Driveabout Part II

Driveabout Part II (Back to the sea)

First I have to apologize to those who are not receiving the full meal deal in regard to my recent blogs. Apparently, and coincidental with my new formating, there were some technical glitches of my making. If the images or text have been, or are still, troublesome please let me know.

AQUA! How’s this for clean lake water? This is entirely natural and very uplifting to see.

One of the wonderful things about living in British Columbia is that you can can travel a short distance and be in a very different type of scenery. Two days ago I drove from the south Okanogan to Princeton then turned north for some lovely lakes not far from a town called Merritt. The fecund orchards and vineyards soon give way to lush ranch land and steep rolling grassy hills interspersed with forests of mixed pine and fir. A twisting road climbs and descends past rocky cliffs and winding, rushing rivers. An ever-changing vista offers a visual feast and makes staying safely on the road a challenge.

An Osprey nest. This is a man-made nesting site which does not make the birds any less beautiful. Note the plastic baling twine incorporated by the birds in their nest-building. The environmental impact of plastic is far-reaching.

Jack is fascinated with each new topography and its new smells. He is always eager to explore and stake out any new territory. When we finally arrived at the Kentucky- Alleyne Provincial Park he spent a happy afternoon snuffling into the endless burrows of gophers and ground squirrels. They would stand erect watching him from a safe distance and he never caught on that he was beaten from the beginning. But he had fun, and he slept well.

Folks who live in glass yurts shouldn’t throw anything. I found this solarium on a back street in Hedley. It is made from re-claimed windshields. I am not sure I’d sleep well inside that glass fabrication.
A landmark at Spence’s Bridge on the Thompson river. I do not know its history but it is clearly abandoned now.
Quasimoto, where are you?
The church unveiled

This country borders on the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, an area of beautiful open forest and grassland. It is wild, open country which I love. I’ve found the same landscape in Eastern Oregon. When in this kind of place I ache to once again know the squeak and rhythm of the saddle and the feel of a stout working horse beneath, a splendid way to see and know the world. I know that for me to get back on a saddle after many decades, I’d soon be aching in other places. Horsemanship is an entirely different way of life with its own sensibilities, smells, paces, knowledge and people quite apart from what most of us know. The relationship between a horse and its human is a special bond you must experience to understand. Add a good dog to the mix and it is bliss indeed. Horse people generally have a level, peaceful way of dealing with life. If they were otherwise they could not interact successfully with horses which are very spiritual creatures. It is hard to know what comes first, the horse or the attitude. That does not mean these folks always get on well with other people.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge
The high country. On the edge of range land of the Douglas Lake Ranch this is Alleyne Lake. It is stocked with trout and attracts fishermen year-round.
Prince Jack surveys his latest new kingdom. He was in bliss.
Morning at West Pond. Bull Pine, aka Ponderosa Pine, aka Yellow Pine look down on Jack’s big lawn where he was fascinated with the burrows of gophers and ground squirrels.
Kentucky Lake. Pristine!
Old barn, Nicola Valley
The old ranch house. It stands unnoticed on the side of the road. Imagine the lives that were centered here. Notice the encroaching open pit mine in the background.
The rail fence around the house and barn. Part of the old way of doing things, when labour was cheaper than barbed wire. Each time I see these relics of days past, I realize they will soon all be gone.

Fully intending to spend a day or two in this splendid place I awoke and put the coffee on only to discover that I was out of propane. Swear words! Jack and I went for a walk. I prepared the trailer for the road and headed for town. All fuelled up, I drove a little further, and then some more. It would become that sort of day. At the head of the Nicola Valley I turned back on my old track to Lytton, then on up the Fraser Valley to Lillooet. On the way I met an oncoming vehicle with flashing headlights. A little further and I came on a small rock slide on a curve above a cliff. Skirting the rocks on the road came eight mountain sheep ewes. We passed within inches of each other and no, I did not get one photo. Jack was impressed. Lillooet had no appealing campgrounds and we took to the high pass which leads to Pemberton and the Coastal Mountains. It is a tortuous drive, climbing and descending steeply, all the while filled with sharp curves and frost-heaved pavement. Huge residual blocks of winter’s old ice clogged the ditches and Duffey Lake at the top was still half-frozen.

Pemberton had no camp grounds to offer and we trundled on despairingly toward Whistler. I had thought that Lillooet would be a fine place to spend a couple of days but now here we were many hours past and over a long mountain pass. Whistler is a beautiful place with stunning mountains and plenty of snow but it has been exploited and developed to a sorry state. I have no sense of the Alpine village the former tiny, remote community once was.

