‚

My dogs Bella and Tucker sleeping in the RV
The continuing rain dampened our spirits a bit, but we had packed up and were at the historic site half an hour after its 09:00 opening. I had made a brief visit to the site in about 1970, and this was Cathy’s first visit.

Entrance to Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The railway part of the site, the first part you come to as you drive in off Highway 93/95, doesn’t open until the Father’s Day weekend – Saturday, June 18 this year – but it looked like they have some very interesting equipment, such as this underground coal-mining locomotive, powered by compressed air, and some of the cars it pulled.

Underground mining locomotive and cars at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The entrance to the town is through a building modelled after the Fort Steele Brewery which once stood across the river in Westport.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
For $1, a copy of “The Boom and Bust of Fort Steele” was a great deal. I actually didn’t use it during our visit as interpretive signs (and interpreters) are plentiful, but it’s sure handy to put together this post.

Tour book 'The Boom and Bust of Fort Steele' at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Kootenay Post was established by North West Mounted Police (NWMP) Superintendent Samuel B. “Sam” Steele in the summer of 1887 as the first North West Mounted Police post west of the Rockies. Steele and 75 men were sent to the area to resolve a dispute between the local Ktunaxa tribe and European settlers, and the fort was strategically located on a bluff overlooking the Kootenay River. It was, however, not on this site but on the opposite side of the highway – the Officers’ Quarters building was moved here in 1964, and the other are replicas.

NWMP Kootenay Post - Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The “bastion” seen in this photo is a replica of a water tower that was built during Fort Steele’s heyday in 1897 – it held 17,000 gallons of water, but the replica is a viewing tower.

Water tower at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
This is the Officers’ Quarters, the only building with the original logs.

NWMP Kootenay Post - Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
This is what Sam Steele’s room would have looked like in 1887-88. The buildings were constructed of yellow pine – about 1,400 logs were cut and hauled – with saddle-notched corners, floored with common lumber, roofed with shakes, and chinked with mud and grass.

Sam Steele's room at the NWMP's Kootenay Post - Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
A school group had slept overnight on straw mattresses in the barracks, and it was fun to see them all in period costumes around the post.

Children in period costume at the NWMP's Kootenay Post - Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Climbing the water tower gives a good view of Kootenay Post…

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
… and some of the downtown area.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
In 1970, several Clydesdale draft horses were transferred to Fort Steele from the Oakalla prison where they’d been used in a rehabilitation program. The horses and now one of the most popular attractions at Fort Steele – they’re used mostly for hauling visitors around the site in a wagon.

Clydesdale horse at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Geary & Doyle’s Livery Stable, dating to about 1900, was one of several at Fort Steele. There were originally corrals, a bunkhouse, and after 1907, George Geary’s house. Like many others, this stable was eventually converted into a garage for automobiles.

Geary & Doyle's Livery Stable at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
We spent some time talking to the leatherworker/interpreter at Jack Corrigan’s Harness Shop, and it was interesting to see some of the tools used. Everybody on site is an employee of the park – there used to be some contractors (such as the photo parlour), but everybody works directly for the park now.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Many items are made at Fort Steele, from bread to knives and wool slippers, and sales of them help support the park.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Blacksmiths always intrigue me, and we spent some time watching and talking to the metal-artist at Bar & Comb’s Blacksmith Shop, one of several that were in the community.

Blacksmith at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
A recent creation of the current blacksmith was this unique knife.

A hand-crafted knife at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The 27-room Windsor Hotel was built as the Dalgardno Hotel over the winter of 1893-94, and was re-named the Windsor in 1899. It was one of 7 hotels during the boom years, and originally had a 40×60-foot annex which has been demolished.

Windsor Hotel Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Baby slippers and wool from the town’s sheep.

Baby slippers and wool from the sheep at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The Carlin & Durick General Store is packed with period items of every sort, as it would have been when it was in operation. In 1898, the town newspaper, The Prospector, said that it was “one of the most prominent and successful business enterprises in the interior of British Columbia”. One of the signs talks about their efforts to encourage “conspicuous consumption” of their goods.

The Carlin & Durick General Store in Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The variety of goods in the store can keep some visitors browsing the shelves for quite a while.

The Carlin & Durick General Store in Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Some of the canned goods available at the store.

The Carlin & Durick General Store in Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The Government Building was built in 1897 to house the courthouse and jail as well as the offices of the Gold Commissioner, Mining Recorder, Registrar, and the officials.

The Government Building at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Going right back to Fort Steele’s beginning, John Galbraith built this little office/residence for his ferry operation across the Kootenay River in 1864, for people heading to the goldfields of Wild Horse Creek. The little community that grew up around it became known as Galbraith’s Ferry, and in 1888, it was renamed Fort Steele.

John Galbraith's ferry office at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Early dentist’s offices had some similarities to torture chambers according to some reports πŸ™‚ The machine on the left was a foot-powered drill. This “dental foot engine” was invented in 1871, apparently inspired by Singer’s sewing machines.

Dentist office at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Show globes were used from the 17th Century until the 1950s to show that a store was a pharmacy. In the 1950s, the mortar and pestle took over their role.

Show globes at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
I love old printing presses, and the offices of The Prospector newspaper have some beauties. The newspaper was started by journalist A. B. Grace in 1895

Printing presses in Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The City Bakery had been our goal for a mid-tour treat of coffee and a pastry. The original bakery was beyond restoration, and this is a reproduction.

City Bakery at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The cinnamon buns that came out of these ovens shortly before we arrived were delicious, and we also bought a loaf of sourdough wheat bread ($2.50 for a day-old one – it made fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches in the motorhome after the tour).

Bakery oven at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The schoolhouse doesn’t look very different than the 2-room, 8-grade one I went to starting in 1956, but it’s a whole new world from my grand-daughters’ high school whose Open House Cathy and I went to when we reached Airdrie. Over 70 students were crammed into this room at times, and the teacher, Miss Adelaide Bailey, made $70 per month. Built in 1898, this was the town’s second schoolhouse.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The McVittie House and land surveying office, built by Thomas Thane McVittie, is particularly interesting because much of the restoration work has done and/or paid for by volunteer surveyors, and the work is of a notably high quality. A very difficult series of moves brought the fragile buildings across the highway to the main townsite in 1994. The restored buildings were just opened in July 2015.

