One Hundred Twenty Five Kilometres to Osoyoos, BC

Before jumping back into the Tacoma for the hour and a half drive West towards the southernmost town of the Okanagan Valley known as Osoyoos, we opted to stretch our legs and do a bit of boutique shopping in town.

“Where do you want to go?” she asked as I pulled her down the sidewalk in no particular direction which just happened to be southwest.

Walking in silence heads down eyes moving around observing the scenery before us. Low slung single brick buildings probably built in the 1880’s and 1980’s alike. My mind kept thinking why would someone in the 1800’s move here. What is here that they focused on? There’s no mineral content. Sure there is a small river running through town but… Perplexed by my internal inquiries Shauna looked over at me and says, “you have a very strange look on your face. What’s bugging you?” Stopping our feet from moving I turned to look at her and noticed the City Hall building across the street.

What year do you think people started coming into this area of the world to set up their homes? Why would someone picked this location. I’m trying to decide what the attraction is to this particular location. Maybe the answers are inside that red building. It looks like a City Hall or museum.” She laughed, shook her head and wandered across the street towards the building I had just referenced.

Later on I would look up why Grand Forks existed and learnt that in 1894 a new settlement at the North Fork bridge began to pop up because of copper mining in the area. The town site was built next to two conjoining rivers the Granby and Kettle rivers. And by 1902 Grand Forks had three railways, lumber mills, a smelter, mines, a post office, a school and a hospital.

Crossing to the south side of the street we turned and headed back down market street towards the Tacoma. Legs stretched we moved forward looking into the closed storefronts. Its a very sleepy town for a Saturday afternoon, I thought. Then as if on cue, I could smell incense.

The magical scent of sage and palo santo was floating through the air, except I was the only one smelling this in the air. It could be because a few minutes ago it was raining and she doesn’t have a strong sense of smell. All those years working in aquatics around strong smelling chemicals had fried her sense of smell.

A few shops more and I spotted an open doorway inviting people in off the street. As we neared I said we should step inside there and pointed to the shop with a deceptive name: Landmark Comics & Gifts.

Upon entering we immediately recognized this to be a smorgasbord shop of geodes, gemstones, jewelry, gadgets, incense, home decor known as “smalls” and comic books at the back of the store. “Hello, how are the two of you today?” said the proprietor coming out of the backroom. “We are doing fairly well. You have an interesting collection of gemstones,” says my wife as she began pawing at the items on display.

Within ten minutes of entering the store she had already pulled a 2-inch malachite, a 1-inch smoky quartz and a 1-inch amethyst from the shelf. “Literally cannot take you anywhere,” I said smiling at the stones she was slowly maneuvering through the store with. “You know me. I …” we both laughed knowing she was attracted to them and… “hey look, kyanite. Do you want a piece to replace…” she stopped before finishing where the kyanite had gone. “No. I am fine. I have plenty of fine pieces at home.” We idly chatted up the proprietor for another twelve-minutes then departed with her treasures.

Smiling I pointed across the street where the Tacoma was parked “are you ready to head onward to Osoyoos? Should we let them know we are coming or just surprise them?” I ask as we stepped up to the doors. She didn’t answer as she was now deep in thought.

Reversing the Tacoma we backed onto Market Street then fled forward one block turned right and headed down to Central Avenue (Crowsnest Highway 3) to turn left and head on our way. “What’s our plan for tonight and are we coming back here tomorrow?” I asked as the Tacoma yielded between two slower moving vehicles on the highway.

She was back to thinking over what the plans were of this impromptu road trip to Grand Forks. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I feel like we had a good visit and I don’t know if I can go through that again. Can we just go onward?”

And we did in silence for the next twenty-two minutes winding up hill until I broke the silence as we passed through the small town of Eholt and asked her about the piece of malachite which was still in her hands. She smiled knowing it had been picked up in the shop and never moved it out of her left hand. It was providing comfort for whatever she was thinking and not saying.

