August 22, 2014

Osoyoos Lake, the beach and an apocalyptic sun

Osoyoos Lake is Canada's warmest fresh water lake, with summertime water temperatures averaging 24 degrees. It attracts tens of thousands every summer.

For some reason, southeastern British Columbia is popular with people from Alberta. Not that there's anything wrong with that, nor with people from Alberta. The license plates seen at the Spanish Inquisition are mainly from Alberta and the accent often heard in coffee shops and pizza parlours in Osoyoos is Albertan, and there isn't anything wrong with that either, though visions of tar sands and bursting pipelines filled with goop, tend to come to the minds of those from the southwestern coast of BC. Some of us drive around in great big SUVs too, far too many of drink coffees from disposable cups, and according to popular belief we all seem to be wearing yoga pants. All of which probably irritates people visiting from Alberta, especially the part about yoga pants.

In any event, the lake is warm and wonderful, though full of motorised craft. Speed boats and personalised water craft speed up and down and all around, mainly in circles to impress someone on the beach. This is not Idabel Lake, nor is it St. Mary Lake either.

Our afternoon at the beach was hot and muggy and there was taste of smoke in the air. What began as a clear morning in Osoyoos turned into a darker midday, the sun hidden at times behind clouds and smoke. While there were a number of forest fires burning in BC, this smoke was actually coming from fires burning across the international boundary in the US.

At times, the sun turned a brilliant red. The darkness on the beach caused many to look up from their phones, however briefly, to view what might have been described as an apocalyptic sun. What else could it be? The ear-splitting drone of high speed mechanisation on the water, the soundtrack from the best of the 60s, 70s and 80s booming in from the parking lot of the Spanish Inquisition, and hundreds of people on the beach, each staring at a personal hand-held device, oblivious to the world around them.

The end is near. Possibly in Alberta though just as likely in lululemon land.

 Photos taken between noon and 3:00p.
Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

August 21, 2014

Osoyoos and the Spanish Inquisition

After the pure pleasure of Idabel Lake, we managed to wend our way to Osoyoos, visiting a few wineries along the way. Osoyoos is a desert community at the southern part of the Okanagan Valley. It's population of slightly less than 5,000 swells in the summer months and on this 38 degree day near the beginning of August it seemed as though another 15,000 had arrived at the same time.

Of course most people travelling at the height of summer and on a weekend make some sort of a reservation for accommodation. Not so for Jeem and the writer. "We can find something when we get there." and "It will fine. There are lots of nice places on the beach."

Well. It wasn't quite that easy, and Jeem will know better next time. We did find a place and it was on the beach. It was a little rough around the edges and when later we looked on-line we noted some reviews and observations on tripadvisor and similar sites: "Worst motel in Canada." "I wouldn't recommend this place to my enemy let alone someone I cared about." My favourite comment: "...the person behind the front desk seemed annoyed when we checked in" which was our exact same experience. He knew we were not his kind of customers and that we would probably complaining the moment we saw the room, and he put us off as best he could. We were determined however and somehow we were finally granted a key to number 17. On the second floor. Hasn't been updated since 1982. A queen size bed that might have originated around the same time, and a Magnavox television from 1987 at best. We didn't complain. Number 17 might have been the last room in town.

In the end it wasn't all that bad. Some of the reviewers obviously had a less than satisfying experience, including the noise level. True, we couldn't hear our neighbours through the paper thin walls because the clanking of the room's air conditioner made human interaction within our space almost impossible, never mind hearing the snores from next door. Probably a good thing. It was a great place about 25 years ago.

Many of the motel's patrons are regulars and have been coming here, according to Jay, "the person behind the front desk," for years. In fact, when Jay warmed up to Jeem and the writer (when we were leaving), he said the motel is almost fully booked through the summer and almost entirely with repeat customers.

These regular patrons like spending their vacation sitting in the parking lot, or as near to their pick-up trucks as possible, with classic hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s booming in the background and the beer almost cold. Never mind that the beach, where the water was a wonderful 24 degrees, was only a few metres away. Smoking on the beach is not permitted, hence setting up in the parking lot, or in the doorway to their rooms, blowing smoke into what are supposed to be smoke-free rooms. None of this mattered.

We enjoyed the time-warped reality situation, and the beach was lovely. Jay even suggested we would be welcome again anytime. We've made the regulars list it would seem. Somehow I don't think so.

As for the Spanish Inquisition: the name of this wonderful establishment is Spanish Fiesta. It only seemed like torture.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

August 12, 2014

Supermoon at Centennial Beach ~ August 10, 2014

After a long, hot summer day the sun slowly disappeared. Many people were leaving the beach but a large number remained.

People were in the water and on it too.

Photographers attended to whatever it is we do: adjusting things, checking other things. Waiting. Mostly waiting.

It was to be the best supermoon of the year and as the writer and I waited, on the beach in Tsawwassen, I wondered when the term supermoon began, and why. I didn't recall hearing the term growing up, nor do I remember it being discussed in astronomy books I might have read.

