Richmond to Kelowna By Irene Butler
Photos by Rick Butler
Our 45,000 km Olympian odyssey commenced June 7th at high noon as we set our sites east from Richmond, B.C. down Highway #1. The sun is shining; it is 24 degrees Celsius; Rick is manoeuvring EMILI, our Toyota Prius; my right foot is elevated on a make-shift footrest. A buried rock projecting six inches above the surface of the sand met the forward swing of my baby toe along White Rock beach during the previous day’s ceremonial dip in Georgia Strait/Pacific waters. Bad timing for the resulting double fracture as all footwear in contact with this wounded appendage sets me a-howling, so our hiking for a few weeks will be limited to trails conducive to my bright orange flip-flops.
Our first stop is Harrison Hot Springs – 1 1/2 hour drive from Richmond. Rick raved about the incredible artistry of the Annual World Champion Sand Sculpture Competition he had the opportunity to view here last fall. This lovely little resort town is geared to fun and relaxation. Our hunt for a coffee shop morphed into browsing for hours through shops with shelves filled to the brim with unique treasures of collectibles and handicrafts. The town rests on the shores of Harrison Lake, ever popular with serious boaters and fishermen cruising over its 40 mile length. Emerald, finely manicured golf courses are filled with swingers. But the blue-chip designation goes to the thermal sulphur waters, the origins of which are wound in the Chehalis tribal legends. Relished by white settlers since the 1880’s, lodgings soon sprung up to accommodate seekers of the healing waters. A look at the lavish 339 guest Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa is a must, even if not staying there, like ourselves. Room rates range from reasonable to outrageous. The complex boasts 8,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor natural mineral pools, plus every pampering massage and body-care treatment imaginable.
With evening approaching we sought out Bigfoot Campgrounds. Our few attempts at camping in the past can be likened to the 1963 lyrics of Camp Granada, but we are ready to give it another try periodically in good weather, especially when in provincial parks. We were confident our new flip-up tent would be a whiz to erect; after all, the picture on the side of the case showed an 80 pound, 4 1/2 foot women hoisting the spring-tension-gizmo up until it snapped into a locked position, and the built-in framed sides swelled into an 8′ x 9′ home-away-from-home. And it worked – don’t you just love modern technology. Next we plugged our new air-pump into the vehicle lighter to fill our deluxe, cloth covered mattress; rolled out the sleeping bags and were ready for sweet dreams. Early to bed with just a flashlight for light, we spun a Sasquatch story, taking loosely timed turns building on the fabrication of the other to see who could be the most outrageous. This mythical character has top-billing in the Harrison area; Sasquatch Inn, Sasquatch Provincial Park, Sasquatch Springs. One of these huge, elusive, hairy creatures cast a foot print at Ruby Creek, a few miles east of Harrison Hot Springs in 1941. Native legends tell of these foul-smelling, humanoid giants, as have stories of sightings over the years-..if you care to believe.
At three a.m. I awoke abruptly. I think Rick prodded me, though he denies it. He said the mattress was loosing air. Yes, the limp thing was getting pretty flat, but I tried to convince Rick not much could be done about it now with a mosquito jamboree between us and the air-pump. Sitting cross legged and shivering on the tent floor in the middle of the night, with Rick huffing and puffing into the mattress attempting to give it enough body to last the night dumped me into a scatological mood. By morning we again found ourselves stretched out on terra firma. We neatly rolled up the failed item hoping someone with a patch kit would find it beside the garbage can. A dark cloud sent us scurrying to break camp.
Making our way to the Public Hot Springs Pool, we were soon floating about in the deliciously soothing mineral laden waters. Though the pool is indoors and regulation amounts of chlorine are added to the water, it was a deluxe full-hour soak leaving us delightfully warmed, woozy and contented. After an energizing lunch, we revved-up Emili for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Penticton.
During July and August, Penticton brags of 600 hours of sunshine – which is more than Honolulu. A sneak preview of one of these ten-hour days graced with old sol did not materialize; heavy cloud cover with periodic showers followed us into town and never left. This city of motels soon found us nestled in the Edgewater with a heavenly mattress.
Raring to go the next morning, we took a walk through the past aboard the Canadian National Railway’s S.S. Sicamous – Queen of the Okanagan – from 1914 to 1936, shuttling as many as 500 passengers between a fourteen-stop route along the Okanagan Lake shores.
This 1787 ton, 228 foot sternwheeler was the epitome of luxury in its day with brass fittings, mirrors and mahogany. A berth cost $1.00 a night on the second deck and $2.50 in an upper stateroom. Breakfast and supper were a mere $1.00 and lunch $1.25 taken in the elegant dining room. After a gourmet meal women and children retired to the Ladies Saloon with comfortable chairs and a panoramic view of the passing shores, while gentlemen relaxed over a cigar and brandy in the Smoking Lounge. Rick began to sweat imagining the firemen feeding the boiler firebox with the 17 tons of coal a day needed to propel the vessel, and was pleasantly surprised at the early recycling method whereby the condenser air pump returned the condensed steam to the boiler to be reused and re-heated to produce more steam. A replica of the Kettle Creek Rail Line, that eventually put the sternwheelers out of business, is set up in the middle of the lower deck complete with whistling locomotives chugging their way through tunnels, over trestle bridges around the perimeter of Okanagan Lake.
Being in the heart of wine country, we spent the afternoon sampling the libations of Dionysus. After tasting Okanagan’s best at three estates, we were famished. If you ask a local to name a good restaurant, 9 times out of 10 the response will be Theos. Feasting on succulent souvlaki in a charming Greek taverna atmosphere of tapestry adorned walls, a profusion of potted plants, cozy tables in candlelight with a single rose atop flower-patterned squares rated a 7 on our ‘Hobbit-Worthy 1 to 10 Restaurant Rating System’.
Down the highway to the familiar stomping grounds of Kelowna. Home to our son, Rob and his partner, Glenda for the past ten years, we have spent a lot of time in this fair community. In fact, we were once planning to retire here, until we developed an allergy to snow. Still deep in vineyards, visiting the Summerhill Winery with its four storey replica of Cheops’ pyramid, used to age the wine, turned out to be more than a few tastes of its gold medal selections. Just inside the door is an enlargement of a photo taken by Laurie Giles, a certified management accountant from Port Coquitlam, B.C. While visiting the winery the evening of October 18, 2002, Laurie and her husband aimed their Minolta VII 5.2 Image Pixel lens at the full harvest moon positioned so it appeared to be perched on the pinnacle of the pyramid. Invisible to the naked eye, a bizarre phenomenon was also captured, a brilliant streak extending from the top of the pyramid, swooping downward for a few feet, and then shooting out into the stratosphere almost vertically was caught by the digital. It is believed to be a glimpse of the pyramid’s energy. Ms. Giles stated in a caption the photo was in no way touched or altered.
Miles of hair-pin curves weave their way up to Fintry Provincial Park near Kelowna. For a spectacular view and some much needed physical activity, we climbed the 391 steps to the top of a waterfall where runoffs converge forming the tumultuous, frothing cascade down the mountainside.
Still in Kelowna, on day eight of our travels, we are only 387 km from our starting point; its good we have six months at this rate. I have graduated from flip-flops to Birkenstocks. Look for Rick’s posting of Emili’s performance and a wind-energy company we have been investigating.
We will begin our discovery of the Kootenays day after tomorrow.
Irene & Rick Butler