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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

The Cool Place to Be!

Before heading out to do some exploring today we headed south on the coastal highway to the Bowser Esso station, to fill Newman with propane. We can’t run out of propane or we can’t heat our hot water, run our furnace or cook on our stove. Going for propane unfortunately meant that we had to store everything that we had put out since last week when we arrived in Fanny Bay.

While Richard was getting the propane at the Esso station, I hopped out to explore the local Gift Store in Bowser. It’s interesting how everyone here has an “angle“ on how to make money! The gift store sold everything from branded Bowser clothing, kitchen goods, cards, kids toys, giftware, jewellery and even food from the Netherlands! Quite an eclectic, but beautiful gift store. I also grabbed Richard a coffee and a fresh apple fritter at the local coffee shop, which he said was fantastic, and after a quick fill up, and re-settling Newman back onto our lot, we were off to explore another new town.

Today we were exploring CUMBERLAND, B.C. which is 24km NW of Fanny Bay. Cumberland is being dubbed now as “the cool place to be!” The village has an enviable location, surrounded by a working forest and tucked up against the Beaufort Mountain range, with Comox Lake as its backyard. It’s historic downtown is compact and picturesque, with tales of the past that ooze from its architecture.

Cumberland Museum and Archives.

In the early 20th century, Cumberland was the capital of Robert Dunsmuir’s coal mining and timber empire. (I remembered this Dunsmuir name from a street in downtown Vancouver when I heard it). An ethnically diverse immigrant workforce came to work in Dunsmuir’s notoriously dangerous mines. Many miners died young of black lung disease, deadly gas vapours or from explosions in the mine. Over 295 miners died over the years in Cumberland. Ginger Goodwin was a Union organizer for the miners union who was shot and killed by Constable Dan Campbell, which many feel was a “state-sponsored assassination”. Goodwin’s funeral procession was a mile long through Cumberland and the first general strike ever in Canada was held in Vancouver on August 2, 1918, on the day of his funeral. Every year labour reps and activists still gather to pay tribute at the tombstone of Ginger Goodwin.

The mines closed in 1966 and the town, once the home to one of B.C.’s biggest mining operations had seen its population drop and charm fade. The town though has made a remarkable comeback with the ultra-vibrant town’s love of mountain biking, music, and art. Between 2011-2016, 1,300 new residents came to live in Cumberland. We were surprised with the extensive bike trail network that surrounds Cumberland and the infrastructure that surrounds mountain biking. The Cumberland Brew pub on the Main Street has a bike washing station next to it’s patio and the parking lot next to the bike trails on the outskirts of town, also has a bike washing station. For such a small town, we also saw 2 very large bike shops, selling very expensive bikes!

All of those red lines on the map are mountain bike trails fanning out from Cumberland. Each trail is rated for its difficulty. Cumberland certainly is a Mecca for mountain bikers and they all need to eat and sleep somewhere which is what the town is catering to!

Hostel for cyclists.

The local pizza restaurant in Cumberland is called “Rider’s Pizza” and is done up inside with cycling paraphernalia. What better place to finish a bike ride but at a local brew pub and pizzeria downtown Cumberland!

Cumberland had quite a few interesting stores and I was able to purchase a beautiful, unique sweater from a shop on the main drag. I will model it another day.

After lining up outside to visit the Cumberland Village Bakery, we decided to have lunch at COOKS.

At Cooks they don’t take “walk up orders“. The menu is on the fence, you call in your order and they give you a time to walk up the ramp to pick up your lunch.

I had the grilled cheese and it was delicious! Richard said the burger was amazing! Homemade and fresh!

We were disappointed the museum in Cumberland was closed for renovations so instead of going inside for a visit, we drove up to Comox Lake to see what we would find there.

Comox Lake is a glacier fed freshwater lake. The lake is a reservoir for drinking water and hydroelectric power.

The Lake was extraordinarily calm and beautiful with the large fluffy clouds reflected in the water. I enjoyed walking down the pier to take these shots. Simply breathtaking!

Of course while I was taking these shots, Richard found someone to talk to. A local guy was bringing his boat out of the water and Richard got talking to him about what its like to live in Cumberland. Apparently he loves it, being 5 minutes away from the Lake and living next to his work in the forest. His boat is handmade having been built by his boss from a boat frame found on the side of the road. A pretty cool looking boat for being homemade!

Driving back to Cumberland we discovered more walking trails in Coal Creek Heritage Park, which we will save for another day. These trails run through what was the Japanese miners town site and the miner’s Chinatown. We also want to try out ”Biblio Taco” which is a taco restaurant downtown Cumberland in an old library. A very funky town, with a great vibe to go back to!

After a great afternoon in Cumberland it was time to go to the Union Bay Post Office to mail our Christmas gifts. Since its the Covid Christmas this year, we needed to get these in the post to arrive in time for Christmas.

Union Bay Market is located next to the Post Office and since we hadn’t visited it yet, we thought it was high time we did! Not only does the market sell food stuffs, wine, beer and cider, but on Wednesdays it sells homemade beef enchiladas! Every day of the week apparently there a different homemade savoury tonight we will enjoy our beef enchilada’s with a homemade salad in Newman! We are really enjoying finding these “daily specials” at out of the way spots. Richard has a name for these type of places. He calls them “spoons” and we seem to be finding lots of them!

Driving back to Fanny Bay I asked Richard to quickly pull over so I could take this shot of a fisherman bringing in his boat off Baynes Sound. Some days its hard to believe how beautiful it is here and how much we can see and do in a day!

Tomorrow we will be in Comox to do some more exploring and so I can visit a new osteopath. I’m finding with all of this exercise, my body needs some therapy and I’m also missing my fantastic osteo in Fort Erie!

The enchiladas smell delicious warming up in the oven.....and now its time for a Crisp Apple, B.C. Okanagan cider before dinner that we picked up today from the Union Bay Market

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