Monday, August 25, 2014

Hike - The Needle, Flatiron and an Alpine Lake - Coquilhalla B.C.

Chilliwack and the eastern Fraser Valley communities of Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope are close to some of the most breath taking scenery in the world.  I suppose this is one of the many advantages of living out here.

This weekend, I took a return visit to one of my favourite hikes up the Coquilhalla Highway to The Needle and the Flatiron.  With me were 4 hiking buddies and a family of 4 from German (all adults) out to enjoy a piece of Canadian wilderness.

The trail through the trees is quite steep and very soon your heart is pounding, your lungs heaving and your legs complaining.  This is a difficult hike with an elevation gain of 882m, a round trip takes 6 to 8 hours.  Do not undertake this strenuous trek without water, good hiking boots, poles and some provisions for the day. The winds can blow at the top so be prepared to don a sweater or vest while you enjoy a break.  Equipment aside - you need to be in decent shape.

The west coast forest is beautiful and the blueberries and huckleberries offer us a forest treat.  After about an hour the traffic noises of the highway disappear and silence with the odd bird call remains.

Climbing upward through the forest brings you into a lovely mountain meadow with some fantastic. views.  I like to imagine as I traverse the giant granite plates - that I am walking along the spine of the mountain.

To the right is The Needle and we can see people already at the peak.  I give a wave, but we are too far away to be noticed.

To the left I see the The Flatiron, it is here that our group is heading, but I am hoping to focus my photographic attention on a small glacier feed alpine lake to one side of the Flatiron.

I become entranced by the many splendid natural art sculptures time & weather have created with bleached wood.  It seems as if they have been placed here expressly for our viewing.

The waters of the alpine lake above spill onto a large flat granite plate - I think "it is here that rivers are born".

The alpine lake is as pretty as I remember, clear, cold, pristine.

The Needle is reflected back in this lake in a number of images I take that day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Windsurfing - Harrison Lake Style

Summer fun takes many forms on the beautiful Cultus and Harrison Lakes. I took my camera to Harrison Lake recently to get some pictures of my new beach front condo listing but was quickly distracted and awed somewhat by the speed and aerobatics of the windsurfers out on the lake. What a show they put on - easy to view from the beach or from a private condo sundeck.

Heron's Cove and Harrison Lake
3 Bedrooms, Beach Front - $385,000

I just had to investigate...

I found the launch area just north of the breakwater along Rockwell Drive and pulled in.  I could see 3 windsurfers already out on the lake and quite a distance from shore.  One went airborne as I watched. The wind was strong and steady coming from the south.  A rather tattered Canadian flag was flying straight out with very little flapping. 

Harrison Lake is famous for these inversion winds and as a result is a preferred spot for windsurfing.

The more I looked the more I wondered what it was like.  The edge of your board cutting through the water the winds pulling you along.  The tension of the lines, the acceleration as the winds pick up force. That moment where you rise from the water and for a few seconds, a pause, maybe it feels like an eternity, you are a creature of the wind. 

I asked one of the windsurfers, if it was difficult? He said that injuries such as broken bones and cuts are common.  You have to get proper instruction.  You need to be careful. There is no forgiveness with the wind and the water.  Fortunately, "Bruce" a windsurfing trainer was on the shore standing ready to assist with a launch. What a great guy to talk to. Bruce's knowledge and enthusiasm about the sport are very apparent.  I asked him if older people windsurfed and he said yes as he was in his late fifties. Seems the costs are in the vicinity of $2,000 and that a 12' sail is first recommended. There was a lot more, but just remember this - talking to the right people to get the correct information is key.  

I took the following pictures of Bruce helping with a launch and a little later I assisted Bruce with his sail.

There are 5 strings on these sails and it is quite a job to keep them untangled.

Once the sail is aloft the windsurfer lies on his back and checks all equipment before setting out... then he's up!  One with the water and the wind.

Fun Windsurfing Links:

There are great number of recreational properties currently for sale in Harrison Hot Springs - if you would like some information send me an email or give me a call.

Harrison Hot Springs with Mount Cheam


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Mercer House - On the Move August 10, 2014

This is an unusual story and a fine one in so many ways, of the courage of a family willing to give an old house another chance, of a corporation (Tycrop) that made a caring but tough decision and offered the house for "free" instead of just demolishing it.  It is a story of dreamers and false starts and ultimately this move on a perfect summer morning - August 10, 2014.

There is, of course, a lot of excitement when a house is offered for "free", especially when the media gets ahold of the story, and, over 100 people contacted Tycorp with dreams of living in a "free" house.  The reality however is a far different one.  Far from being "free"- the move and set-up costs are substantial.  Transportation and basic foundation work will cost up to $150,000 with an additional $150,000+ to bring the antiquated house up to the building code.  It is an initiative that needs to be a "labour of love" as economically it makes only marginal sense. However, like "Hochelaga" House in Agassiz (currently for sale MLS#H1402892) with thoughtful planning, an eye for detail, and a lot of work... The extraordinary can happen.

