We got away from Vancouver at noon on friday, stopping off at C’s aunt and uncle’s new place in Walnut Grove to see the new house and grab a quick beer. Traffic from there degenerated quickly, and accident near abbotsford and a grass fire near Chilliwack made the trip to Hope about three times as long as normal. Friday was hot too, and our frustrations rose as we sat in the car with the sun pouring in the windows. The heater had to be on as well to keep the engine from overheating, and pointing the vents towards the windows on alleviated the discomfort so much. By the time we reached Kelowna we were tired and grumpy, it was 6:30 pm, and the campgrounds were full.
Kelowna has a couple beautiful provincial parks, treed sites stretching down to the waters of Lake Okanagan looking across to the city itself. The problem with these sites is they’re always full. It’s a subculture of camping site vultures created by the lack of sites for the amount of people in the province. Resevations are available for a large percentage of the sites and those fill up quickly, often within days of the three months in advance they come available. The few sites left first-come-first-serve are nabbed by people during the week, so that people wanting a site for a weekend are left frustrated. The whole ideal of camping as a free-spirited & go where the wind takes you venture is destroyed by the british columbia parks system. Not that finding ourselves five (or six) hours from home and without a campsite doesn’t colour my views…
We drove randomly around the area armed with a tourist map labelled with the various mom & pop campgrounds and found nothing but no vacancy signs. Finally we located one which did have tent sites left, unfortunately these all were on a 6 degree slope of an environmentally degraded dust bowl where the owner was charging over 25 dollars to spend the night sliding down in our sleeping bags and breathing sand. We went to Tim Hortons. Dinner made us feel slightly better.
There’s the point raised by all this about the function of provincial parks in this country. If their goal is to merely preseve land, then the current system of only small campgrounds and few sites works well by having a relatively small ecological footprint. If their mandate includes making people aware of the natural world, allowing them a chance to experience it, and the ability to escape to it, then this system fails. People like Cory and I will spend less time camping in campgrounds because of the park system of lengthy reservations and too few sites to meet demands (we can’t know that far in advance when cory will get a friday off). For us, we’ll just transfer our time to backcountry adventures, but the majority of people will cease to camp. This lack of interaction with the parks system may lead to a disenchantment with it, decreased popular support for government funding, and a larger population base who has never spent the night away from electricity and flush toilets. Presevation is very important, but so is education and interaction. We need more campsites in B.C.
We met up with D at seven, she’d found us room in the overflow camping at Kekuli Bay, near Vernon, a new campground with just a gravel parking lot for overflow patrons. While the parking lot itself wasn’t a prime camping location, the views of the lake we awoke to in the morning were stunning. We stayed up that night until 2:30 waiting for her husband, J, to arrive from Vancouver. It was a long wait in a cold parking lot, but Cory got to fly his kite with only the light of his headlamp illuminating the wings and the last bit of a meteor shower kept us in awe until eventually we all climbed in to our tent to wait and Cory gained the bragging rights of having two women in bed with him. J arrived around 3am, and we all slept soundly until 8am when the heat of the sun beating down on the tents made us get up to avoid the sensation of broiling. J cooked us breakfast, bacon and potatoes grilled in bacon grease, which tasted great but turned my stomach into a cramping fight as my body dealt with more grease than it’d faced in a year. I should learn at my age what I can and can’t ingest…
The local vines
The whole point of our trip was to stock up our dimished wine cellars, we did this trip last october with Elspeth and enjoyed ourselves. We stopped at Grey Monk first, I declined to taste anything there as my stomach and the bacon were at war, but J&D found a couple bottles they really liked. Cory and I amused ourselves with a cute pair of chipmunks who jumped in and out of a drain gutter repeatedly, and of course, taking pictures with the camera.
The second winery we visited was much more of a find, the House of Rose winery is just outside of Kelowna and lacks the commercial vistors centers which are so offputting at many of the wineries. At the House of Rose we met with the vinter, Vern Rose, himself and listened to his spiel about his wines for the greater part of an hour. Not only were his wines decent, his delivery was impecable. The discount on some bottles due to old labels was discussed in depth along with the depressing tendancy of wineries to all use the same grapes, and the play-by-play description of the cooking of his red wine to achieve a tasty 16% alcohol port. He entertained us, and we all bought numerous bottles. He has the winery you dream of visiting; the unknown family operation which makes you feel like you’ve really discovered something special. In this case, the something special was likely Vern himself rather than his wine, a true character who reminded Cory and I of the man we bought wine off in Eger, Hungary. In Hungary the wine was made in a cave and siphoned by mouth into a two litre plastic jug. Here was the Westernized equivalent, more sanitary, but still with all the local charm of the individual vinter.
Our final stop was the Slamka vineyards in Westbank, a old favourite. Also a small operation, Slamka produces the best ice wine we’ve ever had, and a lovely old vine Auxerrois. They also have a fascinating collection of antique corkscrews, phallic, functional, and clever, we all laughed at the originality of many of them.
We lucked into a great campsite for the next night, hovering like vultures in the morning to snag the first site to come available. Once again the sun set was sensational and the night sky lovely with the moon travelling behind puffy compact clouds as we sat drinking beers and eating hotdogs. The few clouds kept the night from being as chilly as before and we were comfortable enough to stay up talking for hours before crawling into a cosy tent and sleeping snuggled until morning. The only problem with the entire trip was it’s length, having to pack up the next morning and head back to Vancouver we arrived back just 49 hours after we set out. Two months until Quebec, and three nights of vacation. I can’t wait.
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