Special to the Westerly
“Before the world of tourism would come to know anything about the unique hot springs on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, they were known to the people of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations, who had been living in the area since time immemorial. Mok-she-kla-chuk, or “smoking water”, is the traditional Nuu-Chah-Nulth name for the hot springs, which were long used for sacred healing and other purposes.”
I am so thankful Michael Kaehn starts out his new book, The Hot Springs Cove Story with this acknowledgement. The hot springs are still used by the Indigenous communities of Clayoquot Sound for traditional healing purposes today, and often, with the hoards of visitors traversing the board walk to and from the springs, we forget this important purpose the springs serve.
Kaehn’s new book, published in May 2019, moves on to focus on his family history in Refuge Cove. Kaehn is the grandson of Ivan Clarke, the pioneering force who developed his land on the southern shore of Refuge Cove and built a general store, school, housing and provided public access to the hot springs. Maquinna Provincial Park, would not exist today without Ivan Clarke’s initiative.
Kaehn did not set out to write a book about Hot Springs Cove.“It was not on [his] bucket list or anywhere near the bucket.”
His mother and maternal grandmother—Ivan’s first wife—kept newspaper articles about Ivan, along with other family photos.
Kaehn had been given an autographed edition of George Nicholson’s book Vancouver Island’s West Coast 1762-1962, which assisted in his research as well.
Initially, Kaehn was planning on submitting the information he had gathered to Harbour Publishing for the Raincoast Chronicles series but, as he started to do more research, he said his manuscript kept “growing and growing.”
Ken Gibson, of Tofino, was another important source of photographs and historical information.
Kaehn said he found that some sources contained a lot of “embellishment” and he spent a lot of time corroborating sources to get the most accurate story possible.
It wasn’t until October of 2015 that Kaehn first visited Hot Springs Cove.
“[It was] pretty neat to stand on the land that my grandfather once owned. Of course, in my head, I was picturing it the way it was when [Ivan] lived there,” he reminisced.
He said the project has created a valuable opportunity for him to connect with “long lost cousins” and extended family and that they have served as a valuable “cheering committee” as the book progressed.
The Hot Springs Cove Story also contains some modern connections. Ivan’s firstborn son, Hugh Clarke, was born in early December 1936, and has been running the Ahousaht General Store since 1958. Walking into the General Store is a bit like stepping back in time with the original buildings still in use today.
Kaehn has tried to dispel historical fact from fiction through his writing and said he hopes his book might serve as a “reference book for the Cove during that time period.”
A slideshow presentation and book signing is in the works for Ahousaht, Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Alberni and Shawnigan Lake for sometime in September.