Saturday, May 21, 2022

Goat's Peak Hike, Kelowna, BC

Goat's Peak Provincial Park is a small park in West Kelowna near the shores of the Okanagan Lake. One of my colleagues at work strongly suggested me to go on this hike as it had nice scenery and not too many people. Joining me on this hike were my friends Kanwal and his wife, Sonal. The trailhead was a quick 30 min drive from our locality. 

We were on our way on the trail by 10am. It was a cloudy and a bit overcast day and there was also a forecast for a rain later in the afternoon. The initial section of the trail is pretty flat is a more of a casual walk with the open Okanagan lake on your right. To the left is a wall of rock running along the length of this section. There were some good views of the lake from here. The actual elevation gain started sometime later but a good 2 hours hike later we decided to stop at a view point and end our hike there. Here we sat for a while, took some photos and chatted for a while. But most importantly we took in the views there. Too often we get more involved with the task of actually completing our hike to the top and forget to just chill and enjoy the hike. 

We started our descent back from here when sometime into our hike down it started drizzling. We hurried up hoping that either the drizzle stops or we reach our car before the drizzle turns into a full on downpour. We found ourselves somewhere in the middle. We were still a bit away from our vehicles when it started raining heavily and by the time we reached our vehicles we were a bit drenched. Fortunately not too much for we had our rain jackets on.  Overall, it was a good half day to spend on a weekend. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A trip to Greenwood, the smallest incorporated city in Canada.

Greenwood is a city of around 600 people located in south British Columbia. Back in 1890s it used to be a hub of mining with population touching 3000 people but over time when the mining industries shutdown it's population dwindled to its present levels. Back then they even had 2 newspapers being published from the city. It was incorporated as a city in 1897 and even though the population later declined it has kept the city label hence its claim to fame as the smallest incorporated city in Canada.

A few months back Divu, his wife Vani and I made a day trip to Greenwood. It was both, a casual ride to a nearby attraction and also as practice for my car driving. I bought a used Corolla last year and having got the license early this year I wanted some highway driving practice. The drive itself was unremarkable and we reached Greenwood after 2 hours of driving. But, much to our dismay the Rail Museum, which is on the way to Greenwood, that I badly wanted to visit was closed unexpectedly. We wandered around aimlessly looking for any person inside or outside but there was no one so we moved on to the city. We roamed the streets of Greenwood just taking a look at the cool old buildings there. It all looked like a set from a western movie. Some other pretty buildings were the post office, then on the Main road there are many more with the one with Greenwood Saloon Inn perhaps the best. 

We stopped near the City Hall building which is one of the prettiest buildings there and were just chatting there when a car stopped near us and a guy started talking to us. He mentioned that they used to hang people in the top floor of the City Hall. That was quite a way to start off a conversation. Divu then asked him if there were any haunted buildings there and the guy replied with 'which isnt?'. We all laughed out loud but seriously I am a fan of all things spooky and creepy and had someone actually shown us around these buildings I would have loved to explore them. Unfortunately it was not going to happen then.

City Hall

As we were just parting ways the guy then asked a question which seemed quite random. He asked us if we know Clint Eastwood. We said yes we know him and I actually love his Dollars trilogy of westerns. After this line he hands me, because I was the closest to him, a paper with something written on it and zooms away. We were left standing on the road with the paper in hand. I read the contents and it had all kind of white supremacist and Islamophobic stuff. I chuckled to myself thinking what would his reaction have been if had found out that I am a Muslim. This was the first case of me encountering something like this in Canada. Well, we threw the paper away and resumed our walk intentionally not thinking too much about it.

Adding to our bad luck, the museum in Greenwood too was closed. So we drove to Grand Forks and then on to Christina Lake where we stopped briefly before heading back. We had lunch in a restaurant in Grand Forks wrapping up our small casual trip. 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

My first visit to a Ski Resort. Big White, BC, Canada.


''Do you ski or snowboard?'' I was asked this question as I struck up a conversation with a random stranger in front of a restaurant in the ski resort of Big White. I replied with ''neither''. And the guy gave me a look which said why are you here then? 

As has been the feature of most of my trips in the last year, this too was a work trip. Me and my colleague from office, Melanie were sent to the ski resort of Big White, which is around 60kms from Kelowna, to do some energy assessments for the businesses there. We had 2 days in hand. One day was for the assessments. Our boss gave us the other day to use as per our wish. It was sort of a gift from the company for a year of hard work. She booked us a quaint cottage in the village which was walking distance away from the main street. 

