Revelstoke to Kelowna

13 May

Saturday

An overnight frost greeted us when we pulled the blinds, which considering our altitude and latitude I don’t suppose we should have been surprised about, however when during the day the sun shines and it feels like summer we just don’t expect a white over frost next morning!

We had identified a route from Revelstoke via highway23 to take us south along the Arrow Lake, this route is completed by two ferries one at Shelter Bay to Galena Bay and one at Fauquier to Needles, both of them free of charge as there is no bridge, we thought this looked an interesting proposition especially as not far from Galena Bay was Halcyon Hot Springs Resort with an RV campground, Robert fancied a dip!

The mountains tops both sides of us were covered in snow, the Monashee to our right and the western most parts of the Canadian Rockies (the Kootaney Range) to the left, they made a wonderful backdrop to Arrow Lake which runs many miles North of Revelstoke and South to Castlegar, in fact Revelstoke is probably half way along its length. The lake actually forms part of the Columbia River which is dammed in several locations and a major part of BC Hydro which provides the electricity supply for the whole of BC, in fact when electricity is referred to it is called ‘The Hydro’ rather than electricity.

We arrived at the line up for the ferry in perfect time, just as the inbound vessel was approaching, so, a quick photo, turn off the LPG and we drove carefully on board. For the route we were travelling we were surprised at the vehicles using the ferry and it was soon full with a small lorry, two smaller C class RV about twelve trucks/cars and haRVey. The twenty minute journey gave us a wonderful view of the mountains as we quietly sailed to the other bank.

We easily disembarked and continued along highway 23 to Halcyon Hot Springs which is one of many hot spring resorts in this area; this one has been a commercial operation in various forms since the 1920’s. Today it has some very nice cabins and chalets alongside a Spa and the hot pools and best of all for us, a small RV Campground. The reception area was very hotel like but the two ladies were extremely friendly and helpful and we were soon checked in and settled. The early cold had now evaporated leaving a warm sunny afternoon, we took a walk to the stony lake side and whilst sitting admiring the view added our exhibit to the stone statues dotted around the rocks. (see web album pics).

Around 4 o’clock Robert headed off for a dip, as I did not take ‘the plunge’ I will let him tell you about the experience – (Robert) There are three outdoor pools all containing the mineral rich spring waters of the area; the hot one at 42oC; the warm at 38oC and the ‘plunge’ at 14oC. I stayed in the warm pool and was entertained with people watching; other bathers of various nationalities, floating by on their noodles, hiding from the sun, putting the world to rights and playing with their children in the late afternoon sun. A few were brave enough to venture into the ‘plunge’ and invited others to join them, but their shouts of ‘it’s quite warm really’ were not very convincing and few took up the challenge. After an hour or so and a quick shower I wandered back to haRVey feeling very relaxed and comfortable

Sunday
On the road again and heading for the ferry at Fauquier we hadn’t quite timed it so well today, so stopped for coffee (any excuse) along the side of the road overlooking another section of Arrow Lake. This is one of the things we enjoy about haRVey, we can just pull up, put on the kettle and enjoy the view… where ever… The Fauquier ferry is operated by a cable and it only takes five minutes to cross the lake which is fairly narrow at this point, it is a smaller ferry but again was full, this time a fifth wheel (like an articulated caravan which is towed on the back of a pick up truck…. OK so just Google it!!) was alongside us and then just six trucks/cars filled the deck.

The landscape across the other side of the lake was much flatter and greener, we had been impressed with the quality of the 23 right from Revelstoke, its surface was far better than the major highways we have travelled, smooth, plenty wide enough and fairly twist free, but soon we started climbing up the Monashee Pass, the summit is 1241 meters and as we approached this altitude we saw more and more snow alongside the road, the road itself became more twisty and a little less even; having suffered from winter conditions. We pulled up for a lunch break in a wide turnoff and sat watching the pine trees gently wafting in the wind, snow six inches deep around there trunks and tried to get our heads around it being the 10th of May, we have had the beginning of spring so many times now I think my brain is confused!

We had hoped to stay in Cherryville overnight, the campground was open, but deserted and when we checked the power it seemed to be just a 15amp supply, which we could just about manage on but if it was to be cold overnight our heaters would struggle. We decided to press on. Eventually we turned into Swan Lake Resort in Vernon and gratefully accepted a spot to stay, it was however not our sort of campground and felt more like a residential park. There were some really nice RV’s parked up there of all levels and some very nice park models on double sites, they appeared very permanent. The lower level, in the correct position, had nice views of the lake, which to be fair we could just see from the front of haRVey if we looked around the vehicles in front of us, and we had a lovely grassy area to sit in and enjoy the afternoon sun, but, as I say, not our sort of campground.

