Okanagan Lake Provincial Park

Now that I’ve finally finished my 6-part mini-series about the North Coast Trail, I’m thrilled to write about something else! I feel like it was a bit of a slow start to summer this year. I didn’t get to go on my annual May Long weekend camping trip as BC Parks didn’t open until June, and it took forever for the weather to finally get nice, but I ended up having a pretty epic July and August. Despite all the restrictions from Covid, I was still able to get out hiking several times and did something I’ve been meaning to do since I moved to BC 6 years ago.

I finally went to the Rockies! It’s not my first time in the Rockies, but Seth and I have been intending to make a road trip to the Rockies for years. Since we had to cancel our plans to go home to Newfoundland, we decided it was the perfect time to finally do our own little BC road trip. We took a week off work, spending 3 nights in the Okanagan and 4 nights in Banff. Emily joined us and of course we took Sadie, so it made for an interesting packing experience. We’d been planning to get roof rails and a rack for the car, but of course, they were all sold out at our local store because everyone is road tripping this year, so we just had to get creative with the packing. We managed to fit all our camping gear for 3 people and a dog for a week in the car, though there was limited space in the backseat, so Emily and Sadie had to get pretty cozy.

DSC06936

We took off right after work on Friday evening and drove straight to Okanagan Lake Provincial Park, where we’d be camping for 3 nights. We powered through the drive, stopping only once for gas and dinner, arriving with enough daylight to set up the tents. However, we couldn’t believe how hot it was when we stepped out of the car. We knew it was going to be hot – the temperatures in Penticton over the weekend were in the high 30’s! But we weren’t prepared for just how hot it would be overnight as well. We had a short campfire, but even that was too hot and we were all tired from the journey, so we decided to make it an early night.

The first night of the trip was by far the worst. Sadie had been camping with me twice before and both times had gone well, but the first night in the Okanagan was rough on everyone. We decided to sleep with the fly off because it’s like a sauna in the tent with it on, but that proved to be too challenging for Sadie. She’s a bit of a high strung dog most of the time, but usually settles down in the tent, but being able to see out of the tent was just too much stimulation and she barked at anything that passed our campsite throughout the night.

The campsites at Okanagan Lake North Campground are absolutely gorgeous. They’re massive sites with large green spaces between each site. It makes for a spacious and pretty site, but doesn’t provide much privacy, so Sadie was able to see into all our neighbouring campsites. She drove us nuts with the barking, and I’m sure the neighbours didn’t love it either. It probably didn’t help that she’d spent the last 4 hours in a car without a proper walk and she did a lot better on subsequent nights because she was tired from the day. I’m sure the heat didn’t help either. I slept the entire night in shorts and t-shirt ON TOP of my sleeping bag. I seriously didn’t put a blanket over me the entire night, which is something I’ve never experienced sleeping in a tent.

DSC06971

The trip improved from there though. The main plan for the okanagan was to relax. We hadn’t planned any hikes (it was too hot) and the main goal was to just take it easy by the lake. On Saturday we drove into Penticton to hang out at the beach for the day. I was a little disappointed because it is a huge lake and beachfront, but the dog beach is really tiny. We hung around there for a few hours and Sadie finally went swimming for the first time. I think she liked it and it was a good way to cool down, but she won’t usually go swimming unless you are swimming too. I was surprised by how warm the water was though. Me and Seth visited Okanagan Lake once before during labour day weekend and I remembered the water being really cold, but it was heavenly on the super hot days we visited.

Eventually we moved on from the dog beach and decided to go for a little walk through the town. We got ice cream and iced tea, checking out one of the local bookstores. Then we found a patio at Slackwater Brewing and decided to hang out for a bit with some beers. It was nice, but the heat eventually drove us onwards and we returned to the campsite to go swimming in the lake again. We found a little beach near our campsite and went for another soak in the water before supper. It was a chill evening – we had a BBQ and relaxed by the campfire. We left the fly on this time, which was hot, but a lot better for Sadie and we all got a better night’s sleep.

