Hippie garbage and the kindness of strangers

Editor’s Note, September 2015: This property is not abandoned. It is owned by Paul Melnyk of Kelowna, who is trying to restore the property. Please see the Stock Meadows website for more information.

It was the perfect day for a spring adventure.

And that’s exactly what Shep and I found.


Read more


It’s adventure season!

It has felt like one long, cold winter.

That’s with apologies to my friends and family on the other side of the Rockies, of course … from Alberta all the way to Atlantic Canada.

Helloooooooooo, Newfoundland! Have you dug out of those snowbanks yet?

In Alberta, I was known to break out the camera for January and February adventures, heading out to ghost towns or on hiking day trips.

Not this year in British Columbia. For some reason, no weekend seemed to be the right time.

Read more


Sneaking around in Cawston, B.C.

It had been too long since we’d gone on an abandoned adventure.

Life has been getting in the way. Shep and I moved twice since August, one to Summerland and two months later into West Kelowna.

And then real drama struck. Shep became very ill and I almost lost my precious boy.

While he was recovering from surgery, I cuddled with him and promised an adventure as soon as we ready.

Hurray! He got his staples out on Friday and we started plotting (read: Googling) areas in our new habitat.

Sunday morning, we set out … bound for Oliver, B.C., to find the historic Haynes ranch and the former townsite of Fairview. And don’t you wish I was about to tell you that story and show you those pictures.

I will. But not today.

Once we got to Kaleden, we hung a right and busted for Keremeos, taking the long way — er, scenic route — to Oliver.

And that scenic route did not disappoint.

fishing dock on lake near Kaleden, British Columbia

Yellow Lake, I was told by a (somewhat inebriated) fellow casting his line into the lake, is a popular spot for flyfishers and ice fishers. It’s stocked with Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.

Since we aren’t fishers, we used the dock for a photo op.
maremma sheepdog sitting on a fishing dock

Hmmm … it looks like Shep might even be posing. Don’t worry. He returned to his old self later in the day, having no patience, refusing to look at the camera and harumphing off in front of me.

On we went to Keremeos. A little town from the Wild West deserves its own day of adventure, maybe when it’s warmer.

We took the bypass and cruised through the Cawston, a small community south of Keremeos. According to Wikipedia, it’s named for R.L. Cawston, a pioneer rancher and magistrate who settled in the area in the 19th century.

We starting to get hungry. I started to tell Shep about a stop at A&W in Osoyoos when I had to stop.

Not one, but two abandoned, derelict homes … one right after the other. My heart jumped, and I pulled our great Escape off the highway.

Abandoned farmhouse near Cawston, B.C.

I couldn’t get any closer, since it sat behind a locked gate.

I was a bit apprehensive about the other property. I saw a No Trespassing sign but the gate was swung open.

Wide open. Invitingly open.

Like a Welcome sign.

I bit.
Abandoned farmhouse near Cawston, B.C.

A broken window offers a peak into the house. A bedroom, strewn with boxes and refuse.

Bedroom of abandoned farmhouse

Trust me, I wanted to climb through the window and see what else this lonely house held. But my best bud was waiting patiently in the truck.

There was also a bit of fear around someone storming up behind me and yelling “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

Not in the mood to get arrested, I snapped off a pic of (what I think was) the chicken coop and hauled ass.
chicken coop at abandoned farmhouse

Now at home, I learn the two properties are significant to the history of the area. Michael Kluckner, a Vancouver-based artist and writer, is fascinated by the abandoned and ghostly areas of British Columbia.

He researched the first farmhouse and learned it was the Elton home, built in 1910,

Ralph Elton was born in India where his father was a colonel in the British army, moved to England as a child, and subsequently migrated to southern Alberta where he lived before settling here. Although one can imagine his house as the centre of a large “spread,” Elton in fact owned just eight acres around it, with another eight of pasture in the hills behind. On his little farm he had apple trees, chickens and horses, but his main source of income was work on the roads.

The gate that kept me from getting closer keeps lookie-loos from entering McCurdy ranchland.

According to the Keremeos Museum’s website, Daniel McCurdy moved to B.C. from Ontario in 1884. The next year, he went back to Ontario to bring back his family: wife, Louisa, and children Sarah (7), Sam (5) and Robert (3).

