You can drive from Nelson to Vancouver in one day if you put your mind to it, but we are pokey so we budgeted two days. We tried to visit some friends of Linda’s in Slocan, which is a significant detour, but when we finally got to their remote mountain compound, no one was home. They have a large yard in front of their forest house where they have a music festival every summer, and generate their own electricity with a water wheel in their creek. We had to backtrack down to the highway. The road was not a busy one, but it still had an organic coffee wagon on its side, so we stopped for some espressos. Back on the Crowsnest Highway (otherwise known as Highway 3) we picked up a hitchhiker who stayed with us until Grand Forks.
Especially in August, the East Kootenays are really arid. A lot of Ukrainians settled in the area, and that combined with the dry grass gives the area a prairiesque feel. Or maybe that’s just me; for some reason I associate Ukrainians with wheat products like perogies and bread.
We really weren’t in a hurry, so we decided to set up camp early for us, and stopped at Boundary Provincial Park near Greenwood. It’s a smallish campsite that really has not much to recommend it other than it’s a decent place to stop overnight on your way to somewhere else. I took my Edible Berries of the Northwest book, which I had purchased at the Junction of Alaska Highway, to see if I could identify any of the surrounding berry bushes (no) and took a walk around the small campsite. There I saw a most amazing camping setup! Some people had a perfectly refurbished old Ford truck, and a perfectly refurbished Boler camper trailer, both painted in shiny canary yellow. I asked them if I could take a picture so I could share it with you. That’s road trip living!
Night fell and we were cooking away when suddenly the marine battery that powers the amenities in the back of the Boogie Bus failed. Against Step’s advice, I tried powering with the power pack. Electrical fire! Fortunately with a quick disconnect the fire wasn’t able to gain any traction and we didn’t have to use our little extinguisher; it fizzled out on its own leaving just the acrid scent of electrical damage. We were perturbed and confused by this, as we had just put in a new battery at Portage la Prairie, and had not had any trouble the whole time we were on the road. I suppose if this must happen, the last night of your trip is a good time. (A few weeks later we took the Bus to the camper van hospital, where they were able to determine the cause as some faulty wiring, which of course we had fixed and have not had similar troubles since.) We were still able to stay up as we had the LED lights directly powered by the power pack, as well as lantern and firelight.
The next morning, as a special last-morning-on-the-road treat, I fried bacon and the frozen toutons we had purchased in Labrador City. MMMMmmmmm, breakfast that can kill you.
The Kootenays are quite hilly and you are on a high mountain side before you enter the Okanagan region at Lake Osoyoos, so you get an incredible view of this northern dessert. Even though Osoyoos is kind of redneck, I really like the hot, dry air of the place, as well as the shallow warm lake, and traveling through was a good reminder I would like to spend more time in the area. I have fond memories of visiting there with my family in my youth. There are a lot of vineyards and orchards, and it’s a true dessert so it has cactus and rattlesnakes. Most people do not associate Canada with such things, but I assure you they are there.
The fruits of the Okanagan are famous, and you will never find a sweeter, riper, juicier peach than you can there. All along the highway you come across fruitstands and U-picks. We went to an organic fruit stand in Keremeos, but the fruit didn’t look amazing and there wasn’t much there, so we backtracked a bit to Parsons Fruit Stand. Parsons isn’t certified but they grow everything organically. I bought a large box of peaches, some cherries, pears, plums, peppers and garlics, and we all had some of their sweet and buttery corn on the cob which we ate at pleasant orchard side tables.
Then we had to drive through the Princeton area which is my least favourite part of the Crowsnest, because it has a lot of really steep inclines and difficult switchbacks, and somehow the trees are boring instead of majestic. We stopped at a particularly depressing rest area and ate smoked trout inside the bus, and in Princeton itself there was a bit of driving around looking for propane (we saw lots of tanks, but none was for sale to us) until we found the Husky on the edge of town. By the time you are there, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to Manning Park.
Manning Park has the makings of a very nice drive through, unless it is damp and you are only hours away from the end of a summer trip that you wish wouldn’t. Also, we could really see vividly the devastating effects the Mountain Pine Beetle had had on BC forests, with the dead, red pines peppering the mountainsides. Linda, the most eco-conscious of the 3 of us, made the cup half-full comment that after all the pines are dead, the beetles will perhaps die off and the pines could grow back. (Personally, that can’t happen soon enough for me. I need White Pine needles to make medications if the apocalypse comes, but that is another blog altogether).
After Manning Park you get to Hope, where the Crowsnest Highway merges with Highway 1, and that is so in the neighbourhood of where we live I started to get really depressed. Then Harrison Hot Springs. I was driving and I kept driving slower and slower because I didn’t want the Cross Canada Boogie Bus Adventure of 2008 to ever end! It was dark when we got to Chilliwack, but since I grew up there, I know my way around quite well and I took the long way ’round to the propane fill-up. Even though it was past 10pm, I was grateful for the heavy traffic on Highway 1, as we got closer and closer to Vancouver, but the inevitable would happen (hence the descriptor “inevitable”) and we were inside city limits, and we spent one last night in the Boogie Bus on the street in front of Linda’s before finally moving out of the van and back into our loft in the hipster hub of Mount Pleasant. I’d say there’s no place like home, but despite how far we had traveled, when you have a funky machine-for-living-on-wheels like the Boogie Bus it’s like you’re just taking your home for a jaunt around your backyard.