Tuesday, November 4, 2014

We made it!!

We got up to a leisurely breakfast with pleasant conversation and cheery moods. The sky was cloudy, but holding back on the rain - a foreshadowing of what was to come as we cross the final mountain range to the coast.

The climb began immediately outside of Penticton as we made our way toward the highway 3 turnoff. The slow pace of the Westfalia was a welcome addition to our progress since it meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the long vista of Skaha Lake and the Okanagan hills.
Nestled among the pines, sagebrush, and rock of the hills we passed the occasional vineyard - often associated with a mansion and pool to signal the wealth of this type of farmer.
Orchards became more frequent around Keremeos - reminding me of the times my father would stop for a flat of peaches, nectarines, or cherries on our family trips to this region. It was a delight to see them in their fall colours - quite unlike the greens I remember from my youth.
The old mine faces and dilapidated wheel houses on the hills above Hedley and Princeton reminded us of the silver, copper, and gold deposits in these hills.
We stopped briefly at Bromley campsite to recall the hours spent in the cool water of the Similkameen River. In the summer, it was a favorite place for cooling off from the heat and watching young people jump from the rock into the pool below. Both Fran and I grew up with our families independently creating legacies of Bromley rock.

Once past Princeton we began the long and sometimes winding road to Sunday summit (1282 metres). While the elevation changed, so did the vegetation as pine was gradually replaced by fir and spruce and grass by scrub brush and ferns.
We dropped down from Sunday summit and entered Manning Park in good spirits. The park was another of the spots with plenty of memories - my most enduring, the time when I spent a weekend ski trip with my high school friends in the chalets of the Manning Park Lodge. Fran and I had also spent time exploring the Lightning Lakes with our very young daughter in the early 70s.

This time we were greeted by a raven and his mate - checking us out for snacks. He had to rely on others, however, since we were busy with our own.

One more major summit to go. As we began the climb to Alison Pass, the weather turned wet - just like the rain shadow textbook predicted. The trees were larger, fir and hemlock began to dominate the hills, and moss appeared as a green coating on the rocks and olive beards on the trees. We descended the west side of the mountains into full rain.

Once past Hope, the road leveled out and followed the cliffs on the left and the Fraser River on the right.
Each time I reach this point I find my stress level drop. Like the Fraser beside us, its long travel to the north to get south has been completed, the clear water of the Thompson has been diluted, and the turmoil of Hell's Gate is past. This is the beginning of the delta - where the flow of life slows down, the canyons recede, and the glide to the ocean becomes smooth and tranquil.

Farms reappear as the land flattens - and this time they show the rich diversity of fertile land: raspberries, cranberries, vegetables, alfalfa, and beans. The hills recede, the delta widens, and the highway fills up with commuters and commercial transports.
The stress of mountain turns, windy weather, and the Westy engine is quickly replaced by the stress of city traffic. This evening it is exacerbated by the long, slow crawl of a traffic jam just before the exit to our final destination. Even after we get off the freeway we are given a final blow as the traffic slows down to get around an accident.

After 12 days on the road, we finally pull up to JP & Lies' house in Langley - tired of the long days of driving but full of the new memories, discoveries, and satisfaction of an adventure well spent. What could be better than a greeting from our children and grandchildren!

1 comment:

  1. What great photographs of an amazing treck. Congratulations - including the Westphalia. I can't wait to do the same thing (on the train) using your geography. My amazement is in part because you managed to skirt the weather which when I regularly checked predicted: high winds through the prairies; snow drifts around Winnipeg; and flooding in Vancouver. Unless you are a master of the understatement you didn't get too much inclement stuff. I will miss your daily news.