Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DRIVING A FUR TRADE ROUTE TO KELOWNA

by Julie H. Ferguson

I hate driving the Coquihalla (Hwy 5) from Vancouver to either Kamloops or Kelowna. I hate the changeable, sometimes hazardous, weather conditions and the thundering semis all around me. (Furthermore I always want to avoid the risk of snow in early spring and, sure enough, there was slush on the Connector the day I traveled and none on the more southerly route.)

So, I choose to go the long way into the Okanagan, following the fur traders' routes; so many of the present highways in the province follow the brigade routes of the mid-1800s. Often they are the most picturesque ways to travel and this one only takes about an hour and a bit longer to drive than the Coq.

Driving up last Saturday morning, I followed Hwy 3 from Hope to Manning Park and Princeton. No traffic along here in April. Weather varied from fog, heavy showers to sunshine, conditions the HBC surveyors must have suffered too (they did not pursue this brigade route). Manning Park Lodge where I like to breakfast was closed, as I expected, but with its recent sale should open before Victoria Day.

The Similkameen River near Keremeos.
The Similkameen River near Keremeos
 (Photo: Wikipedia)
After Allison Pass I was on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in the rain shadow and it dried out completely all the way into Princeton. Ate brunch just off the highway at Co Co's Bistro (aka Cowboy Coffee), a tiny, funky cafe with home-cooked food in large quantities for a low price. Friendly, too.

As always the stretch from Princeton, through Hedley, to Keremeos was gorgeous: rugged mountains, the rushing Similkameen River, and a wide, fertile valley where the road travels. I'm certain the fur traders loved this stretch for its water and fodder for horses. It's very photogenic and, on the way home, I plan to spend some time in Hedley where you can take a fascinating tour of the mine high above and eat at a good resto. (More later.) I've decided to divide the return journey in two, staying the night in Princeton so I can enjoy Hedley without rushing.

Manteo Resort
© Photos by Pharos 2013
Hwy 3A from Keremeos to Penticton winds north up through a valley till it meets Hwy 97. There's an emu farm somewhere here, but I missed it. Chose not to stop in Penticton this time and pushed on to Kelowna another 60kms north in heavy traffic, the first of the trip. The road today lies slightly below where the fur traders rode with their pack trains on the west side of Okanagan Lake. It was raining when I arrived – hard!

I'm staying at the Manteo Beach Resort, thanks to exchanging one of our timeshares. My two-bedroomed unit is big, clean, and on the lakeshore. While not in the heart of Kelowna, it it lies south of the city in a quiet residential neighbourhood, which is close to everything and quiet. Since I was last here, there is a new and excellent Save-on-Foods one kilometre away, farmers' markets, and several vineyards including Tantalus and Cedar Creek.
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