Day 4 July 9 Into the British Columbia desert!

South BC Day 4_371Somehow I never knew that there was a huge part of south central British Columbia that is arid sage country.  The southern part of the Okanogan Valley only receives about 12 inches of rain a year, and the shrub/grassland community is referred to as Canada’s “pocket desert”. It is a beautiful region, filled with wildlife, wine, rivers, and wildflowers, and I would love to come back and spend some extended time exploring.  Today, however, we have other goals.  We are saving most of the exploring for the northern parts of the province, for the Yukon, and for Alaska. 

out the back window at Osoyoos Municipal Park on the Okanogan RiverWe were up early with the light, and were on the road by 8:30 or so after a lovely walk with Abby along the beautiful Lake Osoyoos. We didn’t bother hooking up right away, since the gas station was right at the entrance of the park.  We filled the MoHo again, at 3.79 per gallon and 123 bucks, but it was only half full, not empty.  Sure am glad we aren’t filling an empty tank!  I guess it all works out in the end anyway.  A quick hook up right there in the gas station was easy since no one was coming in behind us, and we were off for our entry into Canada.

South BC Day 4_352The border is barely five miles north of Oroville, and we were ready for our crossing, with passports, registrations, animal health certificates, and rehearsed answers.  Where are we going? “Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska”. The customs officer was a tiny woman with a serious face.  No silly comments, Sue, just keep your mouth shut and don’t offer anything.  Let Mo do the talking.  Fine.  Of course, it was as simple for us as most folks, with a few questions, and not a single comment about the country of origin of our animal food, no questions about wasp spray (yes we carry it instead of pepper spray), and no questions about food except what produce we had.  At that point I piped up with “Five pounds of potatoes, some onions, a bag of carrots, and 2 bags of packaged coleslaw”.  Somehow that answer seemed to satisfy all her other questions and she said, “OK, go on”.

Highway 3 west from OsoyoosOsoyoos is right at the border and has an excellent information center.  We pulled in immediately, and the guides there were really helpful, insisting that we should drive all the way north on 97.  I looked again at our map, and thought, “no, that isn’t the plan” and we turned west on Highway 3 toward Princeton.  It was a great drive, leading us through the beautiful, fertile valley of the Similkameen River, lush and filled with orchards and organic farms, wineries and fruit stands.  We stopped so I could add some good produce to my limited supply for crossing the border and I got some ripe, soft, very red tomatoes, and fresh crisp pickle cukes that were perfect for our supper salad.

stopping for the wildflower photosWe stopped to take photos of the wildflowers, and the roads were in excellent condition for most of the day.  We circumvented Kamloops and the major part of the Okanogan Valley with this route, but also skipped a lot of traffic and Similkameen  Valley organic farmscongestion that we got a little taste of as we passed through Merritt.  I turned off my phone since I don’t want to pay the huge fees for a data plan, so couldn’t use the gas buddy app to figure out where we would get the cheapest gas.  We filled up again in Merritt, and figuring in the exchange of 1.04, and 3.75 liters per US gallon, it cost a whopping  $5.34 per gallon and $156.52 to fill the half full tank one more time.  We laughed and said that maybe we need to sit a day or two so our daily cost can drop a bit! I am using a Capital One credit card while in Canada since, as advertised on TV,  they really don’t charge that exchange fee that some other cards do. I also called them before traveling so hopefully I won’t get denied at the pumps. So far so good.

South BC Day 4_457Emerging from Highway 8, which was perfectly fine to travel, to TransCanada 1, we followed along the huge and very full Thompson River.  The mountains seemed so much like the dry parts of Montana that I was really surprised, and then we would round a curve and there were deeply eroded badlands that looked ever so much like landscapes I have seen in Wyoming or Utah.  Once we were on Highway 97 however, the landscape started to change, with pines showing up, and then suddenly we were back in lush green fir country, and we arrived at the small town of Clinton, BC.