Down hill out of Eholt we went without saying more than five words at a time. Then we began to climb as we spotted a road sign

  • Greenwood 15 kms
  • Boundary Falls 18 kms
  • Midway 28 kms
  • Rock Creek 50 kms

“Would you like to stop in either Greenwood or Rock Creek for ice cream?” I asked. She smiled and shook her head No. The silence was pleasant and I popped on CD by Harry Manx. A few years back at the Folk Festival in Edmonton we had seen a show by him. He was this articulate person who sang folky-blues songs whilst playing a lap guitar, stomping on a stomp box and a mohan veneer. It was the first time I had ever heard sounds out of the mohan veneer as its a traditional instrument from the country of India.

Listening to Harry’s magical sounds was perfect for the hilly rainy weather we were driving through. Greenwood with its one block town of a collection of 1800’s two story brick buildings came and went as did Boundary Falls. At Midway we slowed down to see children playing in a park next to the river and sped off on the other side until we reached the town of Rock Creek. A literal one horse town.

The next small town came and went without either of us saying much as the rain broke while we were climbing up the landscape. The valley below exploded with summer colours of golden yellows and bright airy green leaves. “Beautiful,” she said and went back to being silent.

We reached the far side of the valley and spotted the entrance to Arosa Ranch and knew we were only about twenty-five kilometres more or less from our destination. Next we spotted the nearly 8-foot bronze statue of a raven, then a yeti followed by several other birds or mammals of the area. All of these bronze statues providing entrance into subdivisions of Osoyoos Mountain Estates.

Coming around the bend a slow moving semi-trailer rolled up the hill at a walker’s pace. We slowed behind it and knew we had to pass it before the peak of the road or we’d be stuck behind him for the next thirty minutes coming back down the steep roadway which drops you out into the Okanagan Valley. We caught a break and zoomed past the semi and where on our way to the peak. Coming down I spotted a pull out and said, “photo op?”

Pulling the Tacoma off to the shoulder we hopped out took a handful of photos then noticed the front end of the semi rounding the bed. “Shit!” I exclaimed followed by “get in the truck, NOW!!! She looked up the highway and saw the tractor-trailer headed our direction, snapping off a few more selfies and hopped into the passenger seat. Shoving the gear lever into drive and spun the tires as we exited the pullout in front of the semi.

Instantly we picked up speed due to the 35-percent grade then had to quickly apply the brakes for the road turned sharply right into a nearly 180-degree C-turn going back into the mountain and as we wound inside of the corkscrew we saw another lookout point on the outside edge of the hill known as Anarchist Mountain Lookout.

Coming out of the first crazy turn we again picked up speed down a short 50-metres of roadway and headed into a second C curve peeling our bodies back around inside the Tacoma and I thanked myself we were not behind the semi. That is until we unfurled from the C curve and came out into a long down hill straight-away.

The straight-away’s descent down a forty-percent grade both excited and scared the shit out of us. As we realized there would be a semi-tractor trailer chasing us down this long mountain stretch before the final wide open swooping curve which brought you down into the valley bottom on the eastern side of Osoyoos.

Grape vines, orchard blossoms and wine tasting shops with “WELCOME” signs on the roadway spiralled around us as we came through the final stretch of highway and entered the outskirts of town. We drove past fruit stands, hotels, amusement parks, RV parks and an assortment of restaurants before yielding across the small in-town bridge. Just past the bridge we turned left onto Kingfisher Drive, the back route to our destination.

“Every time we come here, you go a different route to their house. Its no wonder I never know where we are,” she said looking around trying to grab her bearings. “Its pretty simple from this side. You take this road it winds us back up the same way he walks to McDonald’s in the morning and you turn right onto their street,” I said.

She simply smiled while watching the plethora of homes pass by her window. People walking their dogs and smiling at the pleasant afternoon that was before them. Casually we came out onto Highway 97 south thus missing the left turn below which would have landed us at the house. “Hey this looks familiar,” she says. “It should. This is the regular road over to their house. I missed a turn back there. Either way. We are nearly to the GP’s house. Do you want to call ahead?” She shook her head no. This time we would arrive with a slight surprise!

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb