It took but a moment after arriving in Golden for elementary school teacher Jim Halverson to know he was in the right place.
After spending much of his life bouncing around Canada and British Columbia (as the son of a military man), Halverson knew Golden would be his home after substitute teaching here 20 years ago.
“I just felt right off the bat that this was the place for me. Right from the start, not just with the school district, but in the whole town, everyone was really friendly,” he said. “I knew I was coming to B.C. the whole time I was in Calgary. As soon as I was old enough I wanted to move to B.C., so I did.”
His teaching career began in Salmon Arm, but it wasn’t Halverson’s original career choice. After a back injury he was thinking about a more sedentary career option while at school at UVIC.
“I didn’t really know what to do there. I tried accounting…I was terrible at it. A few years after that, some teachers I knew in Salmon Arm talked me into coming to their classroom and helping out,” he said.
That was when he found his passion for teaching. And Halverson was fortunate enough to combine that with his passion for the outdoors. He could often be found taking his students out on hikes in the area.
In fact, there are a couple popular hikes in the Columbia Valley that Halverson can be thanked for creating.
“I’m very into the outdoors. In Invermere I built a trail up to Mount Swansee, which is used quite heavily now. I used it for an exercise trail, climbed it almost every day,” he said.
“When I got here I was looking around to build a trail, and I was able to build one up to Table Mountain, which has become fairly well used. It’s kind of neat when you get to the top. You’re on a plateau and you can see all the way down to Golden.”
Halverson spent eight days scouting out the best route for the Tabletop Mountain Hike, and then 18 days clearing out the trail. That was nearly 19 years ago, and every year since he has gone up with his chain saw to maintain the trail.
“I was hoping that someone younger would come along and start taking over maintaining the trail. So David Jones has done it the last couple of years, he’s only 65,” said Halverson.
Now that he is retired, Halverson hopes to upgrade the trail to make it a bit easier to walk on. Right now it’s a “stiff climb” that takes hikers up 4,100 feet from the highway over only five kilometres of actual hiking.
This is Halverson’s first year of retirement, and he admits he finds it a bit strange not going back to school for the first time. He has really enjoyed spending time with his students, and loves seeing them all over town and keeping up with them as they grow up.
“It’s actually kind of fun to see former students around town. That’s what I’ll miss the most if I ever leave,” he said.
Sometime in the future, the Halversons (Jim and his wife Susan) might move onto Salmon Arm to be closer to family, but he hopes it will not be too soon.
“If I go to Salmon Arm I’ll be this little old guy that nobody knows, I don’t like the idea of that,” he joked. “Golden is a nice town to live in, and to grow old in as well.”