Big White Resort is located on the Big White mountain which is the highest summit in the Okanagan highland (which spreads over across the border into USA). Its the third largest ski resort in British Columbia after Whistler Blackcomb near Vancouver and Sun Peaks near Kamloops. The mountain summit is at 2310 m with a vertical drop of 777 m and is serviced by 16 lifts. It has around 2700 sq. km skiing area. The village is at an incredible 1700 m. 

This was my first time visiting a ski resort and I was super excited. We arrived at the the parking at the base of the resort around 10 am on a Wednesday. This area is called the Happy Valley Lodge. Today would be all work, so taking our gear, we made our way to the gondola which runs from the base to the village at the top. This is a short 5 min ride and the gondola system runs the entire day only stopping late in the night and resuming the next morning. The gondola dropped us into the village center which is a 2 level building which has shops, eateries and ticket booths for the various activities at the resort which include skiing, snowshoeing and other activities like ice climbing, depending on the conditions.  Exiting from this building we got to work. It was a clear day with temperature around -15 deg Celsius. Rest of the day was spent on working. Late afternoon we made our way back to the car at the parking in happy valley lodge and drove to our accommodation for the next 2 nights. This was a pretty cottage in the style of European chalets. We met the owner who was an interesting character. In between some witty and hilarious remarks he gave us a tour of the place. Meanwhile another colleague from work, Shay joined us. So it was going to be the three of us. The chalet was quirky with lots of trinkets adorning the walls everywhere. There was a sort of a fire grenade from the early 1900s if I am correct and many other interesting stuff like old motor nameplates. One room was entirely covered by used Jack Daniel's bottles. After the owner left, we settled down in the common area for a good conversation. Outside it was anywhere between -15 deg to -20 deg Celsius. 

Next day was for fun. Melanie and Shay both left for their skiing runs and I was left to myself. I got my camera and the recently bought go pro ready and went out to explore the village. As I soon found out there was not much to explore. The main area in the village is just a cluster of buildings. There are hotels, restaurants, a ski school and some skiing equipment shops. The areas beyond this core group has residential buildings and some hotels. The unique aspect of this village is that people can ski in between the buildings. There's no road here.  If you book a stay somewhere here you can directly exit your building and start skiing. I took a long stroll around the buildings, taking pics and videos. Meanwhile it started to snow quite heavily. I had never seen such heavy snowing so it was quite an experience for me. But there was nothing more for me to do. Originally I had planned to do ice climbing here but to my dismay I found out that it was closed for the season. With nothing else to do I made way to a cozy cafe and had lunch. Soon Shay and Melanie, taking a break from their skiing, joined me. After this I went back to the cottage and they want back to skiing. Later in the night I went out for dinner. I had decided on a restaurant but before that I strolled through the entire village taking a video with my camera. After that was done, as I was entering the said restaurant a guy came up to me and asked what number this restaurant was. I was perplexed and told him I didn't understand. Having seen me earlier strolling around the village he thought that I was pub hopping. For someone who doesn't drink alcohol this sounded preposterous. I laughed and told him no I was just here for dinner. We stuck up a conversation and the opening part of this post happened. He came all the way from Winnipeg with his friends just for skiing in BC. We parted ways soon and I got my dinner and trudged back to the cottage. Rest of the evening was spent in the room at work as I still had some work to do. 

The next day Shay was to leave at 10 am for Kelowna and I gladly joined her. Thus ended a short trip to Big White. My first to a ski resort. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

A day in Peachland and Summerland.

Last summer, with the wildfires and Covid19 still raging in BC, I couldn't plan any trips. A little trip that me and my friends did manage to wriggle in a short interval of calm was a drive to the nearby towns of Peachland, Summerland and city of Penticton. It was not an epic trip nor was it a flop show. It was exactly what we needed at that time. A stress buster. A rejuvenating ride to some relaxing places. 

It was Divu, his wife Vani and I on that trip. Divu had booked a rental car and had set aside one day for a ride to someplace nearby. We had already been to the local favorite Myra Canyon before so we decided to check out the nearby towns with some pretty names, Peachland and Summerland. Our first stop was in Peachland which is a district municipality with a population of around 5000. Most of the town is situated on a steep hill very close to the Okanagan Lake. It is also home to Canada's very own Loch Ness, the Ogopogo. We stopped on the waterfront there. Its a pretty stretch of road running along the side of the lake. We walked around here for a while taking in the views. It was a pleasant day. Not too hot and not too cold. Just a normal jacket kind of day. As we were walking we stumbled upon a small museum. Unfortunately the actual museum which was on the first floor was closed for renovation and we had to settle for the smaller portion which was on the ground floor. They had lots of trinkets and stuff from the town. There were posters detailing the history of Peachland and many artifacts which belonged to the locals.  At the counter, they had some small railway wagon models for sale. I bought one for 2 dollars. Made for a nice souvenir. 

