Somehow 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.
We 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.
The 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”.
Osoyoos 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.
We 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 congestion 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.
Emerging 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.
The 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!
There 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!
After 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 point. 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
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.