Apparently, and we have time since we are still waiting, the name supermoon was coined in 1979 by an astrologer of all people. Richard Nolle defined it as a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90%) of its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.

The term supermoon is not used by astronomers, which prefer to use terms like perigee-syzygy or perigee full.

Somehow supermoon sounds better.

Eventually, the moon began to appear, slowly at first, seemingly ejecting itself from the very body of Mount Baker. There was an noticeable "ahhh" from the assembled congregation on the beach, possibly some are into astrology and certainly all were keen to see this supermoon.

It rose and for a moment or two seemed as if to dwarf the mountain, bright and bold and big. Like something super.

And soon enough it was just another full moon:
bright and bold and big, and providing enough light to stay on the water just a bit longer.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.

August 07, 2014

Fishing on Idabel Lake

As most of us probably knew by now, and as Jeem learned yet again for the first time, the best time to fish is when the mosquitoes are biting. There's nothing like a hot summer night, fish hooks getting caught on whatever you happen to be wearing, or body parts as the case might be, and the buzz of the world's most irritating insect.

Idabel Lake is amazingly clear, clean and cool and it's perfect for a dip after a long, hot day visiting wineries, especially as the sun dances on the surface of the water. But enough with the swimming... the fish are jumping and the mosquitoes are biting.

Our fishing guide in this nightly endeavour was Jeem's brother-in-law Rich. Patient with Sherry, less so with Jeem, Rich offered wisdom and gentle direction. "I think maybe over there..." Jeem wondered how in the world he was going to cast a line way over there, never mind getting the hook out of his right ear lobe. As Rich said, "There's an art to this."

We never did catch anything, though Jeem did reel in a floating diving platform by mistake.

The lonely call of the loon, a magnificent night sky and the peace that comes from being in a special place ... that's "the art to this."

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014. 

August 06, 2014

Idabel Lake Resort

Those who follow these chronicles will know my love for Lakeside Gardens Resort on St Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island. We found another resort about 40 km southeast of Kelowna in the Thompson Okanagan and this one is slightly different from Lakeside Gardens.

Idabel Lake Resort is a group of privately owned cabins and suites clustered on the eastern shore of Idabel Lake, and most are rented out throughout the year.

Very much a family place, this is, like St Mary Lake, a fisher's paradise with Idabel well stocked with Rainbow Trout and Eastern Brook. It's a place to do nothing too.

The lake is about 45 ha in area, at an altitude of 1290 m. During our three days at Idabel daytime temperatures ventured into the low 30s and evenings cooled to the lower teens. In the heat its hard to believe this lake is covered in ice from late October through part of May.

A pirate ship makes its way back and forth with a crew of kids a hundred times or more through the day. It's the same boat that was here twenty years ago.

The lake is pristine, quiet and beautiful. The water is clear and clean and slightly tea coloured, depicting the vegetation of the area. While logging occurs in the region, Idabel offers the sense of serenity and peace. The call of the loon greeted us each morning and again at sunset. There is something wonderfully Canadian about hearing that forlorn voice echo from across the lake.

The accommodation varies of course with each owner. Our place, which we shared with my sister and her husband was complete with satellite television, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, barbecue and hot tub. Not bad digs, and yes, slightly different from Lakeside Gardens.

And like Lakeside Gardens the real treasure of this place is the lake itself. Close to the urban sprawl of Kelowna, yet conveniently out of cell phone coverage. Just a few klicks off a provincial highway, but a universe away from all the cares in the world.

Photos by Jim Murray. 
Copyright 2014.

August 05, 2014

BC Day ~ the flag in tatters and a province too

This BC Day, a provincial holiday to celebrate all that is beautiful in British Columbia, found us looking at the province's flag at the dock on a wonderful lake in the interior. To be sure, there is no excuse for finding a flag in such poor repair; this is not acceptable by any means. However, there is something symbolic about seeing our flag in tatters.

While we were staying on a pristine lake full of trout, with deer and moose nearby and the call of the loon signalling the end of each day, another river system further north was being damaged by the pollution of a mine spill quite likely avoidable if only our government had acted in the interests of the environment. At the same time, beaches in Metro Vancouver are being closed due to high E. coli levels; people are told to avoid swimming or even wading in the water.

Meanwhile BC appears on track to continue to top the nation in poverty rates among children. Fully twenty percent of children and families in this province live below the government's own poverty line.

Services for seniors and families continue to be under attack from a government that seeks to reward its friends at the expense of its citizens. In its continuing war on education the Christy Clark's government has taken to offering bribes to the parents of children during the teachers' strike instead of negotiating meaningfully for the benefit of all British Columbians, including our children and our teachers.

Our beloved leader has even taken to publicly supporting Israel in its war in Gaza, which is not really in the bailiwick of any provincial premier. Christy Clark can choose to speak personally and that would be admired, perhaps, but to speak for all of BC in a matter clearly of external affairs does not show good judgement.

The flag at our beautiful lake needs attention. So too does our province.

Photos by Jim Murray. Copyright 2014.