Back on the mainland, an old familiar journey started with a new friend. In Vancouver I bought a little SUV Rav 4 who quickly became known as Raven. She was off to a start as a bit of a diva and kept us in Vancouver a little longer than we had hoped having a radiator change, an oil leek fixed and a new set of winter tires but she was now set for winter and the beautiful journey back to Whistler after 5 months away. It was a gathering of friends who had stayed for the summer and others who had left but were venturing back, but everyone had stories to share of the many dimensions of their Canadian summer.
We conveniently arrived the night of the staff party for the reservations team. It was a chance to catch up on all the office gossip as well as start some of our own. We explored new parts of town like the Ancient Cedars Trail, where getting lost in amongst the giants was balanced with a good supply of biscuits. We grabbed on to the tail end of summer, hanging out lake side, revisiting our favourite donut hangout and enjoying lots of coffee dates. Monique, Shantelle, Claudia and I took an art class with a local Whistler artist, Andrea Mueller. The subject was animals and each with a summer of big animal encounters, it was time to put our memories onto canvas. Within 24 hours it was as if we never left, yet all too soon the “welcome back’s” would become goodbyes once more.
Our journey of new tracks began early as we headed north up highway 9, the early morning light hitting the mountains. Within a short drive we were carving ourselves new tracks, heading further up the road than we had previously. The fall colours were stunning in their symphony of yellows and reds. The car, Raven, was loaded full, snowboards and skis on the roof, tyres in the boot and our luggage filling the back seat. As we climbed and climbed through the mountain pass she protested for a lower gear until we were negotiating switch backs in second. Snow was dusting the mountain tops, steep edged roads would open out to reveal dazzling lakes such as Duffy Lake, the journeys most scenic pee spot. We weaved through Lillooet and out into “Rivers and Ranches” country where farmland spanned as far as the eye could see. It was like driving through an advert for Canada.
In six hours we were away from the coast and into wine country, the Okanagan Valley and Kelowna. From “Rivers and Ranches”, we were now in “Mountains and Vineyards.” Here we would meet Joe and Jess, friends from Whistler and attempt to latch on to their plans as we road tripped further east. Kelowna is approached from the west over the large bridge spanning the Lake Okanagan. Its high street nestles the shores of the huge expanse of water, rolling hills on each side heaving with alcohol producing fruit. The next day, we followed a route mapped out by recommendations and research to explore. We started with the cidery in the town, appearing a little too keen as we darkened the door before their 11.30 opening time. As the day drew on we spiralled further from the city and into expanses of wine growing country, horses and increasingly obscure cut outs.
We had lunch at the House of Rose where we bought our favourite bottle of their Ice wine and paired it with some cheeses we had brought as a picnic to enjoy in their orchard. After that, the afternoon turned a little stranger as we visited the worlds only 3D winery. I think there is a reason that niche hasn’t taken off, in your 3D glasses you feel like you have had a few extra glasses of wine before you begin the tasting. Everything inside is vibrant, hence the name, Vibrant Vines. The artwork, the uniforms, everything is luminous and three dimensional.
With it being the shoulder season, a few of the wineries had already closed for the season, including SOMA house of cider, however the main reason they had made it onto our list was because of their field of alpacas who were still there and curious. Each appeared to have its own stylist and brand, as some had curly up-do’s piled on top of their head, some had gone for more relaxed chic. The owner came out and was happy for us to feed them. Kevin stole the show, he was performing and posing for his feed.
We sampled honey wine, walked through orchards and observed the view of the hills beyond the water in their blueish hues. That evening we went all out Canadian, the minor league of the hockey where a local rivalry between the West Kelowna Warriors and their Penticton Derby. The rink side seats were privy to all the face slamming, tripping, skidding and fancy footwork of the players, as well as the cheers and chants of the enthusiastic crowd.
Saturday mornings in fall benefit from the drawn out niceties of summer, the farmers market spanning the green, and the build towards winter in the annual ski swap. We rootled amongst home made goodies and once loved ski gear, before heading further out of town to where rural meets the suburbs with fruit markets. We took a bucket into the neat rows of apples and picked a few to keep us going over the next few days of our roadtrip. With Halloween coming, we perused the bales laden with pumpkin for the perfect shaped specimen for our carving competition. Spent up, we waited until early evening to explore Knox Mountain. A perfect view over the town, its spiralling road leads to a look out over lake and land to watch as the sun meets the water.
It was time to leave Kelowna and head further east. In convoy we drove towards Myra Canyon Trestles, a rail route which wound its way around the hills, crossing several trestles, or wooden bridges. As we pounded the path, the bank beside us steeply descended into the valleys we had just come from.
Next stop, Nelson.