The Magic Moments
All the bits of this trip were a collection of twinkling stars spread across western Canada into the Okanagan creating a constellation of shiny moments. Clicks and Links is the logistics of the trip but travel is so much more than went there and did that. This post is about the magic moments—the seconds that caused me to pause or had me replaying vignettes in my head of experiences in all their beautiful simplicity.
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Over a year of dealing with the world behind a mask, it was finally so lovely to look at a server in the face, smiling, cheery and willing. The sun shone bright and although it was our first stop on the trip our happy holiday vibe showed. My friend Ashlee says that holidays begins as soon as you leave your house. She’s right. The grain lined highway brought us straight to a sunny deck where the beer was cold and the food was delicious. It felt like I’d waited eighteen months to be at the Medicine Hat Brewing Company for this lunch hour—like the pandemic never happened. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my exposed face.
Sunny roads ribboned to Drumheller. This place has been used as a location in many films. One of my favorites is Clint Eastwood’s western, Unforgiven. This landscape is unique, beautiful and barren—a real desert. We explored the Hoodoos. The climb was challenging. Fucking scary at times. I slid a couple of times but dug my feet in (quite literally) and carried on. During one slide Kevin, who was behind me, grabbed my leg to steady me. I insisted if I start sliding he should just step out of the way. I didn’t need to take him down with me. We made it to the top of the stupidly steep, sandy, slippery surface (how’s that for alliteration?). But, like all up hill challenges it really was worth it. The view was stunning and I didn’t die!! Woohoo!! I don’t consider myself an adrenaline junky—far from it. Maybe it’s the physical challenge that makes my heart pound or maybe it’s the gorgeous view at the top of the Hoodoo formations that reminds me that I am tiny in this big world.
We found Valley Brewing to quench our thirst after the climb. It has the prettiest patio. It feels like a well groomed back yard from 1975 with folding beach chairs that looked like they came right out of that decade—but shiny and new. There were pegs in the grass to hold our glasses and bunnies in the flowerbeds. Honestly, it was a place I didn’t want to leave. Edison lights lit the garden in the evening and it was located right next to a small park. Just before supper we took a drive by Wayne Ghost Town. I craved staying in this so called haunted hotel that also looked like it belonged in a movie but the idea of sharing a bathroom at this old time ghost hotel was a no from me—this time.
Our intention was to hike Horseshoe Canyon in the morning but a storm came through at night with all the music that a storm brings. Cracking lighting. Rolling thunder. Ticking rain drops. Swooshing eves and drains. There was a lot of rain. A lot. I woke up and looked out the motel window in the middle of the night at flowing streams into drains. I didn’t sleep much but that’s okay. I’ll sleep when the holiday is over. The rain carried on for the day, the wipers kept rhythm. Our hike was replaced with hot coffees and we drove until our destination.
Over the first hump of Rockies we saw Lake Invermere. It was still pouring hard. We took shelter in Station Pub (family run), overlooking the lake and an eagle nest on top of a pole—but not just an eagle nest. The eagle mama was feeding her babies while we were eating. How incredible! I had a hard time focusing on lunch with the wild kingdom on a post right in front of me. Sometimes I feel like someone is following me with their production headset on whispering things like “cue the eagle babies” or “roll thunder sound effects now.”
Every morning with the sun beating down I would leave our place at CastleRock for a fresh air jog. Running is harder in the mountains with all the inclines but the views were my carrot to keep going. I watched the landscape from a breathier pace than normal—in a different direction every day. Some mornings I was the only one around, jogging past Abel Creek or on dirt roads towards mountains that never got closer.
There was only one rainy day so we headed back to Station Pub. Mama eagle and her babies were still there. On the ground level was Taynton Bay Spirits where I got samples of liquor from a sexy bearded Australian. I lured the rest of the gang in and they also sampled delicious spirits and left with several bottles.
We made a very conscious effort to explore daily. Lake Lillian Trails was a notable breathtaking hike. It was long, challenging and gorgeous. The trail follows a gorge, water rushing below, thick trees, bluffs and a blue sky. Clouds hung below the mountain peaks. It was perfect. Of course, following our Mountains and Microbrewery theme we came back into town and had drinks at Ullr Bar which I renamed Viking Bar and had lunch at Hungry Rooster Food Truck. There was still plenty of day to go.
