British Columbia, The Crowsnest Highway, August 30-31, 2008

22 02 2012

A Desert in Canada

A Self-Sufficient Mountain Lodge

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.

The Kootenays are Arid

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!

Such Style!

Electric Boogie Bus Nights

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.

Downtown Osoyoos

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.

These Peaches Are Fucking Delicious

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.

Parson’s is Nice!

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 Is Damp

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.

Home Again





British Columbia, Nelson, August 28-30, 2008

9 01 2012

Nelson, a Charming Town

Organic Espresso at Subway?

I am embarrassed to admit it had been 18 years since my last visit to Nelson (but even then I couldn’t believe how granola the place was). In 1990, Nelson had maybe 2 square blocks of shops and one night club called the Boilermaker. Nelson 1990 was the first place I ever saw a bookstore that was also a coffee shop. Nelson 2008 still felt like the-Nelson-I-Remember, except a lot more developed. It still has a lot of dreadlocked, patchouli drenched girls and boys wandering around in bare feet, but there are people in business suits, too. You can tell it’s kind of a lefty town because even the Subway sandwich shop serves organic espresso.

World's Best Hot Sauce

Most people in Nelson shop for food at the Kootenay Co-op, and we were able to get everything we could want there—kefir, yoghurt, Ebesse Zozo, which is the world’s hottest and most delicious sauce. We bought a bottle of medium spiciness, but when we sampled it later it was almost unbearably hot. I mean, one drop was too much. An insider told us there had been a TV segment done on Ebesse Zozo recently, and they had demonstrated how to make old school Grandma’s full strength hot sauce, then bottled it while filming. They only had medium labels so they put those on the super strength batch, then set them aside. Is it possible that this special batch had somehow made it on the shelf of the co-op, labelled “medium”? (In the future, medium Ebesse Zozo would never be nearly this hot to us). Rather than lament, we just trained our palates to enjoy hotter sauce, and I am am happy to say Ebesse Zozo is now available in Vancouver, and be it medium or hot we enjoy it on meals to this day.

Felix and Quinn at the Redfish Grill

Step Buys Our First Killer Bunnies Game

Jennie, who we had seen in Montreal earlier on our Cross Canada Adventure, lives in Nelson with her husband Erik and her two boys, Quinn and Felix (I love the name Felix. Is it trivial to have a child myself just so I can name it Felix? Only, if it was a girl, I would have to name her Felixia, which sounds really close to Felicia. On second thought, maybe I will just stay personally childless and enjoy Felix when I see him). I tried about a kazillion times to take a picture of Quinn but he made a face every time, except the time I snuck up on him at the co-op. I like to flatter myself I am mostly good with kids, but Quinn and I had an unusually strained relationship, even though I tried every way I could think of to charm him (and I did once or twice get an involuntary smile). I am grateful, though, that that did not stop him from teaching Step and I how to play Killer Bunnies. The game was suitable for players a few years older than him, and he wouldn’t let us look at the rules ourselves, so the version we played was somewhat garbled. But we still had such a good time playing it and he was such a huge fan we that the next day we went to Secret Garden Toys and bought our own copy. We were partly motivated just by a burning desire to actually look up some of the rules, but it is a purchase we have never regretted and have played the game many, many times since then, and have bought several expansions and introduced it to dozens of people. The clerk at Secret Garden Toys told us Killer Bunnies was a mad craze among the young folks of Nelson, and indeed, Quinn talked about it a lot.

Nelson Has Lovely Buildings

We also one evening played Pit with the whole Jennie family, but Felix insisted on playing by himself, (as opposed to on a special adult/youngster team), and as he was reluctant to trade any cards it was almost impossible for anyone to corner the market on anything, so we had to content ourselves with enjoying the free-for-all-ofness of it rather than any glow of winning a hand.

The Preserved Seed

Fresh Organic Street Food!

We visited quite a lot of funky cafes in Nelson; one notable one is called the Preserved Seed and it is run by a sort of—it’s not really a commune—it’s more of a spiritual community that has a couple of farms and an agenda of healthy, vegetarian food, agriculture and cooperation. We didn’t actually know any of this on our visit, but have since visited their satellite cafe in Chilliwack and have learned more about them. Nelson also has impressive street side food vendors (unlike Vancouver, where at the time you could only buy a hotdog from a street cart). Say what you want about hippie people, they have really good food. Jennie, not a hippie, but still a food appreciator, made us a hotdog dinner with amazing homemade ice cream in which she used coconut milk instead of dairy, but we did eat one restaurant meal at the Redfish Grill downtown, at we were served large portions of delicious fresh food.

Keepin' it Real

The people of Nelson are keepin’ it real, as illustrated by a story Jennie told us about local CBC radio journalist (right-leaning) Bob Keating, who became so incensed when local (left leaning) health care activist Earl Hamilton called him a “government toady who was not to be trusted”, that Keating sent Hamilton a box of chocolates which he had rubbed with raw chicken. Keating almost immediately realised the gravity of what he had done, confessed to his wife, and contacted Hamilton and told him not to eat the chocolates. He then sought psychiatric counselling, and was fired from the beloved CBC.

Nelson Farmers' Market

Hippie Shoppin'

We were lucky to be in Nelson on Saturday, since that is the day of the Nelson Farmers’ Market . As well as the produce and food vendors, the market has live entertainment and really good root beer. I tried to buy a t-shirt that said “Stop Wars” in the style of the Star Wars logo, but none of them fit, so I paid the vendor for the shirt and gave her my home address where she could send it next time she printed some. She did send it, but the printing was really off centre so I sent this back (how could the printing be so off centre, you ask? I can’t say, but it was in Nelson, nudge nudge, wink wink). Later, the t-shirt order bogged down and I never actually got another shirt. You win some, you lose some.

Cottonwood Herbal Demonstration Garden

Near where the Farmers’ Market is, (Fashion Island on Hardy Street), is the picturesque Cottonwood Herbal Demonstration Garden, which is organically planted with indigenous medically and culinarily useful plants that attract beneficial insects like butterflies and ladybugs. It has pleasant paths and a creek, and is a nice, meditative place to go for peaceful beauty.
We had a little root beer and lunch with the Jennie family, and Felix cried when I hugged him goodbye (tears of horror, not sadness, I’m sorry to say), and then we were on the road again.

Peace

Bonus Photo:

Linda Looks Like Cher in This Photo!