The other house, of course, was the second McCurdy homestead, built in 1895.

I just hope I don’t run into any of the McCurdys on my next trip through that way … cowboy justice doesn’t look kindly on trespassers.


We have a new home … again

Life can change in the blink of an eye.

About a month ago, I was furiously packing up the apartment in Kamloops and getting ready to move Shep and me to a new home. I knew from the moment I set foot back in Kamloops last November that it was a temporary stay, no matter how many times my newspaper colleagues threatened that my position would become permanent and full time.

Trouble is, I’ve grown out of newspapers. The internet is too much fun. So, I took some time while on Employment Insurance to look for the right job this time. (I hope to find time to write more about that on That Angela this week but between a job, client work and being only five hours away from Spokane, I don’t get much free time to write for myself. This is a treat.)

I work in Kelowna now. I live in Summerland.

sandy beach in Summerland

I wake up in the morning, go for a 10-km run and enjoy coffee on my patio, while the sun rises over Naramata.

I get home from work to my favourite smiling face, pour a glass of wine and watch the stars twinkle in the clear, dark sky while bats whizz back and forth over my head.

It’s magical. It’s calming. And it is paradise.

I breathe deeply now and I sleep.

Those are new. They’re still strange to me. But I welcome them to my life.

And Shep smiles a lot.

He has a big backyard and a five-minute drive to water.

Shep at the Summerland dog beach

Then there are the other bonuses. I run past the old Gartrell barn every other day:

old barn in Summerland

It’s technically in Trout Creek, where James Gartrell and his family settled in 1887, after travelling from Ontario with their apple tree seedlings.

Let’s not forget the orchards and the wineries. There are at least 10 wineries within drivingstumbling distance of my house.

Like Sonoran Estates. This is the view from the bistro patio:

View of winery and Okanagan Lake

I’d tell you I have a spare bedroom … but I did mention I’m only five hours away from Spokane now, right?

Welcome to yet another adventure for Shep and me. We have a spare bedroom.


The summer of ’99: a Jeep, Ricky Martin, movies and drive-in theatres

Let’s hit rewind on my life.

We’re going all the way back to 1999.

My best friend’s name was Jacqui. She had a navy blue Jeep and we bounced around Kamloops with Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca blasting from the stereo.

We were young, heading for our 30s and making sure we sucked the marrow dry on every last day of our 20s.

Read more


Tough broads make great history

I come from a long line of tough broads.

My mom, who raised four pretty successful kids, alone for the most part, while my dad was on the construction trail.

My Gram, who mothered 12 kids and set to become an adventurer and traveller after her husband died in 1977.

Any number of MacIsaac women who could scare the bejeesus out of you with one luck but make the meanest damn pie you ever tasted.

And so, I like to hear stories of other tough broads.

Like Lady Jane Fortune who reigned over Kamloops in its early days.

Or the mother and daughter Estby duo, Helga and Clara, who walked from Mica, near Spokane, Wash., to New York City, on the promise of a $10,000 prize.

Thus, it was a terrific surprise to learn about more tough broads on a mountain bike trip last week.

This was no normal mountain bike. It was the Route of the Hiawatha, a 15-kilometre easy downhill that was once one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the United States.

It starts with a two-mile ride through the Taft Tunnel, a.k.a. the St. Paul Pass. Thanks to the eight tunnels, cyclists aren’t permitted onto the trail without head lamps and headlights on their bikes.

The two miles under the Bitterroot Mountains were dark and cold. We were surrounded by the sound of water, running along the walls of the tunnel and dripping into the drainage ditches on either side.

We rode carefully over the smoothed gravelly surface, taking care to stay in single file and well away from the ditches where members of our friends’ group wiped out a few times a week before we tried.

We emerged into the daylight and catapulted probably 25 C on the thermometer, welcomed by a lovely waterfall.

Waterfall after tunnel on mountain biking trail

The next 13 miles course through the tunnels and over seven rail trestles (terrific for someone with a slight fear of heights) and heads downhill at a 1.7% grade. According to the trail’s website, we start at 4,160 ft. elevation and drop to 3,175 ft.

The scenery was incomparable.

