After 11,233 kms travelled ( distances are huge up north ! ) and a full month on the road, the week closed out with an eagerly anticipated pit stop in Kelowna where we planned to spend a small part of our beautiful Okanagan summer with family and friends before continuing on south .
From Beaumont Lake, Highway 16 took us across to Prince George where we stopped briefly to visit some old work colleagues. In a former role Prince George was in my ‘territory’ so I knew it quite well. By far the largest city in BC’s north, it seemed to have grown even more since our last visit in 2011 and ( like Whitehorse in the Yukon ) appeared very vibrant. This stood in stark contrast to a lot of the smaller communities we passed through on the Alaska Highway on our way north ( in both B.C. and Alaska ) many of which were ( sadly ) in very obvious states of economic decline with quite a number of businesses closed altogether.
Heading south from ‘PG’ ( as Prince George is more commonly known ), Highway 97 would ultimately take us all the way to Kelowna. Our first attempt at camping for the night was at 100 Mile House Municipal campground. This appeared to be more a campground for the otherwise local homeless than for genuine tourists. Since our arrival was met by some pretty sketchy stares we decided to move on. Next stop was the scenically beautiful Lake La Hache Provincial Park campground where it was puzzling to see a lot of folks leaving the campground at around 4 pm ( normally ‘arrival’ time ). A big place, it was also eerily empty. One needed only to open the truck door to discover why – infested with mosquitos ! Two nearby bikers were packing their tent up so we figured this might not be our best option either. Onwards it was.
These kinds of things do happen from time to time and are the reason most folks will tell you to find your camp spot by mid afternoon ( which we generally did ) – always time for a ‘Plan B’ then. Fortunately the drive on south was easy and in less than an hour we were in Clinton and comfortably settled at the Gold Trail RV Park – famous for its on-site restaurant. We took the night off from cooking and enjoyed a nice meal and the company of some interesting fellow travellers….and no mosquitoes.
Finding a great coffee shop in small towns is rare and the holy grail of good coffee AND fresh baked goods almost non existent. While Clinton did not serve that up the next morning, nor Cache Creek, a short drive through the streets of Ashcroft, not far to the south, brought us to the delightful Ashcroft Bakery and Coffee Shop. Definitely a stop worth making if you travel through – obviously a local favourite, rated a 4.8 out of 5 on Facebook and I can see why. Just one of those little gems you sometimes stumble upon ( and the best scones – ever ! ).
Climbing out of Ashcroft took us past the massive Highland Valley copper mine, through the town of Logan Lake and on to Merritt where we were happy to take full advantage of an all out local ‘gas war’ that was raging. Filling up ( 140 litres ) at 113.9 was a considerable saving when we had just passed Prince George ( normally home of BC’s cheapest gas ) and seen it at 135.9 everywhere. Having paid as much as 1.70 in the Arctic, a Merritt fill up was noticeably ( and happily ) lighter on the wallet than we had become accustomed to !
Just a 90 minute drive from Merritt and we found ourselves coming around that sweeping bend on the Coqhihalla Highway where one gets that first, magnificent view of Okanagan Lake. It never disappoints and on a beautiful, sunny, 30 degree day it’s at its best. You know you are home when ! The lake, and entry to Kelowna itself was as beautiful as ever. Where had a month gone ?
For the next month or so we will be regrouping, catching up with friends and family, getting our personal affairs in order and taking our learnings from the month up north to make necessary modifications to our vehicle and camper to ensure maximum comfort and functionality for the trip south to come. With hindsight, we both agreed that splitting the trip up this way had been a wise move. We learned a ton about what works ( and what doesn’t – or probably won’t ! ) for what is ultimately planned to be an extended overland trip through many countries. We now have time to make changes, dump what we won’t use and add what we know we will.
We’ll pause on any further posts for a few weeks and provide our next update just before we set off, likely later in July. Meanwhile we plan to enjoy the rest of what is shaping up to be a wonderful Okanagan summer ! Stay tuned ……..