Saturday, 14 September 2013

Hot Springs

When I was about 5 years old neighbors took our family with them on a drive east to Harrison Hot Springs. That location is about the last community situated on the north side of the lower Fraser Valley.

The hotel is in the left foreground and the building was erected over the springs. Whereas the majority of the 'Railway Hotels' are castle-like structures, this one looks like an apartment building.

Again - and with many thanks to Michael in Vancouver - here is a photo of the public beach at Harrison Lake. If my memory is correct, the hot springs are to the left of this photo.

I have been to Harrison Hot Springs half a dozen times with the last visit being with Linda Humchitt and her daughter. I met Linda during the summer that I worked at the Namu Salmon Cannery in 1968. She is a First Nation person of the Bella Bella people who visited with Mom on a Sunday for lunch after which we went for a drive to Harrison.

I remember being in the hot springs pool during the first visit as a child and again when I was with Linda and her daughter.

                Three photos of Harrison Lake and its glorious setting in the Coast Mountains.

What are 'Hot Springs'? Mostly they are found near volcanic mountain ranges and are 'escape valves' for the steam and hot water created by the volcanic activity beneath the surface. In the hotel at Harrison there is an enclosed pool into which the hot water is pumped ('hot' is somewhat misleading - the water is warm and has a sulphuric smell but it is not really hot - however, bathers are cautioned not to remain in the pool for too long). On the way to the hotel entry there is a pipe beside the paved walkway where water falls into a pool. One can feel the water - quite warm, and - using a cup placed nearby - sip some of the water to taste it. No - it is not the cold and crystal clear water that one finds in the usual springs.

In the days when the great transcontinental railways were constructed resorts found along the route were developed. Harrison is one of them.

Michael W. of Vancouver visited Harrison and managed to shoot this incredible photo of an osprey (also known as a 'fish hawk') flying away with a live salmon. The Pacific salmon swim up the rivers and streams in spawning season to lay eggs in the stream in which they were hatched four years before. That accomplished the salmon will then die. 

My second visit to a hot springs was over Hallowe'en weekend in 1970. The Men's Fellowship of the United Church of Canada hosted a gathering at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta and we theologs were invited to come along.

The conference was over three or four days and one aspect of it has remained in my memory.

This was during the Vietnam War and many young American men (who did not wish to be conscripted to fight in a conflict far from home and in the jungles of southeast Asia) fled to Canada - often with family consent. People from the United Church of Canada were in the forefront of those welcoming the 'draft dodgers' and a couple of these young men had been invited to the conference.

The idea of war and guns has always been anathema for me so I - and most of my younger compatriots - gave our sympathy and support to these young men. Not so some of the delegates from the more conservative Prairie Provinces - many of whom were veterans of World War II - so the debate did become heated.

On the Saturday evening a pool party was organized. The pool was one where the water was from the underground hot springs and what an experience to be cavorting in that warm water in the outdoor pool while snow flakes from an early October snow storm were falling!

In the mid 1980s much of my ministery was to the men and women who were stricken by the virus which led to HIV/AIDS. Some of those people I knew already while others were complete strangers.  One of the members of the congregation which I served notified me of a young man in St Paul's Hospital who was ill and, as he was from out of town, he would appreciate a visit from me.

He was a man in his 30s or early 40s and lived in an A-frame cabin outside of the small interior town of Kaslo. I visited with him fairly frequently over a few weeks and then he was discharged. My roommate, Cam, and I were scheduled to attend the Western Canadian District Conference of the Metropolitan Community Churches in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We decided to drive there and via southeastern B.C. The route would bring us close to Kaslo so I planned that we stop there. A few miles southeast of there is Slocan Lake along the shore of which are a few hot springs. One of them is named Ainsworth and our new friend led us there not once but twice!

This was neat as - unlike at Harrison and Banff - the springs were largely undeveloped. There was an admission fee and a place to change into bathing suits before stepping into the pool and then walking to the actual spring. This was in a grotto in the mountain and that was quite a spooky experience!

The tunnel was not straight but a crooked horseshoe to where it exited into a second pool. Because of the crookedness of the route it meant that part of the walk in the warm water was in complete darkness. Because it was such an unusual experience we went back on the following day for another visit.

My three visits to hot spring spas! 

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