Friday, May 11, 2012

STAMP #3 Harrison Hot Springs

I hadn't visited Harrison Hot Springs for about 30 years and expected to see change in the small town at the south end of Harrison Lake. In one sense, there's little change; in another, much change. There are still old, well kept cottages with English-style gardens, old motels, and the Harrison Resort maintaining its gracious reputation. But there are new condos at the eastern end of the beach that some locals dislike and there are many more adventures to try - boat cruises, sports fishing, Sasquatch hunts, hiking trails, events, and more. Today HHS is a get-away destination for everyone from toddlers to 85 year-olds.

I breakfasted at a local cafe, recommended by Harrison Tourism, called Cooking Kim's Country Café and located just off the beach in a strip mall. A steady stream of locals at 8:00am told me it was going to be good. Fast, cheerful service with a big choice on the breakfast menu. Reasonable prices. Delicious, and I wasn't rushed despite the crowd.
Captain Bill

My morning adventure was with Bill, my guide from Harrison Eco-Tours for a private jet boat trip down the Harrison River from the lake. I'd long wanted to see this as it was the route was chosen by the Hudson Bay Company in the late 1850s to get gold miners and supplies up to the digs on the North Thompson River. It looks much the same as it did then but for a few remote cabins. Bill and I roared off into the teeth of a cold gale and choppy waves. Jet boats are flat-bottomed and aluminum, which made for  a very noisy ride and bone-jarring thumps. Bill apologized and told me that the river is usually calm. It certainly was running swift and full - turquoise with the early snow melt.

The river was bigger than I expected with mountains coming down steeply into the water, at least for the first part of the tour. It widened and the mountains retreated as we approached the Chehailis Reserve and the Pretty Estate Resort where I played golf the day before. Here the waves defeated us and we turned back. But I had seen ancient petroglyphs on a rocky crag, nesting ospreys, the wreck of one of the last paddle-wheelers, and a First Nations cemetery where smallpox victims were buried in the epidemic of the 1860s. Today the bobcats and lynx that live in the rugged bush were hiding, and it was the wrong season for the crowds of bald eagles who line the river in the fall fishing for spawning salmon. I shall return for that experience as soon as I can.

Sasquatch researchers
I had lunch at the Old Settlers Pub with two Sasquatch researchers. I had no idea what to expect! Overjoyed to find they were serious scientists; obsessed - yes, intense - yes, but fun and not crack-pots! Learned lots about current evidence in the Sasquatch capital of Canada. Bill will even take visitors out into the back country in his six-wheel drive vehicle to see if they can see one. If you're not lucky enough to meet a Sasquatch, you will see some of the most beautiful views BC has to offer and discover more about the elusive animals. Another adventure I want to experience here. More later on Sasquatch Country Adventures.

The Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa retains its up-market presence here that began in the 1920s when the rich and famous came to take the waters; some even flew in landing on the golf course. As I prowled around the five hot pools, I talked to two engineers who look after them. The hot springs are half a kilometre away and their 140F water is pumped into two huge cisterns and then gravity-fed to be mixed with cold water for the three outdoor pools. They are of different temperatures: the hottest at 104F, the next, 98F, and the coolest at 85F. Apart from the latter, guests soaking in the pools were surrounded by rocks and the azaleas made a colourful show.

The original indoor pool is still operating and the new spa lies around it. The spa is gorgeous and I was sorry not to have the time to luxuriate in it as I had to dress-up for my dinner and dancing in the Copper Room.

Two of the Jones Boys
Walking into the ballroom was as if I had traveled instantly back to the 1950s - a time that was more elegant and refined than today. At 6:45pm, I was the youngest person in the huge dining room. Most were over 80 and dressed to kill! The four-piece band, The Jones Boys, were warming up - they are middle-aged, wearing suits and ties. The Copper Room offers a fine dining experience as it used to be with impeccable service. Servers, all male, were knowledgeable. As I awaited my seafood chowder, a couple started dancing. He was 90+ and they managed half a waltz. Grinning broadly at their achievement, they staggered back to their table. I found them delightful and later learned it was their 65th wedding anniversary. They had honeymooned here and wanted to relive their joy.

Later the maitre d' seated some parents with grown children close to me. The youngsters were rolling their eyes at the elders dancing and at the music. But soon they were on the dance floor as the band upped the ante with disco and more modern pieces. The Jones boys were good, very good - one played tenor, alto, and bass sax, as well as a mean flute. My food from the table d'hote was average and the wine list needed a revamp IMHO.

Images: © Photos by Pharos (Julie H. Ferguson) 2012

Related articles:
Enhanced by Zemanta