Nine Feet of Living Space and Loving It

By Jane Cassie

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Without changing my stance, I was able take the eggs out of the fridge, fry them up with bacon, and serve them to the table. One hop away was my cozy night nook, and an easy pivot got me to the biff. It was certainly no Beverley Hills mansion, but I wouldn’t have traded my nine feet of living space, for any other home - at least not back then.

For two summers, while our retirement retreat on Big Bar Lake was erected, a portable camper filled in as our temporary homestead. Though we had always looked forward to more headspace, flush toilets, and modern upgrades, this cozy abode had provided a panorama that we coined, “Paradise.”

Our search for recreation waterfront began a number of years ago when we felt the need to escape Vancouver’s bustling hub. There were lots of B.C. destinations to choose from and each offered their own pros, cons and price tags (the latter being a primary determinant).

A gulf island cottage was just a puddle jump away, yet the thought of weekend ferry lineups didn’t thrill us. There were a number of hot spots snuggling up to Lake Okanagan’s shoreline, but with its recent popularity boost, we’d be nudging elbows with our neighbours. Whistler’s gamut of adventure opportunities was mind-boggling, but so was the cost of a teeny weenie condo.

We spread out our B.C. map on the dining room table and checked distances, lakes and travel time. What regions were doable for a weekend escape, yet far enough away from the growing masses? And what areas would coincide with our line of credit? After ruling out the above prospects, our choices were limited.

“How ‘bout the Cariboo,” my husband said, with a western drawl, after checking out some property listings. I knew Brent had always had a hankering to become a cowboy, but my idea of the perfect wardrobe never included chaps and spurs. “It seems to fit our criteria,” I agreed cautiously, “but I’m really not the cowgirl-kind-a-gal.” Before two weeks were up, I was eating my words. After the first glimpse of Big Bar Lake, I’d been countrified.

The southern Cariboo is dappled with dozens of fishing holes, but this shimmering gem was our first and final stop. We had found instant serenity. Like the bountiful trout that are regularly reeled in, we were lured by its natural beauty, then instantly hooked!

Ringing Big Bar’s sapphire core is a shallow shoreline that boasts the most iridescent aquamarine green. If it wasn’t for the timber-choked Marble Mountains framing the backdrop, you might think you were fast-tracked to the Caribbean. But, of course, it’s far away from tropical destinations. While plunked on its lofty elevated plateau at 1,100 metres, this geological terrain is as diverse as the weather. It also typifies the well-known catchphrase “Beautiful B.C.” Thanks to the melting of glaciers some 20,000 years ago, this captivating landscape hosts everything from craggy peaks to rolling ranchlands that are pot-marked with lakes like this heavenly swim spot, and soon, our front yard pool! But before there’d be any frolicking, we soon discovered there’d be lots of work to do.

My idea of a getaway haven had always been just that - a little cabin where we’d easily escape, far away from any form of physical work. In my mind’s eye, I had envisioned sitting on the deck, reading a book, listening to wind rustle through the trees - you know, the iconic image that most wannabe retreat owners have. Well, was I in for a surprise! Not only were we minus a deck - we were sans the entire sanctuary. No chalet, lodge, cottage, not even a rickety lean-to - pardon me, there was one shack on the property - a worn-out and well-used outhouse.

Although we knew from experience that building a place together could be a true test to the relationship, this wasn’t the retirement strategy we had in mind. Instead of swinging a hammer with my hubby, I wanted to be swaying in a hammock together. Were we prepared to build from the ground up, and for the work that lay ahead? It would include everything from drawing up plans and major log house construction to digging trenches for a geothermal heating system, drilling the well, hooking up the power and ensuring that the existing septic field was up to snuff. And based on the whiffs around the biff, it would be none too soon. Yet, in spite of all the ramifications and obvious work ahead, while we sat on the bluff overlooking this picturesque parcel of land, there was only one answer. Let’s go for it!

And where would we shack up while this dream retreat was erected? “We could always dust off the Queen and perch her on a couple of stilts,” Brent had suggested. In spite of sounding like royal living, the well-travelled abode that clung to the back of our pickup was far from Buckingham Palace. Sure, it had been comfy quarters while we had once roamed B.C.’s back roads, but I couldn’t imagine a lengthy stint within these four aluminum walls. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither would this habitat.

Well, that was over five years ago. During the entire building process, our camper was a kitchen for a crew of log home builders, a first aid station to remove the occasional splinter and a games room at the end of most days. It provided warmth on chilly nights, coverage during downpours and had turned out to be the perfect temporary refuge - all nine cherished feet of living space.





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