Friday, July 31, 2009

Travel along the Crow's Nest Highway

As indicated in yesterday's tweet, we began our day in Hope, BC with excellent coffee and tuna sandwiches at the Blue Moose Cafe. We had stayed in Hope the first time we went to Banff in 1993. Robin was 5 and we camped along the way, but our first stop, in Hope, allowed him to play at this playground and park which seems to be undergoing a huge reconstruction, including a number of these shellacked cute-ish wild animal sculptures. We really appreciated the kid friendliness of civic parks in BC, and the kindness of the children who played in them. Hope is the location of the confluence of the Coquihalla and Fraser Rivers.

Jim is dwarfed by the greatness of Lordco, proving the hierarchical nature of the great chain of being through its godlike divine power. LORDCO is a fond and humorous memento of the first trip to Banff , which actually was a trip to Drumheller and the Tyrrell Museum there. Our motivation for that trip was vertebrate fossils in the form of the dinosaurs found in the Drumheller Valley: rich in fossil fuel, the area proved to be replete with Cretaceous creatures. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is about an hour and a half from Calgary, and to our minds is the British Museum of Dinosaurs. We've been there twice with Robin, but since this trip focuses on invertebrate fauna, we're only going as far as Banff.

Before we left, I dropped some artwork off to be scanned for the Medieval Women's Choir cd, Laude Novella, that will come out this fall. In consultation with our director and friend Margriet Tindemans told me her sister is coming to visit from Holland next week and after a few days will take her family on a road trip to California. Like the tourists now shown in this picture of the "Dutch Star," they will rent and drive a massive motor home. Margriet says her sister does not own a vehicle at home and rarely drives, but will assume the driving of this monstrosity. I had no idea, but there is an entire industry, clear from the special model identification on this van, of making these excursion vehicles available to Dutch tourists in North America. I think Margriet's sister was going to rent hers in Bellingham or Snohomish county, but she told me there's a huge company in Vancouver since it's popular to drive around western Canada, too. Got to say I wondered about these large vehicles, since when I was at the North Cascades Park residency, they were widening the roads for accessibility to rv camping sites to accomodate them. Wow! the 21st century.

We drove along highway 3 in southern British Columbia through provincial parks, First Nations reservations and finally, near Osoyoos, great orchards of stone fruits such as cherries, apricots and peaches. I had thought most of these were north of here, around Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon, but signs in the town of Cawston indicated that it had more organic farmers, or orchards, than anywhere in Canada. Very beautiful area, but I wondered since it's all irrigated whether they are having trouble with mineral build up as they do in California's central valley, which has become quite toxic (selenium? not sure). We did see a large reservoir/pond which had evaporated leaving telltale salts. We need to consult with these orchardists about good food to be had, since we didn't find any in Osoyoos.

Just outside Hope and before reaching the Okanagan Valley, we drove through Manning Provincial Park, a very beautiful part of the North Cascades, and we saw the far upper Skagit River flowing southward toward Hozemeen and Ross Lake in the US National Park. We identified the valley through which the Skagit flowed north into the Fraser River before geologic events changed its course to southward a million years ago. Highway 3 is aptly named the Crowsnest Highway, due to many great high vistas, and the indicator sign has a cool looking crow on a nest behind the number 3.

On the other side of Osoyoos are interesting towns linked with water: rivers mostly and some lakes. Immigration of Russian pacifists, Doukhobors, in the early 20th century is still seen in towns like Grand Forks--lots of places advertising borscht here and in Castlegar, and many Russian names seen on timber companies and orchards.

On our first night in Nelson, we had dinner and outside were street musicians playing Django Reinhardt style music very well: guitar, harmonica, violin and bass. We picked up their CD and strolled back to our hotel; many restored historic buildings here from a hundred years ago, and a setting on an arm of the huge Kootenay Lake below forested mountains. After we got into bed, there was an amazing thunderstorm, with huge and for a while almost continuous flashes of lightning. All the lights went out, apparently all over town for almost two hours. This was not the first such storm we've seen in the North Cascades over the past 6 days! Summer in the mountains surely brings spectacular weather, and it is finally cooling down as we prepare to explore Nelson on this Friday morning.

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