Driving in the Okanagan & Kootneys
The Day we Embraced #VanLife
Eventually morning came, again… something that seemed a surprise after the night I had. Jonny woke up to water dripping on his sleeping bag, I woke up to frantically pull Quinn’s ever-stretching legs away from the tents edges, and Quinn… well, he was just wagging his tail. I think he was pleasantly surprised to have made it as well.
As we opened the tent, it instantly gave new meaning to ‘waking up in a cloud’. The cloud surrounding us was so majestic to witness, it even took your mind off the cold. Reality struck however as Jonny bolted out of the tent to go pee, and discovered the heavy frost on our tent, and all around us. That explains the leakage, now if only the sun would return and this cloud would vacate.
Inside, I was busy packing up the tent rather quickly. I was even prepared to be bolting back to the truck once I emerged fully, just strictly based on the comments of how cold it was coming from the other side. But as the sun came back out it lifted our spirits, and… started to dry the tent, so we hung around. The view wasn’t bad either; fresh snowy mountains resurfaced and the silence was deafening.
Fed and fully dried, we made our way back to Kenny Rogers - - passing quite a few groups on our trek, and stopping to play statue to the Whisky Jacks.
It was once we got back to the truck and drove down to the next viewpoint that I noticed just how well we’ve adjusted to living the #VanLife
In the middle of a busy lookout, we rocked up, opened the swing-out, I started cooking and Jonny started hanging our damp items around the vehicle like it was our own personal backyard clothes line. Quinn laid in the sun, accepting free belly rubs from people who dared to go close to him. I even made one of the ghettoest, hipster snacks thus far: year old rice cakes, with jam and peanut butter. They weren’t even crunchy anymore, but they filled the big void which was left from those measly Mountain House meals the night before – one serving, my ass.
The rice cakes escalated to the next level when I put hummus, tomato and onion on them- probably my new favourite van-life snack!
After meeting, and getting some insider tips from some local Utahan’s, we packed up Kenny and headed for Penticton.
During the drive I called my Mom to wish her a Happy Birthday, and before losing her to the mountains, I had promised her I would look up an app called “Track my Travelling Kid”, or something along those lines…
The drive through the valley was beautiful, very dry and had a shocking amount of fruit stands – welcome to the Okanagan! We stopped for Wal-Mart supplies in Penticton, drove around the lake to Summerland and headed for Darke Lake Provincial Park to spend the night. As we headed further and further away from town, the roads got more and more rough, and showed zero signs of our potential home for the night. A great start to an otherwise questionable pick of our temporary home for the night.
We drove by cattle on the road, a crazy pump track in someone’s backyard and some amazing houses, but still no signs for this provincial park – how strange.
Twenty minutes later we arrive at Darke Lake, and found the one and only sign stating that it was actually recognized by the government as a provincial park, “Park Boundary” – that’s all it said.
Upon inspection, the outhouse featured this new concept called ‘open skylights’ while the remaining shingles laid on the ground ten feet away. But besides that, there was a nice spot by the lake with a fire pit, and no one else around - - well, once the fisherman who blared Luke Bryans out of his Honda Civic had peeled out that was.
It was getting dark so while Jonny made the fire, I started dinner. Then Jonny started setting up the tent, and I was… still trying to sauté ground beef. Hey, something’s not right here… Turns out the propane levels were not up to my required double-burner dinner needs; Jonny to the rescue. While he pondered over the propane stove situation, I finished the tent, and when I turned around to help him my Coleman stove was in pieces. Quinn was anxiously digging sand holes around us to sleep in, because at this point (ten minutes later) even he didn’t think we’d be heading to bed for hours – and he was right!
As Jonny continued to fix, and then break and then fix the Coleman stove again, I was huddled around the fire cooking a two-pot meal on our single butane burner.
An hour later, dinner was served (it was delicious by the way) and my Coleman stove now had a big hunk of metal missing by its propane nozzle. R.I.P my trusty stove, you will be missed.
The Day with the Hot Shower
Thanks to my back, I was up early again. And thanks to the moisture dripping onto my sleeping bag this morning, I was out of the tent by 7:30AM.
The fog was just lifting off the lake and it made for a nice walk with Quinn as the sun came up over the valley. Naturally, Quinn led me straight down this dyke, and sleepily I let him. Before I knew it we were now walking up a very steep include to this rock outcrop across the lake, which was well worth the view. That was until I had to come back down with a dragging doggy in one hand, and the traction of some questionable UGG boots on my feet. Shockingly, we made it down in one piece, two if you count Quinn.
I would have carried on adventuring as well, but both the very scary cougar-like prints in the dirt we found the night before and the footwear choice had my swayed. Instead we organized the drawers, and Quinn mostly played with his ball.
Before Jonny could get up fast enough, fishermen had arrived at the lake – thus giving us an audience for our first ever HOT shower on the trip. Ah well, it will take more than a few locals to stop me from having a fully nude shower beside Kenny Rogers.