Whistler Valley evening view.
Next morning
Yeah right…next morning. Brrrr!
Not just passing through. The slap-dash winter skirting gives it away. Whistler is an instant town, booming so fast that housing is a challenge for newcomers.
Supply and demand pushes costs to the limit.

Everything there now is about glitz and dollars, with garish yet boring architecture. If someone could extort you for your next breath, they certainly would. Any business with the word ‘Whistler’ in its name will be charging exorbitant rates like the Whistler RV Park. $52 for one night and $10 extra for their internet password to a service which worked very poorly. The sewage connector pipe rose 18” above the ground. And Whistler or not, sewage does NOT run uphill.

When I mentioned that their prices were the highest I’d ever paid I was told they were on par for the area and I would really love the view. As if they had provided the scenery! The view is bisected with a busy highway, a railway, and a power line. I hate power lines. They are soul-destroying visual blights. You are never out of sight of one in this area. They transmit energy from the dams back up in the hills to Vancouver. I understand that electricity is necessary to run all those ski lifts and light all those bars, condos and hotels but there is a lot lacking in the rustic charm department. Concrete and poo-brown paint might work for urban condomites but not for this old bush-ape.

In the morning, at no extra charge, we stepped out of our trailer to a very heavy frost. We drove southward, looking for a place for our morning walk. We turned in for a trail head near Garibaldi Mountain only to discover two kilometres further along, large signs clearly forbidding dogs. Grrrrr! We turned the trailer around and headed back out onto the concrete snot chute.

That’s more like it. I immediately felt at home. Some creative wit travelled for miles in Paradise Valley and brilliantly altered the road signs.
Says it all!
Crystal clear streams, even in spring, run through dense coastal rainforest.
Spring in Paradise Valley
“Hi mom, we’re home!”
Devil’s Club, very aptly named. This nasty plant can grow ten feet tall and is completely covered in toxic spines. Every skin puncture will become an itchy, infected welt. They grow in thickets, which if you stumble in, well….!

A few miles further south we discovered a lovely place called Paradise Valley just north of Squamish. It is bliss. A lovely bunch of folks operate a beautiful RV park and campground which includes a network of beautiful trails winding along the Cheakamus River and a series of streams and ponds connected to a salmon hatchery. Everything has worked out for the best. It seemed especially sweet after the crassness of Whistler. https://paradisevalleycampground.net/ It really is worth a visit. I am not a fan of commercial RV parks and campgrounds but these folks have really achieved something quite special.

Fiddleheads. They have just matured past the state of being tenderly tasty crunchy.
On verdant pond. I could not savour this place enough.

Squamish, which is losing its former “rustic/industrial charm” to the blight of concrete, chrome and glass heralds a return to the frantic rush of city folks and their desperate need to be in a constant rush to go and be among more herds of people. The ‘Sea To Sky Highway’ was rebuilt at fantastic cost in the hope of safety by widening and straightening the route to Whistler. It only allows for higher speeds regardless of posted limits. Some people have clearly lost a base instinct called fear. I swear James Bond passed me; several times. Zoomheads! I arrived at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal with mixed feelings. It was grand to out of the Whistler gauntlet but the wait for the next ferry is always a diminishing experience. I’m sure that part of the exorbitant fare is for storage! As one salmon said to the other when the ferry passed, “Look at all the canned people.” There was a time when I used to enjoy a ferry experience. The thrill is gone. At least I’m back on the ocean. My gasping gills are happy.

In the line-up at the ferry terminal i pulled up behind this work of art. Entirely home-made, this trailer  was built by a sport fisherman needing a home away from home.
It is beautiful to the last detail.

This little jaunt over and through hill and dale was a shakedown for the miles ahead. Now, rustling up income for a big trip south is a task among all the upgrades and modifications required. My new/old truck began consuming copious amounts of engine oil, with no unusual smoke or any leaks… yet another mystery to resolve. It is probably just a gigametric fufu valve within the new order of engine technology which this old wrench bender doesn’t understand. When you are done learning, your life is over. Now then, can anyone recommend a good road map of Baha?

While cleaning the trailer i found this, a Jersey Penny. Now this is a mystery indeed.
I’m back home to the coast for the first Camas blooms.
Bluebells and Oregon Grape
Back in the old harbour again.

Life is a highway…

The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights…

I wanna ride it all night long.” Tom Cochrane

Driveabout

Jack is sleeping in the truck two decks below. I am no longer permitted to stay down there during the crossing. so here I sit by a portside window in the cafeteria on the BC Ferry ‘Queen of Alberni’ watching the world slide by at about seventeen knots. We’re running downwind so it’s hard to tell our actual speed which is probably faster over the bottom than it looks. It is a perfect sailing day. The seas are low, it is not cold (but not warm) and the sky is mostly clear with no rain squalls in sight. And damn their teeth, there are sailing boats out actually sailing. Yep, once a sailor, always one.