South BC Day 4_459The Gold Trail RV Park here seems to be a popular stop, and it was our choice because we wanted full hookups before we continue north to the Provincial Parks.  It also has our CampClub USA discount, and even on a Saturday night, there was an opening for us. As I mentioned earlier, we decided to travel as much as possible without reservations, and so far it is working.  Gold Trail Park has an interesting vibe, maybe you could call it “down home”?  The owner in “interesting”, and very friendly, and he joked with us a lot while showing us to our site.  Full hookups, and surprisingly level, for $17. Canadian.  (I did use the ATM and my no fee debit card to get some Canadian cash back at the visitor center).  For another 3 bucks in Canadian change I have darn fast WiFi to actually upload photos and catch up on blog posting! 

South BC Day 4_475There is a big bbq buffet  here every night, fairly cheap at 9.95, but Mo and I didn’t really want an all you can eat thing, and decided instead to grill some Alaska cod from the freezer accompanied by the yummy salad from the Similkameen Valley.  (Now I have to go to the internet to look up how to pronounce that name, since who has a clue which syllable get’s the emphasis!) OK, I can’t believe I never knew this, but if you type in “pronounce Similkameen” into the google search bar you will get this. Love it!

South BC Day 4_478After supper we walked the extent of the town down one side and up the other in the evening light.  Right on the Cariboo Highway, the town actually has an interesting history.  Even though it was Saturday night and the museum was closed, the village has great signs throughout with historic photographs of the enterprises that once occupied the empty blocks taken from the same vantage South BC Day 4_471point.  The villagers have pride in their little community as well, with a town notice for clean up day to get ready for the town flower judges who will pass through later this month.  Summer flowers or not, I can’t quite imagine living here through a long, dreary, icy winter. 

The skies have been brilliantly blue so far throughout our trip, but this evening there are some clouds hovering to the north and the forecast may include rain as we continue.  This evening has been quiet and gorgeous, the vistas are all brand new, the faces and people are all different, even the cars don’t look the same.  I’m definitely on a long-distance road trip at last.

Distance driven today: about 255 miles

map to clinton

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.


Day 3 July 8 Toppenish to the Okanogan Wine Country

Washington Day 3_340It’s easy to be inspired this evening as I sit here looking out over the Okanogan River from our picnic table.  This is our third night out, with no reservations, a Friday night at that, and so far it has been great.  Tonight we are at the Osoyoos Lake State Park in Oroville, Washington, less than five miles from the Canadian border. The state of Washington turned over this park to the city of Oroville in 2010, so it is technically no longer a state park, but it is lovely nonetheless.

Washington Day 3_282We have no hookups, but it isn’t really boondocking, since we paid for a site on the river and are in a campground.  There are no hookups here at all, but there is a dump station, fresh water, a boat launch and lovely facilities if you need them. After driving a good portion of the day we thought it would be smart to relax with a bottle of wine and a good night’s sleep before we cross the border in the morning. The bottle of wine was a treat, provided by the small, intimate tasting room for Okanogan wines right in the little town of Oroville.

Washington Day 3_320When we arrived at the park, the sign was up saying “campground full” , but we thought we would check anyway, and sure enough there had been cancellations and there was a perfect space waiting for us.  Without hookups, setting up consisted of setting the parking brake, lowering the semi automatic levelers, and deploying the slide.  Within minutes we were headed back to town to the winery looking for a good bottle of red to celebrate before we entered Canada. We weren’t disappointed, with a lovely 2006 blended red called Bench Rock, and a bottle of crisp dry Riesling to travel with us tomorrow.

Washington Day 3_275There were some lovely folks in the small tasting room from Canada, who helped us better understand the Imperial Ounce and Liter requirements for bringing alcoholic beverages into the country.  Two bottles of wine or 24 bottles of beer each, or one bottle of wine and 12 beers.  What we hadn’t realized is that is for each person, so we could buy a bottle of wine for supper and still take another into the country to travel with us across the wilderness.

