Penticton and Wayward Travels

I drove up with friends yesterday (this was July 1 but there have been internet issues) to Penticton. This is an extended Canada Day that will go until the weekend. The drive started out fine and one car took the Hope-Princeton route and they other, my car, the Coquihalla route. It’s been about four years since I was last out this way, I think, so how much could it change?

I have never wanted to drive through the Interior during the winter, especially on the Coquihalla Highway, which is a top of the world sort of place and has high snow. In fact, they insist you have chains and/or snow tires. The road seemed a little rougher than it had been in the past, but then it’s probably graded or plowed in the winter, which can scrape and damage pavement. As well, the temperatures go from freezing to hot, which will give it wear. But it makes me wonder where all those tolls went over the years–perhaps not to highway maintenance.

We passed a semi, upside down in the ditch, obviously there for a day or so but waiting to be removed. We also passed a guy with his car in the center ditch, facing sideways to the road, with the tow truck there to remove it. The Coquihalla may look deceptively smooth, with gentle curves but this says it can be treacherous still when absolutely bone dry (and when speeding too much).

One of Gordon Campbell’s election ploys was to remove the tolls suddenly (without even telling the workers–that went over well) so no tolls anymore. I was still expecting the toll booths. And because there weren’t any and I was talking with my friend, we missed the connector turnoff and ended up in Kamloops going, what? When did this build up so much? And then, “I thought we went through Merritt.”

So, we ended up taking the long route through Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. One thing I noticed all through the Coquihalla and Kamloops was the number of dead pine trees. The Coquihalla is so high up that the trees are sparsely spaced. But in spots 50% were brown. I think this must be the mountain pine beetle, unless it had been some sort of selective fire, but the trees did not look like they had been burned. Shocking to see so many dead trees.

Penticton really hasn’t changed in some ways and yet has changed in others. I dropped my friend at the campground within the city limits, South Beach. How many cities can boast of a campground in the city limits? And as I drive into the campground, almost knowing where it is, I recognize it. My mother used to drag me and my younger brother to the Okanagan to pick fruit and collect rocks.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite all that but we were teenagers and wanted to hang out on the beach. So I recognized the campground, and the canal in the campground (but not the lovely lily pads, nor the trailer park, very nice trailer park, on the opposite bank), and the registration office, and the bathrooms. Yes, we used to stay at that campground, and I remember it quite well. I’m not sure how many years I went there, as a kid, but there are weeping willows, running water and electricity, which makes it a pretty good campground.

Today, we also went boating on Skaha Lake, the beach right outside South Beach campgrounds. My friends zipped about with an inner tube off the back of the boat so you can bounce along in the wake. Good fun and unfortunately I’m glowing a bit. When we returned the boat I noticed a swallow flying about,  a barn swallow I think. It came in under the roof of the boat rental place and duck into a nest made of mud and feathers and spit. And there were five little swallow babies with their wide mouths gaping. They only squawked when the parent appeared (there was a mom and dad) but were awfully cute and tiny.

And on the canal in the campground, there were ducks and ducklings, every age from the wee ones to the teenagers, making me wonder about the gestation and breeding periods of ducks (Mallards).  I also saw minnows, something larger (trout?, catfish?), red winged blackbirds, but I missed the beavers that my friends saw in the canal. It’s been relaxing so far and I’m feeling it’s too short. But at least I know where I’m going. Tomorrow, Peachland.

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Filed under Culture, driving, environment, memories, nature, people, travel, weather

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