Ymir British Columbia, a sleepy little burg not all that different I guess from most small towns across the country. There’s not much going on. All the tired old cliches apply here…they roll up the sidewalks come dark (wait, they have sidewalks?), you could shoot a cannon down main street and not hit a soul…we could do this all day. You get the idea. On a bypass off the highway, few people take the time to check out the historic little village. Most of those that do, are met by silence. Dead quiet. They stop, look around then hit the road. Does anything happen here?
In start contrast to the present, in days of old the place ran twenty four/seven. It was a boom town. A mining boom town and you know how crazy things get there. The mountains and hills all about held great promise, treasures, metal, tons of silver, lead, zinc, GOLD, and people flooded into the area to exploit those riches. Ymir was born is those heady times, coming on the scene in the late 1890s, and it was the start of a wild ride!
The new downtown was crammed full of businesses, general stores, restaurants, supply houses, banks, barbers and pool halls and mining offices. Every business one would expect to find in a new-on-the-scene community. Or course included in the mix was lodging, lots of hotels, some rough and tumble, rip-roaring “joints” frequented by miners, others catering to more cosmopolitan clientele.
The railway, the Nelson and Fort Sheppard, a subsidiary of the American Great Northern came though around the time the town sprung to life, and provided an outlet for both people and freight coming and going. The line through Ymir, its ran just in front of the hotel, lasted until the 1980s, the old line now a rail trail. A small section a bit further west still see service. See: The Railway.
Mining is unpredictable as hell. One day, you’re on top of the world, the next flat broke and busted. By the early 1900s the the boom ended – ore can only last to long – and the town settled down into a calmer, more pastoral period, one that continues to this day. Not that mining vanished completely right away, it just happened at reduced levels and often sporadically afterwards. It ended completely in the 1940s.
I understand there’s still some potential for mining, up in the hills, if metal prices were to reach certain levels. We explored one of the more well know Ymir mines this trip and to see that report, go here…Yankee Girl.
The name Ymir? He was a Norse God, with a sort of mining connection – “from Ymir’s flesh was earth created…of his bones the hills”. Some call him the God of Earth, but that might be a bit of an over-simplification. It’s much more complex.
Over the years Ymir’s population dwindled with people moving on to greener pastures. Businesses closed down and the buildings removed. The final blow came with the rerouting of the highway. Now everyone drove past the place instead of through it.
Still, Ymir’s managed to hang on. Most houses looked lived in. Some residents seem very private. There’s an old school (not used) at one end of town and a wonderful bed and breakfast place made from a former hotel (circa 1890s), the Ymir Palace Inn, beside the community grounds. Most of the action’s on main street. There’s a small store, a bakery that never seemed open but which I am told makes yummy stuff and a volunteer fire department hall. We stayed in town – and each night the siren at the hall would sound off, reminding youngsters is was time to head home.
Then there’s the Hotel Ymir, our base for the week and one heck of an historic building. It dates from the early days, the 1890s and has operated ever since. More a working class hotel from the day, it like the town, has seen its share of up and downs (mostly downs I recon). Yet it manged to survive. Just over a decade ago, the current owners fixed it up, expanding it without comprising its historical value.
The place is more boutique like now, but hardly pretentious. There’s a floor with standard rooms and on the upper level a more hostel like setup (where you’re likely to find cheapskates like us), with shared bathrooms. It’s not steerage class on the Titanic like some hostels, but quite pleasant. There’s a couple community rooms with TVs and stuff. Artwork of all kinds covers the walls – there’s nary space left to put a postage stamp. Not terribly busy during the week (based on our stay), the place picks up come weekend. It seem particularly popular with the motorcycle fraternity.
There’s a pub downstairs. Mid-week it’s pretty peaceful with few customers about but come Friday, like the mythical Scottish Town Brigadoon, it springs to life for a short time, people appearing seemingly out of nowhere. A band plays, the beer flows and the kitchen is kept busy. It’s packed, noisy, chaotic and crazy. The musicians are a causal grouping of friends. Like most bands that play these small town venues, the perform for the shear pleasure of it.
Everyone’s allowed up on stage to belt out a tune. Few are very good at it, but no one really cares. It’s not about that, it’s the fun that counts. At least everyone tries hard. County tunes are the theme of the day (aaaaah, childhood flashbacks). Locals, what looks to be the entire town, mix with hotel guests, people from the community campground across the road, and those who come in from other places to partake in the fun. Strangers become friends. There’s an old Studebaker pickup parked out front. The proprietor of White Trash, Ymir’s premiere garbage hauling service, takes time from his busy day to stop in for drink. Or two.
Bouncing from table to table is everyone’s best bud…well he is as long as you’re buying. He stops by for a chat and a pint. The action sometimes spills outside. It’s more like a house-party. Team BIGDoer simply wanders about catching the show. Sometimes we’re in the thick of it, other times set back. Few seem to notice. We head outside, other times we wander the noisy but empty hotel halls. We can hear the music everywhere!
The party continues without abatement. But then, with no explanation or notice, it just up and ends. As quickly as the place filled up, it empties. Didn’t get the memo, but it seems everyone else did. Was a fire alarmed pulled? Is this some kind of roving flash mob? It’s surreal, almost synchronized. Looked up from a beer and everyone’s gone! What the?Without a word everyone knows it’s time to go.
Patron disperse and the band heads out to their palatial tour bus (well, a Subaru I think). Elvis has left the building!
A few hangers-on head down by the river to continues the fun there and I guess we’re invited. We politely decline. They light a bonfire. Within seeming minutes the Hotel Ymir Pub is empty and quiet. Ditto for the streets. Aaaaaaaaa….where’d everyone go? Hello! Anyone? We stumble up to our room and sleep comes easy.
We’ll be gone come morning. The party’s not over at the Hotel Ymir however. Those who “keep the faith” will see that it continues Saturday. Afterwards it’ll enter a quiet phase, one the hotel is no stranger too, ’till the next weekend rolls around when the whole thing’s repeated. Friday nights, the next night too, are a strange busy time in otherwise quiet Ymir. Perhaps not as rip-roaring as in days of old when miners where flush with money and full of piss and vinegar, it’s a a pretty good showing for the forgotten little town.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2016.
Location: Ymir, BC.
Article references (and thanks): Hotel Ymir, YmirBC.com.