The X-Files is back in 2016 – how X-traordinary. To say I was obsessed with this show when I was in high school is probably an understatement, but what can I say – it was a good one – still is! Not surprising then, that my X-Files and Vancouver travel journal is a prized possession.
I wasn’t alone – I had mates, Leisa, Michelle, Julie, Jacquie, Melissa… to name but a few. We all fed the beast. There are worse things to be addicted to though, and actually this series taught me about smart storytelling, mythology, history, passion, spirituality and creativity.
Like many fans around the globe, I’ve begun watching episodes again, cherry-picking my favourites, as sadly I don’t have time to get through all nine seasons (just yet). Through the re-watching exercise I’m remembering why I loved it so much – depth, characters and chemistry (despite at-times dodgy ’90s sound and production technology).
I also found one of my favourite destinations in the world because of this special production – Vancouver.
As many diligent fans before me, I too made the pilgrimage to Vancouver to hunt X-Files sets (although by the time my brother and I travelled to North America, filming had been shifted to LA). I ended up discovering a city I feel utterly at home in.
Life is strange and beautiful.
Anyway, the treasured travel diary I kept on that original adventure has since been in my top three personal possessions that I would take with me in the face of that hypothetical fire! The trip was my first foray into freedom, travel, challenges and real growth, fueling an incessant wanderlust; this diary and its stories of our adventures over six weeks in five areas of America and Canada represented all of that, particularly in the many years that followed where travel was not part of my life.
Now the show which inspired me in my teens is back (as of 24 January 2016) and also shot on location in Van, I decided I’d read back to relish in what actually happened across December 1999/January 2000, as Josh and I investigated on our own, throughout British Columbia (BC), to California and beyond.
Did we find what we were looking for?
X-Files and Vancouver travel journal
17 January 2000
Vancouver now – so much to tell! Flying into British Columbia (BC) and driving to our city accommodation, I was breathless seeing snow-capped mountains, green grass, clean streets… this place is lovely!
We stay in Gastown, the oldest, original part of Vancouver. Quaint shops line Powell and Water Streets, and downtown city centre is only a block or two away.
Found Canada Place where the ‘fountain scene’ from X-Files episode ‘Duane Barry’ was filmed, as well as the Gastown rail yards where many other X-Files episodes were shot (located a street behind our accommodation, actually). This, all framed by pretty waterways, ocean and snow-drenched mountains.
Met up with [Josh’s friend] Shawna yesterday. Took the skytrain to Surrey to meet her then drove back towards the city and had a look at Granville Island. Along the route, the epic landscape evolved – mountains, flat lands, residential areas, parks, snow – so inspiring, and appropriately (in my head, at least) the ride was set to an anthemic soundtrack of Savage Garden’s album, Affirmation.
Today was the real treat though. Woke up to find sunlight and fairly warm weather (7 degrees!). Decided to aim for Lighthouse Park and Atkinson Point in west Vancouver. This is the forest park where much including ‘Darkness Falls’ X-Files episode was filmed. Found the right bus route and it was a nice ten minute walk through the woods that eventually open up to the sparkling seaway. Beautiful BC!
Caught the bus back to Park Royal Shopping Mall for lunch. By accident, I spotted Buntzen Lake on a map. Previously I couldn’t find this precious location where ‘One Breath’ and ‘Quagmire’ were filmed.
Worked out the bus to Lonsdale Quay, seabus to Waterfront, skytrain to Westminster and then found another bus to take us to the area around Buntzen Lake just fine – I was a woman on a mission; too bad I can’t navigate my way around Brisbane this well.
Only problem, we didn’t realise it would take an hour and a half to get to this quieter and more regional part of BC – far away from Vancouver. We got there nearly on dark.
A local showed us a short-cut to the remote lake which turned out to be a twenty minute hike through snow, forest and mud, over a dodgy wooden bridge and well into falling darkness.
Emerging out the other side we found this peaceful, shimmering body of water surrounded closely by snowy mountains. It was the picture image of ‘One Breath’ (though I understand this emotional episode was filmed at a few locations around the region). The anxiety and craziness of walking back through a foreign forest in darkness (far too close for my liking to having just seen Blair Witch Project) will be worth it if any photos turn out to capture this simply magic moment. It was stunning, and gratifying finding this place, for many reasons. I can’t believe I’m here, cosy amongst such tranquility and in a world so far removed from Queensland. I should have written more on Vancouver. It’s touched me so.
Grouse Mountain and first time snow
The very definition of ‘winter wonderland’ is stepping off the skyride at Grouse – for above the city, through and beyond the clouds, Grouse was like a glowing powdery-white world of its own. Certainly, we’d never seen anything like this before. Josh tried skiing. I took photos with my new camera. The experience was just amazing. I’ve become obsessed with photography, especially framing the picturesque beauty of BC.
