howtheduck (howtheduck) wrote in binky_betsy,

Lynn Visits Atlin, British Columbia

This is a long one. As usual, I will quote the text and then add my comments after the cut.

In another life, my dad must have been a prospector. As a jeweller, he was interested in gemstones and minerals, but he was also captivated by stories of the gold rush and read extensively about the people who pioneered their way through the interior of British Columbia. I often went with him to gold pan on the Coquihalla River and to check out sandbars on the fast flowing Fraser. He had a sixth sense for finding gold-bearing quartz and for jade good enough for carving. One summer, he took the family on a road trip to Barkerville, a town built by the gold rush and still standing thanks to a small tourism industry. On the way, we camped on the property of a friend of his—a man who had staked a claim and was busily digging his own mine, but that’s a story for another time!

Or we could retell it now from this Lynn’s Notes:

Sunday July 5, 2015 Lynn’s Notes:

One year my dad insisted we all go on a camping trip into the BC interior. He was an amateur rock hound who loved to gold pan, and his plan was to follow the route of the gold rush to Barkerville and back.

Before we left, both he and my mom made sure we kids had everything we needed. They packed, repacked, checked, and double-checked our suitcases, and told us that if we forgot anything, we’d be out in the bush where there were no stores, we would have to live without it. Off we went in our old 1959 Chev, with a pile of supplies and suitcases lashed to the top of the car.

After a long day of driving, we finally came to our first stop; a swampy, mosquito-infested campground just north of the town of Hope. The sun had dropped below the mountains. Mom reminded Alan and I that there was nothing around us for miles, and to make sure we had everything we needed for a night in the woods…just as Dad discovered he’d forgotten the tent poles.

Lynn tries to portray herself as regularly going with her father to the fast flowing Fraser, but this Lynn’s Notes tells us what the real purpose of those trips were:

Sunday September 7, 2014 Lynn’s Notes:

My folks used to take us to farms in the Fraser Delta for fresh strawberries. Both Alan and I were too young to enjoy picking, but we sure liked eating them.

Lynn has made no other reference to the Coquihalla River that I could find, however a map shows me that the Coquihalla River and Fraser River merge around the town of Hope, BC, which is where Mervyn and Ursula moved after they retired from the jewellery business. In other words, there is a good possibility that Lynn is making reference to things she did when she visited her dad after he retired.

Even with my dad’s focus on our provincial history, I had never heard of Atlin, B.C. Accessible by road through Whitehorse in the Yukon, it remains one of the few gold rush towns (still active) still inhabited by people whose family histories date back to the late 1800s. I have just returned from Atlin and I have to tell you about this experience while it’s still fresh in my mind.

From the Wikipedia:

Atlin is a community in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, located on the eastern shore of Atlin Lake. In addition to continued gold-mining activity, Atlin is a tourist destination for fishing, hiking and Heliskiing. As of 2004, there are 450 permanent residents.

Looking at the map, it’s just a little bit north of Juneau, Alaska and is just south of the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse has a Whitehorse Air Services listed and the drive is about 2 ½ hours south.

My friend, Paul Lucas, a talented musician, has had a cabin in Atlin for over 40 years. During the late 70s, he travelled to the Yukon with other artists and musicians looking for freedom, space, adventure and the possibility of owning a small piece of property. Atlin, a two-hour drive southeast of Whitehorse and just over the BC border, offered all of that. Paul’s life and his music have revolved around this part of the country, and despite extensive travel and another life in Phoenix Arizona, his roots are set firmly in Atlin.

Lynn is still maintaining the fiction that she and Paul Lucas are just friends, but this is the guy who went to the Reuben Awards with her, so I seriously doubt that this is the situation. Nevertheless, if the man has kept a cabin for over 40 years in addition to other residences and that has been since he was in the 20s, I get the feeling that Paul Lucas is not a starving musician. Naturally, being in Arizona myself, I was curious about Paul Lucas in Phoenix, Arizona, but my internet search finds nothing. There are about 4 Paul Lucas in the area that are 68 years old, but none of them have listings that say they used to live in Canada. If he lives in Phoenix, it is not performing with the Paul Lucas Trio.

