THE CHILCOTIN SUNRISE CHALET HISTORY AND GATEWAY STORY
The Chilcotin Sunrise Chalet was built in the 1890s, as part of the 150 Mile House Ranch, it was the ranch manager's dwelling. 150 Mile House was an important stop on the Cariboo Wagon Road during the Cariboo Gold Rush. The name, marks the distance from Lillooet via the Old Cariboo Road. It is the junction of roads to the communities of Likely and Horsefly in the northeast. The House must have seen many people passing by on their way to prosperity or maybe becoming poorer since they arrived. I wish the big fir logs the house was built from could talk and tell their story. In later years, the house was occupied by many different dwellers and served many purposes. It was everything from a post office, a hostel for pioneers, to a chicken coop and many times just a home for the pack rats. In 1969, Jean and Roy Wellburn from Williams Lake came along and rescued the building from being torn down. It had to make space for the new road being built. They took the whole building down, log by log and transported the heavy load too Big Lake in the Nemiah Valley. With a lot of work and love they rebuild the old house at it's new location, overlooking the lake into the most incredible scenery, the Chilcotin Range, an area of the Coast Mountains, with Ts'il?os how the Tsilhqo'tin people of Nemiah call their spiritual mountain, dominating the view. We thank Jean and Roy that they gave the house a new home at a very special place. We also thank them that they have turned it over to us in 1989, and that we found a new home after a long journey, immigrating into Canada in 1984, looking for paradise. We found it and are willing to share this with friends and guests and will keep the spirit of this house alive. When you come by for a visit, we can share more stories with you, talk about the old days this house has seen, but keeps many a secret forever.
Now to our story, who we are, where we came from and what is our destination. It all started back in 1984 when Udette and me, Roland, moved from Germany to Canada, with a backpack full of belongings, a few dollars in our pocket and the desire for adventure, searching for a different life in a new country, large and beautiful, leaving behind the old world, saying good-bye to friends and family. Some of my relatives have already lived in Canada since 1952, and they were a big help to us, to get used and settled in this country and culture so different and brand-new to us, but also very welcoming and friendly, that made the new start easy enough to put behind the life where we came from, keeping our heritage in a good memory. We spent a number of years living close to Vancouver at Brunswick Beach in Lions Bay, in a small Summer Cottage, in the beautiful Howe Sound area. Living by the ocean, observing seals and sometimes even whales swimming along near the shore in front of the house, most spectacular sunsets and towering mountains behind the house became a daily routine. At this time, we already realized coming to Canada was a move in the right direction, I worked for my uncle at his art studio, and Udette was busy with housekeeping work, gardening and many other jobs and helping me with renovation work. When we had time off from work, we started exploring more of Beautiful British Columbia and could not get enough to see of this province. We became aware behind the outskirts of Vancouver the wilderness starts and the desire to see more of this unknown world, became stronger every time we were exploring or spending time, hiking and camping in the forests of the Coast Mountains or at beaches of the Pacific West Coast, the Cariboo Mountains in the interior. Meeting wildlife in its very own territory, the typical thing for German visitors, I like to see a bear, a wolf, the eagles and many more creatures living in the wilderness. We do not have many of them left back home in Germany. We became so fascinated and wanted to see more, the wish to live closer to them and away from the city developed, even if we liked Vancouver a lot and all the “hustle bustle” of a big city.
Suddenly, a job came up. I was hired to help build a cabin in Nemiah Valley on a guest ranch. I had no idea, where this place was, sounded almost exotic. I arrived here very late at night and crawled in my sleeping bag not seeing much of the place, but what a surprise, when I stuck my head out of the tent early in the morning, in the first moment, it felt like I was still dreaming, I turned around a few times, absorbing the full 360 degrees view, just to believe it. This was the most beautiful morning view I had ever experienced and right in this moment. I knew this is where I want to be, this is why we came to Canada, a dream I had many times when I was a child, this was how my uncle far away in Canada told me about his Canada. I worked a couple of weeks at the ranch, building and finishing a cabin, every day when I was working outside I was still turning around on the spot and absorbing the scenery of the land framed by snow-capped mountains and blue sky every day. My question to the owners, if they knew how and where to find a place to rent or buy, they told me about the Ol’cabin at Big Lake and who owns it.
First step accomplished many more to go. On my way back to Vancouver, I stopped at Big Lake to visit the place the owners of the ranch had told me about. I was blown away. This is what I have been dreaming about. Now I had to convince Udette about this new idea to leave Brunswick Beach and buy this place and move to Big Lake in the middle of absolute nowhere. No neighbors for more than 20 km, how can we make a living there, with not much to expect when we came across the idea how and where do we find a job to pay the bills, to buy food and mostly fuel? Where does the money come from to buy the place, are the people willing to sell it in the first place? We still had a lot to accomplish. Udette agreed. Meeting Roy and Jean, they didn’t want to sell the place, but we had a nice visit with them, and our dream was put on hold, at least for two more months. We received letters through the mail, and they told us that they were willing to sell the place to us, but we still had no money. A friend helped us out with that, and we moved in on Christmas Eve a few days later. Santa Clause was good to us. It was almost unbelievable, but this is how it was and became reality. A big moment in our life searching for paradise, we were very happy and so where the Pack Rats when we spent our first night in our new house and home, we lit the stove and the house warmed up. The pack rats woke up from feeling too cozy, and they celebrated Christmas with us. They had to go or we where not staying, so they moved. Now that we had a home and no more unwanted tenants we had to make plans how this all would come together, but realized we have to go back to Brunswick Beach. Work really hard and make enough money to pay off debt and to start our new life with, buy supplies and more tools, some seeds to grow garden, one thing we had to start with right away, to put food on the table, lots of candles, kerosene lamps and fuel, so we do not have to sit in the dark at night. The time for planning this adventure, was already so interesting, and I was thinking a lot, how did the people manage at the time when the house was built in the 1890s, with horses and wagons for transportation, and it took weeks to get there from Vancouver on roads like goat trails? We are reliving their lives and their story, just different. It became our story, a today's pioneers story. The only modern thing beside our truck was an old transistor radio. Boxes full of hand tools, there were no power poles in sight, back to hand work and simplicity. This was exactly what we wanted, now we had to prove ourselves, will we survive, or returning to Vancouver and this was just a nice holiday in the wild.
Today 25 years later, we are still here, and we are not planning to leave, all those years since arriving, so many things happened, and we might tell you more stories of the Chilcotin Sunrise Chalet, if you come to visit us, we will have all the time together, to sit around at the campfire or close to the stove with a cup of tea or coffee. Our son is also part within the famil and grew up in the Chilcotin Wilderness, learning different ways of living and surviving. Our neighbors the Tsilhqot’in People of Nemiah, have been living here long before us and survived, that gave us the strength and confidence to make it happen. We hope we can welcome you as our guests.