Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Explore 'The Home of 1000 Faces' in Radium B.C.


For a decade now, my family along with various members of my husband's family, have been vacationing for a week in Invermere, British Columbia. We rent a house (loosely called a 'cabin' by us), plan our meals, pack games and the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville mixer, and spend a week enjoying laughs, family companionship, and various adventures.

However, even though we've been visiting the area for ten years solid, we somehow skipped exploring the wacky and unexpected 'Home of 1000 Faces' in Radium. Oh, we had seen it from the outside - how could you miss it? But we had never gone inside to see what it was all about. This year we decided to give it a fair shot, and were happy that we did.

Just a couple of examples of the detailed carvings at the 'Home of 1000 Faces'.

From what we had heard from locals, the 'Home of 1000 Faces' is basically the home of a very talented woodcarver who decided to open his doors to the public and turn his living quarters into a museum and tourist attraction using his wooden wares. For 38 years, woodcarver and artist Rolf Heer has been adding to his collection and attraction, making it better and better for a more interesting experience. And he knows what he's doing - he has been woodcarving decorative and custom-made pieces for over 40 years. (Thanks, Rolf, for calling and confirming that for me! I appreciate the phone call!)

To start with, the outside is completely adorned with life-sized wooden carvings of faces, people, and figures. A wall of cheerful, jaunty hand-painted signs offer words of encouragement, sarcasm, and humour to those passing by in their vehicles as they cruise along the road. The whole ensemble looks a little kooky and somewhat daunting - what IS this place?!? is the reaction that comes to mind - but truly, give it a chance.

The crazy exterior of the 'Home of 1000 Faces' shouldn't intimidate you.

We parked our truck in the small gravel parking lot along the side of the building and trekked to the unassuming front door. There were several signs on the door, including a handwritten note instructing us to ring the bell and wait for Rolf, and another note inviting visitors to come on in. We knocked, and when Rolf didn't magically appear, we followed the instructions on the second note and wandered tentatively inside.

The first room we entered looked like the heart of the wood shop, right there past the main doors. Bundles of wood, saws, axes, power tools, and chisels - everything was resting patiently, waiting to be used by their owner. But the owner himself was not in sight. Unsure if we should walk any further, Joey and I hesitated. Luckily, we have two small, excitable children who barged right in to the next room, and so we had no choice but to follow.

The first room we entered in the 'Home of 1000 Faces' displayed all of Rolf's tools.

Past the workshop (if that is what it was), we entered what I could only assume was a gallery and showroom for Rolf's amazing pieces. When the sign says "Home of 1000 Faces", one can assume there should be at least 1000 carved faces on the premise. I didn't start counting, but I don't think I needed to. Wooden visages lined the walls and tables, each exquisitely carved in detail and ranging in size, thickness, expression, and facial hair (although, to be fair, about 99% of the faces had long, Gandalf-esque beards).

Some carvings on display in Rolf's gallery.

My favourite piece in the gallery wasn't a face carving at all, but a massive, elaborate, and stunning table, carved and polished to a shine. My house is too small for a table such as that, but if I owned a mansion with a large front foyer, that table would be sitting smack in the middle to be sure! It was gorgeous!

Still we had not seen Rolf. But we did hear voices floating down to us from above, and so we assumed it was okay for us to be wandering about in his house. We left the gallery and walked outside onto the large wooden patio, where more faces, sculptures, and a giant purple bra were set on display. I don't know the story behind the bra; I didn't ask. It is bigger than a van, maybe a double D, a deep shade of violet, and it is hanging on the wall above the main patio. So there's that.

A wall of colourful faces at the "Home of 1000 Faces".

Past the main patio, a ramp leads down into a small courtyard, filled with unusual objects like old doors hanging from corrugated tin walls, an old refrigerator slumped in the dirt, door hanging open on broken hinges, and a semi-circle of carved faces as big as totem poles. My little family entered the courtyard cautiously, unsure of what the place was all about. We saw a family across from us, huddled near the fridge looking somewhat terrified.

"Something is up," I told my husband, and just then my son narrowly missed getting blasted in the face with an arc of cold water. Hands in the air, he came running back to us. My daughter laughed in delight: it was a water gauntlet, and the challenge was to run from one end to the other while trying to stay dry. My son was having NONE OF IT, so we left to continue exploring and eventually watched my husband and daughter run the gauntlet from a balcony on the second floor.

My son happy to be nowhere near the water.

The gauntlet looked super fun. Hidden in the walls and even buried in the dirt were jets of water, either on a timer or motion sensor (I'm not really sure). Various obstacles provided protection (hence the open fridge door), and some were actually traps. The circle of totem pole faces looked like protection, but once you were safely ensconced inside, jets of water kept blasting past the opening and you suddenly were stuck. It was quite hilarious watching people struggle to escape. My husband and daughter did a fairly decent job at staying dry.

The water gauntlet area. 

I was a little jealous that I didn't get to run the gauntlet, but my son was quite content not getting blasted with chilly water. So we kept exploring.

On the top floor, after seeing even more elaborate sculptures and carvings, we found Rolf. He was chatting with another visiting couple about the goat walk. Yes, Rolf has a goat walk on the top of his house. He keeps at least two pet goats that I saw, and they live in a 'goat chalet' on the roof of the 'Home of 1000 Faces' in quite a lovely set-up. They had several boardwalks and runways to explore, green grass to eat, and a bucket filled with soda crackers and taco chips that happy tourists were willing to feed them. A pretty good life if you are goat, if you ask me.

My daughter enjoyed her goat feeding experience, and no one got bitten! Always a plus.

Rolf happily let the goats out of the chalet and encouraged them to wander down the goat walk to the feeding area. Then he politely allowed the lot of us to take photos with him: I couldn't resist as he was decked out in a fantastically eccentric costume. He is a quiet, shy man so beyond posing for the photos and answering a couple of basic questions, he didn't say too much.

Rolf sure stands out - we knew he had to be the owner instantly!

My kids had a wonderful time feeding the goats. We quickly learned that the goats preferred the taco chips over the soda crackers, but were relatively happy with whatever they got. There was also a brave, brave squirrel who continually risked the crushing affections of my children in a quest to get at the food bucket. They tried but did not succeed in catching him and taking him home as a pet (okay, that might have been me who wanted to take him home as a pet).

My son loved feeding the goats.

Admission for this little funhouse museum is $4 for adults and $2 for children, so it isn't expensive by any means. We stayed for about one hour, and after that, felt like we had seen all there was to see. But it definitely was something worth visiting at least once if you are in the Radium area. For more information on Rolf himself (he is fascinating person) visit his website. Be sure to click on the "More" link - cheeky monkey!


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