Midpoint. When you come abeam the ferry on the opposite leg you know you are about half-way in the crossing. The mountain above Howe Sound on mainland Canada are in the background. Oddly, a week later later I am sitting beneath them as I post this blog.

When I worked on the tugs this vessel was known to us as the ‘Overlander’ because it had ran aground a couple of times in quick succession. I suppose if one worked out the miles and hours it has spent traversing the Strait Of Georgia back and forth this old tub has an excellent safety record. “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around,” a friend has told me and I’m not about to recount the times when I’ve gone bump. There have been a few. I’ve always been able to get myself free in short order and there’s never been any dramatic damage but…the gig’s not over yet.

Looking back to Vancouver Island after the two hour crossing to Tsawassen on the mainland.
At the edge of a swamp on the banks Of The Fraser River evidence of last winter’s feasting. A beaver’s teeth are a force to be reckoned with. The original think green technology.

It really is hard not to be pessimistic. I’m sure that thousands of years ago old geezers commiserated and proclaimed that “This can’t go on much longer.” I was raised by two zealous fundamentalist evangelical parents who could achieve a state of near ecstasy listening to yet another shouting leaping trickster behind his pulpit describe the “Second Coming” and the impending horrors of Armageddon. Well, the doomsters are still at it and somehow, we’re still here. So long as we keep asking questions and challenging those who try to manipulate us, there is hope. The moment is all any of us have and at this point in my little stumble through life I’m trying to savour all the small joys and forget the imperfections. I was once told that if I’m being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade. Anybody got a tuba? Speaking of tricksters, check out the TED talk given by a very brave reporter. Here’s the link https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley. This lady, Carole Cadwalladr, is Queen of the Questioners in my opinion. She sums up what I go on and on about, asking questions and hopefully inspiring others to do as well. She has blown the lid off some very grave business. Send me a comment, let me know what you think.

When a plan works out. The 4×4 truck towed my little trailer into a perfect spot beside the Thompson River. A very different world from the coast only a few hours behind.

Its sound and that of the trains are drowned in the steady roar of the river. Living on Vancouver Island where our single railway has been rendered redundant, working trains have become a rarity to me. These trains are amazingly long, over a mile I’d say, with locomotives in the middle and at both ends. They seem quieter than I recall but all are amazingly filthy and in dire need of fresh paint. The rails are now welded instead of being bolted together so the old clickety-clack is another sound of the past. In the last half-hour a chill Easterly wind has sprung up and I won’t be sitting outside pecking away at this computer for long. Jack is off sniffing about for Easter eggs in a tight radius of our little campsite. He discovered prickly pear cacti last night and is not keen to adventure far on his own.

I stopped at a small graveyard I had never visited before. This polished granite marker is well over a hundred years old and still gleams brilliantly.
Sober as it may be, this headstone is also a thing of beauty.  Twelve hours later I’d briefly visited old friends in Turtle Valley where I’d once live and worked on a small ranch. We drove on and found a spot on the side of the road to park before darkness fell. Jack was sick through the night, so we slept in. Just as well, it was a miserable drizzly morning. We completed our morning routine and hit the muddy, pot-holed road. Two hundred metres around the corner from the bleak little clearing where we had spent the night we discovered a lovely public campground next to a rushing stream. Life is like that. Either one goes too far or not quite far enough. Down into the Okanogan Valley we went. I once lived there. There is little I recognize now. All has become malls, car dealers and RV sales lots. Huge condominiums loom on the ridges, subdivisions sprawl everywhere. There is little visible agricultural land. Once this valley was a gentle, slow-paced rolling valley famous for its orchards. I saw one tiny segment of what I remembered, perhaps an acre at most. Mature apple trees surrounded an old farmhouse and I wondered if this tiny parcel of land should not become a museum. Folks have crammed themselves into this throbbing mess to escape an even more frantic existence elsewhere. And now we eat imported fruit. I chatted with a friend about this today. He summed it up nicely, “The whole damned valley has become a massive strip mall.”
The old square-hewn log house where I lived over 45 years ago. It was a hundred years old then. It still stands today. There was a time when I have shot my supper from out of that upper window.
Okanogan sunflowers. Something which hasn’t changed.
In the background meadow larks trilled, quail hooted their unique call, red winged blackbirds chittered, other song birds added their chorus.
The Sunny Okanogan.
A view south over Gallagher Canyon from the ascent out of the mess that is now the Okanogan Valley

To escape the madness I drove up into the Kettle Valley. It parallels the Okanogan and is perhaps now best known for a massive forest fire which swept along a massive area in the valley a few years ago; all, apparently, in the wake of one tossed cigarette butt. Miraculously, near Rock Creek, a small parcel of forest nestled in a bend of the Kettle River was spared. It is a Provincial campground, a green oasis in the middle of extensive devastation. I sit writing tonight beside my campfire in this piece of interior forest. It is very different from coastal rainforest and lovely in its own right. I’ll bank the fire and go join Jack who has already put himself to bed.

