Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mascot Gold Mine at Hedley

Last weekend we explored a little known gem of a tourist attration here in the interior of BC - Mascot Mine at Hedley, in the gorgeous Similkameen Valley. Never having heard of it 3 days prior to our visit I did a little reading on their website. One glance at the photos and I realised it would be best not to mention the exact position of the mines in advance to Mum!

The drive itself is a day out all of it's own. (Especially when you have a new soft top sports car to drive around in!) On the way there we saw bears right on the side of the road (this is the second or third time we've seen bears on Green Mountain Road!) - Chris and Liz (in the sports car) saw 3 bears briefly, and Mum, Dad and I (in the 'scabby old' rental car trailing some way behind at this point!) were treated to this fella'.
Bear on Green Mountain Road, Penticton
He wasn't the least bit bothered by our presence, had a little look at us, then proceeded into the shrubs to chomp away at his breakfast. Then came back out into the road and eventually wandered off. To give you an idea of how long we were gazing at him - this photo was taken with my camera (obviously). Which was in the trunk of the car. In my bag (or so I thought - so a bit of extra faffing trying to feel for it), then my standard lens wasn't great so I rooted around some more for the zoom lens. Fitted it and hey presto - EVENTUALLY a photo! So cool!

Once in the Similkameen Valley there are an incredible abundance of farm shops along the roads. We're pretty lucky here in the central Okanagan, but this is something else! On our way home we picked up some super sweet juicy apricots, cherries, plums and a cute little spaghetti squash (perfect meal for 2 size!)

Mascot Mine
Hedley itself is a tiny little community these days. Back in it's heyday when the mines were roaring it had a population of 12,000 and 7 hotels! We parked up and way, waaaaaay up in the hills above us (about 3000ft up!) you could just about make out a little dot on the cliffside - that's where we were headed!!

The winding road up the hill (if only it were paved it would make an awesome biking road!!)
The 4.5 hour tour started at the Snaza'ist Discovery Centre in Hedley with a short film, then we took a mini bus up the 13km winding Nickel Plate Forest Road with a suberb guide - she talked just about the whole way - explaining the history, the landscape, the stories, First Nation lore - she was fascinating and so enthusiastic and went a long way to making the tour just so great! We had about a 1/2 km hike from the roads' end down to the top of the mine steps. And then 300-something steps down again to get to the mine entrance. At this point you really got a sense of just how 'on the edge' you were. The mine's position almost defies gravity!

Looking down at the mine (we're already 1/2 way down!)
Once down at the mine site we explored the historic buildings - the cookhouse, bunkhouse, mine offices and machinery rooms. We were guided through the operation and given a great insight into what life was like for the 130 men that worked there at any one time. We heard stories of the parties they held, and free time activities they enjoyed. Life was good there - they were earning $4.75 a day plus free keep and the mine owners ensured excellent working and living conditions for the men - but they certinaly couldn't suffer from vertigo! We walked a little way into the mine tunnel - but at 8 degrees (compared to the balmy 30 degree day we were enjoying) it was a little too icy for me! The blast of cold air as you walked towards the entrance was quite enough - so just a quick jaunt in as far as a dynamite store for us!

On the way back down the hill we stopped for a couple of photo opportunities - and were (yet again) blown away by the fabulous views up and down the valley. I can't beleieve I've lived here over 2 years and never heard of this place! But it was such an excellent day out - well worth it!
Mum and Dad at the overlook

1 comment:

  1. Hey there Helen, love the pictures. I am giving you The Butterfly Blog Award. Head over to my blog for info. :)


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