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.
My buddy Doug tipped me off to an abandoned commune in the hills outside Kelowna.
Abandoned, you say?
Then we waited for the right day. Today.
We jumped in the truck and started climbing windy, dirt-road hills. As we started to get higher, we found snow still on the road, but we pressed on.
Until we got to one really rough patch and I thought “no, it’s just getting too rough.”
Just keep going
I should have listened to my gut. It was telling me to keep going. But I heard My American’s voice in the back of my head, saying “you’re going to get stuck, turn around.”
So I stopped the Great Escape, threw it in reverse and started to back up.
But you see I have this problem: An oversized idiot hairbag of a dog who gets overexcited on dirt roads and won’t get out of my line of sight.
And then this happened:
The old rock-it-back-and-forth was going nowhere fast.
And my smartphone was no use. There’s no service up in them thar hills, you know.
We jumped out of the truck and started walking. I knew it would be at least five kilometres before we’d find the parking lot full of trucks and dirt bikers. Occasionally, I’d hear a dirt bike in the near distance but calling out would serve no purpose.
We trudged on, the old man stopping occasionally to grab a bite of snow and a rest.
But you know … it’s spring. Every rustle in the woods, every crack of a branch, I thought it was a bear. I turned and looked at Shep and said, “well, this is how I’m going to die; you’ll get back to town all right, I’m sure.”
Just like I thought two years ago when I blew a tire near Brooks, Alberta.
Then my saviours arrived: A father and son in a pickup truck who were a little surpised to see a woman and her dog on the road.
“Hop in the back, we’ll get you out.”
Sweet merciful gods of the clouds! Hallefreakinlujah.
Good and stuck
With every turn on the road back to my truck, I thought “whoa, we walked this far.”
We got back to the truck and everyone jumped out to survey the situation.
“Yep, you’re good and stuck. This calls for a beer. You want one?”
Um, heck yeah.
If my cousin Phil is reading this, he’s thinking “that’s not beer.” But Phil, the best beer in the world is the one that’s in your hand.
The older fella figured the job couldn’t get done without a rope to haul my wee truck out of the ditch.
“Well, we go back the 15 clicks to the highway or we go see what we can find at the commune.”
“Yep, there’s an old hippie commune about five kilometres up the road.”
“But that’s where we were going when we got stuck. Does anyone live there who can help?”
“Nope, but we’re bound to find a rope or a cable or something.”
“So it’s completely abandoned? That’s what I was hoping. I love that kind of stuff.”
“Well, get back in the truck. You’re in for a treat.”
Boy, was I.
Garbage in the meadow
We pulled into a wooded area. The first building I see is a car shop or garage or something. An old Blazer is sitting in the garage and it’s riddled with shotgun blasts.
And I spy this awesome old tractor:
“There’s cabins over there, up there and around the way. Go see what you can find and keep your eye out for a rope or cable.”
I was stunned at what I saw. I’ve been to ghost towns in Alberta and felt a peace wash over me as I poked around old homes and churches.
But this was something different.
When I heard “hippie commune,” I thought living off the land and respect for nature. Instead, I found piles of garbage, an old refrigerator, rusty barrels and cans, mattresses, cross-country skis and bicycles. Whether the hippies left it like that and looky-loos have made it what it is today, I don’t know.
The cabins, however, are more than unique. Take this one, for example:
On first glance, I thought maybe aliens built it. Then it seemed to be something that came from the Shire in Middle-Earth.
Upon further research, I think this is the “Tepee House,” which I found referenced on a Castanet forum. A poster, quicksilver8, claims to have lived and gotten married at the commune in 1990. Quicksilver8 lived in the Tepee House.
“It was built by a white fellow named ‘Yellow Bear’, he taught native spirituality. Yellow Bear made really cool wood carvings in the house,” the poster said. “Everyone who lived there hauled water from a pipe coming out of a small creek, beside the sauna. We chopped wood and carried water, there was no electricity or cell phones. It was quiet country living.”
Another poster, westsidegeek, explained the history behind the commune, called the Stocks Meadow Co-operative.
“Around the early to mid seventies, 40 acres of this original 160 parcel was purchased by a Peter Legere, on behalf of himself and 5 other people(partners) he originally met in Hope, BC one summer at a small craft shop just across the Fraser River bridge called The Shire. Since Peter was the only one who had a legitmate job at the time, it was planned that he would buy the property under his name temporarily, and sign it over to the Co-Op later. The original intent of the group was to file and get set up as a co-op, which never happened. Many of the group resettled in Kelowna, and as time passed, some of the “partial” owners gave tacit permission to others to “settle” on the parcel.”
Some claim to have seen people living up there, as recently as 2012.
It seemed to be vacant today, but for one cabin that remains liveable.
A table is covered with Post-It notes, messages of thanks to whomever maintains the cabin, written by squatters and folks who just need a night in the woods.
We dug around the garbage and found a rope and two other cables that would suit our needs.
When we got back to my stuck truck, the rope broke. The first cable snapped.
And just as I was banging my head off the steering wheel, I felt a lurch and heard “crank your wheels.”
My Great Escape was free!
I thanked our friendly saviours from the bottom of my heart and Shep was happy to jump back into his own truck. The guys offered me another beer and the opportunity to shoot at things with their rifles.
Having NEVER touched a gun in my life, I thanked them profusely again but politely declined.
Besides, that was enough adventure for one day.
I forgot to get their names but they told me they’re up at the commune all the time … just to get away to some peace and quiet.
And apparently to shoot things.
So, we might see them again. If not, the guys and their kindness will be forever remembered and appreciated.