Friday 21 January 2000
Counting my location spots: found Grouse “Skyland” Mountain (‘Ascension’), Buntzen Lake in Anmore (‘Quagmire’, ‘One Breath’, ‘Conduit’), Lighthouse Park (‘Darkness Falls’ forest) and more across the city; Hotel Vancouver from ‘Fire’, St Andrew Wesley Church and St Paul’s Hospital from ‘All Souls’ and ‘Pusher’ respectively. Saw the site of the arcade from ‘DPO’, and the Ovaltine Cafe from ‘Jose Chung’, but these shops in north Vancouver and downtown don’t exist anymore. Found the GM Place stadium [now Rogers Arena] where the huge chess game and final Vancouver ep, ‘The End’ was filmed; and the fountains at Canada Place used in ‘Duane Barry’.
Of course, we stayed in Gastown where much was filmed, including the rail yards and Water Street from ‘Redux II’, and ‘Beyond the Sea’, plus found the ‘angel made of stone’ from the same episode outside the city’s central transit centre. In Vancouver, The X-Files is all around you – particularly brilliant if you’re a fan. There’s always something being filmed around the streets of the city, it’s really cool. Vancouver proves to be true to its nickname, Hollywood of the North.
Pondering all this and sheltered from a cold winter’s night, I enjoyed a post-dinner tea in a cafe on Powell/Water Street, across the road from our hostel. Chatted to the owners who told me more about all the filming which happens around here. In fact, they had a photo of Billy Zane from when he filmed The Survivor in that very space!
We’ve decided to stay an extra day to return and attempt to capture better photos in the sunlight at Buntzen Lake, then we’re going straight to San Francisco. Oh, and I stopped by GM Place earlier to say I stood there (Ricky Martin is playing there on March 3!).
Spent some time on my own over the past couple of days, and I love the anonymity. Breakfasts have an ‘arty’ feel and I have adopted a favourite coffee shop in Gastown where I go almost daily for tea and fave North American find, sticky buns.
Just as I have to leave, I realise I’m sad because I’ve found a place here. Nestled snugly within the Burrard Inlet, snowy slush and bare trees; despite a crisp winter not previously experienced by us, it’s a bitter-sweet comfort being so far away from home. But I can breathe.
Change of scenery – X-Files and LA
30 January 2000
[My friend] Lauren and I staked out Fox Studios in Los Angeles today – we’ve made it to the one and only Hollywood now! Fox is down on the Avenue of the Stars at Century City, between the massive space of Pico Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard, south of Santa Monica. We saw props and buildings which would be sets, we imagine, but no-one was around for us to question.
I have a phone number to make use of tomorrow. I’m fearful of hearing that word, ‘no’, but I’m not easy to stop! It’s worth a shot anyhow, to see if I can get on the set – I’ve come so far, why stop now?
Superbowl today, but I’m more excited about the brand new XF New Year ‘kiss’ episode that’s on tonight, ahead of Australia :-)
X-Files Day – 30 January 2000
The world’s technology didn’t shut down on New Year’s as predicted, and just as astonishing, I talked to Gillian Anderson at 6.30pm tonight, before she left with [her daughter] Piper! She was lovely and pretty and had her costume on from the movie! I told her I’d come all the way from Australia and she smiled. She asked what we were doing there and I said we’d been watching filming. She laughed and said it must have been “so exciting” (the scene was fairly low action, not that I cared at all). Then she shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me. Dream done.
The second shot we saw in our two and a half hours on set, was of Scully receiving a phone message from Mulder and then she could be seen adjusting her bra before she left with an overnight bag and the Cigarette Smoking Man (who also smiled and said hello when we were on set)! We listened to proceedings in our own ‘Guest’ director chairs with headphones to hear what was going on, and could see in the monitor the shot in sequence.
I got to meet Gillian Anderson today, and watch her play the character I love. I made this happen somehow. No one can take this away from me! This is amazing. I’ve read back through my diary too, and noted the aspiration to make this set visit somehow come alive here. I believe that it was always meant to happen – I just knew it, but I didn’t know how. ‘I want to believe’ (yep, truly dorky fan-nerd pun right there!).
Turned out we were watching the filming of ‘All Things’. And we could eat what we wanted from the huge snack table. Can’t believe after sweating on hold on the phone this morning and talking through several different people that they agreed to let Josh and I on set. I pulled this one-off by calling Fox myself and basically making it happen (despite being shy!). I can’t quite believe it but I’m very very glad.
2016 - present day
Funnily enough, I still live by this exact mantra today – write your desires down and go for it – regardless of fear. What’s the worst that can happen? More importantly, what’s the best thing that could happen?! That’s the lesson I share.
Looking back, I’m pretty proud of my ‘little self’ for being so resourceful and passionate in pursuit of her dreams, no matter how ‘out there‘ they may have been.
As for Vancouver, I’ve been there a few times now, and we even lived and worked in Gastown for a spell. Despite having to say goodbye to the city repeatedly over the years, it’s been a wonderful X-perience and ride.
Please share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear from you!
If you’re interested in more stories from this divine part of the world, you might also enjoy:
Heaven is Harrison Hot Springs