How I Met Nakusp

How a nice girl from Amsterdam ended up living in a tipi on a mountain in B.C.

As a child I always wanted to live in the country, but in my late teens and early 20s I loved being in Amsterdam.

Leaving my native Netherlands all started with my husband being a geologist. There is a serious shortage of rocks in Holland.

Canada was wide open, and we knew one fellow student who had gone there and got work in the Calgary oil patch. So we packed up our lives and went to Calgary. It was a great adventure and I loved it.

Chris eventually ended up finding work not in Alberta, but with a mining company in Grand Forks, B.C.

I got dragged away from Calgary kicking and screaming.I had an opportunity to go to Graduate School and I did not want to be a stay-at-home anything. I even spent the winter living in a friend’s basement so I could finish my courses. Every weekend I took the overnight Greyhound to Chris in B.C., a 14-hour trip each way.

But come summer time there I was, in Christina Lake, near Grand Forks. With neighbors who had a big vegetable garden. And intriguing people nearby who had settled into abandoned farmhouses in the hills, without running water or electricity. We shook our heads at the folly.

Then I made friends with one counter-culture couple, and before you knew it, our home was grand central station for quite a few people who used it for phone calls, baths, and as a crash pad.

It seems at that time everyone was looking for a piece of land. This was a new concept to us. Not just a yard, but LAND.

Civilization was supposed to come crashing down around our ears any day now, and we’d all better be holed up on our self-sufficient homesteads. Forty years later, with the prepper movement going strong, us old hippies don’t know if we should laugh or cry. Anyway, back then I became obsessed with the notion of owning my own chunk.

So we went land-hunting during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1970, and ended up with an undeveloped 10-acre plot near Nakusp that was only $3,500, the equivalent of $35,000 in today’s money. I sincerely believe I had guidance. We could never have bought at any other time in our lives. Land prices went up and our income went down.

As for the tipi, a year later we came home from a summer in the geology field to find our friends had been joined by a new couple who lived in a tipi. We shook our wise old heads some more. But when we went to visit the new folks we found they were actually quite cozy, even in mid-winter.

A few years later our financial fortunes took a nose dive.

We had planned to move to our acreage some time in the far future, after we had earned the money to build a house and install water and electricity and other necessities of life. Instead we bought a tipi and just went there.

The first year was fun. The picture at the top was taken in the first fall. That is our daughter in the door opening. The transparent door was my husband’s brainwave. It was a white man’s tipi with a solid wood heater, propane for cooking, a round kitchen table and two chairs, and the rear seat of a car as couch.

The second year was a bit much, especially since the summer of 1976 was cold and wet and the baby was a toddler now.

By the time the first floor of the log home was ready to move into, the 16×32-foot dry space was absolute heaven. Never mind that there was still no plumbing and the windows were plastic.

More from Ien is available on her blog at


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