Mountain scenery

Rail trestle turned into a bike path

Meadow of daisiesMy chief concern for My American was my penchant to stop and take pictures. Of EVERYTHING.

He was, much to my glee, more than patient, even stopping with me at most of the signs to learn about the history of the trail and the rail company.

And the women without whom the men would never have survived their wild west shenanigans.

There was Cora (Ma) Van Antwerp, the first station agent at Falcon. The sign describes here as “crusty but respected.”

A lifetime resident of the area, Harold Theriault, left behind a story of Ma:

A runaway car full of lumber sped by Falcon after escaping from a work site and derailed further down. She chewed out the Adair operator because he failed to notify her of the runaway in time for her to halt it at Falcon. She wanted to salvage the lumber for her own use. Shortly thereafter, the Adair operator called her to say that another runaway car had just sped by Adair, so Ma blockaded the track making it spill its cargo. The recently chastised operator didn’t tell her, however, that it was the slop/garbage car from Roland that was the runaway!

You can bet that pissed her off!

Then there’s the tale of Ione (Pinkie) Adair. At 26 years old, she could ride, shoot and cook.

OK, so I’m pretty good in the kitchen and I’ve pretty much mastered my mountain bike but I ain’t ne’er held a gun.

Pinkie was hired to cook for 74 men — 60 of whom were prisoners — on hand to fight the 1910 Fires, capitalized on the signs because they devastated the area and are a monumental time in Idaho history. According to the University of Idaho Library, the fires took the lives of nearly 90 people, leveled entire communities, burned almost three million acres of timber, and set U.S. Forest Service fire policy for the next six decades.

Pinkie was almost one of the statistics.

On August 20, heavy smoke descended into their camp. The ranger ordered everyone to take blankets into the river and cover their heads. They all did as ordered and ran for the water as the fire roared and trees crashed to the ground around them. But Pinkie would not stay. She scrambled up and over the riverbank and disappeared.

Thirty miles away, Pinkie finally staggered into Avery, Idaho, as the last train was leaving. The engineer spotted the exhausted young woman with singed eyebrows and tattered clothes and told her to climb aboard. Clinging tightly to the caboose, Pinkie rode to safety.

They were different times and women played different roles, facing different challenges.

Pinkie and Ma remind me of that one great quote you see on fridge magnets, bumper stickers and maybe evenT-shirts:

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

It’s Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich whom we thank for those pearls of wisdom.

And to the women like Pinkie and Ma, Helga and Clara Estby and Lady Jane Fortune, who give me my inspiration to be a rabble-rouser and a pot-stirrer.

Or maybe just an adventurer with big dreams.


From the archives: High River before the floods

Way way back in 2010, I was still playing slopitch.

I had, however, started to nurture my newer hobbies: photography and exploring. They were becoming more important to me than sitting at the Okotoks ball diamonds and drinking beer in between tournament games.
Maremma sheepdogAnd it’s when I started to develop a love for the smaller communities that surround the city of Calgary.

So, my heart sank upon hearing the entire town of High River had to be evacuated two weeks ago, thanks to the flood waters. Residents have been allowed to trickle back this week, some only to view the damage done to their homes.

The images I saw online and on my TV screen made me want to remember High River as it was — and as it will be again.

June 2010
One of the many murals that mark High River’s downtown:
Building mural

Museum of the Highwood, which is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places:
High River train station

Train bridge at the north end of town:

Grass growing near a train bridge

August 2010
Sheep River at Hogg Park:

Museum of the Highwood, after the fire of July 2010
burned out roof of old train station

Foot bridge at George Lane Memorial Park:
foot bridge over a creek

St. Benedict Anglican Church:
Anglican church

See the full photo album on the Facebook page for Our Great Escape.


Hiking is no longer my forte

There was a time when no hiking trail was a challenge.

Shep and I have been to the top of the Castle Mountain Lookout in Banff National Park.

We’ve done the Barrier Dam hike in Kananaskis.

No height was too dizzying. No switchback too windy.

Today, that seemed like light years ago.

I needed an escape. And the sky looked as true blue as it could ever, punctuated by big fluffy clouds. Shep needed to soak in some water.