Paul and I met as school children in North Vancouver and have known each other since grade five. Our lives took us in very different directions, but at our last high school reunion, we met again. We decided to explore our old neighbourhood. What a hoot! So many memories, so many stories to tell. Single seniors and with much in common, we soon became steady companions. Paul recently invited me to come to the annual Atlin Arts & Music festival, where he and his group, The Paul Lucas Trio (a jazz-based Brazilian style of music), would be playing. After a two-hour flight on Air North (one of my best travel experiences ever), I arrived in Whitehorse on July 7th with enthusiasm, curiosity and a small orange suitcase.

Here is a description of the festival and oddly enough, it indicates that Paul Lucas is from out-of-town and from Alberta.

July 7 is the day before the festival starts. According to the description, the Paul Lucas Trio performed 3 times, 6 – 7 pm on Friday on the Mainstage, 2-3 pm on Saturday on the Lake Stage, and 2-3 pm on Sunday at the Globe Theatre. Here is a description of the trio and Lynn is not totally off-the-mark in her description of their music:

Paul Lucas and his trio dish up sizzling samba inspired jazz. Their music is a blend of African rhythms, Brazilian samba and jazz improvisation that creates a distinct driving guitar sound and percussive energy. Paul Lucas plays original jazz scores along with arrangements of music by Baden Powell and Joao Bosco. Rounding out the trio is Lonnie Powell on drums and Daniel Janke on upright bass.

Atlin was a wonderful surprise. The town itself is a collection of small houses and beautifully restored shops, which might easily be part of an outdoor soundstage: a set waiting for scenes from the gold rush to come alive again. It is situated on a long, deep glacier-fed lake and overlooking one of the most spectacular mountains I have ever seen. Scored by the glaciers with a massive tulip-shaped pattern, Atlin Mountain is an outstanding and memorable marvel. No wonder people fought to keep the town alive. With this as your focal point, it would be impossible to live in Atlin and not become part of it, heart and soul.

According to the map, Atlin Mountain is across Atlin Lake from Atlin. The pictures look gorgeous. Right about this point in the text, Lynn seems to fall in love with Atlin and she is pretty unrelenting about it, which means she has an ulterior motive.

View of Atlin Mountain from downtown.

Paul’s property is a few minutes drive from town. We stopped to get water from a spring, then continued down a quiet road until we came to a long gravel driveway that led to the cabin he built by hand when he was in his twenties. It was much larger than I imagined it to be. It was neatly furnished, welcoming and comfortable. He hooked his truck’s battery to the cabin wiring which allowed us to have some light and a TV on. We could watch Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, or any of the countless old black and white movies he’d collected over the years. Cooking was easy. With a small propane cooking ring on the wall and the top of the woodstove to keep things hot, we had everything we needed for three meals a day. Not having a fridge is a problem in summer, but we managed with a cooler and an easy-going attitude. I surprised myself by being quite at home.

Again, Lynn is beating the drum of "I could live here", but don't worry about Lynn and food. It will turn out that she is going to get most of her meals at a performer's food table and at the beer tent. What I learn here is that Paul Lucas drove up to Atlin if he has his own truck there. Possibly he had to do this to carry his trio’s equipment, but that is a long haul from Vancouver. Getting power from your truck battery sounds very rustic (and a little bit of a fire hazard). While the water situation sounds a little off, I note that in the festival description it says:


One spigot is available at the Pine Tree Station with little space for lines. If possible, you should fill up before coming into town. Spring water is available 1/3 mile s. of the Beach parking lot on the east side of Warm Bay Road.

That does sound like very limited water sources. That Lynn surprised herself by being quite at home sounds like a very true statement, because her pictures make the place look tiny.

