“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing
what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
Bella Coola | July
this summer the girls and i took a road trip to Bella Coola where my family lived from the time i was 13 until my mid twenties. it has been years (25 or 26) since we lived there and i left the valley when my three kids were little. michelle and audrey had not been back since they were kids.
“This trip was all about the destination, but the journey was just as incredible.” Michelle
we drove to Williams Lake the first day planning to get an early start the next day for the second part of the trip over the Chilcoltin and down into the valley but on the way there we learned a few lessons: one | book ahead if you want to find a place to sleep in Williams Lake on stampede weekend. every single hotel and b & b in town was booked up and we nearly ended up homeless for the night. two | we learned not to be surprised by the kindness of strangers. thanks to the kind lady working in one of the hotels that saw our predicament and offered to share her home despite us being complete strangers. three | there is no limit to the kindness of friends. thanks laureen for your hospitality and for saving our butts and giving us a place to stay the night. ( check out laureen’s photography website here)
our adventure had started!
there is something freeing about being on the road (dancing in the wind on the Chilcoltin).
“A whole day spent on the wide open road with the people I love the most, going to the place where my life began.” Michelle
Nimpo Lake | probably the most traffic we saw on the road since we headed west at Williams Lake.
The Hill | if you drive to Bella Coola there is no way to avoid it and it drops 5000 ft. from Heckman pass in a steep winding unpaved road, sometimes just a single lane, no guard rails, and on one side the mountain and the other a huge precipice, this picture does not do it justice. it’s beautiful and i’ve never liked it but the destination is worth it so i grit my teeth and say a prayer until we reach the bottom or the top on the way back.
an old photo from when we first drove it and the right one we drove twice earlier this year.
yield to oncoming traffic.
another view of the hill. i found this one online.
an old photo (right) that we recreated 27 years later at a switchback on the road. i seem to have shrunk.
once we arrived down the hill the first place we stopped was in Firvale where i lived in my teens. a million memories flooded in and overwhelmed me. our house is now gone. all that is left is the old shed.
“i’ve been walking around with my heart in my throat from the minute we drove down into Bella Coola. it’s the immense beauty around but it’s more than that, this place is wrapped in memories from the time we moved here when I was 13 until i left 12 years later.”
“This is where we came from and today we are back. It’s been both beautiful and haunting as an adult returning. There are no words to adequately describe the beauty of the Valley and our descent into it.” Audrey
Clayton Falls above | a boat tour to Tahlleo’s Cannery below
old memories. the Hagensborg church before and now.
and we made new memories.
.this is the cabin we built when my family first moved to Bella Coola to homestead and the humble home we lived in during our first years there. it was such a treat to see my friend marisa. together we pored over her old photo albums from those early days — so many memories that now seem so far removed but played such a great part in who my brothers and sister and i are today.
this was our home away from home while we were in the valley. i highly recommend these cute little cabins (rip rap campsite) run by jim and amber. they come fully equipped with everything we might need and a cozy wood stove that kept us warm on rainy days.
it was the rodeo weekend so we checked it out.
the Bella Coola townsite | this is the property where our home was brought by barge from the original Bella Coola townsite across the inlet. the remains of our garden are still there and the little bridge in front of the house that the kids loved to play when they were small.
“…in Bella Coola, where my memories of white picket fence perfection, childhood freedom at the pedals of my bicycle, the candy store, the co-op, rootbeer floats with my sister … today it’s different with … faded siding on the houses, grown over brush swallowing them up, our own house gone. Not even a shadow in its place – just a space in a lot that seems too small to contain the memories. All of my perfect memories have melted away into this tiny town full of people who almost recognize us. … I love you Bella Coola, despite how sad I feel when I look at you…
“…All being said, I can’t believe we come from here, this place that most will never know the way we do. It’s special that our memories live here.” Audrey
Tatla Lake | we stayed here on the way home.
you can get pretty much everything you need in the only store in town. pop, ice, a mechanic, gas, a bouquet of flowers, a notary public, a tire repaired, mail a letter or send a fax + more!
the way home.