We headed for Paul Lake, a provincial park that has a beach dedicated for dog use. This is a rarity, folks. A lot of provincial parks don’t allow dogs anywhere near the beach. Thus, we are grateful that Paul Lake is less than 25 kilometres from our house in Kamloops.

And since it was a weekday, we had the beach all to ourselves.

maremma sheepdog in lake

Now see that rocky hill in the upper right background? That’s Gibraltar Rock. And there’s a trail that takes hikers up one kilometre (plus 1/3 km of switchbacks) to the top of that rock.

I’ve read there’s a spectacular view of the lake from there.

I may never know. Our hiking days fell behind us when Shep injured his back a few years ago. He was assessed with Stage 2/3 arthritis about a month ago, and the meds he’s on now have him acting like a puppy.

He pulled on his leash, wanting to march forward. The few maternal instincts I have kicked in and I kept telling him, “Go easy, old man.” But he doesn’t listen.

With each charge up the hill (hikers climb 900 metres on this trail), my quads screamed at me. “You don’t do this anymore,” they were yelling. And my hamstrings chimed in: “You biked 15 km yesterday, you jerk!”

I took breaks. After all, there were wildflowers on either side of the path.

Like Indian paintbrush:

red alpine wildflower

And arrow-leaved balsamroot:

Yellow alpine wildflower

The beautiful wildrose (I miss you, Alberta):

pink alpine wildflowerI think I lasted about 20 minutes before I finally gave up. I figure I was halfway to the top and the hill that appeared ahead of me made me want to go home and nap.

I turned around. And Shep was not impressed.

maremma sheepdog on a hiking trail

Ah, but no. There was no time for sleep.

There was more to see.

We jumped back in the truck and kept going up the road to Pinantan. We crested a hill and came upon a breathtaking view of the valley. I couldn’t let this pass without snapping a panorama on my HTC One X:

panorama of valleyStunning, no?

We expect to see more gorgeous scenery as we keep exploring the backroads of Kamloops.


For Mica: Gotta go back again

I don’t know how I could have missed it.

The beehive kilns of the historic American Brick Company sit on the corner of State Route 27 and Belmont Road, just south of Spokane Valley.

The Historic Spokane website says brickyards were established in several locations, following the devastating Spokane fire of 1889. The yard in Mica, the one that produced the brick used in many Spokane buildings, is the only one that remains.

It isn’t deserted or anything. The current plant, built in 1957 to replace the old one, is still firing away, but at least five of the original kilns built between 1903 and 1911 are still there.

I’m not sure if I’d even be able to get onto the yard, but I feel like I missed something by not seeing it.

Instead, I was intent on another set of bricks.

I spied the remains of a brick house while we drove past Mica, on the way home from our camping trip in Idaho.

It sits forlornly on SR 27, just north of the community of Mica.

There may have been, at one time, a fence protecting the yard, extending out of this gate that still stands.

Remains of a property gate

Mica was never a town or city. It was a station stop on the line of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, and the hills were rich with basalt, granite, gneiss and schist — rocks that decompose and create the clay vital to the American Brick Company. (S. Shedd, 1910. The Clays of the State of Washington. State College of Washington.)

Along the main drags, it looks like a rural subdivision of Spokane Valley … homes, dotted around great barns and rolling hills of farmland.

old barn

A couple of tough broads

Few western towns are without a piece of history that gives me a chuckle.

It’s even better when that history features a woman or two of great fortitude, like Lady Jane Fortune of Kamloops, B.C.

In my research of Mica, I stumbled upon the story of Helga and Clara Estby, a mother and daughter from Mica Creek who walked from Spokane to New York City in 1896 on the promise of a $10,000 bounty.

Helga was a 36-year-old suffragist (woohoo!) and mother of 10 (holy sweet Mary Murphy!) but she and her husband, Ole, were struggling to keep the farm going. The $10K would come in handy.

When Helga and Clara got to NYC, their sponsor stiffed them and they had to rely on the kindness of the railyards to get them home.

Read the whole story at HistoryLink.org. You won’t regret it.

And don’t forget it’s women like Helga who forged paths more than 100 years ago for women today.

Helga was an outspoken supporter of woman suffrage. She believed that women were capable of doing anything men could do, and thought of a way to raise a large sum of cash and, at the same time, draw nationwide attention to the suffrage cause. ~ HistoryLink.org

What building is this?