DSC06933

The next morning Emily made pancakes for breakfast and we decided to stay around the campground for the morning. We discovered a dog beach further up on the lake which was a lot nicer and decided to hang out there for a few hours. That was probably my favourite part of our stay in the Okanagan. We lounged around on the beach and had a great time chilling in our floaties in the water.

The afternoon was devoted to wineries. Of course, the Okanagan is famous for its wineries and you can’t go there without stopping by a few. Covid did make this a little more challenging. Normally you can just stop in where ever you want and sample some wines, but most of the wineries now have a reservation system even for tastings. I’d made reservations at 3 vineyards that were dog friendly and Emily agreed to be our DD since she doesn’t really like wine. Our first stop was Tightrope Winery, which had beautiful views of the lake and even let Sadie into the tasting room. Our second stop was Lakebreeze, which ended up being my favourite. They have an outdoor patio restaurant and I had pre-ordered meals for us. The venue was gorgeous, the food was delicious, and in my opinion they had the best wine as well. I regret not buying any wine from there. I’d already spent a lot on lunch, so we only sampled the wines, but they ended up being my favourite of the day. The last stop was Bench 1775. I think Bench had the best view of all three, a 180 degree view down to the lake, but it wasn’t my favourite atmosphere. I think they had overbooked themselves and there was a lot of waiting.

DSC06946

The best part of the day was the evening. Emily had sent a snapchat to our cousin, Olivia, who lives in Edmonton earlier in the day. Liv’s fiance’s family lives in Kelowna and we couldn’t believe it when she responded to say she was also in the Okanagan! It’s been a year since we last saw her and didn’t expect to see her for a while, so we were thrilled that she was able to drive over to our campsite in the evening with her dog Avery. Sadie’s not great with other dogs because we weren’t able to socialize her properly in the pandemic, but after the initial shock she got on pretty well with Avery. We took them for a swim in the lake and then settled in for another campfire. It was only for a few hours, but it was so nice to see family.

Monday was our final day in the Okanagan and time to pack up the campsite. The showerhouse was open so we were all able to shower before leaving (foreshadowing) and took off around 10am to head towards Banff. It was a long drive and Sadie would definitely be needing breaks, so we knew it would take most of the day. It felt like it took forever to get out of Kelowna though. Traffic was really busy and we pushed through heading North. Because of Covid, we were cooking most of our meals, aside from the one at the winery. We had falafel in the cooler for lunch and decided to stop at a rest stop whenever we got hungry. We ended up stopping at this nice provincial park on Mara Lake. I’d never heard of it before, but it had picnic tables and lake views, so it made for a nice break.

DSC06979

After that we drove through Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park. Those were both firsts for me. We didn’t stop in Revelstoke, but we did make a stop in Glacier to take Sadie on a short walk. Glacier seems like a really cool park and I would definitely love to explore more. We only did a short 1km walk in the park, but the scenery was so quintessentially Canadian. I don’t know what it is about National Parks, but they just have this really wholesome feel to them. I love how the signage is the same in all parks and something about the rangers and the park programs just triggers memories of family camping in Terra Nova and Gros Morne National Parks growing up. We hiked along through the trees along this raging river with the glacier capped mountains towering around us. I just felt like I was in the middle of a tourism ad.

The drive continued through Roger Pass and the rest of the park, which had jaw dropping views, before finally heading into the Rocky Mountains. We drove through Field, passing Lake Louise before finally arriving in Banff. It was around 7pm when we arrived and we were dismayed to see a long line of cars waiting to get into the park. We were also dismayed to remembered that we were now in Alberta and had lost an hour, meaning it was actually 8pm. It’s definitely lighter later in Banff, but it was a bit of a rush to set the tents up and get dinner on the go that evening. The campsite was also a bit of a disappointment after the gorgeous sites in the Okanagan. It was a tiny site and there was so much garbage and litter around, we had to clean before we could really settle in.

But we ended up having an AWESOME time in Banff, so more about that in my next post! I’m optimistic this series will be limited to just two posts, but I guess we’ll see!

DSC06992

New Zealand Highlights: Part 1

It’s been many months since we travelled to New Zealand, but I’ve finally gotten around to compiling some of our videos into a little trip montage. Turns out over 5 weeks you can take a lot of videos, so I’ll be posting the videos as I complete them. Part 1 includes our arrival in Auckland and our time on Great Barrier Island.

