Charles Helm Interview with Chris Walker, Daybreak North

Charles Helm had an interview with CBC on June 5 at 6:45 am. For our readers that may have missed the interview, below is a partial transcript of the radio show.

WALKER: I am holding in my hands here a book and a map, and all about Tumbler Ridge. But this isn?t just paper and glue, or words and charts. ?Exploring Tumbler Ridge? ? that?s the title of the book ? tells a second story: the passion of one family for the geography of the place. Charles Helm is a family doctor in Tumbler Ridge. He launched his book there this week, and Dr. Helm is on the line with us this morning. Good morning, sir.

WALKER: The picture on the front of this book is you and your family, sitting together on a rock, just down the river from a series of waterfalls and mountains. What is this spot on the cover of your book?

HELM:The picture on the front of the book is actually my two kids with two of their friends. And I took the photograph with my wife standing next to me. And that is at Monkman Falls, which is one of the eight or ten cascades ? depending on how you define a waterfall. And that is one of the finest and best-kept secrets in the whole world, although I think that?s going to change; one of those remarkably unique places in the Tumbler Ridge area that are just begging to be brought to the attention of a wider audience. The Cascades: eight waterfalls in a row, separated by lake-like widenings in Monkman Creek. Any one of them should be an international destination ? eight of them in a row is just sublime.

WALKER: And there is much that is sublime in this book, and we will talk about some of your favourite spots more in a moment. The picture on the cover and the pictures throughout the book really sort of show how important your family has been to your explorations of Tumbler Ridge. Why ? why is your family such a central part of your explorations?

HELM: You?re absolutely right: just about everything that is discussed in the book has in some way been influenced by our doing things together as a family. And you know I had wonderful parents; so did my wife. They inculcated great values in ourselves, which has really allowed us to enjoy the place in the way we have. And I think it is so important to try and pass that baton on to one?s kids, and I can?t imagine a better place in the world to try to do that than Tumbler Ridge. There is the physical challenge we enjoy together of actually going out there, and climbing the peaks, and exploring the area. There is the wonderful scientific stimulus in working out what happened with the dinosaurs, etc. And the intellectual challenge of just researching this history and putting it all together, and then bringing it all together as a family to try and enjoy it, and spread the word to other people in this unique place. So I can?t think of a better place and a way for kids to grow up. And Linda, my wonderful wife, and I have actually grown up in the process, along with educating and growing up with our kids.

WALKER: How so?

HELM: I arrived here after growing up in South Africa and traveling the world for a couple of years; back-packing seven months in the Andes, etc. I came to Canada with no intention to stay: I was actually fairly involved in the political struggle in South Africa, and I just meant to come here and earn some cash doing a locum in Saskatchewan, and go back to South Africa after traveling a bit. And after two days I met this really cute X-ray tech in Melville, Saskatchewan, and that was Linda. And my entire life changed [laughs]. We settled down ? went back to South Africa for a short while to work in the impoverished areas there, but then came back and settled in Canada, and got invited to come to Tumbler Ridge, and just fell in love with the place ? had this visceral sense that this is where I want to spend the rest of my life. And from then on it has just been this amazing experience, where my initial feeling that this was the finest place in the world – and I lucked out in managing to settle here – and have been proven correct, and it has just been something that I think – having traveled and experienced so many other places in the world ? and then we realized, you know, we are in this beautiful place here, but the history hasn?t been researched here; the wonderful natural destinations haven?t really been made accessible, because this was still a very new community. And where in the world would one actually have such a rewarding challenge to try and work all this out and then publicize it and try and tell other people about it?

WALKER:And a challenge it must have been: the book that I have here in my hands is 290 – oh, 296 pages long; full colour photographs. And it comes with this big map, which I am just going to unfold here. It?s a topographical map, but it?s not paper, exactly. What is this map made out of?

HELM:Well, the substance is mylar, and I have always loved maps. And so [laughs] just the possibility of trying to get a good map of the Tumbler Ridge area was just something I just leaped at. And I had a wonderful friend, who I have never met, but in these says of electronic communication you become friends over the Internet and through e-mail. Jeremy Modema, with McIlhaney Geometics in Fort St. John. And think we spent about 32 hours each, just back and forward, and back and forward, because you really cannot claim that a place is, you know, an international destination and the best place in the world to live and be, without having a good map. And it?s not perfect, but it is certainly, I think, the closest that anyone has yet come to producing an accurate map of the area. And ?

WALKER:And each ? each destination in your book is marked by a red dot, with a corresponding number on the map, so that it is easy to find the geographical location of the area you are talking about.

HELM:That?s right. So the one side of the map is just sort of your road map with the railhead destinations; the other side of the map is about thirty-five out of the fifty trail destinations that are mentioned in the book. And because it?s mylar you can get it wet; you can spill your coffee on it; you can wash it off. My friends joke that we can sort of use it as a small tent or as groundsheet ? whatever.

WALKER:Well it is true: I?ve tried ? I am just ? see, I can almost scrunch this into a little ball, and it basically pops back out flat.

HELM:Pops back out. And it is very difficult to tear as well. You can?t ? if you really try you can tear it, but you have got to try pretty hard. So we are very pleased with the map, and it folds down to nine by five; the book is nine by six. And so we have actually shrink-wrapped every single book, so whether you like it or not – you buy the book, you have got the map as well.

WALKER:The official Tumbler Ridge launch of the book was on Tuesday night. How did that go?

HELM:Well, we were just very, very pleased. Firstly, my publisher Lorraine Funk, Tumbler Ridge News in Tumbler Ridge ? that was one of the wonderful things about the book: doing it in town. And our wonderful librarian Michele Burton and the staff there just did an amazing job in just creating a superb ambience. We had the kids of the town playing piano outside for a start ? wonderful flowers. Just a really lovely ambience they created, and you know for a town of 3,000 people, we had 200 people attend the launch. We sold round about 150 books, which is 5% of the total print run of 3,000. And I mean for me it was just a very easy thing, because I?m just so ? I?m on home territory when I am talking about the trails and the dinosaurs, and the history here. But I think we ? I hope we created a sort of buzz around this that people don?t just buy one book for themselves: they?ve got to buy it for their friends. And I have told everyone to buy ten books and choose ten friends. And that is not with any sort of motive of personal profit for me, because as you know the profits from the book ? if we ever get to that point and recover the costs ? the profits go back into the community and some of the community projects.

WALKER:Well, I would certainly encourage anybody in northern BC who wants to go exploring to pick this up: it is quite a work. How can people get their hands on it?

HELM:Well, firstly I am coming to Prince George just next week to do a book launch there, and I will be doing book launches in other communities throughout the region. In the longer term, we are getting a web site set up. In the short term, just give my wife Linda, who is doing the marketing, give her a call: 25-242-3984. Or you can e-mail us, which is exploringtr@pris.ca.

WALKER:OK. We will try to put links up on our web site. Dr. Helm, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

HELM:My pleasure, Chris: thank you.

WALKER:Bye-bye.

HELM:Bye-bye.

WALKER:Charles Helm just published his fascinating book: ?Exploring Tumbler Ridge?. He will be in Prince George, as he mentioned, on June 13th for a slide show and a talk about Tumbler Ridge. You can pick up the book there. The event takes place at Art Space at 7 pm. That?s above Books & Company here in Prince George. And you can also get a copy by calling 250-242-3984; that?s 250-242-3984.