Monday, October 11, 2010

A Real Gem

Several years ago adventure cycling with my long time friend Roy, we camped at Lakeside Resort on Tuc 'el Nuit Lake in Oliver, B.C.  A wonderful family-run resort that has been packed to overflowing every time we have camped there (4 or 5 times).

In the camp office, hanging on the wall is a beautiful poster that evoked in me a nostalgic longing to want to visit that exotic and rustic locale.  The title  "Historic Mascot Mine" meant nothing to me and gave me no clue as to the location of the interesting place.  The lighting on the sides of the dilapitated buildings and the craggy mountains surrounding the mine excited my imagination.  I hoped to go there some day.

The three amigos, Roy, Richard and I left our campsite south of Princeton after a fitful sleep because of the close proximity of the camp to a busy highway and the logging trucks and other heavy vehicles roaring up and down the pavement all night long.  Our journey to Keremeos would be entirely by highway and luckily for us the route tended downhill and given the forecast of another 30 degree plus day, Richard and I were thankful that we wouldn't have to struggle uphill for hours on end in the heat.  Roy on the other hand becomes even more of a machine the hotter it gets.

Ahead of us in the distance, the valley that the highway followed was choked with smoke from the many forest fires in this neck of the woods.  Not long down the highway, I could see Roy crossing the highway to reach a stopped vehicle with two elderly gals by its side.  Richard dutifully followed while I wondered what was up and why Roy was riding his bike across the highway?

What none of us noticed was an older gent bent down on the other side of the vehicle and fixing a flat.  Turns out that the gent was the husband of one of the gals. They were in the process of moving furniture to Chilliwack one load at a time so that the other gal could come and live with them.  The man appreciated Roy's offer of assistance and the ladies appreciated three younger men togged out in Spandex!

It was well after noon when the three of us, hot, thirsty and tired pulled into a town named Hedley which turned out to be the very place where the poster I had so admired had been photographed.  I figured that my mission after finding lunch would be to procure one of those posters.  On the way to lunch, riding through town, we passed a museum and two curio shops and I began to hope that I would find that coveted image.

Exiting the air conditioned hotel where we had enjoyed the cool air and a wonderful pasta meal (doesn't everything taste better when you've been outdoors?), we divided up and went in three different directions, Roy and Richard to take photos and me to try out the museum and the touristy stores.

A curious sight greeted me when I stepped onto the veranda of the museum - a telescope pointing upwards at a nearby mountain.  When I peaked into the eyepiece, I was dumbfounded to discover the old mine buildings situated on the spine of the mountain - the very ones from the poster.  With my naked eye, I could not see the buildings as they were too far above the hamlet to be discerned.  I found out from the museum director that the mine is situated one mile directly above town and that when the mine was operating, there were two "chair lifts"; one to take people to and from town to work and another to bring ore down from the mine.  The waitress in the hotel restaurant told us that the trip up to the mine would only take eighteen minutes which is really moving when you consider that the mine is 5,800 or so feet up!

The gent in the museum was happy to sell me a poster and was kind enough to roll it into a sturdy tube which I could add to the already bulging load on my rear panniers.  His thoughtfulness was motivated in part because he is a long distance cyclist himself and he pointed out a fading, brittle yellow newspaper clipping tacked to the wall near the cash register.  The headline read "HEDLEY TO  HALIFAX" and detailed a four thousand kilometer trip that Bill, the poster seller had made when he retired a number of years back.  After expressing my amazement, he told me that the most difficult part of the whole trip was climbing and crossing ANARCHIST MOUNTAIN.  "I nearly quit right then and there!" he told me and I could certainly sympathise with him having done it twice myself.  Before you go thinking I'm some sort of cycling masochist, I have to point out to you that only one time was on a bike.  The other climb was in the cab of a pickup with our bikes in the back and with a driver who was only too glad to take us to the summit for $40.00!

Bill's epic journey made ours seem rather lame but once I stepped into the blast- furnace like heat and searing sun, I became very proud of our adventure and the numerous miles we had already cycled and the many miles yet ahead to be conquered.  And when I rode off to join my bicycle buddies with an extra 6 inches of cardboard tube protruding from my bike, I was very pleased to have met someone else who found ANARCHIST challenging and to have found that person in the most unlikeliest of spots - an old but famous mining town.


  1. Great story well done.

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  2. Thank you for your kind comments - are you a cyclist as well?

  3. The Anonymous comment above was from me (Bikewriter)