The Okanagan Valley

Okanagan 7We left Fraser Lake and this time really really headed south. We were on route to the Okanagan Valley for the last leg of our trip before crossing the border into the U.S. And as we entered the region, a few vineyards appeared here and there to entice us.

Okanagan 6Okanagan 1Okanagan 3Okanagan 5Okanagan 2The weather was still cloudy with some rain. So Angel got to wear her raincoat which we bought back in Maine on the first year of our walkabout. She really hates it, so we only put it on her when it is raining hard. But she looks so adorable in it!

We were now in a much more developed area of the country, with cattle ranches and farms along the way. Our plan was to break up the drive into two days, so we stopped to spend the night at the Walmart in Prince George.

The next day we drove to the Emerald Bay Campground, one of two campgrounds that are part of the Green Lake Territorial Park.

The campground was a bit of a drive from the main road, and we got a bit confused on the way there, but a nice lady drove up to us and helped us find our way. We always meet nice people in Canada.

Green Lake has a lot of lakeside homes around it, definitely a change from previous areas. And there were cows wandering about.

Fortunately, there was a cattle grate in front of the campground, so there were no cattle in the campground and there were lots of spaces available. This was the end of the season for the area.

Okanagan 8Alaska Driving Day 21 and 22 Recap

Road Name: Yellowhead Highway to Cariboo Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Condition: Generally good with passing zones

Miles Today: 337

Driving Time: 6:30

We stayed two nights, and enjoyed walks around the campground, as well as walks to a nice beach down the hill from our campsite.Okanagan 40

Okanagan 14After we left the campground, we turned south once again. We had heard a bit about the Okanagan Valley from our friends Doug and Tricia from Calgary but had not taken time to research the area and were not fully aware of what it had to offer.

This is one of the things I love most about our journey, wandering into new and interesting places and learning about them along the way.

Okanagan 9We began to gather more detailed information about the Okanagan Valley in the Visitor Center at Kelowna. The folks there were extremely helpful, and they allow doggies inside the building, so we brought Angel in while we used their Wi-Fi.Okanagan 51

Okanagan 57The Okanagan Valley is British Columbia’s oldest, largest, and most popular, its “premier grape growing region”.  The valley has several distinct sub-regions with different soil and climates that allow the wineries to grow a wide variety of grapes.

Okanagan 53Okanagan 12A visit from a German grape breeder and vine researcher in the 1960s resulted in testing of the European varieties of Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer grapes. Then in 1988, in response to the North American Free Trade Agreement, when superior wines from Washington, Oregon and California were imported into Canada, the Canadian government began paying growers to pull out existing inferior grapes and replant their fields with other European grape varieties.Okanagan 31Okanagan 13

Wine makers imported grapes from France, Germany and the United States that could yield high-quality wines. And the variety of micro-climates in the region allowed them to grow a large selection of grape varieties, including more reds such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah.

So although many wineries are still run by the families that established them, many of the vines are less than 20 years old.

Okanagan 38Okanagan 11Okanagan 25The area is just beautiful, with expansive fields of grape vines surrounded by a multitude of gleaming lakes. And there are hundreds of wineries in all sizes and shapes.Okanagan 33

Okanagan 29With structures from funky to elegant to minimalist to imposing, many incorporating beautiful art pieces, and with fields and lakes surrounding them.Okanagan 26Okanagan 30

So even though we were ready to get to the lower 48, we decided to hang back a bit, tour the wine country and sample some wines.

Okanagan 28Okanagan 37We drove south a bit further and stayed at a territorial park south of Kelowna by the Okanagan Lake. And found out that the territorial parks in this area of British Columbia are expensive – $35. for no hookups. Okanagan 27Okanagan 50

Okanagan 54Alaska Driving Day 23 and 24 Recap

Road Name: Cariboo Highway

Road Type: 2-lane, 4-lane sections in and around towns

Road Condition: Generally good

Miles Today: 270

Driving Time: 5:00Okanagan 52

Okanagan 21We drove back to Kelowna, planning to start our visits in the furthest north winery. I had noticed a food truck that served poutine near the Visitor Center so we planned our lunch there so as not to start drinking on an empty stomach.

We found the food truck. Poutine is a dish we discovered three years ago in Quebec, which is available throughout Canada. French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy is the traditional preparation. It sounds horrible but is quite delicious and I am addicted to it.

Jeff, the owner of Jeffer’s FRYZZ, was a great guy and gave us lots of tips about the wineries. And his poutine was fabulous. Next we were off to the wineries.

