We love Canada, eh! After exploring many different towns, terrains, and types of people in the maple leaf nation, other than the outrageous cost of beer, we’ve yet to find fault with our rugged neighbor to the north. I find that most Americans I know were raised with an uppity attitude towards Canadians, and like blond women of the 90’s, are often the butt of many an American joke. Well USA, I’m here to say that between the universal health care, mountains, lakes, bald eagles, student grants, Mounties, and kind people everywhere, there is much to be learned from the provinces that reside just over our nation’s head.
We started our journey crossing the border, where the Canadian Customs officer greeted us with open arms. We then made our way to the FREE ferry that crosses stunning Kootenay Lake. Clear, crisp water, at high altitude and surrounded by dusted mountain peaks…get serious. After the ferry landing, you pass through the town of Kaslo, BC, which was our last chance to stock up on groceries and some of that terribly expensive beer. We pointed the car due north for another hour, passed over a magnificent river, just beyond the meadow-y flats, up the dirt road and down the gravel driveway to our destination, Argenta, BC.
Argenta seems to be a land where time stopped before modern society could pluck away all of its charms. Now consisting of about 150 people, the area was originally developed as very small Quaker town. During the Korean War though, it became a great place for draft dodgers to defect, turning the place into an uber peaceful, off-the-grid euphoria on the banks of the Kootenay. Surrounded by stunning wilderness, the loyal residents form a healthy and ever-growing music scene. It’s an amazing gem in this fast and crazy world; the kind of place where a crime spree consists of a single stolen scarf and a few bags of potato chips. It should be noted that the scarf was both cleaned and returned…after it was used in the birthing of a child. The community relies on one another, and while financial commerce isn’t how it earned its place on the map, bartering is alive and well. Nine chickens for a few hours of studio recording time is a totally reasonable trade, and these types of trades happen often. You can feel the fierce love the residents of Argenta hold for their land, and we’d like to thank them for their incredible hospitality during our days there. We’ll never forget the music filled welcome party, nor the delicious farewell dinner featuring two huge Bull Trout that went from water to plate, in just a few short hours. To learn more about the talented musicians of the area, please check out the Music Restoration Project, as well as the music of Sean Rodman, one of our lovely Argentian hosts.
From Argenta, we drove two hours south to the town of Nelson. Full of gorgeous Victorian homes, a picture perfect downtown area, and an amazing bridge over the Kootenay Lake, Nelson is like something out of a fairy tale. We had the pleasure of staying in the driveway of a friend’s sister, and were treated to two beautiful afternoons inside of their Mandala home. Serene, peaceful, round, and eco-conscious in every way, it was a luxurious spot to research the next segment of our trip. Thank you Lars and Rachel for the hospitality you showed two strangers.
As we made our way towards our final Canadian destination, we chose a route that included the wine country of British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley. There were plenty of rolling hills that were reminiscent of Napa and Sonoma, making me think of home, but we were also surrounded by high mountain walls making the valley ever more dramatic. Every turn we made was more beautiful than the last, and the hillsides were dotted with trees that showcased incredible fall colors. While our time there was brief, we were able to get in a nice hike on the valley floor to an old covered bridge, and had a few moments where we felt as though we stepped back in time.
We finally made it to the Tswassen ferry terminal, and drove on for our two-hour journey to Victoria. Once we landed, we hit the closest grocery store to re-supply, and talked to some locals about their favorite parks. We spent our first night on the island at French Beach Provincial Park, in a rain forest like setting slightly inland from the island coast. It felt like we were back in Jurassic times as we made a fire surrounded by giant ferns and trees.
The Park Ranger then gave us a few recommendations for other great parks, and that’s how we found ourselves at Jordan River Park. We backed into a spot, opened the back doors of the van and posted up right on the beach for two perfect nights. While this park is usually non-stop busy, we arrived as everyone was departing at the end of the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
There was only one other couple in the park, and we spent our days walking the rock beaches (where we enjoyed our first of three Canadian bears sightings), and our nights making dinner in our Dutch oven over the fire. It was prime mushroom foraging season, and some generous ladies who had stumbled across an incredible bounty, shared a pound of chanterelle mushrooms that had been picked just hours before we used them in our dinner. We would have stayed a few more nights, but on the eve of my birthday, decided to take off for our return to the states to have a celebratory dinner with old friends.
As we made our return voyage back to the mainland, we reflected on our two incredible and diverse weeks in the north. There is much left for us to explore in British Columbia and the remaining Canadian provinces. Someday we hope to take the Canadian Pacific Railway across the country, to view more gems from our amazing and hospitable neighbor.