We took the tubes from the garage, loaded up the vehicles and went to the camp ground in town. We found an opening (as guided by the nice lady at the camp office) in the river bank and did a DIY river float where we tied our tubes together and casually floated down the Columbia River. It was awesome. There is no other word. We were a happy clump of river loving floaters, casually enjoying the view, keeping our butts damp in the cool water and loving all the minutes of this experience that was new to Kevin and me.
More water activites
That was not the end of the adventure. We went to Fairmont Natural Hot Springs, hoping to experience the thermal springs in a natural environment. We asked for directions but were told a land slide made the hot springs off limits. The six of us stood on the bridge looking at the river, disappointed that this was not going to happen when an old couple walked by and engaged us in a conversation. “You looking for the hot springs? They’re down there. They said the mud slide took it out but that’s not true. You can hop the fence and go. It’s worth it.” They walked away and then the man called back “They should build a bigger fence if they want to keep people out. Have fun.” Old people who break rules are my people! We looked at each other, shrugged and carried on….to the fence which was pretty easy to get over. We walked along the river and then crossed it without incident. Except for one rogue flipflop the journey was seamless. At a distance we saw a waterfall, long and powerful and several natural stone pools. The water was hot and clear. It had the slightest tint of aqua blue. There were a few people there: a grandfather and grandson, a group of three and us. We soaked in the hot water as the sun moved into the evening sky. Bucket list check!
It’s not just my trip
I’m traveling with an avid golfer so in fairness to him we went to a couple of golf courses. Greywolf Golf Course and Copper Point Golf Course because why not. I learned that they have a very good food and beverage menus. I also learned that the club house is always situated with a gorgeous vista of the 18th hole. Who knew? I didn’t. But I do now.
Our last evening in Invermere we rented a pontoon at Pete’s Marina and spent from late afternoon until almost sunset on the water. We sailed across the lake coveting the waterfront homes, listening to music, dancing, drinking and jumping in the lake to cool off. It was a spectacular way to end the week with the gang. By the time we docked laziness took over so we ordered pizza at Peppi’s Italian Fuel and went home for some beer and pizza—you know a typical Friday night after a week full of adventure.
There were so many sweet moments—so very many that popped up between major ones, moments that had us belly laughing playing UNO, teaching each other, seeing little bits of life happening around all around us that were notable but got away. There was lots of hiking. Lots of eating. Lots of brews and so much laughter. It was a fantastic time with my partner and his family. I’m so freakin’ grateful.
Everyone headed back to work. But this middle aged duo still had mountains to climb and beers to drink and beaches to see.
Golden was a quick pit stop and walk about. I needed a coffee but once we got out of the car it was a less directed experience. Traveling without an agenda is pretty special. We took the quaint main street of Golden by foot away from the vehicle. However this was a brewery tour. Not too far from the main street was Whitetooth Brewing Company. They had a great deck and great beer. I also gauge places on the details—they had a doggy dish on their patio. Respect. We picked a table in the sun and relaxed for a drink. On the way to Purcell Coffee we found a carwash-bowling alley combo. That was the epitome of old school! Maybe we’ll end up back here for a round of bowling and a car wash.
We put exploring on hold at Revelstoke, a sweet little mountain town, because we were hungry and thirsty. Once that was taken care of we wandered from hotel to hotel with no luck. Could this be the moment we were grateful for the sleeping bags in the vehicle? Nope. We tucked our Gypsy spirts away and found lodging at The Cube—a hostel. Did I mention how much I love hostels? In case I didn’t—I love hostels. We had a private room. The place was clean, cool and hip. After accommodations were settled and our bags put away we hit the road to find Rumpus, the local microbrewery that was recommended by the front desk person at The Explorers Society Hotel. I have linked this place even though we didn’t stay at it for a few reasons: 1. It looked super cool. 2. I want to stay there some day. 3. The woman at the front desk was so incredibly helpful and sweet and offered us information even though we weren’t guests—that’s the hospitality industry at its best. Amazing. Check it out if you’re there.
