From Abbotsford we headed to the Okanagan Valley, one of Canada’s wine areas. It is yet another gorgeous drive. Lots of lush green fields of crops and grapevines with mountains in the backdrop.
For a big chunk of the drive we were on Highway 3, also known as Crows Nest Highway. Usually highway signs are just boring numbers, but I loved the sign for this highway.
We noticed some decaying mines along the way and I asked Steve about gold. Steve’s really good at explaining things and seems to know everything (don’t tell him that though, it might go to his head), so if I’m ever wondering about something, especially if it has to do with Physics or Math, I ask Steve. Steve’s explanation of how gold came to be on Earth is captivating. It involves the beginnings of the Earth and supernovas. Very cool.
Every trip I go on I collect certain images. I get a theme in my head and then I get a little obsessed with it. In Europe it was archways. In China it was doorways. So I thought I’d finally share with you my obsession on this trip – it’s crossing signs. There’s just so many different ones out there and I get really excited when I see a new one that I’ve never seen before. Today I’m going to share my favourite one from the whole trip so far, found in the Okanagan Valley:
A mountain goat crossing sign! I think I love this one the most because it amuses me that there is a place in North America where they sincerely have to be wary of running into mountain goats. I’ve never seen a mountain goat in my life! I really REALLY wanted to see one. But no mountain goats crossed our path.
We stopped at a lookout above Okanagan Lake and dreamed of going swimming in it. It was pretty hot and the water was a gorgeous turquoise. Our dream home would be on a lake like this with mountains all around, but the lake would be smaller, without the big boats – just canoes.
Amelia daydreamed too.
We stopped at another lake in the North Okanagan Valley and caught the sunset. I could have stopped a gazillion times on that drive. Every couple kilometers it was new and gorgeous scenery.
We got as far North as we could and then started looking for campgrounds. Every one we went to was packed and in the towns there seemed to be tons of people in the street, even though it was a weekday. We figured there must be some sort of festival or event going on but a Google search didn’t have anything to say on the matter. Finally we found a campground where the campground host took pity on us and stuck us in an overflow site that doesn’t normally get used, for a lower price than her standard rate. We asked what was going on that all the campgrounds were full and she gave us such a funny look and said very matter-of-factly “this is the Okanagan Valley in peak season! It’s always like this!” Oh…ok…our mistake. Our plan B was to park in a picnic area and vacate early in the morning, but we hate waking up early, so we were happy to have a spot in a campground.
The next day we set our sights on the Rockies and headed for Banff, Alberta. On our way we saw a sign for The Last Spike, and decided to check it out. It’s a historical spot for the Canadian Pacific Railway – where they drove the last spike that finished the transcontinental railway. I’ve always heard that the Canadian Pacific Railway is a symbol of Canada’s unity, but it wasn’t until reading about the Last Spike that Steve and I learned that it very literally was to unite Canada – British Columbia’s joining of the Confederation was contingent on there being a railway to connect them to the rest of Canada. Makes sense!
We were disappointed that there wasn’t anything at all about the Chinese immigrants who actually worked on and made the railway happen. We learned a lot about this later in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
After visiting the Last Spike, we have never strayed far from the railway. Our trek back through Canada follows the railway’s path across the country. The drive to Banff wasn’t as hilly as we expected, but it makes sense in this light. We were driving through the mountains, but always alongside them. So the drive itself was actually quite flat. At some points there were tunnels, both for the highway and the railway. And at other points they just blasted right through the hills.
Approaching Banff everything started to get greener and greener, and there were lots of animal crossing signs – bears, wolves, elk, moose – lots of large animals to watch out for.
They actually built bridges over the highway in some points and covered them with trees and grass and then fenced off nature the rest of the way so that the animals couldn’t cross the highway except at the land bridges. It’s a good thing too, because look at these guys, they were perfectly comfortable being right next to the highway, munching on grass:
So we all know that’s an elk right?
Just making sure 😉
I think I did see some moose, but I just caught a glimpse of them as we whipped by on the highway, so I can’t be 100% sure.
I will tell you all about Banff in the next post. It was a must-see on our list, and we weren’t disappointed.