Kayaking Sechelt Inlet

In the last year, along side all our other hobbies, Seth and I decided to start kayaking. We went on our first trip last year over the Canada Day weekend to Sechelt Inlet, and we’re planning a trip to Pender Island for the upcoming Labour Day weekend. I actually wrote this post last year after our trip to Sechelt, but for some reason I never actually got around to posting it (I admit, it takes me a really long time to upload photos and that’s what usually holds up my posts, not the writing). So here’s the post I wrote last year about that trip – hoping to follow it up with a post about our upcoming trip!

I don’t mind carrying a big backpack, but Seth hates it. He likes day hiking and camping, but as soon as you strap a pack on him he loses all interest. So we decided to try a kayaking trip so that we could get into the wilderness without Seth having to lug all his gear with him. I’ve heard Indian Arm is a great place for kayak trips, and it’s right next to Vancouver, but we decided to go a little farther away and started with a 2 night trip in Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast.

Before I tell you about the trip though, I have to recommend taking the beginner kayaking course from Paddle Canada before you attempt any kayak adventures. Seth and I have both been kayaking before, but I’m so glad we took the introductory course because we were going deep into the wilderness and I’m really glad we learned some basic paddling skills and how to save ourselves in an emergency. We did a 2 day course with West Beach Paddle in White Rock and I would highly recommend them. We’re thinking of going back next year to do the next level because they were so fabulous. We learned a ton of skills and how to rescue each other in the event that we tipped our kayaks. Safety first everyone!

Our first take-away from the course was that we wanted single kayaks. Doubles are so much cheaper, but they also involve a lot of coordination. Me and Seth are really different people and I have a bit of a control complex, so I’m glad we each had our own boat. I think it made for a much more enjoyable trip.

We took the ferry over to the Sunshine Coast early on Saturday morning and drove straight to Sechelt to get our kayak rentals. I was a little concerned about getting all our gear in the kayak, but those things are surprisingly large and we even had extra space in the compartments. It did take a little bit of coordination and jigsaw skills to make everything fit though, I’d recommend many small bags, instead of few big ones. The hardest thing to fit in was our 20L water jug because we brought all our water with us (although we didn’t even use half of the water we brought).

It was overcast and a little rainy when we started, but fortunately the wind was at our backs so we didn’t have too hard a go. Sechelt Inlet is really interesting because it’s only connected to the ocean through one small channel, so you’d think it would be pretty calm in there, but they can actually get some pretty strong headwinds up the channel. There’s also a ton of campsites in the inlet, but we didn’t want to push ourselves too far on our first trip, so we chose Nine Mile Beach as our camping destination since it was only about a 2 hour paddle.

We had a pretty leisurely trip out and stopped at Oyster Beach for our lunch. Nine Mile Beach is the biggest campsite I believe, which is why we picked it, but everyone else seemed to have the same idea and it was quite busy, so I’d maybe even recommend going for one of the smaller ones. I assumed they’d be full since they were so small, but they were actually empty. Halfway Beach is across the inlet from Nine Mile Beach and it is about the same size, but there were definitely less people staying there because it can be a lot of work crossing the inlet depending on the weather.

No fear though, we managed to get a great site at Nine Mile Beach! Most of the campsites are back in the woods, but we went down to the far end of the beach where there were less crowds and managed to find a small site at the very end just big enough for our tent and gear, with a great view of the beach. So we hauled our kayaks up above the high water line and set up camp.

The sun never really managed to come out on Saturday, but it did stop raining before we got to the beach and we spent the rest of the day chilling. I read about half a book and Seth (the biologist) had a great time exploring the low tide and flipping over rocks. I expected to see wildlife while we were out there, but I was surprised by just how much wildlife we saw! It was like a nature zoo! While we were eating dinner the birds gave us a great show. There were two seagulls that were hanging around digging up shellfish (cockles according to Seth) and they kept digging them out of the sand and then flying up high to drop them on the rocks to get to the meat inside. Plus, two black oyster catchers also showed up looking for mussels for supper, which thrilled Seth because they are the birds he is studying for his Masters and he doesn’t get that many opportunities to see them in the wild.

