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, Crow’s Nest Pass to Ainsworth Hot Springs, August 27-28, 2008

29 12 2011

Step Aside an Even Bigger Monster Truck

Looks Like BC

Next we drove through the Crows Nest Pass, and it instantly looked like BC, with misty mountains and really big trees. I felt like we were home already, even though we live on the other side of the province. In Sparwood we saw a truck that was way bigger than the one we saw in Fermont, which I wouldn’t have believed possible if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. The Titan 39-19 is the size of a small apartment block, and can hold 2,000,000 golf balls! I don’t think that’s what it was built for, though, but they do advertise that detail on the plaque in front of it.

A Meal Made for Us

We were excited to reach Fernie because we anticipated delicious Hippie Food and went straight to the Good Earth health food store for a restaurant recommendation. We were floored when the clerk condescendingly suggested we buy our own food and cook it ourselves! Hello, we are enroute and living in a camper van—it takes us 3 hours to make lunch! So we thought that was rude. Other vendors in Fernie turned out to be much nicer, though, and the girls at Fresh, where we stopped for coffee, suggested we try Curry Bowl and that worked out well for us, with some nice fresh vegetables on rice. Also, when we asked the fellow at the gas station if we could fill our water tank, he told us how to get to the spring all the locals use to get water, so we were able to get real mountain spring water for free. I heart BC!

Free Water!!!!!!!!!

Not Mo's Yard

We planned to camp in the yard of our friend Mo, who owned an A-Frame near Kootenay Lake, and we got there after dark (Mo wasn’t there at the time). Her place is kind of on the side of a small mountain and there’s a really rough dirt drive going to it that has multiple switchbacks and it must have rained recently because parts of it were muddy and the mud was really slidey. The Boogie Bus isn’t a 4 wheel drive or anything, and we got stuck maybe 2/3 of the way up. We couldn’t go any further so the only direction to go was back down, and we couldn’t even turn around so we had to do it in reverse. It was a treacherous situation! Linda and I were outside guiding Step to not fall off the road and I was making a lot of noise to ward off any nocturnal bears. My heart was in my throat and I was unreasonably cursing Mo’s generousity under my breath the whole time.
By the time we finally made it back to the road no bear attack had occurred, but the Boogie Bus had lost a couple running lights, the bike strap was broken, and my adrenals were exhausted.

Toe Warming

We ended up going to a small provincial campground nearby, Lockhart Creek in Boswell, and it was busy so we were lucky to get a site. We had a few drinks and were disturbed by all the ATVs that kept roaring by in the dark. (When we awoke the next morning, we discovered our site was right next to the highway and the “ATVs” were actually ordinary traffic going by. It just goes to show how disorientating stress can be). It was almost September so the night was chilly and my toes were cold. Suddenly, I remembered the fleece lined Crocs I had purchased in Quebec City. I put them on and they were like little fur coats for my feet—very nice!

Leaving the Black Salt Cafe

Boswell is on Kootenay Lake, which is a long narrow lake with small communities on it. It has a provincial ferry that goes back and forth all day, connecting the highway, and it’s free! Before we got onto the ferry we stopped for lunch at a place Linda likes, the Black Salt Cafe. Lunch was Hippilicious, just like we always wanted, and they did all the shopping and cooking for us so we didn’t have to.

Ainsworth Hot Springs

Image from AHS Web Site

Instead of heading straight for Nelson when we got off the ferry, we made a short northern detour to Ainsworth Hot Springs. Having never been there before, I was imagining the hotsprings to be more like Liard Hot Springs, or Meager Creek (not featured on this blog), but Ainsworth was completely built up with a concrete pool. It was pretty all right, as far as crowded, commercial hot springs go. The worst thing about it was you weren’t allowed to wear any crocs or flip flops into the pool. I have a medical reason that this hurts my feet (actually, when I explained that to them, they allowed me to use my crocs, so points to Ainsworth Hot Springs) and Linda is afeared of foot fungus (not a good enough reason to be allowed flip flops according to AHS). The best thing was a crazy, artificial underground grotto that is off one side of the pool. The other best thing was on the list of posted rules was moaning or chanting are not permitted in the cave. WTF? Only in the Kootenays. Ainsworth Hot Springs was fun! But like I said, really crowded.

One shower and hitchhiker later, it was still fairly early in the day when we made it into Nelson, the most Hippie town in BC, and maybe even the world.

Hot Wheels