McVittie House and land surveying office at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
Mr. McVittie extensively rebuilt and enlarged his cabin in anticipation of his 1899 marriage, and the drawing room is a good indication of his status in the community.

McVittie House at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
McVittie’s office is well equipped with the tools of the trade, such as the pantograph on the table at left front. It was used to replicate maps and other drawings, and could even enlarge or reduce the original.

McVittie land surveying office at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The Perry Creek water wheel was originally located about 25 miles west of Fort Steele, where it was used to pump water from mine tunnels up to 150 feet deep. Built in 1934, it is 32 feet in diameter, 7 feet wide, and could produce 68 horsepower to drive 2 pumps. The water pumped from the tunnels was used to wash the gold-bearing gravels brought up from. The wheel was successful, but the mine only operated for another 2 years.

Perry Creek water wheel at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
A pair of Clydesdales take visitors past the assay office, schoolhouse, and St. Anthony’s Catholic church.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The Presbyterian church was built in 1898 – prior to that time, services were held in the schoolhouse or opera house.

Presbyterian church at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
As well as sheep and the Clydesdales, there is other livestock such as this impressive turkey, who was strutting his stuff for a hen who was pretending to not be interested.

Turkey at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
I didn’t know that Canada has a National Poultry Breed. This is the Chantecler chicken, created in Quebec in n 1919 by monk M. Wilfred Chatelaine. Intended as a “dual-purpose” bird (good eggs and meat) that is resistant to cold, the breed was officially recognized in 1921.

Chantecler chicken at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The Opera House Coventry was built in 1897 – probably the most famous entertainer to perform here was Pauline Johnson. The upper floor of the building was used by the Freemasons, and the Kootenay Club, a fashionable men’s club.

The Opera House Coventry at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
While over 60 buildings have been restored at Fort Steele, a handful are beyond restoration and are being left to deteriorate, including Johnson’s Blacksmith Shop.

Johnson's Blacksmith Shop at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The lower floor of the reproduced Wasa Hotel is the main museum on the site. The upper floor apparently continues the story in more detail, but wasn’t open during our visit.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
The vicarage for St. John the Divine Anglican church is a lovely little Victorian cottage that was built over the winter of 1898-99 after the arrival of the Reverend Charles A. Procunier.

The vicarage for St. John the Divine Anglican church at Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
This Federal truck, among other trucks including REO, Fagel, White, Leyland, etc., was used to haul logs in the 1920s.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
It’s believed that this beautifully-crafted log home was built on spec by Nils Hanson during the 1897-1900 building boom. In June 1897, the newspaper reported that 40 buildings were under construction, and that number could be tripled if enough lumber were available. Scandinavians were well known for their skill with log buildings, and the quality of the construction of this home contrasts sharply with other log buildings including those in the NWMP post.

Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC
A look at Highway 93/95 crossing the Kootenay River, seen from the Fort Steele townsite. We finished our look at Fort Steele at about 3:00, and after a late lunch – grilled cheese sandwiches made from the sourdough wheat bread we bought at the Fort Steele Bakery – we crossed that bridge en route to Sparwood at about 4:00 pm.

A look at Highway 93/95 crossing the Kootenay River below the Fort Steele Heritage Town, BC

The Crowsnest Highway from Osoyoos to Fort Steele

Neither of our overnight locations as we drove the Crowsnest to Fort Steele on Days 28 and 29 were the ones I’d planned on, and the weather was mostly awful, but it was still a beautiful drive.

On Day 28 – Saturday, May 21st, we only drove 160 km to a rest area north of Christina Lake, then on Sunday we went 283 km to Fort Steele. Clck on the map below to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Osoyoos to Fort Steele, BC

Saturday started off cold (8°C/46°F), windy, and wet.

Stormy morning at Osoyoos, BC
Campgrounds in BC look very different than the ones in the Yukon that we’ve been to. All manner of recreation vehicles and equipment are seen in BC, with the full range, from a Class A motorhome to tents, visible out our front window at Nk’mip Campground.

Right at the 11:00 checkout time, we said good-bye to Nk’mip. While we enjoyed the campground, we didn’t have a good overall experience there. A guy who camped beside us had been bitten – he showed us the significant bite marks – by a dog at the first site he set up in, then the next day, Tucker was attacked by other loose dogs. It really upsets me that dogs/owners like that make all of us with dogs suspect.

Nk'mip Campground
I spent quite a while at the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad during my last visit to Osoyoos, but Cathy hadn’t seen it yet, so we went over there before leaving town.

Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad
The railway layout has 45 trains, more than 1,900 houses and over 19,000 hand-painted people, and the imagination shown in the scenes is wonderful – such as these cops who have stopped a couple of street racers.

Cops with street racers in the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad display
This nude beach scene has resulted in a couple of people giving the railway a poor review at TripAdvisor – pretty sad.

Nude beach in the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad display
Following the railway visit, we did a bit of shopping, and it was after 2:30 when we finally hooked the Tracker back up to the RV and pulled away from Osoyoos. Highway 3 East immediately starts climbing Anarchist Mountain, and it’s rumoured to be the longest continuous hill in Canada – 12 km of 6-8% grades, with some incredible views. There’s no way to pull the motorhome over for photos along the climb, so we continued on to a rest area near the summit, disconnected the Tracker, and drove back down to get some photos.

Highway 3 on Anarchist Mountain near Osoyoos
Osoyoos is at the right centre of this photo, and the sandspit that is Haynes Point Provincial Park sticks far out into Osoyoos Lake.

Highway 3 on Anarchist Mountain near Osoyoos
The mining history of Greenwood and the surrounding area has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, but a combination of time and awful weather made our visit quite short this time.

Historic fire hall in Greenwood, BC
Very few of the substantial town’s original buildings remain, but some of the commercial and governmental survivors give a hint as to how affluent a community it was. For the serious explorer, roads wander all over the surrounding mountains to old mining camps and ghost towns such as Phoenix. Next time…

Greenwood, BC
Places like Greenwood are the place to find characters whose self-expression finds outlets such as “My Udder Store”. The sign to the left says: “This little city is like Heaven to us… Please don’t drive like Hell through it”.

