Travel: Fruits, Wines, and a Weekend Half

Two years ago this past weekend the world was a very different place.

The world was different enough that we had no issues hopping into the car, driving for nearly ten hours straight, and wending our way across the prairies, over the rocky mountain passes, and into the verdant Okanagan Valley in nearby British Columbia.

for whatever one photo is worth:

The official travel excuse was that I had signed up for an October half marathon in Kelowna. Yet my wife has a healthy collection of extended family who have located to the micro-climate over the past ten years and we were due for a visit.

As much as Canada sometimes deserves its reputation as a vast semi-arctic wasteland, even the locale in a radius hundreds of kilometers from where I sit writing this (which is frozen and snow-covered for half the year), there are places in this vast and diverse country which are fertile and lush.

One of those less-often-frozen zones is the Okanagan Valley, a longitudinally positioned string of deep lakes tucked between the high peaks of the continental divide rocky mountains to the east and the lusher coastal mountains nearer to Vancouver to the west.

The weather-stabilizing effects of this location and the nearby water features means that a climate zone amenable to ample fruit tree orchards and sprawling vineyards exists and makes the region both desirable as a home for hundreds of thousands and a tourist destination for multiples more.

I would move there in a heartbeat given the right opportunity, but two years ago we merely wedged ourselves into the tourist category.

Two days in the area was barely enough to get a taste of everything, though.

On Saturday we visited the local famer’s market in the morning, ate lunch on the pier, collected my race package in the park, wandered through a corn maze on a hobby farm, and visited a wine tasting at a vineyard (pictured) along the road to the house where we had set up camp.

On Sunday I toured a twenty-one point one kilometer stretch of waterfront and urban streetways on foot and recorded one of my better half marathon times in the perfect autumn weather, before slipping back to shower, change and pack the car for the push back across the mountains and home.

Our intention was to make it an annual trip.

A run.

A visit.

Good food.

Fresh fruit and great wine.

Somehow though, the last two years has made the world a very different place and, like so many others around that world, even nearby adventures have fallen to the bottom of our possibilities list.

Mountain Winter Wonderland

I think I mentioned yesterday something-something about unpredictable weather in the mountains. It snowed all night here and we woke up to an ankle-deep blanket of fresh mountain powder.

Of course, the highways home are going to be terrible. Gah!

But as far as a morning walk went, the dog was over the moon to bound through the snow drifts and I took about a hundred beautiful photos from the panoramic vista near the hotel.

Itโ€™s a shame we didnโ€™t bring any skis!

Local Adventures: Social Distancing at Spray Lakes

International travel is still something that hasn’t quite come back to normal, but fortunately we happen to live in a province of Canada that has it’s share of tourist destinations.

We’re spending some more there time over spring break returning to the spot where we took our first local pandemic weekend getaway back in July of 2020.

for whatever one photo is worth:

We had gone for a drive.

Kananaskis Provincial Park is a sprawling mountain nature preserve on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, touching the foothills and playing peekaboo with the city of Calgary just a few twists of the highway away.

There are thousands of kilometers of hiking trails wending their way through bear country and hundreds of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and spectacular mountain scenes speckle the landscape.

You can see a respectable sampling of it by driving for a bit, then hiking for a while, then driving some more. Our ultimate goal was to drive the full loop around the hundred and fifty kilometers (give or take) back to our hotel. The route led past a number of stops, from a trailhead for a full morning strenuous hike to a couple spots where we could step out of the car for a few photos and snack at a nearby picnic table.

Sparrowhawk Day Use Area fell into the latter category.

A small ten-car parking lot was virtually empty as we pulled off the gravel road. A five minute wander down to the shores of the Spray Lake Reservoir led us passing by an eerily quiet assortment of empty picnic tables and cold campfire pits. On a summer day like this in any other year there would have been cars lined up along the road for lack of parking, and dozens of motor-less recreational boats exploring the lake. The din of families enjoying this place would have hidden the absolute stillness with which we were instead greeted.

We walked along the shore for a while The kid skipped some stones into the still water. A canoe, far across the water, almost tracing the distant shore, was the only human movement besides us.

I took some photos of the lake, and this one too, looking North towards where the dam sits, up past the bend and at the foot of those faraway mountains. The water almost like glass in the late morning calm.

The ultimate in socially distanced places where no one else seemed to even exist.