Paul’s Cabin
Inside Paul’s Cabin

On the day I arrived, the music festival venue was being set up. In a lakeside field, an enormous striped tent for the main stage had been erected and surrounding this were many smaller tents where artists and craftspeople were setting up shop. Food trucks were arriving. The local Tlingit community provided a comfortable meeting space in the centre of the compound where bannock, fry bread and other northern foods were being prepared. It was a much bigger event than I had imagined it to be.

Other northern foods. I wonder what those are because fry bread is popular where I live in Arizona.

Knowing they would be needing volunteers, I offered my two hands and was immediately given a shift in the beer tent from noon until four o’clock the following day. I was in! Camper vans, trailers, tents and any number of travel contraptions filled every available space. Every field, every vacant property, and even backyards were filled with campers. Every road within walking distance of the fairgrounds was lined with trailers and tents. The town was filled to the brim and the festival had not yet started.

Noon until 4 does mean that Lynn is free for Paul’s performance at 6 pm on Friday. Naturally, Lynn gets work in the beer tent and here you should fill in any joke you want about drinking up the profits. The description of the number of the people sounds accurate. The Festival website says the festival sold out all its tickets.

Performers set up around noon on the first day and Paul’s Trio was scheduled to play at 6:00 pm. It was fun to be backstage and watch everything being set up. I soon discovered why wives and girlfriends of the guys in the band don’t follow them on the road. Unless you can play a vital role in the production, you do a lot of sitting around. First the equipment gets hauled in. Everything is tested and instruments are tuned. Then the guys have a beer. A bit of practicing might happen if there’s time before the performance, but if the guys are standing in the wings waiting to go on, they are far too preoccupied to talk to anyone but technicians and each other. The performance takes place and it’s great to be able to watch from a close vantage point. It’s also fun to have a backstage pass. You can go pretty well anywhere as long as you are quiet, respectful and out of the way. When the set is over, you wait while the guys pack up their gear. They are always emotionally charged by the event and want to talk about it amongst themselves, so wives and girlfriends wait again. Then everyone goes for a beer. One full weekend of this was great fun, but I could see that I would have to become a serious technician with an understanding of how to transport, fix, tune and set up all the equipment, or be forever waiting around!

This is the closest Lynn gets to complaining about this whole trip and it is the usual thing where she feels useless. It’s like when she wanted to be a translator for medical missions with Rod. Now she wants to be a music tech. While she is playing it up as waiting around for long periods of time, she also includes lines about being left out of conversations between the musicians. I think this is the real problem – Lynn is not getting the attention she craves more than anything else in the world. What Lynn is leaving out is that there was a group that played from 5-6 before the Paul Lucas Trio and a group that played from 7-8 after the Paul Lucas Trio. So they had to get on and off the stage fairly quickly. The performances started at 4 pm, so that means if people wanted to do sound checks or the like, they would have to do them before 4 pm. What I note is that these times correspond to the time when Lynn says she was working the beer tent. 12 – 4 is the time from when Paul Lucas sets up to the time when the first performance begins. Did Lynn work the beer tent, or did Lynn sit in the beer tent waiting for Paul to get done? Lynn complains about sitting around, but Paul Lucas had to get his stuff off before the next group performs. You can see from the picture that there is not going to be much to move but that trap set. The sound, lights and microphones would all be provided. There is not going to be a lot of standing around and packing up. While Lynn talks about her backstage pass, you can tell from her picture she was out front and there was not much of a backstage in a tent. However, I will note that this is as close as Lynn gets to calling herself a girlfriend and I can't help but thinking that the “wives and girlfriends” note is a little hint to Paul Lucas. She really hits the points on how much she loves Atlin and practically says she would love to live there. I get the feeling much of this description is aimed squarely at Paul.

Trio performs inside the main tent.

Hanging out with musicians has an interesting personal side. Each band is a unit, a solid working team with an emotional bond that transcends friendship. A group which performs professionally, travelling together for work and recording sessions, has to forgo a typical family life. The band becomes their family. I saw firsthand how closely each member of a band relates to the other musicians. Every look, every gesture plays a significant role in the way a piece of music is played. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Being a professional musician requires all of your energy, all your emotional strength, and all of your creative ability. Good music comes with a heavy price, and amazingly, people think they should have it for free.

