Best B.C. getaways this summer: Okanagan road trip

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and we just aired our Spring Forecast at the Weather Network. This can only mean one thing, summer is right around the corner.

I know for many people this has been a long, hard, and dark winter and while the rules and regulations for the summer are still uncertain, there has been a lot of initial whispers that it will be similar to last summer. In B.C. last summer a six person bubble was acceptable and you were allowed to travel inter provincially.

Now, I am by no means saying go ahead and book that getaway until we know exactly what the summer will look like, but if we are allowed to explore some of B.C. I wanted to share some of my favourite trips with you.

I have always been a big fan of the Okanagan (wine country hellllllooooo) but last summer for work I was able to discover a lot more than just delicious Okanagan wine. Think of Tuscany, but just 5ish hours outside of Vancouver. Rolling hills, mountains, and yes rows of green and purple grapes. It is an amazing place to explore, and one great aspect of this road trip: along the way there you travel through the ‘Electric Highway’ where there are hundreds of electric vehicle charing stations so it can be a great getaway that is also not hurting the environment.

I wanted to share some of my favourite places to stop and enjoy along the way.

Stop 1: Osoyoos

Osoyoos is the southern most town in the Okanagan Valley. The origin of the name comes from “soo-yoos” meaning “narrow waters”. Here you will find a dramatic desert like landscape with sweeping valleys and deep brown mountains.

Things to do 

My first stop in Osoyoos was to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre where I had a tour of the state of the art interpretive centre. The tour took his to the edge of the hill side, stopping to marvel at the sage and deer brush (which is endangered). My amazing guide Jenna taught me all about how the Osoyoos Indian Band use the land here. Different trees are used for tools and clothes, different leaves are used for food and herbs. It was truly amazing to learn about the connection to wildlife first hand. While I am petrified of snakes, this area is also home to B.C.’s endangered rattlesnakes and they do a lot of studying and rehabilitation at the centre.

Once the tour was done I made my way over to the Nk’Mip Cellars. This is actually the first Indigenous owned winery in North America. It was amazing to hear about the history and the story behind the award winning wine. I had a chance to sip some of the wines while overlooking the beautiful Osoyoos Lake.

Stop #2 Vernon

After exploring Osoyoos, I hoped back on Highway 97 heading north towards Vernon. Vernon is well known for hiking and biking trails that curve around colourful lakes and sandy beaches. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Things to do 

Before making it to my hotel I made a quick stop at Davison Orchards. I have never seen an orchard so big. They had endless rows of all different types of apples and other fruits. I had a chance to try their famous “Appleanche” Slush. It was sweet and refreshing on a hot day.

Next I rented a bike from Kalavida Surf Shop and decided to explore some of the famous Rail Trail. The Rail Trail is a bike path that goes all the way from Vernon to Kelowna passing through beautiful rock faces and gorgeous lakes. At the start of the trail you bike along Kalmalka Lake. This 16 km lake is famous for its blue-green waters (it is one of a small handful of marl lakes in Canada). You could actually see the different tones as you traveled along the side of the lake. I just wish I had brought my bathing suit because there were some sandy beaches just off the trail.

Stop #3 Kamloops

After riding the bike it was back to the car for the third and final stop of the trip. I had only ever been to Kamloops once before and that was to cover a wildfire in the area, so I was excited to discover a different side of this city.

Kamloops is pretty unique because it is located in the middle of two branches of the Thompson River. What I didn’t know though is it is also home to amazing mountains and breathtaking hikes.

Things to do 

I had a chance to meet with local guide Frank Ritchie, who first took me to a beautiful lookout point to see where the two parts of the river meet. After that we made our way to the Thompson Grasslands Provincial Park. Here we did a moderate hike up Lac Du Bois to see some incredible hoodoo formations as well as columnar basalts (aka lava flows). We even saw mountain goats in the distance. After taking some pictures of the incredible hoodoos, we then made our way over to the Garden of the Trolls. An easy stroll, through some grass patches and then boom – all of a sudden these giant rock formations that look like trolls faces appear out of nowhere. Some of them standing 20 feet high. I had a chance to climb to the top of one of them for some spectacular views.

