The drive from Kamloops to Kelowna is mostly uneventful, except for the last stretch of road that we had to drive to get to our new rec site. The rec site is located just off of a mountain-side road, this one no wider than the gravel forestry roads, but now paved, intended for two-lane traffic, no shoulders, no guardrails, super twisty-turny following along the shore of the big lake…….Jeez!!!…..but so goes the risk that one assumes when attempting to camp at these rec sites! We found the site easily enough, and it is located a few hundred feet below the road at the level of the lake, so it is a steep few switchback curves to navigate on the way down the mountainside into the campground. We had read in the map book, that some of the more popular rec sites charge a small fee for upkeep etc., and the cost is somewhere between $8.00 and $16.00 per night. We had expected to be charged at the rec site in Kamloops, but as it turned out, the fee collection at that particular park was either over, or the attendant was pretty lax in collecting the fees, but nevertheless, we were not charged anything at the previous site. At this site, we would pay a paltry $14.00 per night!
Once we arrived at the base of the rec site, we did as we had done previously when arriving to rec sites, and went to check out the available sites, as there were several other campers here. We did notice that there seemed to be a “camp host” site, and sure enough, someone was shortly flagging us down in a B.C. Parks truck. Oh dear!! The camp host was literally scary looking!! I know that seems so mean, but honestly……I would’ve believed that she was made up for halloween if someone had told me that….This ‘woman’ had scabs/sores all over her, on her face and hands, and neck…..it was awful, some of them were clearly infected……even the nurse in me was grossed out!! It was all we could do to focus on what she was saying while not seeming to be staring at her!! She was quite perplexed that we were there in our rig and said nobody with a rig this big ever comes here and that we wouldn’t fit……She seemed a little dodgy, so we told her we would go for a walk and check out the sites before we dragged the camper through the site. Paul was quite confident once taking a wander through the sites, and deftly swung our rig into a beautiful site that was directly in front of Lake Okanogan, where we could watch the sunrise and hear the waves crashing on the shore in the brisk wind. We got set up for the four days we would be there and started a campfire to cook our dinner over. No sooner than Paul had lit the fire, did the creepy park lady come wheeling over in her truck getting quite excited about how big the fire was. The fire had only just been lit….and it was inside a big steel rig that cannot be moved out of the earth……Paul assured her that we were responsible adults and we would be ever-diligent in monitoring our fire…..Well….he kinda said that, more or less, in his own way!……The creepy park lady would give us shit every day for some non-existing infraction, and it didn’t take us long to realize that she was probably just lonely, and wanted to strike up conversation, but in a really, strange, not-a-part-of-regular-society type way. Anyway, she was harmless, but sketchy nonetheless, and a general pain-in-the-ass!!
Access to fresh water was a far easier mission at this rec site than the last site in Pass Lake……I forgot to mention it in the previous blog entry, but probably because my brain was trying to repress the memory of how painful my shoulders and neck were after carrying two 5 gallon buckets full of water up a steep hill 5-6 times….I knew I would pay for it when I was doing it, but I like to think I’m pretty strong, and also I’m stubborn, and the day I was doing it, it was rainy and shitty and I was in a bad mood, so then that gives you extra “rage strength” and you do way more than you should…..anyway, I digress…….So water fetching was easy here, since our site led right down to the beach, and I could just walk out about thigh deep and scoop out crystal clear lake water…..Easy!! Then when I was finished with the water chores, I was already in my swim suit, so I took a quick swim in the lake and shampooed my hair etc…….It was only once I got out of the lake and was wandering around the site in my bathing suit that I realized what hippies we were becoming…….My camp neighbours were wearing their winter coats around a daytime campfire, staring at me like I was three quarters of the way crazy, and I was just puttering around in my bathing suit on our site, after having spent a half an hour in the water……just chopping up a bit of wood with an axe…..in a bathing suit and flip flops…..rainy day, middle of September……hey, nobody’s the boss of me, I’ll do what I like!!
