From Land To Sea
Just north of Nelson, BC is Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. It’s nestled in the Selkirk Mountains along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. It’s the kind of place that has just about everything (a family of four on an extend camping trip would need)…a great playground, an awesome Visitors Center, hot showers, an amazing large white sandy beach, a beautiful lake, trails, and Kokanee Salmon spawning channels (bonus). The Kokanee Salmon run upstream from mid-August to mid-September so our timing was great (another bonus). We had a fun couple days at the park. We lounged on the beach, played frisbee, paddled, swam, and checked out the salmon.
When the salmon run not only are bears drawn to the area, but so are Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Merganser Ducks and other animals as well. We had been warned, when we entered the park, that a Grizzly Bear had been frequenting the area and as a result some of the trails were closed. We really wanted to see that Grizzly, but we didn’t. However, we did get to watch the eagles swoop and sway around the lake. Late one afternoon we decided to paddle up Kokanee Creek from the lake to check out the salmon and the birds. As we paddled up the creek, we could see hundreds of salmon making their way upstream to spawn through the clear water. We also saw hundreds of dead Salmon at various stages of rot and decay (post spawn). The further we got up the creek the grosser it got! There were more and more dead salmon on the bottom of the creek, on the edge of the water, floating just under the surface…you probably get the picture! It was kind of eerie. FAT Merganser Ducks were everywhere (they come during the salmon run and dig up the newly laid eggs and feast). Their bloated bodies looked distorted and unnatural. Eagles, crows, and seagulls lined the edge of the water eating salmon to their hearts content. We got off our boards to walk around, but we didn't stay long.
On our final day in the area we biked up to Kokanee Mountain Zipline from our campsite. We had considered going ziplining a couple other times on the trip, but it hadn’t panned out for whatever reason. Kokanee Mountain Zipline was well worth the wait! It was well run and seemed “on it” in terms of safety! The ziplines are located high up in an old growth Douglas fir and pine forest. From the ziplines there were amazing views of the mountains and Kootenay Lake. Each zipline group starts off on an 80 ft long, 25 ft high zipline to get a feel for it all. From there the lines get higher and longer. The longest zipline was 2,400 ft (the second longest zipline in all of BC) and the highest was 300 ft off the ground. It was quite an adrenaline rush and interesting to watch our children dangling in midair high above the ground! At first, we all zipped along in the traditional “sitting position”, but by the end we were all ziplining hands free and upside down! The girls could not stop talking about HOW MUCH THEY LOVED IT! I really did too!
The temperatures have been dropping since we've been in Canada and when we arrived there was a fire ban in affect for all of BC. With cooler temps at night and cooler temps in the morning we knew we needed to make our camping lifestyle more enjoyable. We decided to buy a gas fire. It has been an absolute SAVIOR! Here we are using it for the first time at Kokanee Provincial Park.
Recognizing the change in temperature, acknowledging that the rains make it harder to get outside (and the camper feel smaller), and wanting to stay longer in Canada we decided to start heading west. Our destination long term - Vancouver Island. Our destination short term - Osoyoos, BC. Haven’t heard of Osoyoos? Neither had we! But when John was told it was the “desert” of Canada we thought we should check it out!
The drive from Kokanee to Osoyoos isn’t that long, but we decided to camp in Midway, BC to break up the drive. If you sneezed while driving through Midway, you would miss the town! So when we ended up camping at a pretty nice campground on the river we were happily surprised! While we were there we met a great group of people from Canmore and Banff who were bike touring the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (a rails to trails ride we were planing on doing). They were very friendly and open and not only gave us a map of the KVR (which we had not been able to procure), but they also gave us some detailed information which we found really helpful.
The next day we arrived in Osoyoos, BC which is located in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley. Not only does it boast having the warmest lake in the country, but it also has the warmest and driest climate and is the largest grape growing region in Canada. Before we drove down into Osoyoos we stopped at a lookout area to get a bird’s eye view of the town and the lake below.
Getting a campsite on that peninsula isn't easy. Swiws Provincial Park is the most popular provincial park in all of BC. Because of its popularity the camp hosts have created a system to handle the “overflow” of campers. RV’s are allowed to camp one night along the narrow road (which, BTW, is still waterfront camping) and are given a number in line. The following morning when (and if) campsites open up, the RV’s in line (starting with #1) get to pick from the open sites. When we were camped in the overflow we were #1 in line - which we were all very excited about!!! Thinking we would have the pick of the litter the next morning we biked around the loop to check out the sites and make a mental note of the campsite numbers we liked. What we learned the next morning was it’s more of a mad dash between ALL the RV’s that were given a number. We lost out on a site that we wanted and the girls were bummed. The system (we decided) has some flaws, but we ended up with a site we all liked and moved on (emotionally).
What I’m learning about Canada (BC anyway) is the weather changes often - even in the “desert”. While we were in Osoyoos we experienced sunshine and warmth, Baja-like winds, overcast skies, cool temps, and rain - and we were only there for five days! Nevertheless, it didn't take away from our time there. Overall it was warmer and drier then what we had been experiencing in the mountains. We explored the area on our bikes, swam in the lake, and even got out for a short family run to check out the surrounding vineyards and orchards.
Even when we’re camped somewhere for several days there always seems to be an undercurrent of planning for what we might do next (for better or for worse). This rang true in Osoyoos. What were we planning for, you might ask? That bike tour on the KVR I mentioned earlier! When it comes to bike tours, John is our lead planner. He had a few obstacles to hurdle to make our bike tour happen (the long stretch on the first day, finding accommodation, finding a place to park Rigdiculous, and getting a shuttle ride to the trailhead). In true John Shaw style, John met a guy (Louis) at the Laundromat (yes - John was doing the laundry!) and struck up a conversation. By the end of that conversation John had essentially secured a place to park the rig in Osoyoos and Louis had generously offered to drive us the 2 hours to the KVR Trailhead! It turned out that Louis had also taken a year off to travel with is family and he seemed quite eager to help us out. Alas, there is always one major factor when planning a bike tour that one can’t control - the weather!! When we woke up to start the bike tour it was grey and overcast and it was supposed to start raining mid-day. The ride was to start with a 50 mile day out in the wilderness and was going to be a bit of a stretch (a character building day) under the best conditions. Sadly, we decided it was best not to do the bike tour.
So…..what do you do when you cancel a bike tour in wine country? You taste wine at the local vineyards - of course!
We didn’t actually drag the girls to a ton of vineyards, but it was fun to pull over and sample some wine! And that rain we wanted to avoid on our bikes - it did come! In fact, it came and it rained for the next day and a half! We drove to the outskirts of Vancouver and camped for one night. The next day we took a ferry to Vancouver Island.
We’ve been on Vancouver Island for almost three weeks now. There is so much to see and do you could spend months on the Island and still feel like you hadn't seen or done it all! Vancouver Island is worthy of its own post…so this will have to do for now!
We send love to all. We are celebrating FOUR MONTHS ON THE ROAD TODAY!!! I can honestly say that our family is feeling tighter then ever. We are a solid unit…having fun and learning from each other (and our surroundings) daily. I feel truly blessed and thankful!