Our morning started with a bang, with no turn signals on the tow car. Mo scratched a bit at the terminals, and then we pulled into the casino across the street from our campground and dug out the owner’s manual. Mo has a nice little box with a gazillion different fuses, and with the diagram and the box of fuses we were fixed in no time. Just a blown fuse, but that can be a nightmare if you don’t have a clue where it goes.

Washington Day 3_262Washington Day 3_259Our driving day was beautiful, passing over the Yakima valley and crossing the mountains down into Ellensburg and back up Blewett Pass toward Wenatchee.  Blewett Pass was gorgeous, with clouds darkening the skies and temperatures in the 50’s.  Mo and I still had on shorts and light tops from the 85 degree morning in Toppenish!  As we dropped down from the pass into Cashmere, and then Wenatchee, the temperatures again began to warm up. Deanna and Keith lived in Wenatchee for many years and raised their boys there.  I visited often, and it was fun to see the city again, even though we only drove past on the north side of town via Highway 2.  I also just realized that this is the same Highway 2 that Mo and I drove across the northern part of the country last year all the way to Wisconsin! I couldn’t believe just how much traffic there was buzzing around Wenatchee.  It had become a big city now, or at least it thinks it is, and at least has the traffic for one.

Continuing north from Wenatchee along the Columbia River was enchanting. The landscape is somewhat arid, but the terraces along the river are rich alluvial soils that support more orchards and fruit than I have seen anywhere.  Miles and miles of apples, ripe cherries, apricots, and pears lined the road on both sides of the river punctuated by fruit stands every mile or so. The area from Wenatchee to Yakima is one of the major fruit baskets of the United States.

Washington Day 3_258We had full hookups last night, and this morning Mo opened up the sewer all the way and did a long and complete backflush.  We aren’t sure if the mouse has just dried up or if the sewer was contributing to the odor, but it seems to be gone. This morning our drive was uneventful until we landed in Omak, home of the famous Suicide Race and the Omak Stampede.

American Propane was on the highway and looked easy to navigate so we turned around and pulled in.  A nice young man filled our tank, and then Mo thought she could make the turnaround, but oops, guess not.  The Tracker was angled so tightly that we couldn’t back it and the only solution was to unhook.  Of course, the sharp angle made that a bit challenging, but in a moment it came apart and we just pulled out and hooked up the toad after Mo got turned around.  Haven’t had to do that since we were back in Ohio,last year on some podunk tiny road, but we were glad the problem was easily solved.  Of course, it’s a bit embarrassing to have to unhook and rehook when you know the guys inside the shop are all watching and probably just laughing at us. We paid them 3.35 per gallon for the propane thinking it was going to be much more expensive if we had to fill it up in Canada.

Washington Day 3_344After we settled in to the park, we put the kayaks on the river and paddled downstream a bit with the current before turning around and going back north to the lake.  On the lake, the water was a bit rough, but it was lovely and warm, and wonderful to be out in the boats again. 

Day 3 Toppenish to OrovilleWe drove 254 miles today on good two lane roads most of the day except for a tiny bit of the I-90 as we approached Ellensburg.  For us, that is a nice distance to drive in a day, and we still have time to relax in the afternoon and not feel rushed. We chose to travel US highway 97 for our entire route across Oregon and Washington, and by choosing this route we avoided all the hassle and traffic of the coastal route through Portland, Seattle, and the busy crossing at Bellingham.  Everyone says this is an easy crossing, and I guess we will find out tomorrow morning when we finally enter British Columbia.

It still doesn’t feel like the “trip” yet, and I suppose that won’t happen until we are past Prince George heading west toward the Cassiar.  For the moment, however, it’s perfect.  The skies are clear, the temperatures warm, the breezes crisp, and the water is lapping at our footsteps.

The rest of the photos for today are linked here

Tomorrow: Osoyoos to Clinton, BC