Kelowna – Part 1 of 3

Last week Julie and I embarked on a week long holiday to Kelowna for some relaxation, lots of food, wine tours, cider tastings, and to visit my friend Krystylyn. We left on Saturday September 5th and went home on Saturday September 12th.

Saturday September 5th 2020

Saturday was our travel day to Kelowna. We set off towards Kelowna at around 8:00am. On our way we had a quick stop for lunch at Subway in Golden. Continuing on, we also stopped at Dutchmen Dairy to get some delicious ice cream and to see their baby cows. Julie & I both had lemon sherbet flavour, and agreed that it was the best ice cream that we have ever eaten. The baby cows were extremely cute to see as well!

After our stop at Dutchmen Dairy we walked across the street to the farmers market where we picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables. After picking up vegetables we drove to Grass Root Dairies for some delicious gouda cheese. This is the first time in six years since I’ve been to the dairy farm. The 37 year old farm was purchased from the Gort Family 11 years ago by the Wikkerinks Family. The name was recently changed from Gort’s Gouda Farm to Grass Root Dairies. I’ve been coming here every time I drive through the area since I was 16 years old.

After 9 hours of driving, and poor directions from our AirBnb host we finally found our condo building, which was located at Lake Okanogan Resort, about a 20 minute drive outside of Kelowna on West Side Road. We spent nearly 30 minutes looking for the building with the host’s poor directions, but if he had just stated to put Lake Okanogan Resort into Google Maps it would have solved a lot of the problem.

Our well furnished condo was located on the 7th floor of the “Terrace 3” building… well technically it’s the sixth floor according to the elevator, as the elevator starts on floor 2, which it considers as the main floor. The condo was lacking a few amenities which we believe should be standard in every rental, including shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and dish washing tablets for the dishwasher. We ended up having to purchase our own when we went grocery shopping the next day.

After settling into our condo and unpacking we drove into Kelowna to have some delicious dinner at El Taquero. Julie and I ordered some mini tacos and some drinks. I had a Mezcal Sour, and Julie had a Blood Orange Gin.

After eating dinner we went to BNA Brewing for a drink and to fill my beer growler. Julie had a delicious can of SOMA dry cider. I had “Big Mario” IPA as well as filled my growler with the same.

After having a drink we walked around the Marina before heading back to our condo for the evening. During our walk I saw a beautiful floatplane docked next to a nice boat.

Sunday September 6th 2020

Sunday was a supposed to be a lazy start to the day, but we were both awake by 8:00am. We had breakfast at the condo with the fruit and veggies that we had purchased yesterday.

First stop of the day was the Kangaroo Creek Farm, which recently moved next to the airport. The hobby farm has been around for 9 years now and is a wonderful place to visit with anyone, including children. The farm has all sorts of animals including kangaroos, birds, goats, turkeys, sugar gliders, ducks, and porcupines. Entrance fee’s are very reasonable; $12 for adults, $6 for children and seniors, and free for children under 4 years old.

On our way driving to the Kangaroo Creek Farm we saw a cidery next door called Upside Cider. We decided to stop there for a flight of ciders and some lunch. We shared a gluten-free fire cooked Chorizo and Salami pizza, which was delicious.

After lunch we drove to Gray Monk winery for a wine tasting. They had delicious wines and we ended up buying a bottle of Meritage. I was specifically looking for a particular Gammy Noir wine, which apparently they stop making in 2013, but they recommended that we try Intrigue winery, which was just up the road. Gray Monk was founded in 1972 by the Heiss Family, and is one of my favourite winerys. When Gray Monk was first started, they began as an Estate Winery due to regulations at the time. Rules have changed since then, as there is now a simplified distinction between a land-based (farm style) winery, and a commercial winery, but Gray Monk choose to keep the Estate Winery status because of its history and importance.

Located just up the road from Gray Monk is Intrigue Wines. The vineyard was established in 2008 by the Davis & Wong families. Roger Wong originally worked over at Gray Monk before starting Intrigue Wines. I personally didn’t like their wines, and didn’t purchase anything from them.

Ancient Hill Winery was the next stop. Julie and I quite liked the wines here and I ended up purchasing a Baco Noir, and Julie ended up purchasing a Gewurztraminer. Ancient Hill was founded in 2009 by Richard and Jitske Kamphuys.

We then tried to go to Arlo Bee Farm, which we both thought was a disappointment. We thought it would have been a lot more informative, but it really lacked information. We were told that their honey is quite nice, and it is featured at Tantalus Winery, among other places.

Next stop was Okanogan Wine and Spirits, where Darren showcased a variety of Whisky, Gin and Liqueurs to Julie and I. Darren was absolutely hilarious and is very knowledgeable on all the products. I ended up purchasing a Huckleberry Liqueur, which I mix with sparkling water. The distillery was founded in 2004 and utilizes 100% locally grown fruits and grains.

