Just off the Trans Canada highway between Savona and Cache Creek lies an attraction that could not be more unexpected: an American Wild West ghost town.
We were on a mini road trip through BC's interior and the moment we saw the sign indicating an upcoming ghost town, we were intrigued. Europeans seem to have a thing for ghost towns and since we're both into history, we decided it would be worthwhile checking out.
We were expecting to see evidence of an old gold rush town, a real Canadian pioneer village or a Hudson's Bay trading post. In my head, I was picturing something à la Barkerville or Fort Langley. We were both surprised when we turned off the highway into what looked much more like the American frontier.
We parked the car and hopped out, ready to explore the seemingly deserted town. Not two steps past our car and a man emerged in the town out of nowhere.
"I'd stay back if I were you until I've finished checking for rattlesnakes," he said. "We're not open until 10."
The desert-like landscape of the Thompson-Okanagan region is the hottest place in Canada and is home to many creatures including rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. Needless to say, we were more than happy to stand back while the local man made a sweep of the area.
A few minutes later, he gave us the all clear and we entered the town. There were storefronts with signs that read Trading Post and Saloon. Buffalo skulls and mounted longhorn heads adorned the interior and exterior walls. There was even an old stagecoach loaded up with luggage, ready for a long haul trip across the desert.
It was as though we were stepping onto a movie set.
And it turns out we were.
We started chatting with the man, who we soon found out to be the owner, and he told us many a tale about the town being used as a movie set and his involvement in the film industry. He told us about the times he worked with Clint Eastwood and Johnny Depp and about an encounter with Ben Stiller. It was all very fascinating.
But how did this ghost town come to be?
Over the years, the man's collection of authentic Wild West paraphernalia grew as he traveled across North America acquiring new pieces. He told us he eventually decided to sell his property in Vancouver's Lower Mainland and live out his lifelong dream of building a true-to-life replica of a Wild West town to house and display his collection.
He started building the town a few years ago and today there are a couple of the buildings which contain his collection, a gift shop and a little café. He has big plans for the future though and has already begun construction on what will be a full-blown restaurant and a little theatre.
I guess we will have to check back in a few years to see it's evolution.
Funny how an impromptu stop can turn into a somewhat bizarre, but interesting experience.
Have you ever stumbled across something in your travels that seemed out of place? Are you also intrigued by ghost towns?