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Johnsons Landing retreat picks up pieces

The retreat centre had not been directly affected because of its location behind a ridge
The slide came down in a chute around a ridge from the Johnsons Landing Retreat Centre.

The owner of the Johnsons Landing Retreat Centre admits when the landslide tore through the small Kootenay Lake community in July, he was concerned about how it would affect business.

The weekend the landslide came down, the retreat centre was preparing for the arrival of its biggest event of the year.

“People were just about to come in, but fortunately it happened before they got here, so that was good for them,” said Richard Ortega.

The retreat centre had not been directly affected because of its location behind a ridge, but Ortega said it took them a month to get the facility operational.

“We spent a lot of time hand watering the gardens. We have over two gardens. Just trying to get water was a challenge,” he said.

The centre was without water, hydro and road access for some time after the landslide.

“One of neighbours had a thing on the back of his truck with a pump and a tank, so we were bringing water up from the lake and we put a swimming pool up above the garden so that we could siphon water in. At first we were hand watering everything. Just trying to keep everything alive when there was no water was a real challenge,” he said.

Despite the evacuation order implemented by the Regional District of Central Kootenay following the landslide, Ortega never left the retreat centre.

“I didn’t feel any reason to leave because I felt perfectly safe in this location,” he said.

Guests seem to echo Ortega’s feelings about being safe in the retreat centre. He said few have any interest in the slide at all.

“They all feel really safe,” he said. “None of them even talk about the slide. Some go up and take a look, and ask some questions, but no one has any fear. We’re all perfectly safe right here.”

When asked why people are drawn to Johnsons Landing, Ortega commented on the solitude and beauty of the community.

“It’s an hour away from Kaslo, so for a retreat centre it’s the perfect location because the last thing you want to do is put a retreat centre next to a road,” he said. “It’s nice and quiet. There is clean water and clean air and an incredible view and forest. It’s like paradise up here. It’s at the end of the road so you don’t just end up with people driving by and making noise and partying because they really have to go out of their way to get here. People are also drawn to the Fry Creek canyon. There are lots of folks who drive up here just to hike the canyon.”

The Johnsons Landing Retreat Centre hosts about 150 guests per year.