My Udder Store in Greenwood, BC
My draft plan had been to overnight in Christina Lake, and as we arrived we decided to check out the provincial park at the north end of the lake. A narrow, winding 5-km road took us to a campground with no available spaces, though. Back to the highway, we went another 10 km or so to the McRae Creek Rest Area, though, and it was nicer than the campground, had all the facilities we needed (none, but outhouses are nice), and was free instead of costing $27. Yes, $27 for a basic provincial park campground – that’s the highest I’ve seen yet.

McRae Creek Rest Area on BC Highway 3
We were away from the rest area just after 09:00 on Sunday, and an hour later stopped at the Visitor Centre in Castlegar (which was closed), unhooked the Tracker, and went exploring, with 3 historic sites the main targets.

Visitor Centre in Castlegar, BC
Our first stop was at the CPR Station Museum which was – you guessed it – closed. There was enough to see outside to make the visit worthwhile, though.

CPR Station Museum in Castlegar, BC
We read that Millenium Park with its 3 wading ponds beside the Columbia River was a must-see, so went there next. It’s very nice, and would be even nicer when the pools are full, but it’s not a must-see by any means. The amount of Canada goose poop on the soccer fields grossed me out – I can’t imagine playing there.

Millenium Park in Castlegar, BC
The historic CPR bridge across the Columbia River was next on the list. It was built in 1902 to link the lines of the Columbia and Kootenay Railway, and the Columbia and Western Railway – prior to the bridge’s construction, the railways had worked together using a barge.

The historic CPR bridge in Castlegar, BC
When we drove down to the river to get a better look at the railway bridge, I was surprised to see wheels on top of one of the stone support columns. It was quickly apparent that the two spans on the north side of the river used to be able to swing open to allow steamboats to pass.

The historic CPR bridge in Castlegar, BC
The highway bridge we came across the Columbia on, the Robson-Castlegar Bridge, was dedicated to the people of Castlegar and Robson by The Honourable Mike Harcourt, Premier of British Columbia, on July 23, 1994.

Robson-Castlegar Bridge
Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park was a surprise that we came to by following confusing GPS directions. The impressive suspension bridge was all we saw – the wonderful Chapel House built by Alexander Zuckerberg will have to wait for another trip. An Estonian immigrant, he trained in Czarist Russia as a civil engineer, and was a self-taught cabinetmaker and sculptor. He moved to the island in about 1931 with his wife Alicia, and they lived there for about 30 years while he taught local Doukbohour children.

Zuckerberg Island suspension bridge in Castlegar, BC
Crossing the river again, we found the suspension bridge I was actually looking for, and while looking for an access road to it, came across the Brilliant Dam (named for the nearest community). It was a World War II project on the Kootenay River to supply power for The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada (later Cominco). It was engineering by the West Kootenay Power & Light Company, and construction began in January 1941, with 60% of the workforce composed of Doukhobour men who had been exempted from military service by the pacifist religious beliefs. The dam is 42.6 metres high, with a head of 28 metres, and 8 sluice gates. It originally produced 129 MW of power (starting in June 1944), but upgrades have increased that to 265 MW now.

Brilliant Dam, BC
On the drive back towards the suspension bridge I wanted to see, I stopped at this tourism billboard to see if I could figure out the access. It’s shown just below the dam at the top centre of this photo.

Tourism map of the Castlegar area
The GPS kept pretending that she knew where we wanted to go, but she really had no idea. But, I found the road, which starts about a mile from from the bridge and goes through the community of Brilliant. The Brilliant Suspension Bridge, built in 1913 by about 100 Doukhobour volunteers, was definitely worth searching for, though. The bridge was declared a National Historic Site in 1995, and after an extensive restoration, it was re-opened in 2010, the main attraction of the new Brilliant Bridge Regional Park.

Brilliant suspension bridge
The Brilliant Suspension Bridge in the 1940s.

The Brilliant Suspension Bridge in the 1940s
Beside and towering over the suspension bridge is an arch bridge that was built in 1966 to replace the old bridge, which was to have been torn down. That demolition was luckily halted by protests by people from across the country.

Brilliant arch bridge
Interpretation in the park is extremely good, including this structural comparison of the suspension and arch bridges seen side by side here.

structural comparison of the suspension and arch bridges, at Brilliant Bridge Regional Park, BC
Looking up the Kootenay River from the suspension bridge to the Brilliant Dam.

Looking up the Kootenay River from the suspension bridge to the Brilliant Dam
I had really been looking forward to showing Cathy the spectacular Salmo-Creston Skyway section of Highway 3 once we got back on the road just after 1:00 pm, but the weather turned really nasty and we saw pretty much nothing. We hit snow near Kootenay Pass, where I stopped to take this photo. The pass, at an elevation of 1,775 meters (5,823 feet), is one of the highest highway passes in Canada that is open year-round.

Kootenay Pass, on BC Highway 3, the Crowsnest
Even near the bottom of the hill, where we stopped to make a very short walk with a couple of insistent dogs, the weather was dismal. Having my new windshields leaking badly didn’t help my mood at all – I had asked about getting it fixed in West Kelowna but the shop was booked up for a few days. I’m not nearly finished with All-West Glass in Whitehorse over this incompetent $4,000 installation. Grrrr….

Torrential rain on the Salmo-Creston Highway
I had planned to overnight at Moyie Lake Park, but we decided to continue on to Fort Steele, where the
Fort Steele Resort and RV Park
gets very good reviews. And we agree – fairly large sites on a beautiful piece of property, almost across the highway from the historic village we came to visit.

The emu on the farm next door to the RV were quite funny. They seemed to come down the hill to the fence to visit – or perhaps just to make Bella and Tucker crazy! πŸ™‚

Emu at Fort Steele, BC

The rain stopped just long enough for us to take a long walk up to the Fort Steele cemetery (which I’ll tell you about in the next post, which will mostly be about Fort Steele), then it went back to raining hard all night, requiring a bucket under the worst of the windshield leaks.

Two Days in Osoyoos, BC

After spending a week at Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna following Cathy’s arrival from Whitehorse, our first day on the road with the whole family back together was a very short one, just 142 km to Osoyoos. This was Day 26 of the trip – Thursday, May 19th. I had decided to stay at the full-hookup Nk’mip Campground (that’s pronounced “Ink-a-meep”) on the eastern shore of Lake Osoyoos for 2 nights.

