This is a day by day account of our tour around BC which took place from mid September to early October 09. It's very long (sorry) but I thought that too much is better than not enough, then at least people can skip most of it if it's not interesting. It was 3 weeks after all. I'd just like to say thanks to the BC experts and members... I didn't ask many questions but believe me I was soaking up the information from the BC forum like a sponge in the 2 months before the trip, so thank you for answering everyone else's questions, I certainly benefitted from your knowledge.
Our trip was mainly centred around seeing some of the best bits of BC as the last time we were there in the winter (Between Vancouver and Whistler that time) it was foggy, depriving me of some of the gorgeous views I'd expected. I planned a loose itintery based on hiring an RV from Vancouver, taking in a loop around the Okanagan Valley, up to the Rockies, and back down the Fraser Valley before taking the bus over to Vancouver Island for a few days and then back to Vancouver itself to fly home. So onto the story of what happened:
Day one: Arrival in Vancouver. We arrived at 1430 and after a small delay at immigration (the officer never did explain properly why I was detained for a short while) opted to take a taxi into town rather than the much cheaper Canada line, mainly because there was no CL station within walking distance to our hotel. Fare was around $30. We got to the Westin Grand at the Eastern end of Robson by around 1630 and recieved a free upgrade toa Queen suite... it's a great hotel with a kitchen in every room (seperate review posted soon), and with a small supermarket (The IGA marketplace) next door on one side, and a liquor store on the other side, it couldn't be better located. We went to an "Irish pub" just up Robson called Lennox's where we had burgers and Yam fries, and then went back to sleep off some of the jetlag.
Day 2: Vancouver and Stanley Park. After a jetlag assited awakening at 6am, I had my first ever White Spot breakfast. It was good, but my God it was big, and it sat in my stomach like a lead weight until mid day. I went back to the IGA and bought fruit juice and pastries for my wife, at least then she wouldn't have indigestion for the rest of the morning! On our last visit we walked the seawall walk around Stanley Park but the views were spoiled by fog and rain. Not this time though, and after a couple of lovely hours of very scenic walking, we got back to English Bay as weary as last time, but with a generous helping of sunburn. I promise to remember my hat next time. That night following a recommendation from ******** (thanks!) we headed down to Yaletown and ate at the Yaletown Brewing company in the restaurant. The food was excellent and we had a great time, popping into the brewpub next door for another pint before eventually walking home.
Day 3: Time to leave Vancouver to head off into the interior. Klaus from Go West RV Rentals picked us up at our hotel and drove us the 30 minutes or so out to Go West's base at Coquitlam. Another staff member, Jan, took us through the hour of explaination on how to work the unit, empty the tanks etc, and we were ready to go. The staff at Go West are thorough yet friendly, and I was impressed with our unit, a 26 foot Winnebago Access. Slowly I made my way out to a nearby supermarket to stock up on food and beer, and then on to the Trans Canada Highway into the traffic, struggling initially to get to grips with the width of the unit and the road positioning. It was a nervous first hour! Our first stop was was going to be Hope, in particular the Othello Tunnels campground and RV park. After about a 2 hour journey with steadily decreasing traffic and steadily increasing confidence, we arrived in the Hope area and eventually found our campground, a good few miles off the main Highway. Being my first ever RV park I wasn't sure what to expect... it was pretty small in comparison with many that we would stay at... only 20 or so pitches, but being outside the main season we were the only transient customer that night. We lit our campfire in the pit, cracked a few beers, got the dinner on, and got our heads into the books to learn more about how the RV worked, and also to plan the next days trip.
Day four: Manning Provincial Park. We woke fairly early after a slightly noisy night (trains and trucks do pass by quite close) and before checking out, we walked the 1 mile or so down to the Othello tunnels, which we really enjoyed. As a first taste of the BC interior scenery, it was a great start. In the early afternoon we were back on the road and heading for Manning Provincial Park. As we drove, the highway narrowed in places to one lane and started to get twisty and a bit steep, but by now I was starting to get more confident and the driving wasn't too demanding. Eventually we reached Manning in mid afternoon and stopped at Lightning Lake Campground. There are four parks in Manning, but being the winter season only this one was open to RV's. This was to be my only stop at a provincial campground and I was really impressed, despite having nearly 200 spaces it was beautifully kept, natural and about as unspoilt as somewhere like this could be. In common with many provincial grounds there was no electrical hookup so it was going to be battery power all night. We almost immediately headed off on about a 4 mile hike around Lightning lake which was really beautiful, and we hardly saw another soul. On our return, we met our friendly one legged park ranger (really!) who sold us some firewood and took our camping fee. Then it was time for more cold beers, dinner, and a good hour spent staring up at the stars, which were spectacular thanks to the low light pollution. We enjoyed hearing the forest creatures raping and eating each other before we headed for bed.
