BRITISH COLUMBIA RANCH COUNTRY IN THE NICOLA VALLEY
I have often wondered what it must be like to be a tourist from a high-density country such as Japan, and stare out over the banks of Stump Lake deep in British Columbia’s Nicola Valley. The view is vast, panoramic and empty. Empty that is, of man-made embellishment, a pure, uninterrupted, quintessentially Canadian scene of extraordinary beauty that must be quite disarming if you have never seen anything like it before.
I often talk about “privileged access” with regard to travel: the incomparable opportunity to get off the tourist path and hang like a local, to touch and feel how other people live in their chosen milieu and to make the foreign more familiar. Nowhere is this access more privileged than when you see the world through the eyes of an artist – or in this case artists. Such is the world of my friends Dian and Nathaniel Massey – their spread on The Stump Lake Ranch, overlooking the lake, is a place where art and nature collide. I am always gobsmacked.
The 3½ hour drive; east from Vancouver to Hope, north/east up the stunning Coquihalla Highway to Merritt, then on into ranch country, has to be one of the world’s most beautiful journeys.
The visitors aren’t always of the human kind.
Summer days are hot and dry, lake water clean and blue and the evenings balmy. In addition to being scenically beautiful, Stump Lake is an aquatic playground.
On any day there might be water-skiing, wake boarding, paddle boarding or time spent just shooting the breeze at the end of the dock.
That’s of course if they are not horse riding in the hills, mountain biking, enjoying massive “cook-ups” or dancing on the tables (my own favorite past-time) till the wee hours.
The barn is home to every toy known to man.
But it is seeing this wonderland through the eyes of this unique couple that makes it particularly special. Everything is done with a certain “je ne sais quoi” a certain way of seeing from a different angle, with greater depth and perception – adding beauty rather than spoiling it.
They came by it honestly. The Massey’s are a family of Architects, writers, filmmakers, potters, painters and photographers. In addition to his own spectacular photography, Nathanial and his siblings are reviving the work of his mother Ruth Killam Massey, following a posthumous exhibit of her work at the West Vancouver Museum.
After a beautiful country wedding, Nathanial set about building the ranch house himself – literally – then the guest cabin – affectionately known as The Taco Stand, then the barn, then the dock, (you get the picture). Nathanial has ensured that there is complete harmony between the natural and manmade environments.
It is not just a playground, but a working ranch as well, home to the Stump lake Cattle Co. first established in 1883, which in turn is part of the network of the grand old ranches of British Columbia that were founded by early settlers. You can still look out a window at certain times and watch the cowboys moving the herd – a vignette that hasn’t changed in 120 years.
The work of Ruth Killam Massy can be seen here.
Portrait of Nathaniel Massey taken by ME
Nathaniel’s work can be seen here. http://www.nathanielmassey.com
….and as the sun sinks slowly in the west do remember to sign up below to receive more of these wonderful insights.