Harrison Hot Springs is not unfamiliar territory to me. I’ve vacationed at the resort on several occasions, always with the same intention – a romantic getaway – and always with a different companion. Let it be known, I never fail to have a memorable time. Yet, despite any of the gentlemen who’ve accompanied me on past trips being around anymore, my relationship with Harrison is still as passionate, committed and memorable as ever. It goes to show that true love never dies.
I was recently invited to attend a media familiarization tour of the world-class spa, in light of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival that takes place along the river on November 24 and 25. (Read more about it here.) Being a lover of Harrison and majestic birds, I was, to put it eloquently, stoked on the opportunity.
Since I am without a vehicle, I invite my friend, local musician Jody Glenham to join along. For those who know Jody or have seen her perform live, she’s a fun girl to have around. The dates serendipitously coincided with her birthday week, so she took very little convincing. In fact, I believe our conversation went something like this:
Me: Want to come to Harrison Hot Springs with me while I –
Jody has never been to Harrison, which makes our trip extra enticing. There is so much to blow her mind with – I am excited to be the one to open up this world of resort living and undoubtedly change her life (for the better)…forever.
We arrive at around 2 p.m. in order for me to make it to a shiatsu appointment that had been graciously scheduled. The weather is brisk with some heavy, clotted pink clouds that are mixed with bright sunny patches. The Harrison River, which frames the resort and village, is a sparkling bright aqua usually only associated with tropical places.
We check into our 6th floor room, which overlooks the pool and nearby mountains and get prepared to hunker down for some hardcore relaxation.
“A place where everyone walks around in bathrobes,” Jody exclaims as she picks up our white, terrycloth robes from the bed. “This is what it’s like when you go to heaven, right?”
For the uninitiated, Harrison Hot Springs does not frown upon you for spending an amble amount of time in your robe. Upon arriving, you might mistake the resort as the headquarters for the Polyphonic Spree, as a good portion of visitors are clad only in robes. Since the pools are a central part of the resort, people spend a lot of time planning their days around them. And that means navigating to and from your room clad only in your robes. It doesn’t take long to get used to it.
I make my way to the Healing Springs spa to get my shiatsu treatment. In the elevator downstairs, I chat with a woman in her 50s, who tells me she’s not only visiting to celebrate her wedding anniversary, but also the anniversary of her celebrating her anniversary at Harrison. This will be the tenth time she’s vacationed at the resort.
“And we still have the same server at the Copper Room,” she says, genuinely thrilled to be here. “It’s really like coming home.”
That contagious good vibe is inescapable with the guests at Harrison. Everyone is jovial, friendly, almost familial. This is a place that’s as sacred as home to many of the guests.
My 55-minute treatment is a pleasure. I’ve never experienced shiatsu, which is focused on pressure points. And while it’s much less physically vigorous than the deep tissue massages I’m used to, afterwards I feel light, energetic and uplifted. Jody treats herself to a Velvet Touch treatment that involves a body scrub and moisturizing treatment. When we meet up by the spa’s waterfall after the treatments, she’s already in her robe.
“I couldn’t wait to be robed,” she tells me. “It feels right.”
As I have a dinner to attend, I hold off on robe living. But I must admit, I am counting down till I’m ready.
I join the three other of the journalists who are on this trip, as well as our hosts Natasha and Ian, who’ve made the whole thing happen. We head to the historic Copper Room, which is a charming ballroom-style dining hall with a lit-up dance floor and its own house band, The Jones Boys.
There are couples that range from their 20s to my grandparent’s age, ballroom dancing to generation-spanning hits like “Wasting Away in Margaretville” and “Hotel California”. I’m thoroughly enchanted as I watch these lovely couples hold on to each other tightly and swing each other around.
For dinner, I’m treated to a steak, that’s soft like a pillow (and nearly as big), and perfectly rare inside. The wine flows, and Jody joins the table (she’s not in her robe) for dessert. We all order baked Alaskas, and sip on Mission Hill ice wine, which I’ve never had before. It’s what I’d imagine they would put in juice box exclusively reserved for adults. We all leave impressed, full and, um, jovial.
Before bed, all the journalists head IN OUR ROBES to the pools. We choose the outdoor ones as the weather is clear and we want to make the most of our unique circumstances. There’s a mix of people there at this hour – Finnish businessmen who are in town to fish, older couples celebrating their anniversaries, a few rowdy partiers. Everyone smiles at each other because everyone is happy to be here, out at night, in these magical, cleansing pool. I’m not sure if it’s all in my head, but the waters feel better than a bath or a hot tub – it’s as if you’re bathing in strictly good vibes. We stay longer than our pruney fingers and toes can handle, float off to bed and immediately fall asleep.
“Good night Harrison,” Jody mutters as we drift off. “I love you very much.”
The waters must have some sort of healing quality, because the next morning I do not feel the affects of the wine I had consumed. Instead, I wake up refreshed and ready to take on the adventure that’s planned out for me.
The journalists – Michael Small, Shawn Conner and Robyn Hanson – and I are gathered in a small, cushy business meeting room to get a crash course in nature photography.
Our teacher is Graham Osborne, an undeniably passionate man who takes us through the fundamentals when it comes to shooting the wild. (Though Osborne has published a number of books and shoots for top nature magazines, his best-known work is probably the landscape photo that was the backdrop on old BC Drivers Licenses.)
An hour later, we’re ready to go on a ride. Bill Sivac, who works for the BC Sport Fishing Group, is our boat captain. I immediately fall for Bill when I see he keeps a photo of his granddaughter next to his steering wheel.
The weather is (luckily) flawless, and we set out about 20 minutes from the resort to a wilderness area I had no clue existed. We first pass a giant rocky cliff with ancient pictographs craved into the side, then an ancient cemetery.
My dinky iPhone does not capture the depth or beauty of either of these spots. Finally, we arrive next to the “Christmas Trees”, a row of giant, leafless trees that wouldn’t be out of place in a desert. Perched upon them are dozens of bald eagles, the purpose of this entire trip. Again, my paltry iPhone can’t capture much of their majestic ways. Instead I watch as they wrestle each other, mid-air, for a prized fish, and soar across the river to find another comfy perch.
We dock the boat on a sandy bluff, where dozens of enormous dead salmon (or “eagle sushi” as Graham calls them) have washed upon the shore.
We snap shots of everything around us, as Graham enthusiastically suggests angles. Then our time is up and we’re ushered back to shore.
Jody is still in her robe when I get back to our hotel room.
“I wanted to stay like this for as long as I possibly could,” she tells me.
“That’s fair,” I say, as I gather my stuff to go.
I leave feeling invigorated, inspired and completely in love. As I discovered on this trip, there’s always more to explore, which is why I know I’ll be back without question. Whatever the intention of the visit may be, it’s Harrison Hot Springs that’s going to be leaving the lasting impression.