The allure of secrets: Train Wreck – Part 1

by Steve Brock on July 26, 2012

The hidden tree house, HemLoft, wasn’t the only secret place I found out about in Whistler, BC. Some of the locals also informed me of a site called Train Wreck. The mind reels at the possibilities of what could have led to such a name.

Alas, the moniker comes from the fact that a train wrecked at the site. Who would have guessed?

Apparently 50 or so years ago, a train derailed and six box cars crashed into the neighboring forest. I’m unclear as to the fate of the engine or any of the train’s crew. But, my sources informed me, you can still see the remains of the boxcars, hidden in the trees and covered in graffiti.

Some may hear this and think: rural junkyard. I heard and thought: Adventure!

Train Wreck isn’t all that secret. In fact, I found it listed on one of the maps showing mountain bike trails. But reaching Train Wreck, that is what makes it unusual and a bit challenging.

You have to park off the highway or in a neighboring industrial area and then hike for about 15-20 minutes down the railroad tracks. There seems to be no other way to get there.

My son and I weren’t too concerned about our railed path. Trains, after all, aren’t exactly mouse-like in their approach. We figured we’d hear anything before we were in any jeopardy of becoming the equivalent of a bug on a windshield.

But as we walked, the wind picked up making odd sounds and we found ourselves looking over our shoulders more than I anticipated. Furthermore, my stride and the spacing of the railroad ties align as well as your turn indicator timing does with that of the car’s in front of you. Thus, my concentration focused more on the means of journeying rather than on the surrounding scenery.

But then, at one point, the trees parted and we found a side trail. We thought that maybe we had found Train Wreck.

Instead, we found something unexpected. Instead of man-made wreckage, we found a waterfall and river of surprising beauty. The images here are of that river and part of the path through the forest that heads toward Train Wreck but doesn’t quite reach it. You have to return to the tracks for that.

But here’s what we discovered on our way to Train Wreck:

  • We went in search of a particular place but found that the journey there was as interesting as our destination.


  • As we walked the tracks, we kept looking forward (and behind us). The tracks, as the photo below shows, lead toward a curve. That curve represents more than the source of a potential oncoming train. Like a path that disappears into a forest, a road that crests a hill or a trail that gets swallowed in jungle shadow, there’s something almost mysterious that beckons to us from these points of vanishing perspective. They, like secrets, draw us forward to discover what lies beyond.


  • We thought we would encounter a secret place. However, as with HemLoft, we soon found that the whole area was covered with mountain bike trails, runs and boardwalks. Instead of detracting from the natural beauty, these actually added to it. We often pursue nature to get away from others, but as we were about to find out, in some cases, the human touch transforms the natural world in unexpected ways…

 To be continued…

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Sadness and serendiptity – Part 3

by Steve Brock on October 26, 2011

Three stories of books surround a middle stack at the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, MA

On the trip to my nephew’s funeral, I noted the serendipity of rediscovering the joy of spending time with just my parents and my brother in Rhode Island and Massachusetts the day before the funeral.

That was an unexpected benefit, but there were other, smaller ones along the way that I’d like to share with you. By themselves, these probably fall into the “so what?” category. But they illustrate an important aspect of meaningful travel: when we pay attention to the details and small moments on a trip, we uncover insights and connections that we associate with that trip and everything else that is occurring at the time.

Thus, on their own, these may seem insignificant yet they form a pattern of discovery and meaning – even if that meaning is personal and may not fully translate to others. Still, from the following images, I hope you get some sense of why this was both an interesting journey and a meaningful one.

Since we had not planned on doing any sightseeing, our entire source of information was the travel magazine left in our hotel rooms. After glancing through various options within a 45 minute drive, we decided to head out from our hotel in Providence, RI and go to Falls River, New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA. Why? The pictures in the magazine looked nice.

Sometimes that’s reason enough.

My own snapshots below show some of what we encountered, but let me comment on one place in particular, the Fairhaven Public Library.

We had no idea where to go in Fairhaven when we arrived, so we skirted the harbor to the old downtown area where we saw several old churches and other buildings.

