Okanagan woman shocked to receive answer to message in a bottle sent downriver from Princeton in 1989

31-yr-old message in bottle

An Okanagan woman could not not believe what she was reading when a stranger from Washington messaged her on Facebook earlier this month. 

"She said that her son had found a message in a bottle that she thought I might have written in July 1989," Amanda Hope, now living in Kelowna, said. 

"I knew immediately It was me."

Hope grew up on a farm on Summers Creek Road in Princeton, and during the hot, slow summers, she would sometimes stave off boredom by writing letters to her friends downstream and stuffing them in bottles as transport, something she saw in a cartoon as a child. 

None of those letters ever made it to the intended recipients, but 31 years later, one of them made it to someone. 

"She messaged me on Facebook asking if I was Mandy from Summers Creek," Hope said, which is how she had signed the letter all those decades ago. The woman, Liz Courtney, was reaching out from Azwell, Washington, where her family operates a barge company and a tugboat at the dam.

Her son's job is to push all the debris to the shore, and he spotted something glinting in the sun. 

"He was about to throw it away when he noticed there was a message in it," Hope said. 

From there, the hunt for "Mandy" began, and eventually led to Hope. Courtney sent her a photo, and Hope is still amazed at the series of circumstances that led to it finding its way back to her.

As the crow flies, the distance from Summers Creek to Azwell is about 200 kilometres, and the waterways are long, winding and frequently blocked by various natural and man-made barriers. At one point in the letter, she writes "this may not get far because of the dams." Little did she know.

Somehow it survived, and Hope's only disappointment is that she didn't write anything more profound.

"I had written others about more interesting things!" she said with a laugh, adding that this was likely one of the last ones she sent of the four or five she recalls writing throughout her early adolescence. 

Nonetheless, she is thrilled to rediscover the memory. Snatches of the sentences are faded and illegible, but much of it is surprisingly intact. In the text, Hope addresses several of her neighbouring friends and includes inside jokes, unsure who might pick up the bottle.

"Like my friend Rob, we were farm kids, we helped ranchers do hay together in the fields, and he would throw hay at me and make me eat hay," she explained with a laugh. "So nothing profound."

Hope is still in touch with some of the friends mentioned, who have been helping her decipher some of the other cryptic references. 

The paper itself is on its way to her through the mail, and Hope said she plans to go visit Courtney and her family in Washington when the borders reopen. 

"My sister thinks I should frame it, so maybe I'll do that," Hope said. 

The letter concludes with a partially legible P.S. with a request that was honoured, albeit a few decades later than expected.

"If this is found in the future [...] found soon by one of the mentioned above, I'll [...] let me know," she writes. 

"Phone me or tell me when you see."

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