This was Tucker’s first day travelling in the motorhome with Cathy, and he very quickly discovered the best seat in the house. He really is happiest as a lap dog πŸ™‚

Cathy with our little dog Tucker on her lap in the RV
I had a look at the campground when I was in Osoyoos in April, and when I called to reserve a site they said that they’d try to get me a lakeshore site. Site #82 was perfect for our needs, and by 2:00 we were settled. With full hookups, it cost $102.90 for the 2 nights, including taxes. Wifi through an outside service was $4.95 per day – it was quite fast the first day when the park was half empty, much slower when it filled up but still not too bad.

Lakeshore site #82 at Nk'mip Campground in Osoyoos, BC
Lots of cactus have been used in the landscaping around the property – very nice.

Cactus at Nk'mip Campground in Osoyoos, BC
We hadn’t gone to any wineries during our stay in Kelowna, and we weren’t going to let that happen again! One of the suggestions made by my Facebook friends was La Stella, and that was our first destination. Turning off the highway towards their vineyard, an immediate photo-stop was called for.

The Okanagan Valley near La Stella Winery
The experience at La Stella was excellent in every way – the building and location were both beautiful, the wines were all wonderful, and the sommelier was very knowledgeable.

La Stella winery, Osoyoos
The view to the northeast from the deck at La Stella, over part of the production facilities, and the vineyards.

Wine barrels and vineyards at La Stella, Osoyoos, BC
The view to the southeast from the deck at La Stella.

Vineyards at La Stella, Osoyoos, BC

Our next stop was at the Bordertown winery on the highway at the edge of downtown. While Cathy and I both enjoyed the reds we sampled, none the whites were particularly good.

We were back at the campground by about 4:15, and had planned to spend some quality time with one of the bottles of 2015 Vivace, a Pinot Grigio that we bought at La Stella, but a nasty storm blew in just as we were getting settled, so we had to move inside.

Vineyards at La Stella, Osoyoos, BC
I thought that the storm would blow through quickly, but instead it settled in, and with the occasional break, this was pretty much the view for the rest of the day.

Rain on the RV window at Osoyoos, BC
There was lots of action at the campground to keep Tucker interested. He’s learned that barking isn’t acceptable in our family, but is always nattering away at people and dogs in particular, with quiet little growls and barks. After being pretty much mute her whole life because Monty was, Bella has now found her voice over the past few weeks, and it’s quite a shock to hear her.

Our little dog Tucker looking out the RV window at Osoyoos, BC
The weather forecast on Friday morning didn’t look too promising – not at all what we’d expected from Canada’s only desert.

Weather at Osoyoos, BC
By 08:00, though, the view across Lake Osoyoos from the campsite was lovely.

The view across Lake Osoyoos from Nk'mik Campground
Nk’mik Campground has a fenced dog beach, but when we walked nearly a kilometer to the north end of the property to run Bella and Tucker, we found that high water levels had covered the beach completely, right up into the heavy brush along the edge. So the next destination was the leash-free park beside the secondary school. It was an excellent facility – formerly a ball diamond – and Bella had a lot of fun. Tucker got picked on by a couple of dobermans who thought that he was a steeplechase rabbit as well as another large dog, so his experience wasn’t very positive.

The leash-free dog park at Osoyoos, BC
From there, we drove to Haynes Point Provincial Park, which has a dog swimming beach. Neither of the kids were interested in getting wet, but it was a lovely spot to go for a long walk and watch some ducks.

A duck with her babies
Haynes Point Provincial Park is a very narrow sandspit that goes across most of the lake. When the campground at the end is full (which I expect is most of the time), RV parking is allowed along a section of the access road – probably long enough for 40-50 rigs.

Haynes Point Provincial Park, BC
We had a winery lunch date in Oliver with one of my friends from high school. On the way, we detoured off the highway to see what turned out to be Burrowing Owl winery. The road, Black Sage Road, was a superb detour high above the highway.

Black Sage Road south of Oliver, BC
The number of wineries in the Oliver area is amazing – this signpost is along Black Sage Road

Wineries signpost along Black Sage Road, Oliver, BC
There were a few cyclists along Black Sage Road, and we can certainly see why – a wandering road with spectacular scenery and a long list of wineries.

Black Sage Road cycling route, south of Oliver, BC
Our lunch date was at the Miradoro restaurant, located at the Tinhorn Creek winery, which must rank very high on the list of wineries with the most spectacular views in BC.

Tinhorn Creek winery
Cathy, Peg, and Bob at our table – the glass wall with the ground a loooong way below was more than Cathy could handle, so I got the best view πŸ™‚

Enjoying lunch at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
I chose the beef and pork meatballs on focaccia, with parmesan, confit garlic aioli & arugula ($18), and we shared a bottle of Tinhorn Creek’s award-winning 2013 Cabernet Franc.

Enjoying lunch at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
A photo from our table as we started to leave at 2:10. It was an absolutely superb lunch in every way, and the 2+ hours passed very quickly.

The view from
That evening, I went for a long walk by myself, to get some photos of snake signs. The first was up at the north end of the campground, which is the area for boat-owner RVers, with a launch, and boat/trailer storage. Throughout Nk’mik, there are many sites with long-term tenants.

Rattle Snake Territory! Cool πŸ™‚ It’s been many, many years since I’d seen any snake, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rattlesnake.

A couple of minutes later – snake! I thought that it might be a baby rattler, as it was only about 20 inches long and had no rattle, but posting a couple of photo on Facebook got the response that it was a Great Basin Gopher Snake (commonly called a Bull Snake). It was a great addition to the walk anyway.

All afternoon, RVs had been lined up at the campground office to check in for the long weekend (Victoria Day), and at 5:40 they were still coming.

RVs checking in to Nk'mip Campground at Osoyoos, BC
I had noticed some steel sculptures in a garden at the entrance to the campground, and went to have a look at them all.

This is the other snake sign I wanted a photo of, on the exit road. Cathy’s response to it was “like hell I’m slowing down!” πŸ™‚

The next day, we’d be heading east towards the Fort Steele Historic Village, possibly overnighting at Christina Lake, though that didn’t work out.