My research, however, left a hole burning in my brain.

I searched to no end for the identification of this building:

abandoned buildingI thought it might have been a jail, but maybe it was the bank where the Estbys stored their family savings.

If anyone knows, please tell me in the comments. Or, it may beg a trip to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, something I’ve been meaning to do anyway.


The stories behind the buildings of Tranquille

I love a good story.

Tim McLeod, development manager of Tranquille Farm Fresh, tells one. Or two.

As a pickup truck pulled our wagon around the old streets of the Tranquille settlement, McLeod took the scattered threads of the area’s history and wove them into a colourful quilt.

There’s the one about how Tranquille got its name. (Fur traders gave Shuswap Chief Pacamoos the nickname for his tranquil nature.)

And the one about Lady Jane, wife of homesteader William Fortune, beating up the fellows who dared piss her off as she tended to the Tranquille Farm.

Or the Fortunes and the Cooneys taking in tuberculosis patients, well before the provincial Board of Health funded the construction of a sanatorium in 1909.

The buildings of the old tuberculosis sanatorium are boarded up — protected from curious eyes and spray-paint carrying graffiti artists — and some falling in their disrepair.

Like the doctor’s house, a beautiful century-old home that sticks out among the surrounding bungalows.

abandoned house

The whispers of the souls who passed their lives here ring loud in McLeod’s stories.

Like the single men who lived in this dormitory:

abandoned tuberculosis residence

The sanatorium administration separated the dorm from the single women’s residence by a field to prevent any shenanigans. But that didn’t stop anyone as many a young adult was seen traipsing through the field for some late-night lovin’.

Once Tranquille Farm Fresh community market opened last summer, the stories have been coming out of the woodwork. People approach Tim all the time with their stories of the Tranquille Farm and Medical Training Institution.

Like former residents, nurses and the women who drove the laundry and food carts in the tunnels below the city.

He’s enlisted the help of the Kamloops Heritage Society to record these stories.

And he wonders how to preserve and respect the rich history of the land as Tranquille Farm Fresh redevelops the property that once was the primary supplier of food to 1,000 people and many others off site.

He wonders how to rebuild and revive the activity at the farm’s piggery, cannery, abattoir, dairy, gardens, orchards and beef testing station, all silent since the government closed the farm in 1985.

There’s a vision to recreate the farm, the working waterfront and a sustainable community, centring the downtown around the old fire hall.

Old fire hall

And Tim and his staff are forging strong relationships with community groups to bring the area back to life. Like the local vintage car club, which rents storage space and has found a home for the original and restored Tranquille Farm pump truck.

old fire truck

He’s working with McElhanney engineers to determine which buildings can be saved. For instance, the Main’s middle section can be preserved but the wings will likely have to be reconstructed.

But the piece de resistance, the Greaves, built in 1927, is too far gone. When the A-Team movie filmed there a few years ago, the crew had to build an alternate roof for the helicopter-landing scenes.

“We’re thinking through what we can and can’t do to protect the history,” Tim says.

The underlying question he always asks is ‘how do you take history and built on it and respect it.

And that’s why the stories of the past are so important to Tim and the rest of the crew at Tranquille Farm Fresh.

“Kamloops owns this property emotionally,” he says. “We need to tap into what the people want and build on it.”

If you’re interested in learning more, Tranquille Farm Fresh offers guided tours throughout the summer on Saturdays, Sundays and long weekend Mondays.

A Heritage Tour
Unpack 6,000 years of fascinating history

Wildlife Watching Tours
Two hours of observing and photographing the birds and wildlife of Tranquille

Walking Photography Tour
A two-hour journey around mountain vistas, Kamloops Lake, heritage buildings and architectural elements

Eco Tour
Two hours of hiking through the Tranquille landscape

Gold Panning Tour
Seach for gold in the waters of the Tranquille River

You can reserve your spot on the tours by emailing cindy@tranquillefarmfresh.ca or calling 250-434-9690.

And don’t forget to visit the weekend market on Saturdays and Sundays to pick up fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. The six-acre corn maze celebrates its grand opening on Aug. 3.

See more pictures on our Facebook page. (And like us there, too!)