I don’t know where this is coming from. Paul Lucas has 3 recordings listed on his website and only one of them is listed as the Paul Lucas Trio and it came out 3 years ago. The rest of them are solo albums. As for the festival, the tickets for the weekend were $155 a pop. I suspect Paul Lucas got paid.

From backstage, Paul and I watched Bruce Cockburn. What an incredible guitarist he is. We sat beside the sound system under the big metal bars, which supported the speakers. We were just a few feet away from him. What a privilege. We were able to watch a number of performances this way. There was blue grass, comedy, Innuit throat singing, blues, new age and jazz. For me, it was endlessly fascinating, and three days seemed to disappear in seconds. The festival ended with a farewell ceremony by the Tlingit dancers dressed in traditional regalia. Then the big tent came down, the grounds were cleared, and a river of tents, trailers and vans drained out of Atlin.

According to the schedule, the festival ended with “all musicians and dancers on stage for the closing performance.” Bruce Cockburn was the big name of the festival and he only performed once at 9 – 10 pm on Saturday. Typically sitting beside the sound system is the worst seat in the house, so this may have been best Lynn and Paul were able to do.

As the guest of one of the entertainers, I was welcome to enjoy Atlin’s hospitality during and after the shows. Great meals, free drinks, and freshly smoked salmon were available each day. What a treat. One very generous gift was the offer of a helicopter tour of the ice fields nearby which included a trip into "Lake, No Lake." With just 6 seats available, space was reserved for performers only, but as luck would have it, there was room for me! Jamie Tait, our pilot and manager of Tundra Helicopters, Atlin, gave us all a good briefing, and on the morning of the 10th, we lifted off the ground and floated out across the tundra over Atlin Lake and south towards the glaciers. The scenery was spectacular—something few people will get to see. Certainly none of this is easily accessible, other than by helicopter.

Lynn helped herself to the performers’ food table and no one stopped her, in other words. The way Lynn is writing this, it makes it seem like the helicopter tour occurred after the festival is over. In fact, it is on the morning of the last day of the festival and Paul Lucas has to be back to perform at 2 pm.

I can’t find a reference to “Lake, No Lake”, but I found Tundra Helicopters without any trouble, where Jamie Tait is listed as a base pilot. The website says you have to sign up for a minimum of 4 hours over the summer and the rate is a little over $1K an hour. This is not a cheap trip, but I suspect it may have been shorter than the usual paid trip as Paul Lucas has to be back by 2 pm.

Aerial view of glacial flow.
This is just a fantastic picture and an incredible shot to get through a helicopter window.

It might have taken an hour, but we eventually reached one of the glaciers and followed its striped and deeply corrugated surface around towards a natural phenomenon called "Lake, No Lake." A scientist should be describing this to you, but from what I could understand, the "toe" of the glacier dams the run off of water. It takes a year for the lake to form. Once the lake fills enough, it causes the "toe" of the glacier to float, releasing the lake’s contents over 2-3 days, flooding the Tulsequah and Taku valleys downstream. What remains is the dry, sandy lake bottom and an enormous ice cave through which the river continues to flow. If you are lucky enough to be there when the dams breaks through, the lake is there one minute and gone the next, so "Lake, No Lake," is a real destination…and well worth the trip!

Tulsequah and Taku valleys are formed by two rivers by the same name that flow into each other. If you look them up, there is a big controversy over nature preservation and a battle with the local mining company.

Jamie put the helicopter down on the floor of drained "Lake, No Lake," and we were permitted to walk about freely, as long as we paid attention to the now exposed walls of ice around us. For all of us, this was like walking on the moon. The rounded pebbles on the wide lake bottom were ground smooth; the glacial sand was powdery and pale yellow. Our footsteps looked foreign, as if they didn’t belong there and neither did we! Around us, the towering glacier seemed to be alive as sheets of ice slid continuously into the river. Inside the cave we could hear the crashing sounds of falling ice.