Okanagan 18Okanagan 15Of the wineries we visited, a few stand out. Summerhill, described as exuding a subtle mystique, is one of those. The owner had a pyramid constructed on site meant to draw positive energy to the grounds. Each of their wines spends a period of time in the pyramid during the aging process. The pyramid was oriented to true north versus magnetic north, and built without the use of ferrous metals so that it will not reorient to magnetic north. If a bad wine is placed inside it, the wine will become worse, but a good wine in the pyramid will flourish.Okanagan 16

The place is described as shamelessly touristy as was proven by multiple tourist buses taking tours on the premises. But it was also the first winery to be certified as organic by the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society of Vernon, and the first to be certified as biodynamic, and the owners are leaders in organic and sustainable practices in the area. Plus they have produced several award winning wines.

Okanagan 56

Okanagan 39Okanagan 43The next day we visited more wineries, including Jeff’s favorite (yes, the poutine guy), Dirty Laundry, which has some really reasonably priced wines. In the 1800s, when the railroad came to the area, a Chinese man who helped build part of the railroad started a laundry business with his hard earned money.

Okanagan 41Okanagan 45Recognizing a need, he later enhanced his profits by creating a “waiting room” upstairs where a man “could have drinks, play cards and have the company of a lady”. People began to refer to his business as the “Dirty Laundry”.

Today the winery is located on that same piece of land. They make the most of the story in all their “naughty” themed products.

Okanagan 47Okanagan 46While visiting the winery, we met Rob, the president of the company in the parking lot. He showed us around and told us about the vineyards. He even suggested we climb up to the conveyor belt to see up close the dropping of grapes into the crusher and took our photo there. Very nice guy running a very nice place.Okanagan 48Okanagan 36

Okanagan 35Okanagan 42Okanagan 55Okanagan 10Well, we could not put it off any longer, we had to head towards the border. Although we were cautious not to buy too many wines, we were still definitely over the limit to bring to the U.S. Of course we intended to declare it.

I was somewhat paranoid after our last customs experience as we neared the checkpoint. And the officer asked us to pull over. The RV just in front of us had also pulled over, and they asked the one behind us to pull over as well.

It was search time once again, but this time it was a very quick search (for additional people?) followed by a few questions. We had forgotten we had a couple of pieces of firewood left, and they asked if we had any and of course we said yes so they confiscated them. The second questions was about dog food which we had declared. We do know to keep dog food bags so they can check the contents, so that was ok. And no issue with our wine. Thank goodness.

Okanagan 1Then, just like that, we were back in the lower 48 and our amazing Alaskan/Canadian summer came to an end.

Okanagan 2Alaska Final Driving Day Recap

Road Name: Cariboo Highway

Road Type: 2-lane

Road Condition: Generally good

Miles Today: 66

Driving Time: 1:15

Total Miles in Canada: 4920

Total Miles since entering Canada: 7284

alcanday2034So much has happened since our first day here pictured above!

It really was the ultimate North American road trip.

~ BrendaBack to Haines 37

30 thoughts on “The Okanagan Valley

  1. We really enjoyed your stories, and pictures, about your travels through Alaska and BC. This blog was really interesting because we live in the Okanagan Valley and love it, we are glad you enjoyed your stay … and our wine!

    • So glad you enjoyed! We did love the Okanagan, and would love to visit again. We are still enjoying some of the wine 🙂

  2. Lovely and welcome back. But you guys in wine country sounded very dangerous. Glad you got out ok. Again, welcome back! BTW, what do cheese curds taste like???

  3. Hector and Brenda, thank you so much for the wonderful blog during your travels to Alaska and Canada. I have thoroughly enjoyed the posts and wonderful photos. What an adventure! Welcome back to the lower 48!

  4. Have so enjoyed reading your blog, seeing the North vicariously thru your gorgeous pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    • I wish we could too, but I remember your saying it was not too accessible for us. Hope we catch up to you soon!

  5. Thank You, What a wonderful adventure, brought back a few memories. Hector your pictures enhance the words Brenda writes. I confess I have a few pictures for my screensaver. Where to next?

    • Thank you! And you are so nice to confess! We are in Port Townsend, Washington, headed to Portland, with a flight to Miami to visit family, then down the coast. Should be interesting this time of year!

  6. Welcome “home!” I LOVE cheese curds, french fries and brown gravy and would, I’m sure, love that yummy sounding French delicacy. Loved the shot of Angel looking feisty in her raincoat! Godspeed, Friends Three! xo

    • Thanks, you would love poutine, it is fabulous. Angel is truly adorable in her raincoat, but the hood won’t stay over her ears 🙂 Thanks, again.

  7. I have really enjoyed following along on your entire trip. Great spectacular photos in Denali, so many details about the places you saw. Incredible views of the Northern Lights! Glad you enjoyed your time passing theough Canada.

  8. Woohoo! What a trip! Angel does indeed look precious in her raincoat. And what darling pictures of you guys, too. I love seeing your smiling, happy faces. And what gorgeous wine country! Cheers to you and to your amazing adventure!

  9. We had a great time as well at Kelowna. That was a pleasant surprise seeing their vineyards out there.
    Congratulations ! A celebration is in order you just made an adventure of a lifetime trekking to Alaska. Great photos, great stories, love it all!

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