The highlight though didn’t come until nighttime. We heard some rumours you could see bio-luminescence in the water in Sechelt Inlet and our neighbour gave us a tip that you have to actually move to water to see it (we never would have figured this out ourselves). So we got up at 2am and fortunately the wind had totally died off and the water was very still, so we moved our paddles through the water and sure enough it totally lit up with glowing organisms! It was very cool! I was tempted to go swimming in it, but it was just too cold.

The weather cleared up a lot for us on Day 2 and the sun came out! There was still quite a bit of wind when we took off in the morning, but again, it was at our backs. Sechelt inlet has 2 side channels, Salmon Inlet and Narrows Inlet. Our main goal of the trip was to cross Salmon Inlet and visit Kunechin Islets and Kunechin Point. On a map it doesn’t look that intense, but it actually is a fair paddle to cross any of the inlets. It wasn’t bad on the way over with the wind at our backs, but I was a little nervous about coming back.

We wanted to visit Kunechin Islets because they are a protected seabird sanctuary and Seth wanted to see some seabirds. There weren’t actually that many birds around, but we definitely weren’t disappointed. We saw several eagles in and around the islet, as well as a half dozen oyster catchers (and lots of seagulls). We’re probably a bit partial to oyster catchers since Seth’s been studying them for years, but they really are precious! They sound like squeak toys and we enjoyed watching them.

The highlight for me though was the seal colony! Seth counted about 65 seals sunbathing on the rock when we approached. We tried to stay far enough away from the seals to not bother them, but most of them abandoned the rock into the water as soon as they saw us approaching (do feel a bit bad about this, but we really didn’t get that close). They were funny though because they all just watched us from the water with their little heads poking up. It was hilarious, but also a little foreboding because of the sheer number of them!

We had lunch on Kunechin point, which in my opinion had the best view and campsite. It’s located a little bit up on a hill and looks up both Salmon Inlet and Sechelt Inlet. It was empty when we were there, but there’s only 2 campsites there and some kayakers who were departing when we arrived informed us it had been totally full the previous night. I kind of wish we’d stayed there, but there’s very little beach at this campsite, so Seth preferred Nine Mile Beach.

Luckily for us, the wind dropped down entirely after lunch and we decided to paddle across Sechelt Inlet and visit Halfway Beach. The map of Sechelt Inlet is definitely deceiving and the crossing is a lot farther than it looks, but with the wind dropped down, it wasn’t a hard paddle. I really liked Halfway Beach – it has a lot of campsites and it’s brighter than the wooded campsites at Nine Mile Beach (and less busy), but again, Seth still thought that Nine Mile Beach was the best for wildlife. We collected some windfall branches in the forest to take back with us for a campfire (pre-fireban!) because Nine Mile Beach has pretty much been picked dry.

By the time we kayaked back across the inlet one more time it was about 3:30pm and we decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening. I had a really quick dip in the ocean, but I mostly just relaxed and did some reading while Seth did some more beachcombing. We were surprised just before dinner though by a mountain storm.

I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more experience with mountain storms this year. They kind of swing in out of nowhere and they don’t really last very long, but they can dump some pretty intense rain on you. We tried to wait it out in the tent, but we were pretty hungry, so we set up a tarp shelter and cooked our dinner while watching the rain clouds move up and down the inlet. We were concerned we weren’t going to get to have our campfire afterall, but the rain finally stopped after about 2 hours and Seth got a lovely campfire going for us while I watched one of the most intense sunsets over the mountains. It was so red it honestly kind of looked like the trees were on fire!

We finished the trip on Monday with a pretty leisurely paddle back to rental company. We got lucky again in that the water was dead calm when we started our kayak back. The wind did start to pick up a little in some sections on the way though and it was a great lesson in how much harder a little headwind can make a paddle. Overall though, nothing too strenuous.

So our first kayak trip was a huge success and I think it’s something we’ll definitely start doing a least once a year. Personally I’m still more of a fan of backpacking, but I really enjoyed getting on the water and trying something new! We definitely saw a lot more wildlife in the kayak and the bio-luminescence was one of the highlights for me!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.