In similar fashion to the previous two rec sites that we had stayed at, we went looking for firewood in the off-cut areas of the forestry roads. These roads are not as common around here, but there are lots of building lots that are being roughly cleared, so trees have been cut down and pulled out of the ground, so the wood is there, but is not cut up into manageable pieces, so we did have to do a little more work and searching to get a load of firewood. On one of these firewood missions, dusk was just beginning to fall and as we were collecting wood, Paul heard a rustle behind him, and as he turned around to check what the noise was, he saw a black bear cub climbing up a tree nearby, with a big Mama bear climbing up underneath him!! Yikes!! They were just as startled by us as we were of them, so while I kept a close eye on the Mama bear and cub, Paul quickly collected some more wood and we high-tailed in out of there!!
Speaking of wildlife encounters, very late one night, while Paul and I were out sitting by the campfire, Paul was sure he could hear a rustling in the bushes in front of our site, between us and the water. I didn’t hear anything, and every time Paul would try and get me to hear it, he couldn’t hear it just then either. Just as I was ready to turn in for the night, Paul was still convinced he could hear something, so he got out our big flashlight and stood on the picnic table shining the light into the bushes……and lo and behold, after several minutes of being absolutely quiet and still, several deer walked out of the bushes and were grazing on leafy bushes and shrubs throughout the campground. There were about 10 deer, which was sensational, because they made barely any noise at all in the tangled bushes, and ate just as quietly!! They seemed cautious of us with the flashlight, but soon settled back into their late night smorgasbord. To think they were only about 6 feet away from us, and we didn’t even know if for most of the evening!! Just another awesome experience with nature out here in B.C.!
We were about a 30 km drive north of Kelowna, and the road to get there was just as tight and winding as it was getting to our newest site! We drove up to Vernon and down the eastern shore of the lake into Kelowna. Kelowna was absolutely beautiful, and the drive through the Okanogan valley is awesome! It’s really fascinating to see where a good part of our country’s fruit and fresh produce come from, and even in the middle of September, there was still lots of fresh produce and product available at many local roadside stands and farmsteads. Kelowna is similar to Kamloops in how it is built into the mountainside surrounding the big narrow lake. I was quite happy to be exploring the climbing altitudes in the truck and not on my bicycle……everything moving out of Kelowna is inescapably uphill….uuuggghhh!!!
We parked one day at the central public park in Kelowna and walked all around the city checking out the sights. The park was expansive and lush and had great big, open, green grass patches under huge shady oak trees and the grounds are beautifully landscaped and have gorgeous flower gardens throughout the park. There was a big plaque that explained some significant relation of the park with the people of the great nation of the Netherlands, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the importance now that I go to write about it…….Anyway, the take away message is, Dutch people are generally fantastic and they have beautiful flowers and mad botany skills…….Or something along those lines!! The park has basketball courts, an outdoor amphitheatre, tennis courts, beach-volleyball courts, a paved trail all around the lake and town and access to the huge public beach on Lake Okanogan. We had brought our bathing suits just in case of a miracle, but despite the day being nice and sunny, it was cool and super windy and the sand on the beach felt like tiny needles against any exposed skin on your legs.
All in all, we had a wonderful time in the Kelowna area, and between what we had been told of the beautiful summer climate and frequency of sunny days, paired with our own experience here, we left Kelowna feeling like this could become “home” for a while once we decided to settle down again for a bit. As we had in lots of the towns that we had travelled to, we cruised past the local hospital to check it out…..just the outside I mean, generally to get a scope on its location in the city. Then I would do a little research about that facility and see if they had any kind of work that I was interested in doing, and use it to rate the “livability” of the new town. After our four day stay, we packed up once again and hit the winding road heading further south and westward eventually headed to the coast and Vancouver. The road that we had to take towards Kelowna, which felt challenging in a pick-up truck, felt all the more nerve-wracking with the house on the back of the truck. We approached an area that had construction going on against the mountainside……they were blasting and then spreading out the blasted gravel to make more road……However, as we approached where we knew the construction area to be, there was several cars and trucks backed up on the road. A young lady from the construction site was walking up and down the road informing people that the road would be closed until 2:30…..It was not quite 12:30 at this time, and with absolutely nowhere else to go, and nowhere to turnaround, we, along with many other people, turned off their vehicles and sat and waited…….for two long hours until the road opened up again!! What a situation……we did relatively little driving, and yet, it still felt like a long, road-weary day! Oh well, no real big deal in the life of a couple of nomads……we spent a quick overnight in Penticton, at the south end of Lake Okanogan and hit the road again the next day.