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Thursday, December 4, 2014

5 Historical Facts about St. Nicholas of Myra ( The Origins of of Santa Claus)

Was He Real?

Although the man and the myth have often been intermingled through the centuries there is some growing evidence for the historicity of Nicholas. In an interview with Christianity Today Adam C. English, author of The Saint Who Would Be Santa Clause: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra and professor at Campbell University, has this to say: 

“The three most important Nicholas experts of the 20th century expressed grave doubts about Nicholas's existence…. Many people even now think of him as only legendary. But when you study the documents and the evidence, it's surprising to find there's a wealth of evidence that attests to his deeds and his existence.” 

During his research, English visited an archive library in Bari, Italy and found significant primary sources on this 4th century Bishop. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra ( now Demre) in Lycia in present day Turkey and later his remains were moved to Bari, Italy where there is now a basilica with all of the usual Roman Catholic Trappings. 

What was he like?

With written evidence and tradition we can began to piece together the life and character of this man who would unwittingly inspire the modern day Santa Claus. According to tradition Nicholas was known as a gift giver (obviously one of Santa’s most notable traits). 

The most famous story in regards to this is when Nicholas gave money for dowries to three sisters who were in desperate poverty thus saving them from a life of likely prostitution. He does it quietly and anonymously provoking Professor English to remark, “You don't find anything like it in the stories of contemporary saints of the time, nor in other folklore.”

Bishop Nicholas by all accounts seems to be more of a regular guy who loved God rather than a fancy religious official. He was imprisoned for his faith under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and he also stood against the Arian heresy which attacked the Deity of Christ. He was indeed a man of God.

St. Nicholas and Santa Claus

To quote a 2013 National Geographic article, “The modern American Santa was born in the Mediterranean, evolved across northern Europe, and finally assumed his now-familiar form on the shores of the New World.” 

This refers, of course, first to Nicholas of Myra then to characters such as the Dutch SinterKlass (directly inspired by Nicholas) and the English Father Christmas as well as some Germanic and Scandinavian folklore.  Finally all of these entities were blended together in the New World in what we now know (at least in North America) as Santa Claus.  Early 19th century American poems like “The Children’s Friend” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” were integral in constructing today’s secular Santa. 

St. Nicholas’ Day is actually December 6th ( and many children in Europe still receive gifts that day) but through the Reformation the date of Christmas gift giving was eventually changed to the 25th of December. 


The Puritans were highly critical of the notion of Santa Claus and Christmas altogether. They related it only to Roman Catholicism and Paganism. During the Reformation a more Biblical view of “saints” was taken and their veneration was highly discouraged. Martin Luther tried to introduce a new gift giver into the mix -  “Christkindl” or the Christ Child - however the name became pronounced Kris Kringle and, ironically, was later associated with Santa Claus. 

And, of course, the mass commercialism we see today is often a deterrent to the character of Santa Claus – but let’s remember we aren’t talking about Santa Claus – we’re talking about Nicholas of Myra, the historic man. It should also be noted that even through the rightful downplay of saints during the Reformation, Nicholas lasted as a simple example of Christ-likeness. 

How Christians Should Acknowledge Him

This has always been a bit controversial and I have no intention on glorifying Santa Claus but perhaps there is a way to look at the original Nicholas and see the light of Jesus Christ reflected – to give Jesus glory. C.S. Lewis inserted a Santa Claus type character into his Chronicles of Narnia not as a competitor to Aslan but as one subservient to Him. And Adam English feels there is some benefit to be gained by learning about the bishop:

“But at Christmas, we have an opportunity to highlight a core Christian value, which is loving our neighbors. By highlighting St. Nicholas, we can recover an alternative to commercialization and greed, celebrating the life of a true Christian example, who gave of his own, who helped the less fortunate, and who shared the love of Christ.”

Whatever traditions we incorporate into our Christmas celebrations this year let them all be to the glory of the Lord Jesus – the One whose birth we honour and rejoice in. It is His unfathomable condescension from Heaven’s throne into this dark and broken world that gives us hope and that gave Nicholas hope. It was Jesus to whom Nicholas bowed down, whom he loved and whom he lived his life for. Jesus Christ was nothing less to Nicholas than Lord and Saviour. 

As Pastor Kevin DeYoung says, “So this Christmas, give gifts if you like. We will in our family. Receive them all with thanksgiving.  But do not forget what we need most–salvation through substitution. This is one gift the real St. Nicholas would not have overlooked.”

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Sources for this article:

"Was the Real St. Nick Better than Santa Claus"  An interview with Adam C. English in Christianity Today


"St. Nicholas to Santa: The Surprising Origins of Mr. Claus" Brian Handwerk, National Geographic

Who Was St. Nicholas?"  Kevin Deyoung, The Gospel Coalition

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

7 Fascinating Facts About Okanagan Landing, B.C.: Gateway To the Okanagan

“You can compare (Okanagan Landing) to the Kelowna International Airport of the time” Ron Candy, Greater Vernon Museum curator (from Vernon MorningStar) 

The first place that my wife and I rented as a couple was on Garnet Street overlooking Okanagan Landing. For two people who had grown up in the north we could not believe our luck as we were able to wake up every morning and see Okanagan Lake and then the amazing sunsets. We fell in love with the area – especially Kin Beach and Paddle Wheel Park and though we now live in downtown Vernon we still enjoy the Landing immensely with our 3 year old daughter. 

As I began reading about the history of the Vernon area and especially when I first went to visit the Okanagan Landing Station House Museum located on the site of Paddle Wheel Park I was blown away by the immense importance and industry of this beautiful place. Now there are many people who know more about the Landing than I do (like the wonderful folks at the museum) but I wanted to write this little blog with these basic facts to grab the attention of local residents and others who may visit the area and to encourage them to find out even more about the rather illustrious history in our own back yard! 

#1 Some Geo-political Background

One geographical definition of Okanagan Landing, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board, is “The northeast flank of the Ellison Ridge along the east shore of Okanagan Lake including Ellison Provincial Park and Okanagan Landing to the southwest boundary of the old city of Vernon.” 

In 1949 the Okanagan Landing and District Community Association was created “to promote social, recreational, educational, and cultural activities among its members; to improve the conditions of and advance in every way community life and affairs in the Landing area; and to provide suitable buildings and grounds for the furtherance of such objectives.”  

Later in 1965 this port area was known as Electoral Area A under the Regional District of North Okanagan and then in 1993 the community was annexed into the city of Vernon though it maintains its distinct cultural identity. 

#2 The Railway

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about Okanagan Landing is that it was quite literally the gateway to the entire Okanagan Valley and was much of the reason that the Valley populated and flourished throughout the late part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th.  This was due to two powerful and romantic forms of transportation – the train and the steam ship.

In 1885 the Transcontinental Rail Way was completed at Craigellachie, some 99 kilometres northeast of Vernon. In 1887 Forbes Vernon (for whom the town is named) and Francis Barnard ( of BX Express fame) co-founded a syndicate that eventually brought a spur line , The Shuswap & Okanagan Railway, from Sicamous to Okanagan Landing in 1892. 

With the building of the spur line came a boom of construction at the Landing (mainly by the CPR) and the hustle and bustle of moving passengers and goods throughout Okanagan Lake communities with the final stop being in Penticton. New settlers would come through the Landing and famous Okanagan fruit, among other goods, would go out. The Landing would become home to a shipbuilding yard, a station house, a massive pier complete with rails and, among other things, a hotel named the Strand (There is a current development there whose name is taken from this hotel). 

The Shuswap & Okanagan Railway: Enderby & District Museum

#3 The Steam Ships

It was Captain Thomas Dolman Shorts who first offered commercial transportation on Okanagan Lake– first on a row boat and then on a steam driven vessel carrying 5 passengers. However, it was when the CPR arrived that the big Stern Wheelers began to be built and to ply the waters of Okanagan Lake. 

The beautiful ships SS Aberdeen, SS Okanagan and SS Sicamous, along with the tug boat Naramata were all built at the Landing. To the residents of the Okanagan Valley these ships were a lifeline. They provided the mail and necessary items for survival as well as a social aspect of visiting and sometimes even a family vacation on a round trip of the lake. 
The SS Sicamous and the Naramata tug were relocated and restored on the north beach of Penticton where they can (and should!) now be visited as part of the museum at The Stern Wheeler and Heritage Park. A walk through the old sternwheeler is rather spellbinding and well worth the time. 
The SS Sicamous 

#4 Ellison Provincial Park

Ellison Provincial Park is one of my favourite places to visit in the Okanagan. It is 219 hectares situated near the very end of Okanagan Landing/ Eastside Road on the east side of the lake and boasts biking and hiking trails, beautiful rock cliffs , camping sites and two beautiful beaches. 

Before the park was established in 1962 it was known as Otter Bay Camp for Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. It was named after Price Ellison, a very prominent figure in local history and an MLA and Cabinet Minister for Richard McBride’s provincial government. Born in Manchester, England, Ellison arrived in the Okanagan in 1876 as a blacksmith and ended up owning land on East Hill and the Landing and “at one time owned or controlled 80% of the property in the area.” 


#5 Allan Brooks

A well-known resident of Okanagan Landing was the renowned ornithologist and painter Allan Brooks. His works can be seen at the Allan Brooks gallery located in the Greater Vernon Museum and his namesake is also honoured at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre at the top of Mission Hill. 

Allan Brooks was born in India in 1869 and after many travels he eventually decided to call Okanagan Landing home in 1905. A sniper in WW1, Brooks interest in birds and their habitat and his wonderful talent for art later resulted in the contribution of sketches for such publications as The Audubon society and National Geographic. His acre of land in the Landing  “ became a sanctuary and nesting site for over 34 species of small birds”.  No less than Robert Bateman has credited Allan Brooks with being an inspiration to his work as an artist. 

#6 Paddlewheel Park

A little known fact is that Paddlewheel Park is actually the property of the Okanagan Landing & District Community Association and is available for public use through their generosity. It’s a wonderful little park with leafy trees (many hand-planted by residents) and a great sandy beach. It is home to a community hall (which was the old CPR workshop until it burned down and was rebuilt in 1999) and the old CPR stationhouse which was almost destroyed but for some valiant efforts of local advocates. The annual Landing Regatta is an event that has been held in this area intermittently since 1910.

In 1971, the OLDCA, led by Alan Hill and other local residents, was able to purchase the decommissioned lands of the CPR and through a massive community effort the vision of Paddlewheel Park eventually came to fruition and now serves the entire North Okanagan. The children’s playground takes the form of a sternwheeler paying homage to the rich history of the area.

#7 The Okanagan Landing Station Museum 

In June of 2014, a long anticipated dream came to life as the Okanagan Landing Stationhouse Museum and Art Gallery was officially opened. It is located in the old stationhouse which had been moved closer to the community hall sometime back. 

Although small in size, it is rich in history and very impressive with its crowning achievement being the 20’ long diorama displaying in minute detail the area as it was in 1914. The North Okanagan Model Railway Association built this magnificent model to precise scale and it is worth going to the museum just to see it. One truly feels like they have stepped back in time and are able to see the vast panoramic that was Okanagan Landing in the early 20th century. A tremendous part of the heritage of all of the Okanagan Valley has been preserved here. 

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters..." Psalm 23:2


A Brief History of Okanagan Landing & District Community Association,  2002 Miriam Jayne

The Vernon Morning Star:

The British Garden of Eden, Paul M. Koroscil


Saturday, October 25, 2014

The City of the Living God: 5 Biblical Facts about the New Jerusalem ( The 7th Era of Jerusalem)

To go to the first in this series of the " 7 Eras of Jerusalem" click on this link:
 The 7 Eras of Jerusalem

When the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century  - the only kingdom many people had known - Augustine of Hippo wrote his great work The City of God. One aim of this book was to comfort the people with the truth that though worldly kingdoms may fall, God's kingdom stands forever. Here we shall study God's everlasting kingdom.

Names and References of the City:

It is important to start with the Biblical texts that speak of the New Jerusalem and the names by which the Holy Spirit calls it. 

Galatians 4:22-26 “The Jerusalem above”

Hebrews 11:8-10 “ …(Abraham) waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Hebrews 12:22-24 “The City of the Living God”, “The Heavenly Jerusalem”

Hebrews 13:12-14 “…Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come."

Revelation chapters 21 and 22 -  These chapters go into great detail about the “Holy City”, “New Jerusalem” 

The Bible tells us it is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2). This is a term directly related to the Church but it seems clear to be understood that it is not the city itself that is the Church but rather those that inhabit it. 

Measurements and Features of the City:

Although Revelation is full of symbolism, we can take from the wording and context of Revelation 21 and 22 that this city is not merely symbolic but real and literal. If there is a capital of the Kingdom of Heaven, then this surely must be it.

The New Jerusalem has 12 gates of pearls, 12 angels at the gates and the names of the 12 tribes of Israel are over the gates. The wall of the city has 12 foundations of precious stones and in them are the names of the 12 apostles.  The wall is also 144 cubits high (12 x 12). The city is “laid out as a square” or cube measuring 12,000 furlongs which is about 1,400 miles wide, long and high. 

The Holman Bible Dictionary says "After seven, the most significant number for the Bible is undoubtedly twelve." And another source defines its symbolism as such: "It represents divine authority and appointment, as well as governmental foundation and perfection..."    ( - This is congruent with most other Bible scholar definitions)

There also abides in that wonderful place a “pure river of water of life” and the Tree of life. 

What Isn’t There:

The city is defined as much by what is not there as by what is there. There is no temple there, no need of the sun or moon but neither is there any night and finally -  O blessed thought - there is no curse there. Instead the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple and its light and in place of the curse is the blessing of God’s unhindered presence  - His throne is there and we shall see His face! 

Neos vs Kainos ( Two Different Greek Words): 

There are two specific Greek words used in the New Testament to describe something “new”. They’re definitions are very different though so it is worth noting which is used. The Greek word for new used in combination with the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth is Kainos. 

Vines tells us that Neos is new in terms of time, recent; whereas Kainos is new in terms of form or quality. The best Scriptural example is probably Luke 5:38 where Jesus likens new ( neos) wine being put into new (kainos) skins. The wine has not aged and is therefore literally new, just begun. The skins however could have been made long ago but have not yet been used – they are new in quality “never been used”. The same word Kainos is used to describe the tomb that was given to bury Jesus (Matt 27:60) – it must have been carved out a while before but the point is that it is new in quality, fresh – no dead body had ever been laid there before. 

Earthly Jerusalem compared to Heavenly Jerusalem:

As both the word “Kainos” and the passage in Galatians implies, The New Jerusalem seems to exist already but has not yet come down to us or been presented to us. This will not happen until the end of all time – at the very end of Revelation. This city differs from the earthly Jerusalem in that it is Holy, New and Heavenly yet it is specifically named Jerusalem so as to keep the continuity of the importance of that earthly city – where, above all else, our Saviour was crucified. 

It is most interesting to understand that this picture of Heaven is not one of us floating alone on a cloud but of a vibrant and beautiful community unmarred by sin. It is all about fellowship – chiefly with God but also with our fellow believers. 

As David Guzik points out, “Problems arise when believers expect this kind of community now, or fail to realize it only comes down out of Heaven. This city is not, and never can be, the achievement of man, but only a gift of God.”

So how do we obtain entrance and citizenship in this blessed city? How do we end up living where God lives? For that is the chief and defining value of Heaven – to be with God our Maker, forever, unhindered by these broken bones and endless sins. 

The answer is Jesus Christ who is so often referred to in Revelation as “The Lamb”. It is by His blood, His sacrificial death that our passports to this celestial city are stamped and approved. 

Revelation 22:17 says it this way   “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” 

The key to the city gates are in the hand of Jesus and His hand is clearly reaching out to us. Yet it is not this city itself that is to be desired above all but its Central Inhabitant – Its Temple, Its Light… Jesus Himself. He is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I knew a wonderful man whose favourite hymn was called “No Night There”. He has since passed and I realize he knows all of this now in a more intimate and enlightened way than we here on earth could imagine. Here are some of the words to that old hymn:

“In the land of fadeless day
Lies the city foursquare;
It shall never pass away,
And there is no night there.
God shall wipe away all tears,
There’s no death, no pain, nor fears,
And they count not time by years,
For there is no night there.”

Jerusalem, ultimately, is for us all – for any that would come to Jesus in repentance and faith and make Him their King. 

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20

Thursday, October 2, 2014

8 Fascinating Facts About Mount Robson: Monarch of the Canadian Rockies (B.C.)

Note: This blog post has also been printed as a series of articles in 
The Rocky Mountain Goat News which serves the Robson Valley. 

Many men are taller and stronger than their king, yet they cannot match a good king for his authority, his majesty or the respect he commands. As with men, so with mountains.

Mount Robson is not the tallest peak in the world, or the continent, or the country…or even the province. But it does indeed command authority and respect, its sheer vertical pre-eminence providing a jaw-dropping, soul-enthralling sight. As Milton and Cheadle recorded in 1865: “On every side the snowy heads of mighty hills crowded round, whilst, immediately behind us, a giant among giants, and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson’s Peak”.

Growing up in the small town of Valemount, just twenty minutes south of this mountain, I was always fascinated with Robson and the provincial park surrounding it. I remember the specific bend in the Yellowhead highway where we could first see its stunning rugged outline on a sunny day. Though not a climber, I hiked to Kinney and Berg Lakes many times and drank in the wonder of nature, one time even staying in the ranger cabin on the far side of Berg Lake as my friend’s dad was a Park Ranger (He made us spaghetti that night).

So it is with great delight that I attempt to put together a few geographic and historic facts that will help others appreciate this mighty peak. Most residents of the Robson Valley will likely know most if not all of this information already but I hope they too will enjoy this little blog along with folks who have not yet known the magic of Mt. Robson! 

#1 The Peak 

At 3,954 metres ( 12,972 ft), Mt. Robson is not the tallest mountain in Canada or even British Columbia; it is however the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies mountain range and by far the most spectacular mountain in the province to behold.  It is part of the Rainbow Range of the Rockies and is the second tallest peak in B.C. behind Mt. Waddington of the Coast Mountains.

However, there are many factors that set Mt. Robson apart from other taller summits. For instance Mt. Robson is classified as an Ultra Prominent mountain and is ranked as the 119th most prominent mountain in the entire world and the single most prominent in the North American Rockies Range.  So what does that mean? defines Prominence as: “the vertical distance between a peak and the lowest contour line surrounding that peak and no higher peak. You can visualize this by saying that if you flooded the world to a level where the peak in question was the highest peak on an island, its height above the water is it's prominence”.

Southeast face
North face

And, in addition to its stunning appearance, it has (from Kinney Lake) almost 3,000 metres ( 10,000 ft) of pure vertical ascent – something that “few mountains anywhere in the world can claim to offer”. It is also considered one of the most challenging mountains to climb (a mere 10% success rate) due to it’s vertical ascent, unexpected changes in weather, avalanches, ice and rock fall etc. 

                        #2 The Name

The Texqakallt were the first known inhabitants of the Upper Fraser area, they were nomadic and a band of the Shuswap people. They built lodges and fish drying racks near the confluence of the Fraser and McLennan rivers.  Their name for the mighty peak was “Yuh-hai-has-kun”, meaning The Mountain of the Spiraling Road which referred to the strata-like layers of the mountain that angle upwards to the East.

Spiral Lines on Mt. Robson

The modern name of Robson was most likely, though not certainly, linked to Colin Robertson, a Scotsman who worked for both the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company. One theory suggested in the book Mount Robson: Spiral Road of Art is that Tete Jaune ( Yellow Head or Pierre Bostonais) named the peak after Mr. Robertson who was his employer at the time in 1819. It is worth noting that the original location of Tete Jaune Cache was near the Grand Fork of the Fraser River where it was met by the Robson River (Milton & Cheadle).

The first reference to a name for the mountain is found in the diary of fur trader George McDougall in 1827 – he referred to it as Mt. Robinson. Then, in 1863, Milton and Cheadle, who were crossing the Yellowhead Pass, referred to it as “Robson (or Robson’s) Peak. It is presumed that the name was “carelessly pronounced” and gradually evolved from Robertson to Robson.

Colin Robertson: Library & Archives Canada

Due to its great vertical mass the westerly winds have a difficult time rising up and over Mt. Robson and therefore the summit is often hidden by clouds. Thus another name for it is Cloud Cap Mountain.

                           #3 The Park

Founded in 1913, Mt. Robson Provincial Park is the second oldest park in B.C. and, along with Jasper National Park, makes up a portion of The Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage site (one of the largest protected areas in the world). It was the tenacity of A.O. Wheeler, an Irish-Canadian and one of the founders of the Alpine Club of Canada, that persuaded the B.C. government to make the Mt. Robson area a protected park.

Within this treasured park, one not only finds the majesty of Mt. Robson but many other wonders not the least of which is the headwaters of the mighty Fraser River. It begins on the Pacific slope of the Continental Divide in the area of Mt. Fitzwilliam and travels 1,375 kilometres to the Pacific Ocean being called “home” to nearly 2.5 million people (63% of B.C.’s population) along the way. The Park is home to four biogeoclimatic zones, valued wetland habitat, 229 species of animals and the historic Yellow Head Pass.

Western Entrance to the Park

Perhaps one of the most singular facts about the park is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, visited the area from Jasper to to Tete Jaune Cache with his wife in 1914 and wrote a poem about it all entitled “The Athabasca Trail”

                   #4 Kinney & Curly 

George Kinney, namesake of Kinney Lake on the Berg Lake Trail, was a Methodist preacher who first saw, in awe and wonderment, the peak of Mt. Robson in 1907. To scale this mountain became a bit of an obsession with Kinney and in 1909 he headed out on his own to claim the peak before a rumoured group of foreigners could reach it. Along the way he met Donald “Curly” Phillips, a young outfitter with no mountaineering experience – or an ice axe, and decided he would be his climbing companion.

Donald "Curly" Philips, Peakfinder: Courtesy of Whyte Musuem
Eventually the two men, on what would be Kinney’s 12th attempt at the apex, climbed for the top. Amidst a snow storm the two reached what Kinney thought to be the peak and, baring his head,  claimed it in the name of “Almighty God…my own country and for the Alpine Club of Canada”.  The controversy as to whether they had indeed reached the peak simmers to this day although the consensus seems to be that they mistakenly stopped just 60 vertical feet short of it. Much of this controversy is owing to Curly Philips himself who is said to have confessed it after Conrad Kain’s ascent. Some say he was pressured to say it though. At any rate George Kinney was sincere in his belief that he had reached the summit and the two men had accomplished a truly amazing feat:

“No ascent in the history of the Canadian Rockies demanded more sheer guts and determination in the face of hair-raising brushes with death by avalanche, exposure and starvation.” ( Hart 1979)

This was a statement that Conrad Kain, who had great respect for Kinney and Philips, echoed himself. Curly Philips went on to become a renowned outfitter and trail builder in the area and George Kinney continued his ministry, often going to the most remote places where others did not want to go  to care for the people there. At one point he even donated a skin graft to a young girl in Keremeos who had suffered severe burns. He sat next to the girl and comforted her while the doctor removed 24 square inches of skin from his leg with no anaesthetic.

