Saturday, 2 November 2013

Into British Columbia

Into British Columbia

Leaving Banff, we had to drive up past Lake Louise on the Trans Canada Hwy to the Kicking Horse Pass. The weather was not in our favour, torrential rain in the morning delayed our departure. It is no fun hitching in the pouring rain. When it cleared by mid-morning, the snow line had dropped down the mountains noticeably – time to move on!
More snow on the mountains

Along the Alberta part of the highway, Parks Canada has constructed quite a few tunnels and overpasses allowing wildlife to safely cross the highway (better for both animals and traffic).
Animal Overpass
We went over the Kicking Horse Pass, 1647m, about 1 pm. They are doing bridge work in BC too. We thought we had left that behind in Ontario!
A slow-down, but no delay

We drove in and out of rain all day.
Tunnels on the BC side of the Kicking Horse Pass down to Field
One of the Tunnels
Diagram of the Railroad down the mountain

 The highway through to Golden wended through a valley with mountains on either side. Fewer of the mountains had snow on them. There were lots of yellow- aspens- interspersed with the green of the fir trees on the mountain sides.

The highway went through a wide valley, 6%- grade hill going down for 10 miles, then rock-cuts, zig zags, and an 8%-grade to the valley floor and into Golden. In John’s words, “there were a few moments through the mountains when I gripped the steering wheel tightly - the descent from Kicking Horse Pass to Field, and later Golden, and descending the Coquihalla Highway into Hope.” From Golden, we drove through a wide valley, or fir trees down to the road, but few snowy mountains.
We climbed to Rogers Pass, 1327m, in Glacier National Park. Although not as high as Kicking Horse, it is renowned for the amount of snow it gets. An average of 12 metres falls in the Pass each year. Operation PALACI is a Canadian Forces operation that supports Parks’ Canada’s avalanche control program. These reduce the likelihood of unexpected avalanches. The howitzer crews fire high into the alpine trigger zones. We were lucky, we had only rain. On the roads here, there are no bridges for animals, but there are many avalanche tunnels.
An Avalanch Tunnel
A model of the Rogers Pass in winter
A model of Rogers Pass in the  Information Centre

After a lot more climbing and long downhill runs,

we decided to spend the night at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke in the Monashee Mountains. It is a municipal campground with pull-through sites on a wide open field, and back-in sites around the perimeter. It is a well-run, small park. There is a sandy beach on the river, a beautiful children’s playground and several trails. During the summer, there is mini golf, and a variety of activities for campers and day visitors.
Our site at Williamson Lake Campground

The next day we headed to Kelowna, once again in fog, off-and-on pouring rain, and finally blue sky. This highway is designated as a “Scenic Highway” from the Kicking Horse Pass past Salmon Arm, on the Trans Canada. There were fewer mountains and a winding road into Sicamous. From there, we drove south on Highway 97A to the Okanagan Valley.
Down towards Sicamous
Continuing down and around

Snow only on the highest mountain peaks

Sun's out! Mara Lake, a chance for a break
From the time we turned onto 97A, we saw billboards advertising The Log Barn, so of course we had to stop when we reached it.
The first thing you see as you drive in
So we had to visit the goats...
There is amazing array of Log Barn jams, jellies, sauces, Mennonite sausages, and a gift shop

We decided to stay in West Kelowna at the West Bay RV Resort on Lake Okanagan. It was lovely. We had a grassy lake-view. There was even a large platform for us to put under our stairs to make an extra step. Since we are a couple of weeks later than we had originally expected, the RV campgrounds generally have lots of room, and we are able to pick our site. Here we were able to pull through, so we actually had 2 sites! It also means it was a little cooler than we had planned, but on the up-side, we had sun. The week before had been very wet and rainy here.
West Bay RV Resort on Lake Okanagan

our beach, looking across to Kelowna

The first thing we did was to check out the Tourist Information. They were very helpful, even to pointing us in the direction of a couple of good places for coffee. John wanted to check out the trail across the Trestles. Since they are high above the canyon, I wasn’t so sure! We walked around the downtown for awhile, had coffee at. We also discovered not far from the marina, The Okanagan Spirits, a local distillery. We had a fascinating visit, and ended up buying Blackberry and Raspberry Liqueurs. These are just two of their range of fruit liqueurs, and spirits. They are wonderful explosions of flavour. They also make excellent Canadian whiskey, absinthe and vodkas.
Since Kelowna, and in particular the area of West Kelowna where we were, has a lot of wineries, these were first on our list of places to visit. We started with Quails’ Gate. The wine was excellent, and the winery one of the biggest and beautifully tended. The vineyards of the six wineries in this area lie on the south-facing, well-drained slopes of Mount Boucherie, an extinct volcano. We were intrigued by the restaurant, Old Vines, so the next day we decided to have lunch there. Interesting choices, delicious food, good wine, and excellent service made this a wonderful experience.
Quails' Gate vines down to the lake Our site is just past those houses.
Vine on the  side of Mount Boucherie

Quails' Gate grapes

Quails' Gate and Old Vines Restaurant

We did try to walk the trestle trail, me with a good book in case the height was too much for me. However, we ended up on the wrong road and decided to do the canyon walk first. Just as we were about to leave, a park Ranger drove up, and informed us that the sign on the gate was accurate.
There was indeed a large cougar in the area. These are dangerous, as they will stalk humans and will attack. She did tell us about a park in downtown Kelowna with a man-made, natural-looking stream for salmon spawning. We decided this was a better choice. The park is lovely with a series of trails. We were able to see some small salmon going up river.
Man-made river in downtown Kelowna for salmon to spawn

On our first walk we discovered that Rush was being shown at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Also, just around the corner, at Tonics Pub the Friday Special was ribs. So we decided to go on a date, dinner and a movie!
Our outdoor light on the airstream had become temperamental - It worked only periodically. We called CanAm, who suggested we see a dealer in Penticton. We discovered that if we slammed the door, the light worked. However, on leaving Kelowna, we drove to Penticton to see the RV Dealer CanAm had suggested. Driving through the Okanagan valley was not quite what we had expected. We both expected the Okanagan Valley to be a wide valley with lots of fruit orchards. However, although there were fewer mountains, the road was winding, and often narrowed by mountains to the road.
A valley?

Cliffs above the road
just north of Penticton in the Okanagan valley, along Lake Okanagan
The fire line from the 2003 forest fires, the left is just coming back, the right is forested.
The Penticton dealer was very helpful, but was unable to help us for a while, so he referred us to a dealer in Langley.
And we were off towards Vancouver...

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