Tony and Dawnelle Guenther
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Finally...Back on the Road
At the end of June 2021, an unprecedented heatwave hit the western coast of North America. Lytton, British Columbia, famously known as the "hotspot" of Canada, hit a record 49.6 C (121.3 F). On June 30th the beautiful historic village of Lytton burned to the ground. Throughout that summer, fires raged in every corner of our province. Thick smoke blanketed the Fraser Valley and many travel plans had to be cancelled as highway after highway was closed. Then, in November 2021 an atmospheric river poured a deluge of rain on the land. A month's worth of rain fell in just three days. The result was beyond anyone's imagination. Mudslides and flooding rivers decimated the Sumas Prairie and the towns of Princeton and Merritt. Needless to say, it was a tough year for those of us who call this place home.
It's been far too long since Tony & I have been on a BC road trip and oh, how we missed it. Finally the roads are open; we found a few days to get away and so we decided to take a quick trip along the backroads to Kamloops.
It was at Merritt that we veered off the main path. The Old Nicola Highway (Hwy 5A) is one of my favourite 'bypasses' and if you're not in rush to get to Kamloops I highly recommend this road that runs parallel to Nicola Lake, Stump Lake and so many more.
First stop was the Quilchena Hotel. Built by Joseph Guichon in 1908, this historic building has been beautifully preserved and stepping through its doors is like stepping back in time. The hotel is still available to rent but on a limited basis. Tony & I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary (1991) in the hotel's honeymoon suite. Our room was historically accurate to every detail. I especially loved the sign by the light switch that said "Do not attempt to light the fixtures. This modern room has been equipped with Edison electric light." Can you imagine the wonder of such a convenience at that time? I love it.
After the Quilchena Hotel, we stopped at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. This log church with its beautiful steeple just captures the imagination but unfortunately we have not been able to find many details regarding its history. If you have some information please leave me a comment below. We would love to know more about this unique place of worship.
Now it was time to really leave the road. Just before Stump Lake we turned onto a gravel road called Old Kamloops Rd. At this point Tony turned to me and said, "You may have to get out and open a few gates!"
Old Kamloops Rd cuts through numerous ranches including Stump Lake Ranch. We were there just at the start of calving season and were fortunate to spot a few early calves dotting the fields. At the height of the road you get a beautiful view of Stump Lake below. And if you look closely you can see the ice-fishing sheds on the still frozen lake.
All too soon the drive ends and we're back on pavement. After checking into our hotel we decided to take advantage of the twilight and head north to look for big horn sheep. The Lac du Bois Grasslands, home to mule deer, black bear, white-tail deer, moose and bighorn sheep, is a large protected area on the north side of Kamloops Lake and west of the North Thompson River. We drove until this beautiful lookout, overlooking Kamloops Lake. Someone has set up a beautiful memorial here and they couldn't have found a more serene location.
As we were coming back down the mountainside, we noticed a large cluster of buildings, like a small village... but only one light was on. It looked like a ghost town. Tony remembered that his brother had mentioned something unusual about the site but he couldn't recall what it was. Of course, being the person I am, I started researching the moment I was back to my laptop.
It didn't take long to find; the story is fascinating and just a little creepy.
In the 1900s the "white plague", better known as tuberculosis, was an epidemic. In answer to the crisis, the BC government built the King Edward VII Sanatorium. A community was created around the facility, including gardens, staff residences, gym, firehall and more. This village was named Tranquille.
After caring for hundreds of patients, the sanatorium closed in 1958, but reopened a year later as a facility for the mentally ill. In 1983 it was closed permanently. Since then the stories and legends of Tranquille have fueled imaginations. Some going so far as to call Tranquille "the most haunted place in Canada!" Before COVID, Tranquille Farm Fresh offered tours and "escape room" opportunities inside the tunnels that run underneath the immense property. Makes me creeped out just thinking about it. If this is your cup of tea, then you'll love this place. We couldn't get very close but, with my telephoto lense, I managed to get a few spooky shots.
Thanks for joining us on this little road trip to Kamloops. We know there's much more to do and so much history to learn but that will have to wait until the next time.
Tony & Dawnelle
This trip's links to Kamloops:
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