A Week at Bear Creek Provincial Park, West Kelowna

Cathy and I both thought that spending a week at Bear Creek Provincial Park might be a bit too long, but it turned out that it was nowhere near long enough. We did very little touring and didn’t even make it to any wineries (!). We drove to Summerland to ride the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, but despite the Web site stating that it was open on Mondays in May and June, it’s not open for the first 3 weeks of May. But it was an excellent week of family time, including a particularly good afternoon with my 93-year-old Dad.

Each of the 122 campsites in the Bear Creek campground is large, and most have a good degree of privacy. Ours, #116 in the furthest-south of the park’s 3 loops, backed onto a grassy area about 100×200 feet in size. I picked it partially because it was the furthest from the kids’ play area in the park.

Campsite in Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, BC
The campground is rather spendy at $35 per night with no hookups, but the level of maintenance in the park is very high, there’s no charge for showers, and the location for our needs was perfect, only 20 minutes from my Dad.

Washroom in Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, BC
There are wild roses everywhere in our part of the park, and the smell was wonderful.

Wild rose in Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, BC
A bridge crosses Bear Creek to reach our campsite, and the creek was always part of our dog walking routes. The flow is quite heavy as it’s still Spring runoff.

Bear Creek, in Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, BC
The park is quite small at only 178 hectares (440 acres), but 5 km (3.1 mi) of trails offer wonderful energetic hiking around Bear Creek’s dramatic canyon. A wildfire burned the trees on the southern part of the trail network in 2011.

Walking dogs in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
During the week, we walked most of the trail network, from the high, hot, great-view sections to the cool forest section along the creek. Poor Tucker, perhaps still nervous from the bear attack at Tumbler Ridge, was certain that a rock in the creek was dangerous. Unable to convince him to come down to check it out, I finally picked him up and took him down to it πŸ™‚

Foot bridge across Bear Creek in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
There are map-signs at several points in the network, and it would be all but impossible to get lost for more than a few minutes.

Map sign along a hiking trail in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
The views into the canyon, and particularly of the main waterfall, are very impressive. There are 5 viewpoints with very secure fences to allow safe viewing.

Waterfall in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
Downtown Kelowna is very close – the campground is only 7 km (4.4 m) off the main highway running through West Kelowna and across Okanagan Lake to Kelowna.

Kelowna from the hiking trails in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
The kids had a ball on these trails – there were just enough other people, many of them with dogs, to be great socialization for them without it ever feeling “busy”.

Walking dogs on a hiking trail in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
At the southern edge of the campground, active log booming is still going on to feed the Tolko sawmill across Okanagan Lake at the edge of downtown Kelowna. This is the view of the booms from one of the trails.

Logs booms adjacent to Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
A couple more views from the canyon from viewpoints along the southern rim.

Bear Creek canyon, Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC

Bear Creek canyon, Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
I only saw these flowers in one tiny patch along the canyon rim.

Flowers in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
As much time as we spent on the trails, I could have spent a lot more – they really are wonderful, as we all needed the exercise.

Murray with his dogs in Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
The lakeshore on both sides of the park is getting more expensive homes all the time – homes running into the tens of millions of dollars now.

Homes along Okanagan Lake
I arrived at Bear Creek on May 12th, and Cathy flew in from Whitehorse on Saturday the 14th. That weekend, the campground was completely full, and many of the sites had large groups in them. We rather expected that it would get noisy, but it never did. Being an hour or less from the homes of more than 100,000 people, this is one of the busier campgrounds in the province.

Full campground at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
While the dogs worked off some energy with Cathy and I, Molly was loving her sunny window on the world πŸ™‚

Molly the cat in the RV window
Once the weekend was over, the beach was quiet again – we never did go there when more than 2 people were on it.

The beach at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
The day use area is lovely.

Day use area at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
Looking across the lake at some of the huge homes – some of the funiculars alone must have cost a small fortune.

Huge homes along Okanagan Lake, BC
There aren’t a huge number of Canada geese, but they sure make a mess of the lawns. It makes a dog mess look pretty small in comparison – I expect that some kids come back to their RV rather messy! And both Bella and Tucker got a bit sick from eating it – yuuuum!

Canada geese at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
As each campsite was vacated, each was raked – I’ve never seen that done in a provincial park before.

Raking a campsite at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
Final preparations were being made for the summer season, including painting all the lines in the larghe day use parking lots, and road markings.

Day use parking lot at Bear Creek Provincial Park, BC
Once the weekend crowd left, my sister and her husband who live about 20 miles away moved their new trailer in to a site behind us for a couple of nights, with their 2 dogs. That turned out to be a wonderful way to get the family together.

It’s always fun watching Tucker and Bella playing, especially when he lays on top of her to do it πŸ™‚

Dogs playing in an RV
For me, the best part of the week was bringing Dad out for an afternoon, with dinner and wine. I really wanted him to see what The Good Life looks like for 2 of his kids and their spouses, and it was perfect.

We had played on going to a leash-free dog beach in West Kelowna a few times, but it turned out that we only got there once.

leash-free dog beach in West Kelowna
The kids had a blast, with several dogs to play with, although every dog wanted the squeaky balls that we brought for Bella and Tucker.

leash-free dog beach in West Kelowna

On our last night, we met a friend from Whitehorse who’s in the midst of a lengthy process of moving to West Kelowna. A wine-paired dinner at The Cove, followed by a visit at his beautiful home, was a great way to end our Kelowna week. On Mazy 19th, we’d move to Osoyoos, in the South Okanagan, for a couple of days.

A Short Drive from Hedley to West Kelowna

Day 19 of the trip – Thursday, May 12th – was a very easy driving day, just 138 km (86 mi) from Stemwinder Provincial Park near Hedley to Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna.

The drive is very scenic, on Highways 3, 3A, and 97 – click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map - Stemwinder Provincial Park near Hedley to Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, BC
I love our mornings, just starting the day out slowly with Bella, Tucker, and Molly all within a few feet, and all very happy with what’s going on.

My sheltie cross Bella sleeping on the RV couch
Stemwinder Provincial Park was a good choice to overnight in – it’s lovely, and quiet. Any highway noise (and there’s not much of that) is drowned out by the Similkameen River right below the campsite.

Similkameen River at Stemwinder Provincial Park
It’s great for dogs, too – walking around the campsite and along the river is very pleasant.

Walking the dogs in Stemwinder Provincial Park
A logging road meets the highway at Stemwinder, but I only saw 2 trucks all the time we were there.

Logging truck at Stemwinder Provincial Park, BC
I thought that I might stop for a look around Keremeos, but saw no place to park to make that possible so turned off Highway 3 onto 3A, and continued on.

BC Highway 3A north of Keremeos
We stopped for a little while along Highway 3A at Yellow Lake. It seems to be quite popular with fisherfolk, and a local fishing club has built a very nice dock at the large pullout where we stopped.

Yellow Lake, BC
Just north of Keremeos, I saw a sign on a ranch driveway: “No To The National Park”. This is a reaction to a proposal to create South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park in the area. Both the “yes” side (at, the previous link), and the no side, at are quite vocal – it will be interesting to see where this goes.

South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park?
There are some wonderful views along 3A, and traffic was very light.

We reached Bear Creek Provincial Park at about 1:00 pm, and found a nice campsite in the southern-most loop (site #116). The office wasn’t open for the season yet, but I found a park attendant to pay $245 for the 7 nights I planned. We’d be leaving on May 19th, and she warned me that there could be no extension, as the park was completely booked up on the 19th (when the reservation system starts for the season) and beyond.

Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna

The next week in West Kelowna would be all about family.

Driving the Hope-Princeton Highway, Hope to Hedley

The parking lot at the Hope Slide was a great place to overnight, although there was some noise from the truck brake check stop below us.

As Day 18, Wednesday, May 11th, began, this was the view from the little window straight ahead of me at the table I write at, at 07:30. This is country I know very well from my 40 years living in the Fraser Valley, and it felt really good to be back with time to relax and enjoy it.

The view at the Hope Slide, BC
This historic site was a big deal when I was young, and I noted that there’s not even a sign saying that it’s ahead, so I can’t imagine many people stop at it anymore. And it’s a big deal in BC history: “ENGINEER’S ROAD – A Wagon Road Across B.C. – This was the ambitious scheme of the Royal Engineers in the 1860’s as miners clamoured for better access to the Southern Interior. Sent from England, these military engineers replaced the first 256 miles of the Dewdney Trail with a wagon road. Their work halted when attention shifted to the gold-rich Cariboo.” This was probably one of the first of these heritage slides to be installed, in 1958, I believe. I walked up the old road a couple of hundred yards until it petered out in the forest. A hiking trail does use 32 km of the Dewdney Trail in this area, though.

Engineer's Road heritage sign on the Hope-Princeton Highway
I thought that we might spend some time in Manning Park. But we’d not be getting any help to do that.

Manning Park Visitor Information - closed
Okay, I’ll take the Tracker up to an exceptional viewpoint in the alpine meadows several km off in the mountains. Or not. I did think seriously about driving through the ditch and around the gate, but it’s very visible, right across from the lodge, which is open.

Manning Park alpine meadows - closed
I took Bella and Tucker for a walk at the Beaver Pond Trail, but it wasn’t very good. I chatted briefly there with a couple who had come from Holland and rented an RV – they were both surprised and unhappy to find so many things closed.

Beaver Pond Trail at Manning Park
At about 11:30, a few minutes before reaching this construction near Sunday Summit, I had barely missed a deer, by braking hard. The oncoming Jeep hit her hard. I didn’t stop. My cupboard re-organization and rebuilds worked – nothing fell out this time. This major highway rebuild project is going to get rid of the worst hills and tight corners on about 10 km of what has always been a very bad stretch of road.

Construction on Highway 3 near Sunday Summit

I stopped in Princeton for a burger at Billy’s Family Restaurant – good food at good prices with very friendly staff. Just what I needed.

One of the possible overnight stops was Bromley Rock Provincial Park. We got there at 1:45, went for a walk, then unhooked the Tracker to go exploring further.

Bromley Rock Provincial Park, BC
The park is really lovely, and in the summer the sandy beach, and the large rock to jump into a deep pool in the Similkameen River from, make it very popular. The Campground was okay, but the highway noise was bad.

Bromley Rock Provincial Park
The old mining town of Hedley, where I’ve spent many, many days exploring the hills. The heritage site sign says: “Hedley, Famous For Gold. Nestled between Stemwinder and Nickel Plate Mountains, the historic gold mining town of Hedley sprang up shortly after the yellow precious metal was discovered here in 1897. The town was named after Robert R. Hedley, mining engineer. Both the mountain top Hedley Mascot and Nickel Plate mines extracted millions worth of gold, silver and copper before finally closing in the 1950s after the ore body was exhausted. Today tourism brings new life to the town famous for gold.”

Hedley, BC
Perched on the mountain high about the town, the Hedley Mascot Mine. I had a slim hope that the tours that are heavily advertised would be open, but no luck. I heard later that they won’t be opening until Canada Day (July 1st) this year, instead of Victoria Day (May 24th) – the operation loses money, and a smaller government grant has limited their opening period this year.

Hedley Mascot Mine
The old Hedley School is now the Snaza’ist Discovery Centre, a Native centre operated by the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, with a museum and the mine tours.

Snaza'ist Discovery Centre in Hedely, BC
St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church is one of the most photogenic in BC. Ii was built about 1910-11 in the village of Chuchuwayha, just east of Hedley. Hedley was actually built in the middle of the Chuchuwayha Indian Reserve.

St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church at Chuchuwayha, BC
I’ve been up the spectacular Nickel Plate Road many times over the years, this looked like a good day for another look. The road is suitable for any vehicle, and any driver with good nerves πŸ™‚ We didn’t start up unti 2:45, so not much time was available for exploring.

Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
An aerial perspective on St. Ann’s.

St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church at Chuchuwayha (Hedley), BC
Starting into a small old mining area, with drill holes visible all along the cliffs.

Old mining area along the Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
Higher and higher.

St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church at Chuchuwayha (Hedley), BC
This is the classic Nickel Plate Road photo location – photos like this have been featured in countless publications. This is at about Km 6 from the highway.

Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
The photo location above, in the current Similkameen Valley Travel Experiences Guide.

Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
These slopes used to be full of cows and marmots – today, flowers took their place.

Flowers along the Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
I keep seeing badger crossing signs in BC, but have never in my life seen a badger.

Badger crossing sign on the Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
This huge tailings pond is new since my last visit, I think. That would make my last visit a very long time ago. This is at about Km 11 from the highway.

Tailings pond on the Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
Tucker was enjoying himself, but Bella would rather be laying in something soft that didn’t move.

Tucker, my little adventure dog
All of a sudden there was a mine waste pile towering over 200 feet above the road.

Mine waste rock towering over the Nickel Plate Road at Hedley, BC
Barrick Gold’s Nickel Plate Mine, the latest of the mines by that name, closed a few years ago.

Barrick Gold's Nickel Plate Mine
Heading back down, looking down the Similkameen River valley, at 3:45.

Looking down the Similkameen River valley from the Nickel Plate Road
I’d been trying to remember where the little road that leads to the Hedley Mascot Mine was – I think this is it.

the little road that leads to the Hedley Mascot Mine
By the time I reached this point, looking up the Similkameen River valley with Hedley directly below, I was sure that this was the right road, but there was really no time to continue.

Looking up the Similkameen River valley with Hedley directly below
Back in Hedley. I remember when there was a large mine building on those concrete foundations – it burned, probably in the early 1970s.

Mine ruins in Hedley, BC
I went back to Bromley Rock, hooked the Tracker up to the motorhome, and moved to Stemwinder Provincial Park, where I got a site with this view out the window. I had stopped at an RV park, but a Good Sam group was there and it was very crowded – for $13 less, this was much better. While there was no cell service at Bromley Rock, there was a connection here. Barely, but enough to talk to Cathy for a few minutes before the call got dropped.

Stemwinder Provincial Park

The next day would just be a short run of 138 km to Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna. I’d be there for 7 nights, and Cathy would join us.

A Short Drive, Chilliwack to the Hope Slide

After 3 nights and a couple of days camped at the Cottonwood Meadows RV Park at Chilliwack and visiting long-time friends in the area, Day 17, Tuesday, May 10th, was the next exploring day. I had 2 nights, 3 days to drive the 358 km to Bear Creek Provincial Park in West Kelowna, through an area which has an enormous amount to see and do – an area that I spent a lot of time in 40-50 years ago.

While visiting Lorne and Helen, who I know from my days working at the Surrey Post Office, Bella and Tucker got some good play, both inside and outside, for the first time on the trip.

My dogs Bella and Tucker with some new playmates
Dave and Jan are friends from high school – the only ones that I’ve never lost touch with. A love of cars – race cars in particular – has been our strongest common interest, and Dave came out Tuesday for breakfast and to show me the incredible collection of cars and related material that a friend of his has. The purple race car in te centre was Dave’s for many years.

A private car-oriented collection in Chilliwack, BC
As we were leaving, another addition to the collection arrived. Quite incredible, and it was great to see that Al loves sharing his passion. Once Dave introduced ma as an old racer and I told him about pulling an 11:43 and doing wheelstands with my ’69 Camaro, I was “in” πŸ™‚

A private car-oriented collection in Chilliwack, BC
I was packed up and away from Cottonwood a few minutes after the 11:00 checkout time. My first stop was the Visitor Information Centre next door, to walk the dogs and get some material about the next legs of the trip. The pointy peak in the photo is Mount Cheam. The first photo I ever sold was shot from its summit in the Fall with a fresh blanket of snow – it was used for the local newspaper’s calendar in 1988 or so.

Mount Cheam, Chilliwack, BC
On the road – Highway 1 East – just before noon. I hadn’t yet repaired the cupboard door that got ripped off in the deer crash at Yale, and I decided to find a quiet spot to do that after a plastic cup fell out and scared Bella. Bad daddy!

Highway 1 East at Chilliwack
Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park would be a good stop. There’s plenty of easy parking for large RVs and buses. I got the repair done, having picked up new hinges in Chilliwack, then went for a walk to the falls without the kids.

Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, BC
Bridal Veil Falls is quite spectacular, and I spent 10 minutes there shooting. I should have taken my tripod with me for the long exposures, but bracing the camera against trees and logs worked okay up to about 1 second.

Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, BC
This is a hand-held 1/2-second exposure (f22, ISO 100).

Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, BC
When I got to the Hope Slide at about 2:30, I decided that would be the camping spot for the night. An afternoon nap was in order before any more exploring.

Hope Slide, BC
Whoever installed this plaque to replace the brass one that was there should have checked the grammar and facts first. The memorial, though, is for the 4 people people who died in the slide on January 9, 1965, the man who died when his plane crashed there on August 13, 1965, and the 5 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force who were killed when their plane crashed there on April 23, 1966. I remember that incredible string of tragedies.

Memorial at the Hope Slide
Although the woman at the Chilliwack Visitor Information Centre told me that the Othello Tunnels park was still closed, I decided to make the short drive back to see what “closed” meant exactly. The trail to the tunnels is the old Kettle Valley Railway bed – when we started going to the tunnels in the late 1950s, it was a road.

Othello Tunnels park
The Coquihalla River. Did this ever bring back memories! All of them good, from many dozens of days and nights in this valley long before there was a highway. I swear that the Coquihalla has a distinctive smell, and I inhaled deeply.

The Coquihalla River
Okay, so “closed” means that you can’t enter the tunnels. While I really wanted to see them all (there are 5 tunnels through the Coquihalla Canyon), it was still well worth coming back to see.

Othello Tunnels
While driving up to the slide with the motorhome, I caught a glimpse of an old Hope-Princeton Highway sign, probably from the late 1960s, now almost hidden by trees. In the Tracker, I was able to stop to get a photo of it. The opening on the Coquihalla Highway 30 years ago turned both the Fraser Canyon and Hope-Princeton into tourism backwaters. Through the canyon, most businesses are closed, and while there were almost none on the Hope-Princeton to close, no new ones have opened.

Old Hope-Princeton Highway sign
Nearing the Hope Slide, I decided to see where this road goes – I was able to squeeze the Tracker between the boulders put in place to close it.

A mystery road near the Hope Slide
It’s the old highway – kewl! πŸ™‚ The first part of the road is probably from the ’50s, and this part would have been built on top of the slide right after it came down in 1965.

A long-abandoned section of the Hope-Princeton Highway at the Hope Slide
And by being very careful, I was able to get right back to the motohome on the old highway. We got back just after 6:00 pm.