Next stop was Summerland. The name has such warm positive vibe to it. That's for everyone else though. For me it reminded me of the town of Summerisle from the 1973 horror classic 'The Wicker Man'. And those who have watched the movie will know what I am talking about. In Summerland our first stop was the Museum here. It had some nice exhibits related to the local history but for us the highlight was definitely the railway model town they had. There was model train which completed a loop at the press of a button. This was my first time looking at a miniature railway model and it was fun. We also some interesting exhibits related to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for whom I have a special interest. I like in trains in general. Add history to it and I am hooked. This was the reason I did the 4 day trip from Toronto to Vancouver. The museum here has some nice costumes of those times which we tried out. 

Our final stop for the day was in Penticton. Here too we headed off to the Museum and spent a good amount of time wandering inside. Lots of interesting stuff but for me two stood out. One was about the ferries that used to run in the Okanagan lake before the advent of the rail and road transportation. Especially cool was a model of SS Naramata which was a steam tug commissioned by CPR. It used to run between 1914 to 1967.  The second was a Penny Farthing cycle. This was owned by a local resident who had it donated to the museum after his death. This was the first time I saw a Penny Farthing in person. After the museum we headed to the Skaha lake hoping to go for a walk around but there was a strong wind blowing at the time. The kind of wind which feels like its slowly percolating through your protective layers and skin and reaching your bones. We headed back home from here. A nice, short and rejuvenating trip.  

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bus journey from Kelowna, BC to Nelson, BC

I love long distance bus journeys. Back in India I used to do quite a lot. Apart from my regular overnight bus rides from Nellore to Hyderabad and back on the weekends, I used to take buses on many of my short weekend trips. A visit to a remote forest rest house in Andhra Pradesh and to an off beat hill station in Tamil Nadu comes to mind. Ever since moving to Canada I have been looking to go on some bus journeys. Unfortunately, just around my time of moving to Canada, the Greyhound bus service in Canada closed down. And then Covid19 happened shutting down all travel plans. In 2021, I moved to Kelowna and I got an opportunity for a bus journey when I was scheduled to do some site inspections in Nelson, a city almost 350km away. Due to reasons which are too long and private to describe here I decided to take a bus instead of going by car which is more popular in this country. 

On the scheduled day, I reached the starting point of bus which is at the Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna 30 mins before the scheduled departure time. I was alone when I reached but slowly a few more people joined in. The bus arrived 5 mins early and the driver, a friendly lady checked our IDs and went off for a quick refreshment break. The bus was a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Crew Van 2500. It had a seating capacity of  12 people. Soon the driver was back, she loaded our bags in the luggage compartment at the back and off we went on our 6 hour journey. Apart from me, there was two ladies travelling together and a guy who worked in the Canadian National Railways and was reporting back to work after taking a break in the weekend. 

The bus journey itself was comfortable. I settled down in the last row of the bus near the window. The views throughout the journey were beautiful. As it was winter, most of the surroundings were covered with snow. It was just white everywhere with some green trees jutting out of the white sheet here and there. Our first stop for a break was in Rock Creek, where we stopped near a gas station. The store nearby had, to my absolute surprise, hot samosas. I got 2 for myself and got some hot chocolate. The samosas were delicious. Reminded me of the dhaba stops in India. The next stop was in Grand Forks, a beautiful city near the US border. I had passed through these cities and towns 3 times before during my previous trips to the Kootenays. I visited Nelson, Castlegar and Trail in previous trips. That was with a colleague in a car. The bus journey had a different feel to it.

We reached Nelson around 4 30pm. I bid good bye to the driver and walked to my hotel. The overall journey was smooth, relaxed and fun. Though it was shorter than what I would have liked it was a good bus journey. My quest for a bus journey in Canada which is longer both in terms of time and distance, remains ongoing.  

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Mt Boucherie, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Only the third hike I did all summer this year! This time I went with an acquaintance I made on one of the WhatsApp groups. Mt Boucherie is an easy hike in West Kelowna. Pretty straightforward. It is 5.6 km long and has a 300m elevation gain. 

Kanwal and I

Knox Mountain, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Knox Mountain, often called Kelowna's Grouse Mountain lies right at the heart of the city. Situated in downtown it is minutes away from the core of the city. One weekend I headed over the mountain to do a hike. I was still feeling disappointed by my effort on the Sea to Summit Trail a couple of months ago so I wanted to get back in the hiking rhythm. It was not much of an effort. I enjoyed the early morning calmness and peace that comes before the crowds come in. A refreshing Sunday morning hike. As good as it gets!