Next up was dinner, which we had at a wonderful restaurant called KRAFTY Kitchen + Bar. Due to COVID-19 they had an interesting way of ordering; you just text them your order and they will respond to let you know they received it, and then a short while later bring it out. I had the Truffled Mac N’ Cheese, which was amazing. Julie had the Saffron Tomato Risotto, which was also delicious.

The final stop for the day was Superstore to pickup some groceries for the week. When we arrived back at the condo we relaxed down by the beach and played some Catan, which is our favourite game.

Monday September 7th 2020

Monday was our day with my friend Krystylyn. We met her at her apartment at 8:00am and drove to the Myra Canyon Trestles for a bicycle ride. Krystylyn brough her bicycle with her on the back of her, and Julie and I rented a bicycle from the rental guys at the top for $39 each.

The Myra Canyon Trestles are a popular area for people to hike and ride along just 30 minutes outside of Kelowna. The history of the trestles stems back to 1915 when the Kettle Valley Railway (subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)) was incorporated. The railway was operated between 1915 and was partially abandoned in 1961, with the last train operating in 1989.

The railways was built for servicing the growing mining demands of the British Columbia Southern Interior. When the original CPR main transcontinental railway was completed in 1885 it had to be routed through the Rocky Mountains at Kicking Horse and Rogers Pass, which left a significant amount of mining towns un-serviced by the main railway. It was decided to build the Kettle River Railway to service the area, at an astonishing cost of $20 million, which was the highest cost per mile of any railway built at the time. The Railway was built in several sections between Kamloops and Midway, with some offshoots heading to Copper Mountain and Osoyoos. The project took nearly 20 years to complete. The most difficult portion of the railway is between Myra Station and June Springs Station; which required 18 wooden trestles and two tunnels.

After the railway was abandoned in 1989 the area quickly became popular with hikers and cyclists, due to its gentle grade. The bridges fell into disarray due to vandals and after petitioning from locals the government designated that section into a National Historic Site in 2002.

In September 2003 the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire ripped through the area and engolfed 12 of the 18 trestles. In addition, the bridge decks of two metal bridges were also destroyed. The bridges were eventually rebuilt by the British Columbia provincial government. Our ride took about 2 hours and was quite chilly since the sky was overcast, and we were higher up in the hills.

After returning our bikes and driving down the hill we went to Smokes Poutinerie for lunch. The menu was fairly limited compared to pre-COVID times, but it was still pretty good. I had a triple pork poutine.

After lunch we walked over to Rustic Reel Brewing and had some beverages. I had two pints of their Hazy IPA. Julie had Sajiva Kombucha, and Krystylyn had an assorted flight of beers.

After lunch we said bye to Krystylyn and drove back to our condo, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing, playing games, and down by the beach.

Be sure to check back soon for part 2 of 3 in my Kelowna series.

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Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens & Writing On Stone Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I traveled South to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. We set off on our journey at 9:00am. Lethbridge is only a 2 hour drive away along Highway 2. It’s typically a fairly boring drive, and this was no exception. There’s a few weeks out of the year where I find it pleasant to drive, and that’s the first few weeks of August when the canola fields are in full bloom before harvesting. If you go during the right time of year it looks as beautiful as shown below.

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When we arrived in Lethbridge we stopped at the Firestone Restaurant & Bar at the Coast Hotel. I had the Sonoma Chicken Sandwich and Julie had the Chicken Burger. After lunch we drove to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens overlook Henderson Lake. They were designed by Dr. Masami Sugimoto and Dr. Tadashi Kubo, both from Osaka, Japan. The pavilion, shelter, bridges, and gates were built in Kyoto, Japan by five artisans, who eventually re-assembled them in the garden. It was opened on July 14th 1967. The gardens took 21 months to construct. While we were there there was a Taiko percussion instrument demonstration, which was fantastic!

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After visiting the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens we drove about 1.5 hours to Writing On Stone Provincial Park. The last time I went to this park was 6 years ago. We completed a small hike / walk that took about an hour to complete. Writing On Stone became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, and is a very sacred park to the Blackfoot Tribe. The beautiful, yet small, park has a tremendous amount of sandstone outcrops, which were deposited along the edge of a large inland sea from about 84 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.

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After visiting Writing On Stone we started the long 3.5 hour drive back to Calgary, with a quick stop in Lethbridge for dinner at Chopped Leaf.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which is the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Taylor Lake Hike

Last weekend I hiked to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park before picking up Julie for a long-weekend trip to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park!

I completed the 14 km return hike, 924 metre of elevation gain, in just under 3 hours. The hike honestly isn’t too strenuous as the elevation gain is fairly consistent throughout the hike. Most of the hike takes place within a forest before emerging in a sub-alpine meadow, which leads to the beautiful Taylor Lake. This was an easy to moderate hike with beautiful views!

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Be sure to check back tomorrow on my blog post for our wonderful weekend getaway to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

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Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Two weeks ago Julie and I went for a hike at Ptarmigan Cirque with her sister Jill, Jill’s husband JF, and their adorable kids Claire and Sarah. This is my second time completing this beautiful hike. The last time I completed the hike was June 15th 2019. You can view my blog post on it here.

