in the Forbidden Plateau
Local Courtenay shoemaker and part-time prospector, James (Jimmy) Aston had a unique way of finding gold and other precious metals. He had a pair of leather gloves which in the fingers of one glove he stashed samples of different metals and with a wand in hand he then walked around waving it over the ground, just the way a water deviner covers the ground searching for water under the surface. Jimmy also happened to be well versed with water devining, therefore, it didn't appear unusual for him to use this technique to find precious metals. In fact, he believed it worked like a charm, unfortunately, he could never lay claim to the fact that he had struck it rich from prospecting. It was while near Strata Mountain in Strathcona Provincial Park with another part-time prospector, Sid Williams, that his glove and wand detected some sort of metal under the surface.
It was the closing of the summer of 1946, Jimmy and Sid had both been searching the streams and mountains that form the legendary Forbidden Plateau behind Mount Washington. Although there were numerous signs of colour in the rocks of the plateau, nothing appeared to be of any consequence. However, Jimmy became quite excited about the way the wand was moving over the ground near Strata Mountain. The initial digging turned up signs of gold in what appeared to be a prosperous vein. Unfortunately, the season came to a close, but they were determined to return the next year and undertake a more thorough search of the claim that they staked.
In the summer of 1947 they returned with two other locals, Joe Ducca and young Bruce McPhee, who were hired to work for a couple of weeks helping them out with drilling and the construction of a cabin. Their temporary home was a canvas tent they carried in and erected on a wooden platform. The outline of the structure can still be seen near the diggings. The frame of the cabin (which soon became known as Sid's Cabin) was log construction from trees cut down nearby, however, it was the roofing shakes that the men were most proud of. Some distance from the cabin a large punky fallen yellow cedar was found that had good straight grained, knot-free, wood. After sawing it into three foot lengths they then split the log into thick shakes. It was Bruce's job to use a pack-board to carry all the shakes back to the cabin where those original shakes are still in use today. While construction was taking place the cabin had its first visitor. Courtenay's Ruth Masters was hiking in the area and not one to pass by without offering to help, Ruth spent the day chinking the walls with moss to cut down on the draft.
Although the cutting and carrying of the logs was hard work, the hardest and most tiring job was the drilling into the rock to take core samples at various locations to get an idea of the extent of the gold vein. It required using a long drill or auger and a heavy sledge hammer. The fretful job of holding the drill fell upon Bruce while it was Joe's job to hit the end with the hammer, subsequently, Bruce couldn't help closing his eyes and cringing just as Joe struck the head of the drill. One missed swing of the hammer and it would be Bruce's hands that would take the brunt of the steel on the end of the hammer handle. Fortunately for Bruce, Joe's aim was good and he never missed! It took many hours to drill one hole several feet into the hard rock but eventually the extent of the vein was found to extend for quite a distance and it looked promising.
After reporting on the extent of their find, Sid and Jimmy were able to persuade a large mining company to come out the following year to assess the site for further development. The major drawback was that this claim was in a provincial park, however, they did test drill the site with a diamond drill. The trays of the core samples can still be seen laying on the ground partially buried under Heather from the years in the open.
Sid's Cabin is a small two bunk refuge with a wood stove that serves as both a summer and winter base for hikers who want to climb or ski up nearby Mount Albert Edward. The cabin is well secluded in the trees and can be easily missed if one doesn't know where to look. Although it is getting on towards sixty years old, with care the cabin can still continue to serve those who seek its shelter. The most important factor in its up-keep is for those who use it to leave it in better shape than they found it - a small price to pay for the use of the cabin.