Showered, organized and fed, we hit the road towards Google’s version of the Rail Trail in Summerland, BC.
Summerland is quickly becoming a favourite of mine, and it’s only slightly due to the number of wineries per square kilometer. Cute houses, located right off the never-ending lake and fresh fruit for days; the Rail Trail location was just in front of it all… despite the random driveway Google Maps tried to convince us it was. Sometimes I wonder about what goes through it’s mind, or if it’s just throwing these random curveballs to remind you how much we rely on technology, almost a F-U sort of mantra.
My thoughts left and we went for a stroll down the trail and over and old rail bridge. The only complaint I have with this town is how very dry and barren-like it is when there are no orchards in sight. Luckily this worked in our favour though, because what better way to quench our thirst than with some wine! It was after 11AM after all, and only a two-minute drive; five if you listened to Google like we did – dough!
The Dirty Laundry vineyard was picture perfect and really played well on its name. Clothes pins, wash lines, lingerie, and historic stories of a one gentleman who was one hell of an entrepreneur back in his time. As our barkeep told us; instead of working a grimy railway job, he decided to open up the towns Laundromat. When it boomed, he decided to take it one step further and include a Brothel upstairs; no one likes being bored while the wait for their clothes to get cleaned, hence once word got out, it was nicknamed ‘dirty laundry’ for all cards, women and booze that surrounded the cleaning business. The vineyard plays on this history, and even has a wine named after the password that was needed to enter, the Woo Woo Gewürztraminer.
We walked under their lovely outdoor patio and ordered a Dirty Laundry pizza, then headed inside to sample out which bottle should join us in our vineyard-view lunch. Talk about blowing the $20 a day budget out of the water in less than half an hour – but it was worth every bite.
Sampling three reds and three whites, we settled on not one but two bottles of wine, whoops!
Lunch was fantastic and either it’s the fact that we’ve been eating so simplistic lately, or it was just the best pizza ever, we ate it so fast that we decided we needed some Peach Riesling gelato to go with it – told you, when we blow the budget, we really go for it!
Sadly, it was time to head northeast toward the Kootneys so we departed for Kelowna in search of a new stove – yes; we’re still talking about it (I’m upset, ok.)
It was once again Wal-Mart that saved the day, as sad as it is to say. The newer stove is definitely a hot, younger model and nothing like my old, reliable Coleman… but there comes a time when every camper must move o… okay, I’ll drop it.
Of course as we go to leave we get stuck in Kelowna traffic, and as beautiful as a place as it is, this is why I would have to think twice about moving here.
Traffic jams aren’t usually my scene but luckily for us, the clever marketing (which is something I can appreciate) of the Gatzke Farms; there was a lovely little fruit stand calling my name as we waited.
For such a small space, there were so many apples, and for such a deal. Get this, for one carton lid, you could stack it full with TWO layers of apples for only five dollars. Sadly, as I explained to Deb, we are only two people and one Kenny Rogers - we don’t have the space, nor the craving for that many apples. This is when I, Alana Britten, bartered for the first time in m life, face to face.
“How about a mix pack of all the fruit,” I said with a questionable voice, gazing longingly in the direction of some lovely looking plums.
“Or… have you already pre-weighted everything?” offering her a back out, as I cursed myself for being a wuss.
“Well…” she says, “it is pre-measured.”
Eeek, okay, I said and thought, damn… I’m gonna pay this lady five dollars for four apples; what a terrible deal maker I am.
But what to my wandering eye appeared… why, it was her hands reaching for the plums, and chucking them beside my apples. A few strands of grapes even made their way into my ever-growing assorted fruit selection. I left smiling - success never tasted so good.
We snacked on them all the way past Vernon and towards the Monashee Mountain range, which would be our home for the night. Once again, another B.C. Recreation site that was more put together than last nights previous Provincial Park.
The Day That Never Ended
I’m still not convinced that my new –9 sleeping bag purchase has made any difference. It was cold again, and I’m not sure I remember a time when my body temperature wasn’t one extreme to the next.
We packed up rather efficiently today as it as wet, cold and we didn’t want the rain to return on us mid-tear down. Breakfast was also a step backwards today; an apple and a singular meat stick, but it was still tasty nonetheless.
The drive through the Monashee’s was windy, and real hints of autumn are making themselves present. As the clouds clear, it gives way to the small glimpse of freshly snow-covered mountains in the distance – both a sure sign that we’re on the only nut jobs who just gave up their four-walled, heated home for an open space tent.
We were first in line to board the Ferry, slash if you could call it that, barge. IT was going to take us across the Upper Arrow Lake toward Nakusp. They departed every thirty minutes, so we pulled off the side to make a hot drink. It may or may not have had Bailey’s in it – but hey, it’s 9AM on a Thursday and I have no where important to be!