I must say I really enjoyed this trip. As a weather reporter I usually head out to this region as I mentioned for wildfires, but this trip opened my eyes to a whole different side of the Okanagan. It is home to some stunning lakes and breathtaking hikes. I cannot wait to go back and discover more of B.C.’s wine country (and so much more).

I would love to hear some of your favourite summer getaways around B.C. so we can dream of exploring again.

xo

Mia

15 Photos that will inspire you to hike Bryce Canyon

When I found out that one of my husband’s recent work trips was going to take him to Salt Lake City, Utah I was ecstatic. I have always dreamed of hiking more of the U.S. National Parks as they are all so unique and stunning, and Bryce Canyon had long been on number one on my to do list. 

Bryce Canyon was one place I have always wanted to go because of the stunning hoodoos. Here you will find the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world. 

Since we were going to Salt Lake City for my husband’s work, we flew into that airport and rented a care ( we could only add a weekend onto the trip) and while two days was definitely not enough (since we decided to explore both Bryce Canyon and Zion) it at least allowed us an opportunity to capture the beauty. 

From Salt Lake, you will have to rent a car and it is about a six hour drive. Once you get out of the city it is quite a beautiful drive with plenty of mountain views along the way. 

Since we had such a short time at Bryce Canyon, we did a ton of research to figure out which hike would provide us the most view points (especially of the hoodoos).

We ended up deciding on the Queens Garden to Nevajo Loop Trail because you got to experience two different viewpoints in the 5km loop. On this hike you really got a little bit of everything, impressive views of the unbelievable hoodoos ( they literally took my breathe away when I saw them) to the stunning rock formations, to some of the greenery. One of my favourite pictures was of Thor’s Hamer below. 

I was astounded at the breathtaking views. It honestly felt like we were on a different planet. The contrast of the colours made the rocks look surreal, the rare green plants nestled between the deep ready made the whole park pop with colour. 

The day that we went, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and so the blue also made the red rocks even more vibrant and bright. 

I loved sneaking through the little tunnels formed by the rocks 

I must warn you though, there were a few steep areas to the hike. We did the hike in November and it was the perfect temperature, but I can imagine the valley would get quite hot in the summer making the steeper parts of the hike quite difficult so I would highly suggest a spring or fall hike. 

 

Fun Fact: Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. If you are not into hiking you can still take in the beautiful views from the four main viewpoints, which are all in the first few miles of the park. 

Fun Fact: The rocks are formed by erosion and the hoodoos are formed by frost wedging 

Every year the park gets over 2.7 million visitors and so I would suggest trying to visit in the off season like we  did. It was so peaceful to be surrounded by the beauty of nature and just the two of us to take it all in. 

Aside from hiking, Bryce Canyon also offers rock climbing and in the winter cross country skiing ( and there is something so magical about the pictures I have seen with the snow capped rocks) 

And at last, picture #15, I just had to add another of the beautiful wide shot of the hoodoos down below 

Bryce Canyon exceeded my expectations and I hope I get a chance to go back and explore even more of the park. Have you experienced Bryce? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also as I mentioned we also explored Zion National Park, and so I will be putting together a photo journal on that one soon as well!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

A Beginners Guide to Back Country Camping

It has been nearly a year since I moved from Toronto to Vancouver and during that time, I have tried to explore as much of the B.C. as possible.

They don’t call it beautiful B.C. out here for nothing. From the mountains, to the ocean this place is filled with such beauty.

Since moving here I have experienced the mountains through hiking and camping, the ocean through paddle boards and kayaks. I have seen whales and bears. Every inch offering some spectacular view. It is hard to believe that this is now home.

