Where I’ve Lived Wednesday: Gold River.

I probably love writing these posts more than you like reading them, but looking at my mom’s photo albums and reliving memories of all of the places we lived is so fun! After visiting one of my favourite places last week, Kimberley, this week is another treat… Gold River, BC. After six wonderful years in Kimberley, we packed up our lives, said goodbye to our friends, and trekked across the province of British Columbia, across the Strait of Georgia, to Vancouver Island, and into the small town of Gold River. 

Gold River is a town of 1200 people and it is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, an hour west of Campbell River. It is GORGEOUS and full of lush green rainforest. It is located on Nootka Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and it was an amazing experience living on the ocean. We only lived here for two years, but it honestly felt like ten years, not because it dragged, but because we made way too many great memories for such a short time. There were INCREDIBLE people there, we made great friends, tried so many new things, and loved every second of life there. As sad as it was to leave Kimberley, it was the best consolation prize to live in Gold River. 

When we went on our house-hunting trip to Gold River, the RCMP officer in charge of the detachment at the time took us out on the RCMP zodiac boat. It was the bumpiest ride of my life but it was so cool to see the ocean. We got a taste of the place in the short time we were there and we loved it! It was a small, small, small place, but after McBride and such, we were getting used to it!


There were so many amazing places to explore around Gold River too, including Friendly Cove. Taking the Uchuck (a 1942 big “American Yard Minesweeper boat) to Friendly Cove (also called Yuquot), there were the most amazing beaches on this little island. There was so much sea glass (different coloured glass that was made smooth by the constant wash of the ocean waves) and shells and it was amazing! This is actually where Captain James Cook landed on the west coast of Canada! Check out these views!

Oh, and no big deal, but we had our own town whale. Literally. An orca. You may or may not have heard the story of Luna, the killer whale. It is an incredible story and I could write post after post about Luna. 

Luna was an orphaned orca who got separated from his pod and wound up in Nootka Sound. He was adopted by the townspeople of Gold River and he became kind of like the town pet. He played with boats, he “helped” the tug boats, he pushed logs around, he followed kayakers and boaters around the Sound, he jumped and splashed after the Uchuck, and he hung out at the docks and interacted with people. You thought SeaWorld was great? Think again. This was the real deal. Honestly, I can’t describe the feeling of seeing an orca in the wild, especially when he is three feet from you. Looking into Luna’s eyes, you could just feel his emotion and it was one of the most incredible feelings in the world. My mom, a lover of killer whales even before we moved to the Island, was in love, as were the people of Gold River, the First Nations people who believed the orca was the spirit of a late chief, and any tourist or human being in general that had the pleasure of seeing Luna. Of course, the interaction of Luna with people didn’t come without controversy. People who owned boats were constantly having to repair parts after Luna was “playing” with them, the float planes couldn’t properly take off and land with Luna always around, and some animal activists didn’t believe human contact with a wild animal was right. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans intervened and began to patrol the waters to make sure no one was interacting with Luna. Fines were issued to anyone who touched Luna and anyone seen encouraging him was discouraged and potentially charged. This sparked a huge debate about the fate of Luna and if you get the chance to watch “The WHALE” (narrated by Ryan Reynolds, hello!) DO IT, because it tells this amazing story better than I ever could. Should Luna be left to do as he pleases and continue to interact with the people of Gold River? Should we attempt to reintegrate him into a pod of orcas as they pass Nootka Sound? Should an aquarium buy him and ship him to SeaWorld? All of these options were explored and debated. There were constantly people on the docks, playing with the orca or fining the people who were playing with the orca. The First Nation bands would take their canoes out, sing and drum on the water, and Luna would immediately appear. It was the most spiritual/emotional/crazy thing I have ever witnessed. Nets were cast, Luna was baited and tricked, the First Nations people called to him and led him away from the traps, it was a physical and emotional tug-of-war. It was a battle on the water. The Department gave up eventually and left Luna to be. A short while after, in a tragic accident with a tug boat propeller, Luna died. It was the end to a sad but overwhelmingly cool story. I touched his tongue by the way… too cool. (Before the laws and fines were implemented).

Beside the amazing “pet” that was Luna, there were so many great things about Gold River. Like hunting for Christmas trees in our gum boots and rain coats… where is the snow?

Hiking in the lush green. Our cousins came to visit again and explore with us! This trail was called Peppercorn and led to a river that was freezing cold but everyone swam in it. 

We fished and caught salamanders at Star Lake, a short drive from Gold River. By “fished” I mean tossed the line in the water a couple times, gave up, quit fishing for life, and jumped in the water trying to catch salamanders and newts in my net. Patience is not my thing.

My grandma came and visited us A TON in Gold River. We were always prepared for her visit. She has been really disappointed that she hasn’t made an appearance in any of these WILW posts yet, because she makes a point to visit us multiple times in each place we live (which we LOVE), so I told her not to worry, I would make sure to include photos of her in the Gold River post. I think this was the picture she wanted to see? 😉

One of the most awe-worthy events in Gold River… the 63.5 km Ultramarathon from Gold River to Tahsis called the Burning Boot. This is the event that started my mom’s marathon “career.” Yup, she STARTED with a 63.5 km event. Craziness. Even more crazy, my 63 year-old grandma did this event too! They all walked it (not together) and I will never understand how they did it… it is a TOUGH race. The first 18km are UPHILL. 

We did a ton of sports in Gold River. My brother played hockey and his team even got to travel to Vancouver and play at the intermission of a Vancouver Canucks NHL game. I began my short-lived curling career (Canadian, eh?) too! I also went through a bunch of swimming levels at the Gold River aquatic centre. There were so few kids that I practically had private lessons each time I signed up. I went as far as I could with my swimming courses at my age and had to wait to take my lifeguarding course. The pool in GR was unreal… so nice and big and we always felt like we had the place to ourselves! The lifeguards got to know us really well because we were always there 🙂 I also tried hip-hop dance class here… I omitted these pictures… hopefully that will tell you how humiliating they were.

This was definitely a place full of memories. One year, the first snowfall of the year came on Christmas morning (I was 100% sure Santa was behind this). The China House, a local restaurant, had the BEST Chinese food ever. The Gold River minor hockey Jambouree was such a fun hockey tournament and I loved watching my brother play! I was hit in the head with a hockey puck at the Gold River arena (not a great memory but definitely something I will never forget… and no comments about how this explains a lot about me ;). The road to Gold River was the windiest road I have ever been on and I threw up my cheerios far too many times travelling to and from town. However; I definitely won’t forget these views anytime soon.

Two years but a lifetime of memories. As quickly as we had become settled we were packing our lives up again and heading to Regina, Saskatchewan. You can look forward to the first prairie post on next week’s WILW!

In case you missed the previous WILW posts… don’t worry 🙂

1996 – 2002 Kimberley

1993 – 1996 McBride

1993 Prince George

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