A long-abandoned section of the Hope-Princeton Highway at the Hope Slide

It was an early night as always. The next day would be another very short driving day, probably just 100 km or so to the Hedley area.

Spences Bridge, Hells Gate, and more…

When Day 14 began (Saturday, May 7th), I knew that my hopes for the day on the lower Thompson River and in the Fraser Canyon as written in my notebook were overly-ambitious. I’d have to high-grade the possibilities as the day went on.

At 191 km (119 mi), the day’s mileage from Gold Pan Provincial Park to the Cottonwood Meadows RV Park at Chilliwack would be simple. Click on the map to open a large interactive version in a new window.

Map of the route from Gold Pan Provincial Park to the Cottonwood Meadows RV Park at Chilliwack
My day’s photography got off to a very early start when Tucker got me up just before 04:30 so he could go outside. A train with a lot of lights on it went by on the CP Rail tracks above us, so I set up the tripod to see what I could get on the CN line across the river. I lucked into the VIA Rail train, and one of the 10-second exposures I made came out this way.

Time exposure of a VIA Rail train along the Thompson River in the early dawn.
My last 2 eggs from Lewes River Farms near Whitehorse, and one of the typical “factory” eggs I’ll be using until I get home again in a few weeks.

Wonderful Yukon eggs compared to a factory egg
We wouldn’t be back to the park until after the 11:00 checkout time, so I moved the motorhome up to the picnic area on the highway, and drove back to Spences Bridge in the Tracker, with Bella and Tucker. The first destination of the day would be Murray Creek Falls, which was lit up beautifully when we reached Spences Bridge at 10:15.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
The route to the waterfall starts on Thompsonview Avenue, which takes you south along the river from downtown Spences Bridge.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
There’s very limited parking along the sideroad leading to the trail to the falls, and 3 vehicles were already there (that was a surprise!), so I went looking for another spot, eventually driving into tall grass.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
There were 3 or 4 people working at what appeared to be a pumphouse for the town’s water supply, and I chatted briefly with Dwayne, who was rebuilding a little bridge across Murray Creek. He told me that a group of locals keeps the trail and other facilities around Spences Bridge in good condition.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
According to the World Waterfall Database, this drop is 123 feet, and there’s another 38-foot one above it.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
A very steep trail led up the side of the chasm to the best view of the waterfall, and beyond…

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge, BC
… to part of the old water-supply system. I’m not clear on how this tied into the creek, but I expect it’s this high to provide pressure for the system with no pumps.

Old water system at Murray Creek Falls, Spences Bridge, BC
These pipes lead from the collection box above to a ruined concrete building below. The small modern pumphouse can be seen at the upper centre of the photo.

Old water system at Murray Creek Falls, Spences Bridge, BC
We didn’t spend very long on the trail, but drove up a steep road alongside the creek that I thought might lead to the canyon above the falls. I missed the overgrown foot route to the area I wanted, and I wouldn’t take the dogs into cactus and tick locations like that anyway, but the road did provide some wonderful views.

View of Spences Bridge from the Murray Creek Road
On the drive back to the highway, I had a quick look at this long-abandoned church in downtown Spences Bridge.

A long-abandoned church in downtown Spences Bridge, BC
The “Antique Store” (it’s the Vulture Garage – cool name) in Spences Bridge has quite a collection of cars and trucks that have clearly been pulled off area ranches (hence the “vulture”). There’s actually some interesting vehicles there. The owner was sitting outside in a chair – I can’t imagine that he gets disturbed very often.

'Antique Store' in Spences Bridge
We were back at the motorhome by about 11:30, and soon were hooked up and heading further south on Highway 1. I made a quick stop for a few photos here just before noon.

The Thompson River south of Spences Bridge
Nearing Lytton, where there are a couple of sites of interest on my list (the Fraser River catwalk, and Caboose Park). I had to save them for another visit, though – the day was already too far advanced.

Southbound on Highway 1 north of Lytton, BC
The Hell’s Gate Airtram was the primary not-to-be-missed site of the day. I might have walked down to the river a few decades ago, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never ridden the tramway. For $20 senior rate, the 950-foot drop is pretty awesome.

Hell's Gate Airtram
About to dock at the lower tramway station.

Hell's Gate Airtram
Many people walk down to the river, and dogs are very welcome, as shown by the Pup Pub. Hikers can ride back up for $14 including the dog πŸ™‚

Pup Pub at the Hell's Gate Airtram
I walked up the trail a few hundred feet to get some photos of the bridge, and the railway tunnel.

Bridge at the Hell's Gate Airtram
The interpretation at the centre is very good. This famous painting of Simon Fraser making his way through “the gates of Hell” is quite incredible by virtue of being fairly accurate.

Simon Fraser making his way through the gates of Hell on the Fraser River
I spent exactly an hour at Hell’s Gate, then a few minutes later stopped at Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park and took the dogs for a walk along the old highway. The parking lot is still blocked off, I think until the Victoria Day long weekend coming up in a couple of weeks

Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park
I had big plans there, without thinking about the fact that the open-grate deck on the bridge was impossible for dogs to walk across. DOH!

As I pulled away from Yale, our day really went to hell. I haven’t been sure that I should even tell you about this, but it’s very significant to me, so here is a very short version of the story. As I was speeding back up to highway speed from the 50 kmh zone, a deer suddenly was on the shoulder and then in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, but hit her. This photo shows the inside of the rig, with smashed dishes and spilled food. Bella and Tucker were scared barkless. I walked back along the highway, and a young woman from 100 Mile House was with the badly injured doe. She was trying to strangle the deer to put her out of her misery. I went back to the rig, got a knife, came back and slit the deer’s throat. She died quickly. Nicole and I comforted each other as much as we could in this horrible situation, and continued on our ways.

Tucker insisted on riding the rest of the way to Chilliwack on my lap. Bella wanted to be at my feet, and I had to keep pushing her away, and pulling her up to my side to comfort her. An hour or so after the accident, we were settled for the night. The dogs are okay now – me, not so much.

As I write this, it’s Tuesday, May 10th – Day 17. I’ve been visiting friends from high school and the Surrey post office for the past couple of days, not doing any touring/exploring. I’ll be having one more breakfast with a friend shortly, then the fur-family and I will be heading east, with the destination for the night unknown – the Manning Park area somewhere, probably.