Over Canada Day long weekend though, I decided to experience something I have never done before; back country hiking and camping at Elfin Lakes.

The Experience 

We left early Sunday morning and made our way up to Squamish. Squamish is abut 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You really feel like you have left the city and entered a fairy tale. So much greenery and nature.

We then started our hike. 11KM up the first day, and part of me wanted to turn back for the first 5KM. It was extremely steep and pretty difficult with my backpack, but trust me it is worth it. During the first half of the hike we observed hundred year old trees and waterfalls. The air was so fresh, the views stunning. It wasn’t like any experience I have ever had.

The second half of the hike was gruelling in a different way. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of snow we would have in July. My shoes weren’t quite as waterproof as I had hoped and navigating through the snow while rolling over hills was difficult, but again the views from here were magnificent. Snow capped peaks in the distances, clear blue water peaking out through the iced lakes.

 

We eventually made it to the top, and were lucky that we were one of the first ones there because they only had a few uncovered sleeping decks. We set up our tent with an open view of the endless mountain range. I couldn’t believe that would be my morning wake up.

Then we opened up the grill and started cooking outside in the wilderness while playing card games, drinking from the lake, and cracking open our boxed wine.

We watched the sunset while dancing to some music. Watching the colour disappear behind the mountains was magical. A sense of accomplishment came over me.

An early wake up call, some oatmeal and coffee, and then we started our decent back down. 11KM to go, and again plenty of snow stuck in my shoes.

This was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Back Country hiking really puts you out in nature, really forces you to put your phone down and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. I cannot wait to experience more hikes and camps like this.

 

Preparation 

As a relatively new hiker, I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible. I knew that I wanted to make sure I had all of the necessities, but also wanted to pack light because I had a 22KM hike ahead of me. It was difficult finding the balance and hard to know exactly what to bring and what to leave at home. Here is a list of some of the essentials that I found helpful if you are hoping to try Back Country hiking and camping yourself;

  • A good backpack: I went with the MEC Mistral 55 Backpack. It was lightweight but had plenty of room to fit my needs. I loved the padded straps to make for comfortable hiking. I also loved the cross wind back, so that it doesn’t rest directly on your back and allows air to flow while hiking.
  • An all season lightweight tent: It is important to have a tent that can withstand the elements, but one that isn’t going to be too heavy during a hike.
  • A sleeping mat: You are going to be sleeping on the ground, so to make the experience as comfortable as possible, you may want a mat to lie on. Having that extra layer also makes for warmer conditions. I went with the MEC Deluxe Sleeping Pad. Light weight, but also extremely comfortable. Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • A sleeping bag: I used my Topquilt sleeping bag. You can find more info on what makes this the perfect sleeping bag in my previous blog post.
  • Layers: Canadian weather can change in an instant and so it is important to bring minimal amount of clothes, but clothes that can be used in the elements. Make sure you have warm socks and layers in case it gets cold at night. Also make sure you have enough dry socks. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Bear Spray: You definitely want to be prepared in case you run into any trouble.
  • A whistle: Again, a great way to be prepared in case of a dangerous situation.
  • Food: I packed some instant food from MEC. All you have to do is add water and you have a delicious meal that is easy and light to carry. Way easier than trying to bring a ton of different ingredients.
  • Matches: No matter what kind of hiking trip you are going on, you are going to want to have something that can light a fire.
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss army knife

For a full list of hiking essentials check out MEC’s awesome list. It really helped me prepare for my trip.

 

Safety first

I cannot wait to experience more of B.C. through these excursions and trips, but a reminder if you are going to go hiking and camping be prepared. Know the area, know the route, and let someone know where you are going. Because while the wilderness is beautiful but dangerous all at the same time.

You hear stories of people getting lost and hurt and you never think it can happen to you, but trust me if you aren’t prepared it most definitely can.

Have you every been back country hiking? I would love for you to comment below and share your experience!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia