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Old 02-20-2010, 04:32 PM   #1
brunstei OP
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Avoiding the Olympics - Finn Slough Springtime

So, unless you've been lurking under a very big rock, you probably know the Winter Olympics are currently underway in Vancouver, Canada. You may also know that really, in retrospect, maybe anyplace East or even Atlanta or Houston would have been better venues if you're looking for winter weather (check out http://www.advrider.com/forums/showp...9&postcount=13 for example, from a few days ago... compare those to what you're about to see here...)

So, it's a clear sunny morning and the usual sorts of things you might do for a ride - like pop up to Squamish for breakfast - probably aren't such a good idea with the huge numbers of tourists in town, and lots of roads closed off. Where to go and what to see?

I decided it was a good morning to pull out the old collector-plate CB400A and go explore something nearby, but away from tourists, crowds, or main roads - Finn Slough.

A summarized bit of history for you. Finn Slough is the name for a small section of land in what is now Richmond, BC originally settled by (as you may surmise) Finnish immigrants in the 1890s. They were looking to work at fisheries, so they wanted a place where they could homestead and tie up their fishboats. A parcel of land off a backwater of the Fraser River was where these settlers landed, and started building houses on pilings to keep them above the tidewater, kind of like our own little version of a Louisiana Bayou (just think Finnish instead of Creole). In about 1900 someone dammed off some of the sloughs, though, and the Finns could no longer access their houses directly from the fish boats as a consequence. They compensated by picking up and moving the little community about a half km or so closer to the Fraser River banks and its current location. It developed without civic amenities such as power, sewage, water, or transit links to the rest of the growing city of Richmond. To quote from http://www.finnslough.com/Heritage%2...inn_slough.htm:
The village developed without the organization of property boundaries, city ordinances, provincial regulations or any governing body. Even so it has been an example of how a community can be carefully built and self regulated to work in harmony with the environment and having as little impact on it as possible. The village is not only a historical artifact it is also an example of a possible way forward to find more creative solutions to the present destruction of the Fraser basin by non stop urbanization.
Now, there's not much left there, but I knew vaguley there's still a small community in some riverside shacks, and there's ongoing debate about how (or if) the area should be integrated into civic services for the region. Really, it's a vanishing window into our area's colourful past.

I grabbed a camera, suited up, and hit the road to see what I could see there.
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Old 02-20-2010, 04:40 PM   #2
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I think I don't normally stop to take enough pictures when I ride, so today I started trying to change that habit. The first photogenic spot was only about 5 km from my house. Vancouver is very multicultural.



What a gorgeous day. It's about 10:30 in the morning and already about 8C.

I know it's supposed to be 'winter' here still, but the cherry trees haven't been told.



As I got down closer to Finn Slough, I started to get a view to the North Shore mountains. This is where some of the Olympic snowboarding and downhill events are being held.



See that tiny, tiny bit of snow up there? That's why they're having to helicopter snow in from way up in the interior to try salvaging the ski course. Apparently, this is the warmest winter ever on record here. I can't say I am complaining. I could get used to calling this "winter".

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Old 02-20-2010, 04:51 PM   #3
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I made it down to the slough in something like half an hour. There's a small sign there and a footbridge to get to the small island most of the shacks are on.







I parked the bike and walked over the bridge to see what I could of the little community. You go past some decaying old boatsheds, with lichens growing on the wood slats. It feels like stepping back in time.



Once across the bridge, you can't actually see a lot. There's a small rough wooden boardwalk running east and west - either way it ends with small gates indicating it's private, keep out.





I think, legally, that's a matter for some debate, but for all practical purposes it's private property and I had no desire to be rude. I'd just have to make do and get the best pictures I could without actually going into the village itself.

As I said, historically, there were no civic services. Now it seems there's a single electrical connection, shared to the shacks, out of this sad looking electrical meter.



The wires to and from it run above the boardwalk, and they're so low you could just reach up and grab them.

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Old 02-20-2010, 05:01 PM   #4
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From the bridge you can see a bit more of the village.



Some folks here must still speak Finnish - 'Sisu' means, approximately, perserverance in the face of adversity. It seems an apt term for this little village.



Some of the buildings are in very rough shape.



There are reminders of the fishing fleet that still has a ghost of its former self here, like these net floats hanging from a building, giving it a splash of colour against the grey of weathered wood.



Some more views of the village:





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Old 02-20-2010, 05:12 PM   #5
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Cool, thanks for the little trip (and history lesson). My sister lived in Richmond for 10 years and I visited often but had never heard of the Finn Slough.
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Old 02-20-2010, 05:15 PM   #6
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Back on the Richmond side of the footbridge, you can go a short ways westward before the road ends. Along the way you get some more views of Finn Slough.



Apparently, it even had its own little school - the shack on the left. At least, that's what the sign over the door says.



Some passers-by offered to get a shot of your author in full Captain Highlighter costume as he explored the slough.



A bald eagle sat in one of the trees lining the edge of the slough, watching over it all.



while on the porch of one of the shacks, a big dog sat silently watching and listening to the few people going by



A single good condition fishboat was moored to the ramshackle wharf to prove there's still active fishing here.



while ducks dabbled in the slough waters and enjoyed our 'winter'.



I wonder how much longer this community will persist here. I know there's activity underway to preserve it, but one wonders how that could be done while keeping its character.

Anyhow, going down to take a few photos and enjoy the sun beats standing in line for Olympic merchandise in my books, so it made for a good morning outing. Sometimes adventures can be close to home.
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Old 02-20-2010, 05:30 PM   #7
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cool

How did you Photoshop the old Honda into the pictures?
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Old 02-20-2010, 05:50 PM   #8
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Looks like early spring and it sure beats watching snow sports!
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Old 02-20-2010, 06:31 PM   #9
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Interesting

Good day,

Nice report, photos and really interesting stories on www.finnslough.com. Familiar Finnish names mentioned although none of them from the area where I come.

I can imagine that life in Finn Slough is not attractive enough for people of today. Is there still an active Finnish community in the surrounding areas? Possibly some from the older generation still speaks Finnish? Saunas on every backyard?

Thank you very much!
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Old 02-20-2010, 08:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bross
Cool, thanks for the little trip (and history lesson). My sister lived in Richmond for 10 years and I visited often but had never heard of the Finn Slough.
Glad you enjoyed it! If you ever want to check it out, it's at the foot (S. end) of No. 4 Road.
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Old 02-20-2010, 08:23 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by PARIAH
How did you Photoshop the old Honda into the pictures?
Easy - I used the same filter which removed the snow and ice from the shots!
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Old 02-20-2010, 08:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by longwaybackhome
Good day,

Nice report, photos and really interesting stories on www.finnslough.com. Familiar Finnish names mentioned although none of them from the area where I come.

I can imagine that life in Finn Slough is not attractive enough for people of today. Is there still an active Finnish community in the surrounding areas? Possibly some from the older generation still speaks Finnish? Saunas on every backyard?

Thank you very much!
Moi, hyvaa paivaa ja tervetuloa kanadasta! (Olin tyossa Helsingissa kolme vuottaa, sitten jos minun taytyy voin puhua vahan suomea - mutta tavalisesti luulen etta on lian vaikea kielta.)

Well, today, there are still obviously some folks living there. I did a bit of reading, it looks like there are still offspring of three original families in the shacks - but I think that's about it. They probaly still speak a bit of Finnish, but I doubt all that much. There is a small Finnish community here in Vancouver; I've heard people speaking in Finnish in public (in Vancouver) maybe 3 or 4 times in the past ten years. There is, however, a small town up the coast, on a small island; the town is called Sointula, and was founded as a Finnish 'Utopian commune' back in about 1900 or so. As i recall the history, things went bad (as most utopian communes do!) and it mostly depopulated, although I think there is a small core Finnish community left there. I have not been there although I keep planning a two or three day trip to check it out - maybe later this spring.

There *is* one Canadian town known for still having enough Finnish heritage to still hear it spoken a lot, and to have stores selling salmiakki and things like that - but that's Thunder Bay in Ontario.

Otherwise, not a lot of Finnish names over here except in hockey teams.

Terveset:

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