I arrived just before 8 a.m. on that sunny August day to find a few people gathered next to a chain link fence along Yale Road. In the distance, the house could be seen already on a 32 wheels flatbed trailer ready to make the move.

At the fence is one of the new owners.  Melissa Sache with her baby, she tells me little about the process, the costs and type of coordination needed to enable such a move.  This is a major deal - hydro, communication lines have to be moved.  The Canadian Railway contacted so that a train won't inadvertently be coming down the track as the house is straddling it.  Neighbour permission to cross their acreage.  Site preparation. The list goes on.

Her husband Pierre joins us just as the house left the Tycorp yard exit on McGrath Road.

Their new home moves ever so slowly, "baby steps", down the road to a new address on Nevin Road.

I was quite impressed with these kind and steady people and thought "this house is going to the right family". It was a great location as well. A much quieter spot more suitable for the old centenarian house returning it back to the farm life it was built for originally.  The new location is less than 2 kilometres away and almost due south.

Progress from the street over the railway tracks and then onto the farm fields. The driver is mindful, like a new mother, of every sound, every groan and complaint.  Like having a sleeping baby in a stroller you don't want to wake - it is a smooth uneventful ride you are looking for.

Across the fields with a tractor assist....

A perfect move (or so I thought) August 10, 2014 and a future farm life to enjoy.  Image taken August 12, 2014.


Thanks Stephen. The blog post is beautifully written. We did have a hiccup in the field. The tractor got the house moving for a bit but then it got really stuck. Barry Armstrong, who had done our foundation prep, ended up having his excavator brought in and we used that to pull the house. His son Cody drove the excavator.  The guys also picked up two skiffs of thick plywood and they would lay down sheets of plywood,  drag the house across the plywood. Pick up the plywood, move it up and repeat. They did this all the way across the field and into the farm yard. It got through the farm yard with some trees being pulled back and pruned along the way and then when it was almost home, it got really stuck. The crew decided to call it a night and the next morning with fresh eyes they came up with another plan and quickly had it sitting in precisely the correct spot.

Thanks again for the pictures.
Pierre, Melissa and Stella Sache

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Labour of Love - 6892 Lougheed Hwy. Agassiz

This is a story about a turn of the century Victorian and a number of love affairs...

6892 Lougheed Agassiz© Stephen Mullock

In the year of 1909,  a most remarkable structure arose across from the Dominion Agricultural Research Station in the budding community of Agassiz, B.C.  A two-storey house was nearing completion for the newly married Evan and Alice Probert.  Evan helped run the nearby Bella Vista Hotel in Agassiz while Alice taught school in the Harrison Mills, Agassiz and Rosedale communities. It must have been a struggle, especially for Alice, as a ferry boat ride was needed back then to cross the Fraser river and get to Rosedale.  Still they had a beautiful new house to return to at the end of the day's work. An upper middle class dwelling having a little over 1900 square feet on two finished floors with a full basement beneath; it provided a comfortable home reminiscent of the Montreal and Victoria dwellings Evan and Alice had grown up in.  They would call the house "Hochelaga" a St. Lawrence Iroquoian village word and an area close to McGill in Montreal, Canada. A stained glass window above the main entry area with the word "Hochelaga" still greets visitors to its doorstep.  The Agassiz Museum has and sometimes displays tiny Alice's wedding dress, who is shown on the porch in the next picture.

Hochelaga 1909 ©

Successive generations of Proberts would live here until 2000 making an effort to modernize the structure. The roomy "double sized lot" of 100x132 would provide a bounty of flowers, fruits and vegetables. The house would be lifted onto a new foundation at some point, low maintenance vinyl siding would be installed, the upper balcony at the front of the house would be eliminated and the veranda enclosed. Back in 2000, I wrote this ad "Built in 1909 to celebrate a new marriage and move to Agassiz, this house is called "Hochelaga". This fine lady features 9' ceilings, original door casings, 8" baseboards, a pantry. Looking for someone to restore her".  Greg and Lorna responded.

Hochelaga 2000 ©

Greg and Lorna approached the home's restoration with both vigour and a sensitivity to the home's design strengths. A bit of a love affair with the dwelling. First, the vinyl siding was removed, and, much to the delight of the new owners, the original wood shingles were revealed to be in good shape just needing a paint job. A lot of effort was needed to bring back an exterior similar to the 1909 photograph.  A new heavy "50 year" shingle roof with a sculpted edge adds an interesting detail. 

Hochelaga 2014 ©

The energy efficiency of single pane windows was an issue and with this, Greg and Lorna made a wise decision. Instead of ripping them out and installing new vinyl or aluminium sash windows, custom made storm windows were ordered, made and hung. The energy efficiency of the house was also enhanced with a heat pump, which provides both air conditioning and heating. Today average utility cost for electricity and natural gas combined runs a very reasonable $200 a month. 

Room by room this house has been thoughtfully and carefully improved. Here are the stunning results and just a taste of what's inside:

All pictures © Stephen Mullock

This house has a happy past and a promising future thanks to the care and attention that has gone into this labour of love.