Ptarmigan Cirque is a 4.3 kilometer loop in Kananaskis Park that starts just along Highway 40, before traversing up 355 metres of elevation gain through the thick forest before opening up to a beautiful meadow / rocky area between some mountains. This hike is about 8000 feet above sea level, so make sure to pace yourself or you’ll find yourself out of breath.

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After hiking we went back to their campsite at Mount Kidd RV Park. We had a delicious dinner of pulled pork sandwiches that Jill had prepared, and then played a few rounds of Washer Toss, also known as Horseshoe’s. The campsite was one of the nicest campsites I’ve been to because it had high tree density, huge lots, power, and water. I even was able to plug in my Toyota Prius PRIME in to recharge for 40km of “free” range. I purchased the car in March 2020 with only 16000km, and I’m already at 33000km!

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Julie and I ended up leaving the campsite at around 7pm as we still had our dog Grady hanging out at home waiting for her dinner.

Check back soon as I write about my next hike that I completed last weekend; Taylor Lake in Banff National Park.

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Banded Creek Connector Bench Hike

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 7.05 million people so far and taking the lives of 403,000 people as of the writing of this article on June 7th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so.

Despite these sobering statistics Canada has started to re-open the economy, and with that they have also re-opened the Provincial and National Parks. On May 24th 2020 Julie and I decided to go on a moderate difficulty hike called “Banded Creek Connector Bench” in the Bragg Creek area. This hike was my third hike of the season. I typically have a goal of completing 20 hikes per year, so I’m well under way already.

The hike was a 6.1 km long hike with 222 metres of elevation gain. It took us approximately 2.5 hours to complete, including a fifteen minute rest at the small wetland area at the end, and another fifteen minute rest at the small lake a bit further along. The trail conditions were fair, with a few muddy spots in the middle.

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Next week I plan on going on a hike with my friend Sara to Boom Lake. Stay tuned!

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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Lake Louise Ice Sculptures & Lussier Hot Springs

This weekend Julie and I embarked on another winter road trip. This weekend we drove to Lake Louise to look at the final day of the International Ice Sculpture contest that’s been held annually at Lake Louise for the past 26 years, spent a wonderful overnight stay in Radium at Radium Chalet, and then soaked in the natural Lussier Hot Springs.

The Lake Louise International Ice Sculpture contest has been held annually in January for the past 26 years. The world’s best ice carvers come every year to compete against one another. Ten teams of two are created and they compete head to head, usually to a specific theme, to create a masterpiece of art from 15 blocks of ice. This year the theme was open, which meant that the carvers could enjoy creative freedom.

My YouTube video of the Ice Carving can be viewed here!

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After enjoying our afternoon at Lake Louise we drove to Radium and checked into Radium Lodge, where we spent the evening relaxing, playing board games, and having a few beverages. Radium, also known as Radium Hot Springs, is a village of roughly 800 residents situated in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.

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The next morning we woke up at 8:00am, had a continental breakfast (which was included), and drove to Lussier Hot Springs to soak and relax before heading back to Calgary to meet with some friends to go bowling and have hot wings in the evening.

Lussier Hot Springs is a natural undeveloped Sulphur hot spring located inside Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia. It is about a one hour drive southeast of Invermere. The springs are made up of five rock pools with gravel bottoms. The hottest pool at the inlet is 43°C, and the coolest pool us about 37°C nominally, but we experienced it to be much cooler; perhaps about 20°C. The water flows through the pools and into the Lussier River.

The use of the hot springs dates back to roughly 5000 years ago when the Ktunaxa native people used the area for seasonal hunting. During the 1800’s and 1900’s trappers, guides, and prospectors used the hot springs to sooth their bodies after a long days work.

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Abraham Lake

Last weekend Julie and I took a road trip to visit Abraham Lake, located in the Kootenay Plains. The drive to Abraham lake took roughly 4 hours via Rocky Mountain House on Highway 11. Abraham Lake is a photographers paradise because trapped methane causes frozen bubbles to form under the ice on the lake’s surface. The methane is formed from decaying plants on the lake bed. The methane gas ends up becoming trapped within the ice, in suspension, just below the surface of the lake as it begins to freeze.

Abraham Lake is actually an artificial lake and Alberta’s largest reservoir. The lake has a surface area of nearly 54 square kilometers and was created in 1972 by the former Calgary Power Company (now known as TransAlta) when the Bighorn Dam was constructed. The lake was built on the upper course of the North Saskatchewan River and is used to feed the 120 MW hydroelectric Bighorn power plant. The lake received its name from a contest that the Government of Alberta sponsored in 1972, during the final stage of construction of the Bighorn Dam. Students across the province submitted names to be taken into consideration. The lake was named after Silas Abraham, an inhabitant of the Saskatchewan River valley in the nineteenth century.

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After visiting Abraham Lake we drove to Banff to soak in the Banff Hot Springs by continuing to drive along Highway 11 to where it meets up with Highway 93N, and then looped around to Banff that way.

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