The pictures look great of these, although Lynn looks a little beaten down as if the helicopter ride was a little much for her 69-year-old self.

Paul and me in front of ice cave.

Across the basin from where we were standing, a column of ice, easily the size of an apartment building, fell into the river. The ground shook. The enormous splash whipped the water up into a brown foam, which swirled up into the air, then plunged back into the river and was carried invisibly away. We took pictures, but nothing could capture the awesomeness, the beauty and the power of the place. After about half an hour, we returned to the helicopter, changed seats to share the view, and lifted again like magic into the air. We returned to Atlin in silence—none of us could speak. What we had just seen was indescribable.

Changed seats to share the view. There is something a little telling with that comment as if to say Lynn was a little perturbed that she couldn't see well on the trip out and she said something to Paul about it, so he had to switch seats to satisfy her.

With the festival over, the town of Atlin resumed its normal pace. People who had been scurrying about on a mission were back to work, back to doing what they always do, which in Atlin, can be pretty amazing. Paul’s friend, Judy, flies a float plane. She ferries tourists about and takes supplies into fishing camps. She is also an artist of considerable talent, as are many of his other friends. His friend John is a "collector" who has managed to amass the most impressive assortment of useful items one could imagine. A trail of interesting stuff leads to his comfy home, where just about every musical instrument known to man has been collected and carefully stored. John, a craftsman and guitar maker, also makes the best coffee I have ever tasted. He is the town’s resource for parts, tools, equipment, and well, just about anything.

"the best coffee I have ever tasted". Come one, Lynn. That cannot possibly be true for an experienced coffee drinker like you. She is started to lay it on a little thick. Now we hit an interesting point where it seems like Paul Lucas and Lynn are hanging around Atlin after the festival is done, which is not too much of a problem since Paul has a cabin there. We are introduced to John and Judy and I can find nothing in my internet searching to tell me more than that about them.

John’s wonderful kitchen window.

In a small town, you are likely to meet the newspaper editor, the doctor and the undertaker, and sometimes they are all the same guy! If you wander into a shop, you might well be there an hour as few folks watch their clocks, and conversations are never boring. I was glad to have lived in Lynn Lake Manitoba for awhile. All the elements of remote, small town living were so familiar in Atlin and I felt I could set down roots again, right there.

More of "I want to move to Atlin." Yeah, right, Lynn. You are going to love some place that reminds you of Lynn Lake. From what I have seen of Atlin, the place is gorgeous, but Lynn would have issues with any place where there were only 2 sources of clean water in the town. Even Lynn Lake is big compared to that.

Paul is still in Atlin. He has a few more gigs to do. Artists and musicians can make a living in the north, which is why so many of them live there. I’m back home again and wondering why some days go by so fast. My dad would have loved that trip to Atlin. Who knows…Atlin felt so familiar to me, so easy to embrace. Maybe in a past life, he prospected there, and if he did, there’s a very good chance…I was with him.

So Lynn believes in reincarnation and she believes her prospector father would have taken her with him on the gold rush. Anyway, looking at how remote Atlin is on the map, I seriously doubt that Paul Lucas is hanging around Atlin waiting to do more performances anywhere in that area. More likely, he is enjoying spending time in Atlin, since he has had a cabin there since the 1970s and must go there pretty often. The place is beautiful, so who can blame him? The real question is “Why is Lynn back home?” What does she have going on that’s better than spending time with Paul Lucas? Is painting weird dogs in her Vancouver basement going to beat spending time in Atlin? The tone of the piece is that Lynn would like to settle down with Paul and live in Atlin, but the line about how Paul is still in Atlin and the lame excuse about how he is there to make a living in the north sounds more like Lynn is making excuses for not getting invited to stay longer. I get the feeling that Paul just invited her up for the music festival and nothing more than that.

Will Paul take the hint and turn Lynn into a girlfriend or wife or music tech? We will have to wait and see.

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