In August 2015 we spent two weeks cruising the British Columbia asphalt: a family road trip back to our old haunts around Vancouver, the lower mainland, and Vancouver Island. Along the way we saw some familiar sites, ate some long-missed food, and caught up with many folks who’ve migrated west in recent years. These are some of the highlights.
On Dark Tunnels & Hidden Treasures
We were literally the first on the ferry back to the mainland. Our car was essentially bumped up and perched right at the front lip of the boat, overlooking the approaching shore, and we were first to drive off when our ride across the strait was over.
After a ferry ride and a drive back through the Greater Vancouver Urban Sprawl, we found ourselves lingering in the Fraser Valley, and spending a night in Hope. It was not our first. There were trips a decade-long past (yet not too old as to have been written about on this blog, strangely) when we spent time here beside Kawkawa Lake in the cabin of one of Karin’s long-lost co-workers, planning for weekends away or ski-trips nearby. This meant more nostalgia tripping for Claire, and some hazy memories for us.
But it was hot. The temperatures had crept up into the low thirties (and would remain so for most of the rest of the trip back through BC) and so while Karin rested in the hotel room, napping after a long drive through Vancouver-ish traffic, Claire and I went out and scoped some geocaches before dinner.
And if you are ever pondering what there might be to do in Hope, that little blip of a town you zip by after you descend from the Coquihalla Summit and have Vancouver in your sights, let me tell you of the little gem in the mountain known as the Othello Tunnels: our serendipitous discovery of these abandoned train tunnels-turned-provincial-park netted us an evening stroll and a spectacular mountain wander deep into a quaint stitch of the fabric of Canadian history.
In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided a route was necessary to link the Kootenay Region with the BC coast by rail. The railway was built over three mountain ranges. In the Coquihalla Gorge – the river cut a 300 foot deep channel of solid granite. A straight line of tunnels were built through it which are known now as the Othello Tunnels. [BC Parks]
They were dark and we should have brought better flashlights than that provided to us by our barely-charged iPhones, but Claire composed a little song to keep us moving.
On Wine, Lakes, & Fruit
We left the valley the next morning and drove into the Okanagan.
Admittedly, the Okanagan region of BC deserves a vacation unto itself, and we blurring through for a brief stopover to grab some wine and camp out with Karin’s cousin in Kelowna did not do it justice.
But again, the temperatures were soaring into the mid-thirties, and even a couple hours splashing in the lake (whilst, of course, teaching Claire the nuances of cryptozoology in the form of some tall Ogopogo tales) wasn’t quite enough to mitigate the heat-wave. We did rent a pedal-boat for a half-an-hour though… which sadly turned out to be yet another watercraft at which I am ill-practiced at controlling.
In the end, we scored some winery-direct bottles, spent a long evening discussing family, politics, travel and food with our gracious hosts, and went to bed a little more tipsy than was probably appropriate considering the looming drive ahead.
On August Weather
Karin woke up for the last day of our travels sick. And so I got to drive again, with little point in stopping anywhere along the two-and-a-half hour scenic and inviting drive from Kelowna to Sicamous.
She woke up for long enough to have an ice cream and fruit-stand break, but I was once again full-steam-ahead solo-driving through the mountains until we reached our last evening’s hotel, a mountain hotel used in the winter for the expensive and exclusive sport of heli-skiing, but a cheap summer stop-over near Golden in mid-August.
The plan was to cap off our great West Coast Road Trip Vacation with a swing up through the Alberta mountains. We needed to meander our way to Nordegg anyhow (to pick up the pooch) and so we were plotted out to drive up the Banff-Jasper Highway and (a) check out the relay course we’d run a few months prior (b) scope out the Columbia glacier, and (c) do that nifty sky-walk-glass-bottomed arch-thing they’ve got nearby there, all before backtracking for the dog.
We woke up to rain and a chilly ten degrees.
By the time we hit the Alberta border, the thermometer on the car said six, and it was pouring.
We passed through and onto the Banff-Jasper highway and could barely see the trees for the fog, rain and clouds, let alone the spectacular mountain view I’d run through in June. And when we reached the crossing (the branching mid-point of the highway where we could drive toward the glacier or towards the dog) the temperature was barely above freezing and we were pretty sure it was snowing up ahead.
We ditched the plan and (stopping briefly to pick up the dog who was camping with my parents) headed for home. We were home for dinner. Road trip complete, with about thirty-three hundred kilometers logged, a few thousand photos snapped, and enough memories of the west coast –new and refreshed– to last us all a couple more years.