Rumpus, as far as my partner can recall had the best brew. Although he confesses that he’d had such a variety of beers at so many places that by the end of the trip it was hard to recall exactly which was his favorite but Rumpus was notable among all the beverages consumed on this microbrew tour of the Okanagan. A drunk local tumbled out of a hotel bar we were standing near and looked as surprised as we did when he almost collided with us. He introduced himself as Alex, shook our hand, welcomed us to Revelstoke and recommended a place for sushi. He was pickled. He gave us lessons, right there on the street, on how to say Kawakubo. He was not Japanese but his accent was good—a drunk good. 10/10 for believability. He wished us well and went on his way.
It’s all the little moments like that, that tie together a trip. I hope Alex found his way home, or at least a comfy bench to sober up on.
Small special moments
We walk along the lake that Revelstoke is on. The sun was setting and the clouds were low. It was pretty magical—visually. A dog ran to us and dropped her stick at our feet. We had a brief hello with her human as he tried to coax her away. A large stone arch was a landmark to the area. Along the shore picnic tables and benches with outdoor loving folks sat eating take-out, drinking beer, playing guitar. It was quiet and cool. The sun set behind the mountain leaving the park benchers, the lake and us with a pretty pink afterthought. We couldn’t ask for much more than this picturesque moment.
We overshot our walk back to the hostel. In the distance another set of Edison lights beckoned. It had to be a pub. But, no. It was a school. But, not really a school either. It was an old school that has been turned into a bar/restaurant— Old School Eatery We sat in the school yard at picnic tables and made friends with our server. The sky changed from pink to indigo. We got lost going back to The Cube. We didn’t have that much to drink I promise. Sometimes you just get turned around. Our shoes were comfy so it was just another excuse to explore the parts of town we may not have seen.
In the morning we supported local and had the most delicious dark roast at Main Street Cafe. The place was hopping so we took our coffees to the bench across the street and watched foot traffic find coffee and church.
Back on the road
We drove the coolest, craziest curviest road I have been on from Revelstoke to Shelter Bay Ferry Terminal for the ferry across the lake and carried on the noodle of a highway all the way to Nakusp using the Needles Cable Ferry and more curly roads. As the B.C. fires grew we noticed haze on the horizon and against the mountains. Some smoke hung in the air but overall the views were relatively clear. I sat back and enjoyed the drive and my partner enjoyed driving. I think this may be a match made in heaven.
This town was a total surprise—and a good surprise. It’s quaint with cute shops, a beach, and water front hotel and pub. The Leland is the oldest hotel in this town. The patio is built around the trees which were the shade I needed on this incredibly hot day. I ordered calamari and felt just like I was in Greece, hot smoky air, a water front seat, an old restaurant, seafood, beer. Perfect. We stayed long enough for me to know that I want to come back.
It was late afternoon when we finally rolled in to Vernon. We parked the car and magically (I’m not kidding) we found ourselves a block from the Marten Brewing Company Staying fed and hydrated is important. I’m serious! Beer, chips, guacamole. Not the most nutritious pit stop but we are adults so if we want to eat dessert first we damn well will! We found a place to stay for the night that happened to be across the street from an Irish pub called Kelly O’Bryan’s with a great deck. What can I say, it’s a brew tour.
Vernon’s agenda was a little different as it was the only place that we had an agenda—or at least some direction from a friend who lived there for a few years. He recommended seeing Kalamalka Lake, and spending time at Juniper Beach, and Jade Beach. I’m glad he did because these beaches were stunning. The water was so aqua blue, coniferous trees hugged the shore and the sun shone hot and bright. The drive from our motel to the lake was lined with vineyards.
As we lazed on the beach the old man from the Fairmont Hot Springs showed up with his grandson. The world grew suddenly smaller. Two places so far from each other and yet here we were right beside these two. Strange and cool. This place strongly reminded me of Sithonia, Halkidiki, Greece with the heat, the landscape and flora. I felt like I had a temporary landing in a familiar place I had never been to. Even our evening pub, Alexanders Beach Pub, faced the water and the twinkling lights of the town on the other side of the lake, just like being at a harbour pub on a Greek island.
I hate comparing everything to my motherland, Greece. But honestly, it seems the deeper I’ve been going into the Okanagan the more I am reminded of my other home.
We took a challenging hike at Kalamalka Lake on our last morning and were gifted another breathtaking view. I slipped out of my runners and looked down to see my feet so dusty dirty! Nasty! Kevin laughed and asked where I’d been walking because he was clean. I took a quick dip in the lake to wash the hillbilly off. I’m glad I did. Our last stop in Vernon was also a recommendation —Predator Ridge. My partner didn’t realize that it was a golf course and resort. He only wanted to go there because his friend said it was worth the drive to see. He didn’t even know it was a community. He thought he was going to see a natural place, a ridge, with a view. But it was way-way-way more than that. There was a view for sure, but it offered a lot more than a view. This place was something out of a movie set. Every cabin was perfect. There wasn’t a weed out of place. We stayed for lunch overlooking the 18th hole. The view was the usual promised “great.” The food was great. The day was great. And I’m super glad I cleaned up before I entered the clubhouse for lunch. I don’t think the dress code includes mud.
This day was so hot and Kelowna was even hotter, especially in the bumper to bumper traffic. When we got to Penticton we needed a break. We parked the vehicle and took a long stroll along Penticton Beach. It felt like Florida with all the people on the beach, the cars driving by, food stalls, people selling their wares and the hot hot sun washing out colors like a Miami beach photo. The forest fires were creeping up on our holiday with the smell of smoke.
Our commitment to this part of the holiday was to spend a bit more time on the beach. We found a place half way between Penticton Beach and Skaha Beach. Our other commitment was to go on a wine tour on the Naramata Bench Road which has approximately 45 vineyards. Forty-five. That’s a lot of wine. So, beach, beer, wine. So darn holiday-y.
As far as beaches go Skaha Beach was more my style, simply because it wasn’t right on the road. There was park space between cars and the water’s edge. I prefer that buffer. We purchased an umbrella for the beach and spent time people watching, snacking, dipping in the water and using our three dollar floatation devices to be more lazy while floating—if that’s even possible. Plumes of smoke rose like fluffy clouds over the mountains to our left. Water bombers circled, choreographed in loops following each other over and over again, dropping water on the fires. It was a new sight for me and it was unsettling.
This beach has a solstice clock. You stand on the pedestal and point your hands to the sky and your shadow casts an accurate time. We don’t need a digital device. We need sunshine and shadows. Time hardly mattered. We stayed at the beach until sunset and barely made it into town for a meal. The next day we hit the Bench for wine. I am not a big drinker and after four stops I was day drunk. How embarrassing. I don’t remember enjoying my lunch. I vaguely remember getting to the beach. I spent the afternoon eating tums, dipping in the cold water, hydrating and napping. Around 7:00 pm Kevin looked at me and in relief commented on how much better I looked! Oy! Lesson learned. When doing a wine tasting here are a few pointers: 1. Have a big breakfast. I didn’t have breakfast at all. 2. Pack snacks. 3. Drink water between vineyards. 4. Pack a lunch. 5. Walk it off. 6. Pace yourself!
My day drunk shenanigans are not a deterrent from a future wine tour. I just need to be a little more organized.
We said good bye to Penticton. Our vacation days were coming to an end. We were fully satisfied with our hikes, our samplings of food and beverage and our experiences. We had to be home by Sunday. It was Friday. We were 1400 km and two provinces away from home. The next day and a half was going to be a little more directed.
Osoyoos, BC (or pitstop #1)
Owl Pub was our lunch stop with a view of Osoyoos Lake. The Home Hardware store is the coolest place in the entire town. We needed a cooler to keep beverages since the big cooler now housed our wine. This hardware store blew my mind! It was floor to ceiling stuff on several levels. It was also floor to ceiling kindness. Everyone we ran into down various aisles asked how we were doing and if we needed help with anything—everyone!
We took a long walk along the water, and found a place to spend the night (Boundary Motel) and a place to lay our beach towels. We napped on the grass while a sing-a-long cover band set up and played into the evening. The North Basin Brewing Company was our second last brew stop. Because this pub doesn’t have a kitchen they invite their guests to bring in their own food. It felt a little counterintuitive, walking into an establishment with our own food but we did have to eat. So we walked across the street to the Pizza Factory and ordered a pizza to go. We walked back with our supper, ordered beer and that was that! Another thing I had never done before.
