We have spent the last two days in Revelstoke, BC. This town has a history of mining, railroads and timber milling. It was a pretty tough town once, but now seems to have been somewhat gentrified by people visiting local snowfields and alpine resorts. It has a population of around 5,000 people. Not far away, is the memorial for the place at which the last spike was driven into the Trans Canada Railway – an important event that created a coast to coast link across Canada for the first time. This not only created an important transport link, but at the time, unified a relatively new country.
It was an interesting drive along Highway 97 to reach Revelstoke. We left Osoyoos and ambled up the road through the towns of Penticton and Kelowna. As we travelled north, the orchards and wine country gave way to farmland and then steeper hills and forests. Near Penticton, we mistakenly followed a road around the west side of a lake thinking that it would continue to Kelowna. Some way along, we reached a tiny little settlement callied Naramata and quickly realised that the road went no further. We had an interesting drive past many wineries and vineyards that cost us an hour or so, but the scenery easily made up for it.
After turning back to the main highway, we headed for Kelowna, the next major landmark on our map. By this time. we were getting rather hungry so we took a deviation off the highway at the romantically named little town of Peachtown where we stopped for lunch. The town is positioned right under the highway on the lake’s edge. We found an Italian restaurant that served nice pizzas and although the service was quite slow, we enjoyed our time sitting outside on the pavement between the lampposts that were all adorned with hanging baskets of brightly coloured spring flowers.
To the north, the area around Kelowna, about the name size as Geelong, back home, was mainly farming country. As we continued further, we came across some very interesting scenery where lakes and rivers created some very picturesque views. I think that driving around on our own is much better than being on a tour. We can stop wherever we want to look at things and take photos. After a few days of driving on the right hand side of the road, I feel as though it is now quite natural. The only time in which I have made a mistake was when driving through a relatively empty car park and I ended up in the wrong lane. Not a big problem as no one else was there to see me!
At Revelstoke, we decided to stay at the Best Western hotel. This is a four story building with very large rooms, excellent facilities and far nicer than the rather ordinary hotels that you would normally associate with the Best Western name. I enquired at the reception to ask about room availability and then showed all the cards in my wallet, asking which one would give me the best deal. It turned you that my RACV membership card got us the AAA rate which reduced our cost by $30 per night and included a free breakfast.
It seems that one of the important things about staying in this town is to find somewhere quiet and avoid the noise from the trains. These are typically 1.5 kilometre long and they travel through the town every 30 minutes or so. From a distance, the roar of their locomotives sounds a little like a jet aircraft flying nearby. There is a rather good railway museum in town.
Today, we began by driving up Mt Revelstoke National Park on a cutely named road called the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. In summer, the summit of Mt Revelstoke is a carpet of wildflowers. Not only are we a little too early for the flowers, the road was only open to about half way as the snow has not melted yet and the road further on is impassible. We bought two annual national parks tickets as we will be spending enough days in Canadian National parks on this trip to make them more cost effective than paying for day entry passes. We would have liked to have gone further up the mountain, but the views over the Columbia River Valley and the Monashee Range were very impressive.
For the rest of the day, we followed the Trans Canada Highway for 50 km or so, as far west as Rogers Pass. This is a spectacularly scenic point in the mountains to the west of the Rockies. It was discovered during the process of surveying the Canadian National Railway.
Along the way were a number of turn offs to boardwalks and some short nature walks. One of the interesting ones was to a wet land full of Skunk Cabbage. What an exotic name! Apparently this broad leaf plant has a rather unpleasant smell, reminiscent of that of a skunk. We walked along the 1.2 km boardwalk with a couple from Wisconsin so we were not too concerned about the warning sign at the start of the track that told us to be aware of a black bear sow and cubs that we known to be in the area. I didn’t know that a mother bear was called a ‘sow’.
Another boardwalk took us though an area of Hemlock and Cedar forest. I didn’t know what hemlock was, other than the poisonous plant used by witches in their spells. Apparently, Hemlock is also a species of conifer, unrelated to the poisonous plant, but having a similar smell when rubbed. It was a very pretty stretch of forest with a carpet of ferns and very tall trees.