Day five: Keremeos and Penticton. After a chilly night out in the forests, we eventually got on the way towards one of BC's desert regions at Keremeos. After an hour or two's drive of slowly changing countryside, we came to Keremeos itself, with its fruit orchards and vegetable fields contrasting sharply with the surrounding rocky, scrub covered hills, which somehow reminded me more of cowboy films from my youth than of British Columbia. Keremeos was delightfully hot, dusty and sleepy, and I stopped just north of there at Bears Farm fruit stand where I bought fresh bell peppers and hot peppers, onions and garlic. My wife bought peaches (the biggest she's ever seen), some other fruits and some local beef jerky which was perfect. It must be great to be able to eat produce like that all year round. Another 90 minutes later, just short of Penticton we arrived at Wright's beach park. All I can say is that Mister Wright must be the most fortuitous RV park owner in all of Canada. Set on the shore of Skaha Lake, around 30 of the pitches back straight onto a private beach. So on a nice sunny evening, (albeit with a very stiff breeze) we cooked up some of the vegetables from Keremeos, drank some more beers, and fed the ducks. Marvellous.
Day six: Vernon. So we headed North, up Okanagan Lake, and on through wine country. I must say that I didn't see as many vineyards as I thought I might, and despite the various signs from the roadside, I'd say there's plenty of room for more. Just kidding really, but I was surprised not to see a more "blanketed" look similar to the vineyard regions of Germany or France. We got off the main highway and dropped down the other side of the hill following signs for Grey Monk Winery, where we took a free tour and learned more about wine production in the Okanagan. It's a very nice vineyard and we bought a few bottles from the well stocked shop... they nearly all made it back to the UK with the exception of a Gewurtztraminer that had to be opened that night. We then pushed on to just short of Vernon, stopping the night in Dutch's campground. It's a nice enough place, blighted only by very frequent freight trains shunting slowly through the edge of the park. I don't mind them when they rush through, but my God, when they keep stopping and starting they don't half make a clanging, banging racket!
Day 7: Revelstoke. After a very pleasant couple of hours drive we found the well rated Lamplighter Campground with no problems, and we were glad we did. It was one of the prettiest and well maintained campgrounds that we would stay at. I was looking forward to this one as it was within walking distance of a major town, which meant I hopefully wasn't going to have to cook. After a short walk of 2 miles or so around the river dyke area, we headed into Revelstoke itself which was about a half hours walk. At this time of the evening on a Monday the town was dead, but most places were still open, if not busy. We headed into the pub at the Regent Inn where the food was pretty good, and afterwards found ourselves in a "sports bar" about 3 blocks away which actually seemed more like a social club, bingo hall and bar all rolled into one! Still we weren't made to feel unwelcome and we had a pretty good time. Staggering out, we managed to find the town's one and only cab on a Monday night (the friendly driver explained that there are usually more later on in the week) and were soon back at the Lamplighter.
Day 8: Revelstoke again. After unhooking the RV we headed off up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway to Mount Revelstoke National Park. We did some of the smaller foot trails around the summit but they were so short that each one only took minutes and as a consequence there were lots of visitors there. Instead, we headed off onto one of the much longer lake trails, through woods, rocky paths, and open meadows (very much bear country!) With much handclapping and loud talking we reached the first lake on the trail safe but tired just under 4 miles later. Beyond this point, my wife wasn't confident on the increasingly rocky paths, so we about turned and walked back, hollering and clapping once more. We found ourselves back in the RV by late afternoon, and we headed back into town as the light started to fail, picking up a pretty good Chinese takeaway on the way back to Lamplighter to spend one more night.