At the Pizza Factory a lady was sitting at the bar with a drink in a stemmed and salt rimmed glass. I asked her what it was. “Margarita” she smiled. Then she offered a little more information. She was picking up pizza for supper. The kids were back at the hotel with her husband. He was going to swing by and get her once supper was done. “He doesn’t know I’m having a drink.” She winked. “Mama needs a minute!” The waitress chimed in “I’ll drink to that.” I paid for my pizza smiling at this single serving moment with this lady. I liked it. After supper, because we were allowed to bring our own food in I went next door to bring in my own dessert. I ordered my weight in gelato from Roberto’s Gelato. I got Awesome Vanilla and Merlot (that’s right, wine ice cream) and Salted Carmel. It was my first ice cream of the entire holiday and it was essentially the last day. It was excellent gelato. I ate it all. I didn’t share. I don’t regret a single spoon.
We walked back to Boundary Motel, down the quiet streets at night. Not a person in sight. I took in as much as I could of this place—the vibe of it—and all the places up to that moment. Staying open to the memories seeping in and breathing them into my lungs. I felt gratitude for the two week holiday I was able to take. It’s a privilege many don’t have.
Jojo’s Cafe gave us a delicious dark roast and breakfast sandwiches in the style of cute local coffee house. It was busy. I went to the counter to doctor my coffee and when I turned around Kevin was gone. I must have had a look on my face. A lady said “he went that way” and pointed. I thanked her. It was busy and he stepped outside to make room for others. We didn’t waste a moment.
Highway 3 along the American boarder is a gorgeous route. I will go back and take that road as a separate holiday. Maybe I’ll call it the Highway 3 Adventure. It’s always good to make future plans.
Fernie, BC (or pitstop #2)
There was a lot of driving today because we wanted to get as close to home as possible. We stopped in Fernie long enough for me to decide that I wanted to go back there one day for a bit more exploring. We gave ourselves an hour for lunch at the Brick House. I noticed a berry in my ketchup. Hm. I guess the Brick House makes fancy ketchup with berries and stuff. I asked Kevin if he had berries in his and he said no. I took it out and bit it. Bitter! Sour! Yuck! Wait a minute. I looked up. There was a tree full of berries that were not edible. Gross. It must have fallen right into my ketchup and I didn’t notice. Kevin couldn’t contain his laughter. And the truth is, I couldn’t either. Fancy ketchup. As if!
Taber Alberta (or pitstop #3)
When we got to Taber we booked a room and went for a drive to two different liquor stores for sour beers and brews that we’d discovered on our trip. My partner was like a kid in a candy store. I enjoyed watching him pick all the familiar cans and a bunch of new ones. We took it easy that night, just sitting at a picnic table at the small green space next to the hotel. We talked about the last two weeks and watched the sunset. The smoky haze on the horizon did not air brush the stars directly above us. They began to appear, one at a time. And so did the mosquitos—for the first time in what felt like the entire trip (outside of one night in Invermere). I leaned over the picnic table and gave Kevin a quick kiss. “Thank you.” He smiled. It was a good holiday. Perfect really. Moment to moment.
We moved inside before the blood suckers took over.
The smoke from the forest fires had finally fallen around us. Taber was the greyest of all the days. We seemed to outrun the smoke until then which was one more thing to be incredibly grateful for. This was the longest we’ve holidayed together and we got along so well. Traveling with others can be challenging but we jived well. We explored new places and neither of us felt like there was something left undone. We found places we want to revisit, places we won’t go back to and places we are curious enough about to spend more time at in the future.
We laughed and learned about places, people and ourselves. Our gypsy souls match up nicely and this solidified that we will definitely be exploring together in the days and months to come.
I’m so very grateful for all of it. If I could go back in time and ask my 21 year old self if I could have magical holidays in my 50’s I think my younger self would shrug and say “well, not likely this good” but younger me is wrong. It’s all good, at any age, if you want it.