Monday

Vernon is a very busy place these days, not as we remember it, however we maybe did not drive through the main area to experience it in the same way. Initially the road South took us alongside Swan Lake then towards Okanagan Lake and on to Kelowna.
Again, what a different place to the one I remember, our RV trip nearly three years ago bought us to this area but we neither remember it being as busy that August as it is now, Highway 97 runs right through the middle of Downtown and, not helped by the road works admittedly, it was busier than central Vancouver!

We had a list of three sites to look at, we wanted Wi-Fi which was available at only two of them, so we took the route to Apple Orchard RV, finding it amongst as the name suggests, fields full of Apple Trees presently just coming into full blossom. This we discovered was an agri tourism RV Campground, a diversification being allowed locally both to provide much needed campgrounds and extra income for the fruit farmers. A total of ten sites is allowed and here they were set out with a view of the surrounding fields. We liked the idea but because there was no opportunity to walk anywhere other than on the local roads we decided it was perhaps not the best location for us. We headed into the busy town again and Hiawatha RV near the lake, they had just three sites left and would have been a compromise for us, but we could have easily walked into town or to the small bit of lakeside nearby. We had a third site to look at and drove up the hill out of town to find Orchard Hill RV, again an agri tourism site.

We were greeted warmly by the owner and we explained that whilst we would wish to patronise and encourage the concept of agri tourism we were concerned that we were a bit isolated. Whilst he obviously did not want to turn away business he was honest about the location, there was a short walk around the mountain we could take, but he explained that Kelowna today is a very different one to that of his childhood with houses built on terraces around the hills and right on top too leaving very little in the way of countryside. His Campground did have views though, in all directions, admittedly there were houses, most of the newer ones hidden from here, and small clusters of houses with trees around dotted amongst hillside fields again full of apple trees won us over and we checked in for two nights.

Monday

Whilst paying our fees Robert had chatted with our host who was able to point out on the map good places across town where we could park haRVey and then go for a walk, so today’s itinerary was to drive across town, park up, and walk to Paul’s Tomb which is part of Mount Knox Regional Park. It was not such a bright morning and we set off expecting rain and wrapped up thinking it was chilly. The steep gradient of the path soon had me taking off the top layer, we were climbing around a 1 in 6 gradient and it was required, at several points, to stop and look at the view! On achieving the top we stopped again to read the boards explaining about various areas below us, also a large map and storyboard explaining the wildfire damage caused to the Provincial Park and the City in 2003 when 239 homes were lost to fires which raged from 23rd August and burned fiercely until 21st September and were fought bravely by 2400 fire fighters and over 1000 local volunteers on the ground, with helicopter and aircraft ‘water bombing’ from above. Thankfully whilst 24,000 hectares of parkland were destroyed along with the homes, no lives were lost. The following spring when the snow melted patrols found that deep seated fires were still burning. The trees have been replaced by Park staff and volunteers and now six years later they are beginning to cover the mountainside again, wild flowers which have never been seen before on the mountains flower in the spring, nature is redressing the balance.

Carrying on the path to Paul’s Tomb we passed through banks of lovely yellow daisies, called Arrow Leaf Balsam, the symbol flower of the Okanagan and as colourful as the California poppy was in its own home. It grows in nice neat clumps obviously happy to proliferate across the hillside but apparently difficult to propagate which is probably why it doesn’t appear to have been cultivated for home gardens. We learnt that leaves and roots are edible and the native people also used to smoke the leaf like tobacco. The path continued through a rocky outcrop area with a slide warning, loose stones lying alongside the path proved the appropriateness of the warning, on the opposite side of the path the bank dropped away to the lake below. After fifty minutes we arrived at the lake shore with Paul’s Tomb just behind us, this is the resting place of a local resident and his wife who had the tomb constructed for his family, it was however sealed after his internment and not used further. All that is visible now is a concrete half circle with the date 1910 engraved on it.
A rest on the bench to cool the feet then we decided on the lower path to return, passing by some extensive luxury modern homes, eventually walking alongside the lake again and back to haRVey, returning to our site on Orchard Hill for a late lunch and then an hour and half to write up the blog, hope you enjoy… I’m off for Pizza Tea!

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