When I was seven, we moved from a little house right in the town of 100 Mile House to an old, sprawling two story place on a huge lot on the 108 Ranch. (if you follow the link and read about the place, YES. It was just as amazing as the page says) Half the lot was forest, the other half was grass dotted with birch trees. At first, like most kids I didn't want to move but eventually, I grew to love the wide open spaces.
Behind our house was a huge field where horses would roam, which soon became my playground. With friends I built forts, caught frogs and crickets, picked wild strawberries and caught butterflies. Soon I grew to know every bit of the fields and the forests-where the fox dens were, what wild onions looked like, which trails were short cuts to friend's houses. On Saturdays we used to walk to the one store for miles, to spend our allowance on a rootbeer and Caramilk bars.
I'm not sure what made me decide to bundle up and put on the used ski gear that my Dad had bought from the local high school when I was around nine. Maybe it was curiosity. Nevertheless, one winter day I gathered up my gear, trekked down the road, hopped the fence into the nearby 108 Resort, and skied around the entire property. All by myself.
Once I discovered this wonder of trails looping around the perimeter of the golf course, I was hooked. Throughout the rest of my childhood, night would fall and we'd grab our skis, take off down the road, and hop the fence. If the tracks were a bit icy we'd hear the swoosh of our skis as we'd fly through the dark night, our way lit by street lamps, frosty breath trailing behind us like smoke. If the moon was full, the beauty of the snow and the trees would be so overwhelming we'd stop and stand in wonderment, admiring the way the moonlight would play off the sparkles in the snow, or the how the trees would be so covered they looked like giant misshapen marshmallows. Part way around the course was the resort restaurant-mostly for tourists, but we would stop, unstrap our skis, stomp off the snow, and venture inside. There we'd fish out our hard earned allowance to treat ourselves to big mugs of creamy hot chocolate and crispy fries smothered in gravy.
The trek home from the restaurant was mostly downhill. It was a reward, of sorts, for making the difficult trek up the long hill to the restaurant. Punctuated with street lamps to light the way, we had to have faith that the groomers made sure the tracks were solid because once you began down the hill, your skis would take over as if they had a life of their own. As a kid I relished this part of the course the most; we'd whoop and holler into the night as we flew into the darkness, cold wind stinging our cheeks, feeling like any moment we'd leave the icy tracks and take flight. We'd arrive home pink cheeked and breathless to a warm house, ready for a hot meal and evening playing board games by the fire.
When I graduated from elementary school, my best friend and I sat by ourselves by the window at the restaurant, nibbling on lemon cake filled with mousse and feeling very grown up. At 16, the boy I had a crush on took me there for steak and lobster. The sun set in the distance over the 108 Lake, filling the sky with fiery oranges and pinks, and I thought it was so romantic and grown up. At 17, a boy from San Diego visited and we walked hand and hand through the prettiest parts of the golf course, where he kissed me passionately by the log fence over looking the lake. For the first time, I really thought I was in love.
At 18 I remember getting my first job in the restaurant, busing tables and that summer, served customers from all over the world as a local musician twanged out "Dueling Banjos" and people danced. The staff danced around in the back, cleaning the cutlery and folding linens at the same time. I helped cater weddings, dated one of the BBQ chefs, and ate more amazing food there then I thought possible. I still remember tender chicken stuffed with crab and cream cheese, smothered in hollandaise sauce, and Marguerite's famous fresh strawberry pie. Oh, the pie. Nobody made pie like Marguerite. It was famous!
I had always thought that one day, I would be able to return with Jake and show him the resort. We'd ski at night, sit once again in the restaurant, and although the menu and the owners had changed, I wanted to visit the best part of my childhood just one more time with my son. There just was never any time, or it never seemed like the right time, and we hadn't gone yet. There's always next year, I'd say. Next year would come and it just wouldn't happen. I always had good intentions but somehow, life would get in the way.
This morning I sat clutching a cup of coffee, watching the news as video of the building engulfed in flames flickered across the screen.
Early yesterday morning, the building burned to the ground. Last February, the hotel was set ablaze by an arsonist and the resort went into receivership shortly after. There is no reason to visit, now.
Everything that I loved-that was once there, the best part of growing up in that place, is gone.