Rev. George Kinney, Peakfinder: Courtesy of Whyte Musuem
“He was a man of God who never pushed religion down anyone’s throat but gently slipped it into conversations. His love of the outdoors, which he referred to as God’s Cathedral, lent itself well to the role of backwoods preacher…he never forgot his Mt. Robson days and always kept an ice axe and climbing boots hanging in his house.” ( Emerson Sanford). 

   #5 Conrad Kain & the Alpine Club of Canada

The first official Mt. Robson camp of the Alpine Club of Canada was in 1911 and included both Kain and Kinney but it was mainly an exploratory mission – although Kain did manage to scale both Whitehorn and Resplendent mountains. In fact Conrad Kain, an Austrian immigrant, made climbs in Europe and Siberia and is credited with 69 first ascents in Canada and another 30 in New Zealand. He is a mountaineering legend in Canada and the world over.

By this time the Grand Trunk Railway, Canada’s second transcontinental rail line, had been built and made reaching the base of Robson much easier. It was A.O. Wheeler ( see #3 The Park) who organized the ACC camp of 1913 and on July 31st of that year Conrad Kain led W.W. (Billy) Foster and Albert McCarthy up the Robson Glacier to the Dome and then guided them up the North East wall ( now known as Kain Face). As they made the arduous climb up to the zenith of the mountain, Kain finally stopped and, as the clouds cleared and revealed that they were on the summit, uttered the famous words “Gentlemen, that’s as far as I can take you.”  

Conrad Kain,

"In all my mountaineering in various countries, I have climbed only a few mountains that were hemmed in with more difficulties. Mount Robson is one of the most dangerous expeditions I have made. The dangers consist in snow and ice, stone avalanches, and treacherous weather."  Conrad Kain

       #6 Phyllis Munday: The First Woman                        To Summit Mt. Robson 

Phyllis Munday ( nee James) was the daughter of a Lipton’s Tea manager and was born in Sri Lanka in 1894. She was also the first woman to reach the peak of Mt. Robson. Her family moved to B.C. in 1901 and she eventually met and married Don Munday in 1920. Together they formed perhaps the most renowned  “power couple” of the mountaineering world.


Above: Phyllis, Edith & Don Munday: Royal B.C. Museum
Across: Phyllis Munday National Stamp

If Don wasn’t smitten with her already, then it surely happened when she rescued him from nearly falling into a glacial crevasse while on a climb. While saving him, she lost her own balance and he in turn held on to her. As Don says “it lent itself readily to being given a romantic aspect”. Then there was the incident in which Phyllis chased a grizzly bear who was chasing Don.  A swiss mountain guide once said of Phyllis that she was “…a strong woman; as strong as any man”. Perhaps even stronger. 

In 1924, on only the third expedition of its kind, Conrad Kain led a group with two women in it to the peak of Mt. Robson. Phyllis was deservedly the first to stand on the peak and in the dialogue of Kathryn Bridge’s book about Phyllis, Conrad clasped her hand in his and said “There, Lady! Here is the top of Mount Robson! You are the first woman on this peak – the highest of the (Canadian) Rocky Mountains.”

Phyllis and her husband are also credited with discovering Mt. Waddington of the Coastal Mountains (The highest peak in British Columbia). In their second year of marriage Phyllis gave birth to their daughter, Edith, and at 11 months carried her to the top of Crown Mountain. In 1972 she received The Order of Canada for her pioneering work in the girl guides, St. John’s ambulance and mountaineering in general. She passed away in 1990, a female legend. 

Phyllis Munday, Blaeberry Alpine Camp 1957

“A lovely woodsy trail, a beautiful lake, an alpine meadow, a ridge and a peak, for all this had been heaven to me while on earth. They are all God’s great gifts to man.” Phyllis Munday

#7 The Hargreaves and Mt. Robson Ranch

There were many hearty guides and outfitters in the Mt. Robson area in the early parts of the 20th century. Among them were notable names like John Yates, Adolphus Moberly (for whom the lake is named), the Otto brothers, Fred Brewster and, of course, Curly Phillips. It is the Hargeaves brothers, specifically Roy and the Mt. Robson ranch, though that this section will focus on. 

