New Denver & the Slocan Valley

When we reached our next campground home, Rosebery Provincial Park, it was no longer raining. Everything was damp, but by that point in our trip, that wasn’t unusual. We found our spot, a large well-shaded plot generously distanced from our neighbors, and set up. I already liked this campground much more than any of the others on the trip. It was quiet, set away from the highway, and near Wilson Creek.

Evening walk along Wilson Creek

Instead of a permanent host based in the campground, the host travelled between several in the area, checking in campers and distributing firewood. Ours showed up shortly after we began setting up. He was extremely friendly and offered up several hiking recommendations, including a warning to avoid Idaho Peak. As we’d been told earlier on the ferry, there was a territorial female grizzly guarding the area around the peak, and though it wasn’t closed, people were being cautioned to refrain from hiking.

We enjoyed an evening without rain – though the temperatures were much cooler than usual – and awoke to a dry but cloudy morning. For our morning hike we decided to do one of our host’s recommendations, Wilson Creek Falls, instead of Idaho Peak. Located 12 km up a forest service road, the hike began outside the boundary of Goat Range Provincial Park but crossed it along the way. With Halfway Hot Springs fresh in my mind, I was slightly worried about encountering another downed tree, but it was a smooth trip to the trailhead. When we pulled into the small parking area, I was surprised to see that we were all alone! I thought it would be a popular hike given its relative ease and proximity to the campground. As with any hike in grizzly country, I’m always more nervous on an empty trail – it’s an irrational fear. Armed with our bear spray, we set off down the trail.

After some initial jitters, the beauty of the trail outweighed any trepidation I had. It was quiet (when we weren’t announcing our presence) and still. Everything was slightly damp and there was little sunlight to illuminate the forest floor. A mostly level trail, only the end required effort to maneuver over roots and branches as we made our way down to the creek.

As we neared the falls, the roar became deafening. Bathed in the spray from the falls, everything was intensely green and coated in moss. When we reached the trail’s end, we stood entranced by the force of the water. Several people told us this was the best waterfall in BC, and while we can’t attest to that, it’s defintely impressive. We could tell that there was another drop just above, shooting the water into the canyon wall where it was then compelled to drop over 200 ft. into Wilson Creek. I don’t know how long we stood there, but it was incredible to have it all to ourselves.

We turned back the way we’d come and were astounded not to see a single soul the entire way. Back at our car, Zach thought he’d take the opportunity to play a little trumpet. I half expected critters to crawl out from every corner of the forest! They didn’t to my disappointment.

Only 6.5 km south of Rosebery, our next stop was a small lakeside village that sits on the shores of Slocan Lake. Originally called Eldorado, the town changed its name to New Denver when its residents believed it would eclipse Denver, Colorado. While that never panned out, the name stuck. When we pulled onto their main street after our hike, we spotted a farmers market in a corner lot and walked across to check it out. As we were leaving, we were pulled into conversation with an incredibly nice older woman who sold chocolate truffles. She handed each of us a delectable sample and chatted with us about her son who lived in Ankara, Turkey, but was interested in teaching in Boise; her collection of over 400 hats (!); and the party she was throwing this coming week in honor of her son’s visit. We exchanged information and parted with an invitation to visit the next time we were in town.

Friday Market

Feeling welcomed to town, we walked down the street to the visitor center to check on the weather, ask about a couple hikes, and use the wifi! The weather looked alright – there was possible intermittent rain throughout the day – but it looked worse the following day, which encouraged us to scrunch as much as we could into the day. As we started toward our car again, we passed Sanderella’s, a boutique and cafe, and thought we should grab some lunch before striking out for our next stop. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch with coffee and felt refueled for our afternoon plans.

On the other side of town, we visited the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre. Established in 1994, the Centre serves as a reminder of Japanese-Canadian internment in British Columbia from 1942 to 1957. Other camps were dismantled and destroyed after the internment ended, leaving only Nikkei as a physical reminder of this period in British Columbia and Canada’s history. Over 22,000 Japanese-Canadians were relocated to the interior of the province, stripped of homes and possessions, and often separated from their families. The Centre was initiated by the New Denver Kyowakai Society, and many of the artifacts were donated by community members. This aspect made it all the more significant as each item was linked to a real person. Though small, the Centre was incredibly powerful; it thoughtfully presented both the injustices endured by Japanese-Canadians and the community they formed in the face of adversity.

Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre

There were three original buildings on site, shacks which were used to house families in New Denver’s “The Orchard” camp. In 1942-43, at the beginning of the internment, each shack would have housed two families with up to six children a piece. This relocation proved to be temporary for some. At the end of the war, internees were required to leave British Columbia entirely either by moving east of the Rocky Mountains or returning to Japan – a country many of them had never known. Those who could prove employment in the area as well as the sick and elderly were allowed to remain in New Denver. “The Orchard” continued to serve under the direction of the provincial government until 1957, when the camp was decommissioned. The shacks were then deeded over to the Japanese-Canadian residents and laid out in city blocks.

An example of a shack from 1942/43
An example of a shack from 1957 – this home was lived in until 1985 and never had hot water!
A photograph of “The Orchard”

In addition to the shacks, Kyowakai Hall, the hub of the New Denver Japanese-Canadian community, was also on site. It served as a meeting hall and Buddhist Temple and witnessed countless gatherings over the years. Now the hall-turned-museum houses the Centre’s collection and allowed us a glimpse into the life of a community in exile. With informative displays detailing the course of events which led to internment and exile, along with personal accountings from internees who lived and grew up in the area’s camps, I found the collection incredibly poignant. At the end of the displays, just as we were about to exit, a mirror hung on the wall under the word “Reflection.” It was a powerful closing statement.

Kyowakai Hall
The beautiful Heiwa Teien garden was designed by a former Rosebery internee, Roy Sumi

After leaving th Centre, we drove a few blocks to the city park where there was another memorial, the Kohan Reflection Garden. Kohan means “by the water” and the garden was beautifully situated on the lakeshore with a ceremonial tea house at its center. Looking out at the lake, we could see the rain shower which had recently passed over us in the distance. It looked mostly clear otherwise, so we decided to proceed with our afternoon plan to kayak on Slocan Lake.

Kohan Reflection Garden

We hadn’t done any kayaking thus far on our trip and we were eager to get out on the water. Across Slocan Lake, opposite New Denver and two other small villages, sat Valhalla Provincial Park, a large 124,000 acre park covering a swath of the Selkirk Mountains. The park has several boat accessible lakefront beaches that allow for exploration into the park in addition to other access points farther south. I had settled on kayaking to a tiny beach at the outlet of Nemo Creek and hiking a short distance to a pair of waterfalls. The shortest, most direct way to cross Slocan Lake was to kayak from Bannock Point on the eastern shoreline.

Located down an unmarked dirt road, Bannock Point is a small recreation area with a day-use pebble beach, several walk up campsites strewn along the rocky shoreline, and a collection of viewpoint trails. We decided, for better or worse, to carry our kayaks to the beach and assemble them there. The trail was only half a mile but it was slightly steeper than I expected which meant our return would be more difficult.

Rain to the south
Seemed better to the north

When we reached the beach, it was windy and the lake was choppy. I was a little concerned about crossing the lake, but Zach wasn’t in the slightest. (This is our usual dynamic.) Thankfully, by the time our kayaks were ready to go, the wind had died down and the lake was calm.

Behind Zach, the rocky shoreline of Bannock Point
In front of Zach, our destination

It was a straight shot across the lake to the tiny beach at Nemo Creek. We could see a group camping on the main beach, so we pulled our kayaks up on an outer bank. We hung out on the beach enjoying the views and our snacks while chatting with two fishermen cruising the creek outlet for fish. After a while we made our way to the shore and found a trail to the lower falls.

Nice view of Idaho Peak from the other side of the lake

It was hushed under the canopy of trees, and our footsteps made little sound as we traversed the soft soil. We first came to a small series of cascading falls. Slightly farther up the creek, a more dramatic waterfall filtered down. We stayed for a while enjoying the solitude. (We know now that this was all considered the lower falls and we needed to follow the trail away from the creek to find the upper falls.)

When we emerged from the forest, another band of rain was imminent. I thought we should take cover in the forest, but Zach quickly began preparing to paddle back across the lake. I begrudgingly followed suit, and we soon found ourselves paddling in a torrent of rain in the middle of Slocan Lake. Of course, as we neared the beach at Bannock Point the rain began to peter out. Drenched and irritated, we chose to carry the kayaks up to the car to dry and disassemble them. It was 7:45pm by the time we drove away, and as we discovered, well past closing time for everything in New Denver. The Slocan Lake Golf Club was our last resort, and they graciously agreed to feed us even though they were beginning to clean up for the night. We capped off a long adventurous day with a satisfying meal and a couple of beers. We couldn’t have asked for much more.

Slocan Lake from the golf club

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