The drive through Nakusp was brief but allowed for fuel and our first ever fill up on our 40L of water Kenny hauls around for us in the back. The main event was yet to come however, as we started another historic highway route from New Denver to Sandon, then onto Kaslo, and finally into Nelson for the night. It’s only an hour or so drive according to our trusted Google Maps, but we were about to do it a record-breaking 7 hours!
The Galena Trail is a thru-hike that also covers this historic route, but instead of wasting however many days on it in the rain, we decided to do a portion of it to visit an old Alamo Siding Mine. It was an easy 7km loop that followed along the river in a colourful valley. As we arrived a the old mine, which according to the signage, was a booming town in the late 1800’s, the sun makes an appearance – finally. This is when I’m quick to break out my sunglasses and rub in Jonny’s face that I did need them after all; a snood comment he had made earlier suggested that I was ‘too optimistic’ for bringing them- guess who was getting blinded in the end. Hint: it wasn’t me!
Sadly, as I was basking in my glory of being right, we discovered a forest fire had burnt the mine down recently, making only the large steel machinery visible. It was too bad, as it would have been interesting to take a walk around and try to imagine how this now overgrown forest was once so busy it had a need for a post office!
We met a German couple as we were (okay, I was) playing on the old cable car across the river next to the site. They were biking the trail!
Besides a quick wrap-session (food, not music) when we got back to the truck, we carried on to the unique ghost town of Sandon, BC. Parked right beside the Klondike Silver Mine was about 10+ old trolly buses from various Canadian cities. All parked in a row, rust and paint-chipped against a foggy evergreen forest backdrop. It was picturesque, and I couldn’t help myself…
I did a quick check to see who was around (the max number at any given time was four people) and I grabbed my Instagram hat and did a minor costume change. #AnythingForTheGram However, with my outfit now being a noticeable ‘over the top’ for the town and the weather, I either had to quickly change and live with the embarrassment that I only dressed up for the photo, or suck it up and commit to the outfit for the rest of our stay. I use the word ‘dressed up’ lightly, as this is how I would usually dress, it’s just my general appearance has taken a downhill spiral these days. Just as it would when you smell like smoke and wake up with toque-hair, which was needed for your nighttime survival every morning.
Needless to say, I rocked a dress with leggings for our entire visit – goose bumps included.
It turns out this small town is home to four full-time residents, but back in it’s prime it housed close to 4,000 – quite a shock, but the museum had pictures to back it, so you knew it was legit. Naturally the museum was a ‘Jonny’s choice’, but it proved to be quite interesting. The gentlemen who worked there showed us some picture of the town pre and post fire. And if I have learned anything on my travels of old mining town, it is this: right at the most inconvenient of times, a natural disaster strikes. It’s almost a guarantee.
For Sandon, this fire destroyed the entire downtown, yet somehow the entire population turned up in a 3-piece suit the next day for a photo which was being shown to me in on the tour. Meanwhile, I can barely get out of my tights the next morning after choosing to sleep on the ground and smell of camp fire… boy, how times have changed.
Anyways, six months is all it took for the entire town to be rebuilt – I guess when you’re mining close to $35M (in today’s figures) in silver, you can’t afford not to have your downtown watering hole!
The goose bumps on my arm had reached an all time high and the smell from the rotting books were starting to take up camp on my clothes – it was time to go. With a quick stop at the shop for some organic baked goods, we were on our way to another mine. This one we admired from the heat of Kenny Rogers.
The remaining drive onto Nelson was beautiful. Kaslo looks like a cute town to explore more of one day, perhaps when we come back to hike Idaho Peak!
Driving into Nelson, I’m shocked at how many sandy beaches there are on another gigantic lake. A realization that if we were to more here “we’d need a boat” made me excited.
We decided as a group (Quinn not included) that we would pay to stay at the Nelson City Campground so we could walk into town and enjoy the finer things in life: like a hot shower (with privacy), WIFI and watch a movie on our laptop. What a spoiled bunch we are! Laundry was also on the list, so add clean underwear to our exciting life list, and you’ll note that it doesn’t get much better than this!
After setting up camp, and chatting with our fellow camp neighbors I realized a few things. One being, that is a Polish guy from Alberta whose living in his van can get paid $40 an hour to write, then there’s hope for me after all.
The second being, I do not get tent platforms. Why do they even exist inside developed campgrounds? Yes, they’re flat… thanks for the concern, but my Thermarest molds itself around the grounds imperfections. Also, where on earth am I supposed to put my tent pegs? I guess the genius that invented them overlooked a small detail – guidelines!
The platform our tent was now rigged too with about 10ft of rope was definitely not going anywhere, so we took Quinn for a walk downtown. We may have had an ulterior motif; to creep the towns’ cuteness to see if we want to move here, and to get some Nelson-brewed beer – both were successful.