The Hargreaves Brothers: Frank, Roy, George, (unknown), Jack, (unknown), 1922-1930, Mount Robson. Credit: Ishbel Cochrane. Valemount & Area Museum

The Mt. Robson Ranch (named so by later owner, Alice Wright) is located across the Fraser River from the mountain and near the CN railway. Roy Hargeaves, a WW1 Veteran,  ran the ranch from the early 1920’s until 1959 and he and his brothers ( Frank, Jack, George and Dick) homesteaded at the Ranch after WW1. In 1927, he constructed the Berg Lake Chalet on Berg Lake now known as the Hargeaves Shelter (restored in 1982 and just recently) where many a weary hiker has sought refuge - including myself! In 1923 Roy married a Jasper school teacher named Sophie Maclean and in 1988 the operation of the ranch was resumed by their daughter Ishbel and her husband Murray Cochrane. 

Bridge over the Fraser River 1915. Photo Credit - Columbia Basin Trust
                  #8 The Berg Lake Trail 

The Berg Lake Trail from the beginning to the Robson pass is a crown jewel for the monarchy of Mt. Robson and is world renowned for its beauty.  It was A.O. Wheeler ( see #3 The Park) who convinced the government to have the trail built and it was our old friend Donald “Curly” Phillips who received the contract to build it. Curly began his trail blazing around 1913 and was well known for the “flying” trestle bridge that he built on the way up the Valley of a Thousand Falls (This was later destroyed and a safer trail made). In 1924 some of the Hargreaves brothers “renovated” the trail up to Kinney Lake.

The flying trestle bridge. Photo credit Alberta On Record

The trail is 22 kilometres with 7 campgrounds and a suspension bridge. It travels from the south face to the north face of Mt Robson and passes Kinney Lake, Whitehorn Mountain, the stunning Emperor Falls and finally winds its way along Berg Lake to the Robson Pass and the B.C. / Alberta border.  It rises 800 metres and crosses through 3 biogeoclimatic zones. At the top , of course, is the beautiful turquoise Berg Lake named for the large chunks of ice that calve from the 3 glaciers that feed the lake and then proceed to float in the lake. This trail also allowed such famous artists as A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris of the famed Group of Seven to explore and paint these wonders of nature. 

Copyright Joe Harder 2014. May be stored or copied for personal or instructional use.

"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:2"

You May Also Like:

Ten Fascinating Facts on British Columbia's History

6 Fascinating Facts About Kinbasket Lake: Big Bend Country & The Mica Dam Reservoir

5 Fascinating Facts About Kalamalka Lake: Treasure of the Okanagan


The Spiral Road 

B.C. Parks

Valemount & Area Museum


Life of the Trail: Historic Hikes Around Mount Robson and the Sanke Indian River 

"Phyllis Munday" Dundern 2002 by Kathryn Bridge

Alberta On Record;rad

Other Links of Interest: 

Mount Robson Provincial Park site

Explore Mount Robson Facebook Page

Explore Mount Robson Google + Community

"Berg Lake Rap" by local Jordan Barr:

Friday, September 26, 2014

“The Apple of My Eye”: 8 Facts on the History & Meaning of the Phrase

Do you ever wonder what “The apple of my eye” means? Or where on earth it came from? Wonder no more as we look at 8 fascinating facts on the history and meaning of this unique and poetic phrase.

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17:8 

1) The English definition: According to the Oxford English Dictionary the phrase, “The apple of my eye”, means "the particular object of a person's affection or regard; a greatly cherished person or occasionally thing." defines it as “Originally meaning the central aperture of the eye. Figuratively it is something, or more usually someone, cherished above all others.”

2) The Bible:  This term has its roots in the Hebrew Bible and is thus translated five times in the English King James Version of 1611. The references in the Bible are: Deuteronomy 32:10, Psalm 17:8 (above), Proverbs 7:2, Lamentations 2:18 and Zechariah 2:8. Psalm 17:8 is quoted above and the rest are quoted at the end of this article.

3) Aelfred the Great:  The first reference in Old English is attributed to the great unifying King of early England– Aelfred the Great of Wessex. As a devout Christian and an advocate of education, Aelfred would have been familiar with the Bible and this specific term. It was he who first rendered it as “apple” in the English in his 889 A.D. work Gregory’s Pastoral Care.

4) Shakespeare: The next widely known use is in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1590 in which he writes: “Flower of this purple dye, / Hit with Cupid’s archery,/ Sink in apple of his eye”.

5) Sir Walter Scott: The first appearance of this phrase in Modern English is the use of it by Sir Walter Scott in his Old Mortality in 1816. He writes: “Poor Richard was to me as an eldest son, the apple of my eye.”

