Sometimes, you don’t find what you’re looking for until you’re near the end of the road.
Shep and I saddled up for an escape on Sunday and busted the open highway, bound for Hedley. I’d heard about the mine on the side of the mountain, about miners falling out of their cabins … to their deaths.
I had to see if for myself.
Hedley is a typical turn-of-the-(20th!)-century mining town. It has the old saloon, the quaint church on the hill and gorgeous colonial homes, turned into bed-and-breakfast operations.
We first stopped at the church and the Hedley cemetery. It’s on Chuchuwayha 2 property, so the wee truck attracted a bit of an audience from the small families living down the hill from the building.
The church, I was told by some geologists I met in Keremeos, is still in use.
The cemetery, just a bit more up the hill, is a solemn little area.
This abandoned cabin sits just down the hill from the church.
We made our way down to the mine site. Old man Shep rolled his eyes when I clicked his leash onto his collar. But if either one of us falls down a mining hole, we’re going together.
I kid, I kid. I just didn’t want him making his way onto the lawn of the nearby B&B.
Would you trust this face?
Or this one?
See? Shifty looking, isn’t he?
But back to the mine.
From the foot of the Nickel Plate Mountain, it looks like an architectural genius was involved in this project.
Every rock seems thoughtfully carved or set into the hill.
The old turbines, although a tad rusty, look like they would still grind out some power to this day:
But it wasn’t until we made our way over to the Hedley Museum, set in the downtown core, that I learned of the true architectural marvel that the mine was.
A telescope sits on the museum’s deck. A sign warns you not to bump it as it’s trained on the old Mascot Mine. If you move the telescope, you should let museum staff know so they can fix it.
I peered into the little lens and went into a stunned state.
Perfect buildings sat on the side of the mountain, more than a kilometre up the hill, sitting on the edge, not teetering, not tipping, not falling over.
My stomach lurched.
I wish I could share a picture with you. Others have gone to the top of the mountain and taken Mascot Mine tours. Something about the adventure makes me queasy, though … it could be my intense fear of heights, which I’m trying to conquer.
But certainly, traipsing down a set of stairs on the side of a mountain? No, not just yet.
(I do have an awesome goal, though. Check out the new Glacier Skywalk in Jasper.)
Back on the road
As a ghost towner, I always find the tourist-y sites a little too — if I may — visited.
Too many feet have pounded the earth around some places and they’ve forced the ghosts into silence.
The visitors have drowned out the voices of the past, dampening their spirit, their essence.
That’s why I don’t spend too much time in places where tours are offered, where tourists or lookyloos are known to stop.
So Shep and I press on. With a glance at my Backroads Mapbook, I knew I’d jump off the main No. 3 highway and take a route I knew would be more difficult to drive, a lonelier route, but one that might have a better story to tell than the Crowsnest Highway.
A few miles after Hedley, heading west to Princeton, we turn onto the old Hedley Road.
My head was on a swivel, thinking if I saw something on the other side of the Similkameen River, something closer to Highway 3, I’d wince and punch myself in the leg.
But it was worth it.
We saved the best for last.
It’s a lonely home on the side of the road, neglected but protected by strong barbed wire.
A dog barked incessantly at me while I lined up my shot. He was on the other side of the road, contained by a fence, but I knew by his bark he wouldn’t reach much higher than my ankle.
The barbed wire prevented me from getting any closer.
It was such a pastoral setting: the green, green grass with the home backdropped by the slowly moving river.
I stopped, clicked one more frame and heard the ghosts shush my intrusion before I hopped back into the Escape, so Shep and I could make our way home.