Bird Books. When I arrived at the campground I found this lovely little book exchange sitting on a post in the woods.
Kettle River Campsite.
Jack was in bliss.
Sometimes there is nothing finer than to sit with your feet near a gentle fire, stare into the flames and think about nothing. And then…
“Didja hear that?”
The whims of nature. The massive fire paused on the far side of the river. The parkland from where this photo was taken was spared. The Kettle River is in freshet at the moment and rolls along silently. It is eerie.
Catching up on my laundry and my blogging on a back porch in Rock Creek. Jack takes a break from trying to dig up voles.

The morning brings a cloudless sky and the sound of mating geese honking along the river. Jack is rested and anxious to go explore. So we shall. A few short kilometres further we find ourselves in beautiful downtown Rock Creek. It may have a population of two hundred. I sit writing on the back porch of a small enterprise which is a pleasant camp ground with wifi, handcrafts, second-hand goods, snacks and laundry facilities where I sit. A potential obligation has passed and I am free to enjoy myself. I drive across the high, spectacular country around Anarchist Mountain then descend to the route up through the Southern Okanogan which still bears a semblance of its former self. It has orchards! I still had a sense of it, then I arrived in Pentiction. Yep, back into the Okanogan strip mall. Along the highway, boarded-up fruit stands languish beside endless expanses of vineyards and wine tasting rooms. I had to drive half-way toward Kelowna to find an RV Park which was grudgingly accepting transient RV folks. Most parks I passed were filled with permanent residents living in mouldering motor homes and travel trailers. These grotty places charge ridiculous monthly fees but such is the economic situation for many folks. When you are too poor to have options, you just have to pay, and pay.

Okanogan Lake Calm.
BUT…it ain’t the ocean!
And when you leave a marina, where in the hell do you go!

At the end of my sixth day on the road I have visited with new friends whom I met through the passing of my friend Frank. (See the blog posted March 13th) It was a lovely and all-too brief visit but made my short stay here more than worthwhile. I was also able to tour the Naramata Area on the Eastern shore of South Okanogan Lake. I had never been there before and was amazed at what I found. Although grapes have taken over much of the old orchard land, there is a happy mix of crops and an amazing profusion of wineries. I’m not much of a wine taster, especially not when alone and I did manage to bypass all the enticing bistros, this time!

A glimpse of the Okanogan as I remember it. A vineyard in the foreground, fruit trees in blossom in the distance.
There are wineries everywhere. This one caught my fancy. Sounds of a bottling machine came from the big open door.
The other side. Tasting room and bistro. All very posh and appealing. It’s not the sort of place to visit alone.
The Naramata Inn 1908
Once built by a land speculator (Yes, even back then) then long-abandoned it has since been restored and is now a spa, inn and restaurant.
To name a few. Wineries/Vineyards in the last 5 km section of the Naramata drive.
BlackWidow Wines. The building has a stark appeal with its lack of pretension.
Ya can’t miss it! The grape-coloured house with the green roof on a knoll in the middle of the vineyard. Turn in there. Methinks here lives an old hippy.
Yet another relic from the flower power days. Ruby Blues Wine.
Far out man!
Where the plonck truck was plunked. Whoda thunk? Old farm trucks end up being vogue lawn ornaments.
I couldn’t resist. This was parked on a quiet street in quiet little Naramata. As I raised my camera I knew the caption had to be, “Drive Defensively.”

A week after I started this blog post I am freezing body parts at a campsite south of Whistler. This the latest trendy world skiing destination. In my jaded opinion it is all a bloody horrible mess. I am in a RV park which has a spectacular view and the highest price I’ve ever paid including a $10. fee for wifi. It has crashed this post twice and is still hopelessly slow at 6 am.  Enough! I’ll finish the rest of my travelogue as part two…elsewhere. 

A sad end. This rough pile of trees behind the white surveyor’s stake was once a venerable, productive orchard. Hopefully, at least, the trees will be cut up for firewood. Fruit wood is the best ever that you can get although burning wood for heat is now banned in many places. Ironically, it is not environmentally friendly.

All knowledge is not taught in one school.” …Hawaiian Proverb