The most intriguing turned out to be the public library. Though small, it is probably the most beautiful, functioning public library I’ve seen in this country. What made it even more interesting – even serendipitous if you will – is that while perusing the book shelves, we “just happened” upon a book cart that had two books on the old buildings of Fairhaven. Thus, we not only discovered the library, but within the library we found books detailing its own history and that of nearby buildings.

Again, that may not seem like a big deal, but it was borderline “woo woo” to us in terms of how it all came together this day.

The rest of the sights were more mundane but still interesting. It added up to a surprisingly intriguing day that now is part of our family; an unplanned experience that is, in ways we can’t fully explain, somehow essential to what that entire trip means to us.

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If you missed the first parts of this series, you can read them here: Ugly Beautiful, Sadness and Serendipity - Part 1, Sadness and Serendipity - Part 2

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Sadness and serendipity – Part 2

by Steve Brock on October 21, 2011

The trip to my nephew’s funeral was one of sadness, certainly. But also one of surprise, even serendipity.

One definition of serendipity from Webster’s is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” That would apply to my brother’s and my experiences covered in Part 1 of meeting the hospice director and the former pastor on our respective ways to the funeral.

But with meaningful travel in general, and this trip in particular, we encountered a slightly different definition of serendipity: going in search of one thing and finding another, one that seems unrelated to the former but in fact, furthers our original journey or intent but not in the way we imagined. 

The view from Fort Phoenix, town of Fairhaven, MA, an unexpected destination...

My parents and I flew from Seattle to Providence, Rhode Island. There, we met my brother who had just arrived from Florida. We had a wonderful dinner together that first night, catching up and discussing the funeral that was to occur the following evening.

The next morning we awoke and had most of a day to do nothing. Rather than hang around the hotel all day, we decided to do something I hadn’t expected on a trip of this kind: we played tourists. In the next entry, I’ll give you a photo essay of the surprising things we encountered in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts.

What the photos cannot reveal, however, are the moments that transformed this day from one of mourning to one of a different kind of discovery.

First, as we drove through the old sections of towns like New Bedford (former whaling capital of the world, or so they say) and Fairhaven, MA, we saw more funeral homes than I’ve ever seen before. Whether they do indeed have more mortuaries per square mile there or whether we just noticed them more this day, I cannot say. But each was a poignant reminder that even though we were enjoying a beautiful day together, the intended purpose of our trip was never too distant.

Second, we all came to realize that this was the first trip that the four of us had taken, just on our own, since I was in high school. We’ve done other vacations or family gatherings with our spouses and kids, but not just my parents and their two sons for years. My mom especially noted this, appreciated it and marveled at the time we had together, just the four of us. I tend to think of “family” as a multigenerational collection that spans both my side and my wife’s side through grandparents, uncles, nieces, in-laws – everyone who we consider to be a relation. Yet this trip revealed that something special happens when you travel with only the people who formed your tightest, most intimate circle growing up.

Third, as is often the case in times of pain and vulnerability, we appreciated each other and what we saw more. We paid better attention to the small details – meals unique to that region, comments that reveal a shared sense of humor, the cobblestones of the streets or scent of the sea. I am convinced that our joy is more noticeable when contrasted with our sadness and such was our experience this day.

We came on this trip to mourn the loss of a family member. What we ended up experiencing was a trip where we celebrated and valued dearly the family I have known since birth. It wasn’t the trip I expected. It was much better.

But then, our journeys of serendipity usually are.

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Sadness and Serendipity – Part 1

by Steve Brock October 18, 2011

Even on difficult journeys, God provides what we need but in ways we would never expect and often through the kindness of strangers.

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God on the rocks

by Steve Brock August 3, 2011

Looking for rocks on the beach reveals an approach to how we find God on a trip and in our daily lives which – big surprise – is rarely in expected ways.

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Layers of meaning – Part Two

by Steve Brock April 20, 2011

In the second part of the story of visiting the music store Stein on Vine in Hollywood, CA, we discover that meaningful travel, like jazz, is made up of special moments – moments with multiple layers of meaning – that can’t be replicated but can be enjoyed if we learn to live in the moment and appreciate them for the gift that they are.

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Layers of meaning – Part One

by Steve Brock April 14, 2011

A recent unplanned journey to the music store, Stein on Vine, in Hollywood, CA exemplifies how many layers of meaning can be found in a single discovery on a trip.

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