6) The Hebrew:  Here is where things become truly interesting. In 4 of the 5 mentions of this phrase, the Hebrew is ‘iyshown ‘ayin. The first word refers to the pupil of the eye but can be literally translated “The Little Man” – thus describing the tiny image one sees of oneself in the pupil of another person. Gesenius’ Hebrew Chaldean Lexicon defines it as “ A little man, i.e. pupil, in which as in a glass ( mirror) a little image of a man (woman or child) is seen.”

This is indeed the root meaning of the phrase in all cultures as stated in the American Heritage Idioms Dictionary “ This term… rests on the ancients’ idea that the eye’s pupil is apple shaped and that the eyes are particularly precious…”

7) The Latin:  Very similar to the Hebrew, the Latin word is pupilla , meaning a little doll. The root word is pupus ( boy) or pupa (girl) and also referred to the dark central aperture of the eye ( the pupil) because of the minute image a person sees of them self in another’s eye. This is also the word from which we get the English meaning for a student (child in school).

8) Zechariah 2:8: “…For he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.” The fifth mention of this idiom in the Bible uses a different word for apple than the others. Instead of ‘iyshown it is bava. The meaning of this word, bava, is disputed. Some believe it literally means apple while others like Gesenius says it has the meaning of a cavity or aperture and can be translated as gate – “The gate of the eye” (Not unlike the English reference to the eyes as the windows of the soul). Psalm 17:8 uses both ‘iyshown and bath, a Hebrew word meaning daughter. Lamentations 2:18 does not use ‘iyshown but bath only.

The meaning of the second word in the phrase ( which is the same in all 5 mentions) should also be noted. ‘Ayin can be the physical eye and also refer to the mental and spiritual faculties. Metaphorically it is translated as spring or fountain as well.

Photo credit: Squalor to Scholar

When we read the Biblical passages of this phrase, we soon realize that it is often used to refer to His children as the very apple of God’s eye. We are all God's creation but when, by the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus, we enter the family of God it is then that we become his children.

He protects and cares for us as the very midst of the pupil of His own eye! Can you imagine that love and intimacy? Just as we have a natural reflex to close our eyelids and protect our pupils when someone would touch them so it seems that it is in the very nature of God to protect and care for us.

Spurgeon writes: "No part of the body is more precious, more tender, and more carefully guarded than the eye; and of the eye, no portion more peculiarly to be protected than the central apple, the pupil, or as the Hebrew calls it, 'the daughter of the eye.' The all wise Creator has placed the eye in a well protected position; it stands surrounded by projecting bones like Jerusalem encircled by mountains. Moreover, its great Author has surrounded it with many tunics of inward covering, besides the hedge of the eyebrows, the curtain of the eyelids, and the fence of the eyelashes; and, in addition to this, he has given to every man so high a value for his eyes, and so quick an apprehension of danger, that no member of the body is more faithfully cared for than the organ of sight."

The Bible also refers to the apple of our own eyes. Proverbs for example exhorts us that the Word of God should be cherished as the apple of our eye. And so we see that what we look at the most – what is reflected in the pupil of our eye – is what we cherish the most. This is re-iterated in the New Testament when Jesus says “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” Luke 11:34

The human eye is both a window to see into and a mirror to reflect. A fountain, gate or lamp allowing good or evil to flow in and to shine out.  The apple of the eye is indeed what we focus on and what we  cherish above all else so let us consider what that apple is for each us.

Deuteronomy 32:10

“He found him in a desert land
And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness;
He encircled him, He instructed him,
He kept him as the apple of His eye.

Psalm 17:8

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

Proverbs 7:2

Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.

Lamentations 2:18

Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.

Zechariah 2:8

For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Joshua and the Tribe of Benjamin: Part 2 of the 7 Eras of Jerusalem

1)    Joshua and the Tribe of Benjamin

Jerusalem was called “Jebus” (Joshua 18:28) prior to this and referred to its inhabitants at the time, as the Jebusites. These people were a Canaanite tribe ( from Ham and Canaan – Genesis 10:15-18)
The first mention in the Bible of the full name “Jerusalem” is in Joshua 10 where a Canaanite (Jebusite) king named “Adoni-Zedek” rules the city and, upon hearing of Joshua’s conquests, leads an attack against him. Joshua defeats him and his fellow kings with the help of Jehovah and Jerusalem is eventually given to the tribe of Benjamin ( Joshua 15:8, 18:28) c. 1405 B.C.

It is worth noting the following verse as it sets us up for the next “era” :

Moses Appoints Joshua: Henry Davenport Northrop

“As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.” Joshua 15:63

The next article here: Era 3 - King David and King Solomon