The majority of Canadian ginseng is produced in eastern Canada but also some here in British Columbia. We were on the way to Shuswap Lake and i remember taking this picture as the fields were so green in contrast to the surrounding mountains. The guide had us guess what it was that was being planted and finally told us when nobody had a clue.
The largest bulk of the ginseng is exported to Asia where it is important in traditional medicine.
The American ginseng (referring to the north american) is Panax quinquefolius, which is different from the asian variety, it grows natively only in cold climates. It is argued that the american ginseng promotes the yin energy, while the Asian variety promotes the yang energy.
One of the most special spots in BC is a small subalpine lake nestled beneath Mt. Victoria, Mt. Lefroy, and other behemoth mountains of the Continental Divide in Yoho National Park. The lake is an absolutely stunning spot and hiking in the area around the lake is excellent. However, access is quite limited- visitors can either hike in on an 11-km dirt road or book tickets for one of the four buses leading to the lake three months in advance. Visitors who wish to stay overnight may either camp or stay in the Lake O'Hara lodge. Either way, visitors who can get here should, as this unspoiled lake was definitely one of my favorite spots in the entire Canadian Rockies.
Some 270 km north east of Vancouver, the intrepid driver hits a highly industrialised crossroads that would appear to have little of interest unless the passengers in the car share a fascination for the timber industry. However, a bit of scratching below the surface will take that intrepid traveller into the centre of a small town, home to only 8,000 people, whose architecture screams its history as a frontier town: welcome to the town of Merritt.
Before the first Europeans fought their way to the Nicola Valley in which Merritt sits, the area had long been populated by native people. Since the mid 1800s the land around has been appreciated and exploited for its rich agricultural possibilities, particularly for raising livestock. While ranching remains an important feature of the local economy, the town of Merritt has also been involved in railroads, coal and copper mining and, following the bankruptcy of the town in the thirties, the ever present forestry industry.
Highway developments have since resulted in Merrit becoming an important transport hub for east-west routes as well as north-south ones.
The Merritt Chamber of Commerce has been pivotal in inaugurating a variety of initiatives to diversify the economy of the area. The casual visitor who can overlook the scarring that comes with the heavy industry that Merritt has grown to rely on, will be rewarded by recent restoration work in the town centre that gives an authentic flavour of the architecture favoured by those early pioneers. Fans of country music can indulge their interest through an annual festival that has resulted in the local dignitaries dubbing their hometown "the Country Music Capital of Canada". They can also play "hunt the star" along the streets of the town which now boast a Walk of Stars (see below).
Whistler is a great ski resort that has ample hiking trails in summer. It's a great place to stay in a B & B (with a hot tub), day hike and eat in nice restaurants at night. I stopped here on my way back from Alaska in 1998.
Disc Golf is a sport played much life ball golf. Instead of holes, there are chained baskets. Trees and water hazards work the same way. Instead of a ball and club, you throw flying discs which are smaller, heavier and more beveled than "regular Frisbees" so you can throw then a lot further. I was very into the sport in 1994 and visited over 100 courses around the US.
There was a great disc golf course on Pender Island which is on the ferry route between Victoria and Vancouver. It is a less developed island and you get a feel for how the locals live while there.
Tofino is a cool fishing village on Vancouver Island. The big attraction for me in 1994 was doing the boat excursion to Clayoquat Sound. This is a great natural hot spring. After the boat ride, you hike through a temperate rainforest to a series of hot pools right on the Pacific Ocean, fed by a hot waterfall!
Thursday, June 5.
Driving along Highway 99 North, just before Cache Creek, we came upon a very different sight. The water in the lake was a crystal clear blue -green colour. Created by the minerals in the silt, it didn't look real. You could actually see the fish swimming in the water. It was unbelievable.
As we were driving along Highway 99 North, I yelled at Hans to stop the car and turn around. I couldn't believe my eyes. There before us was this "REST AREA", complete with toilet, sink and bathtub. Someone with a sense of humour had created this rest area and filled the bathtub with flowers. Of course, Hans had to try out the "facilities".
If you're looking for getting off the beaten track in British Columbia, it's really not hard to do. But the tiny towns of Tulameen and Coalmont are probably the easiest to get to. These are two former mining towns located in the rainshadow of the Cascade Mountains a short drive north-west of Princeton off of Hwy 3.
Tulameen sits on the southern shore of Otter Lake - a great swimming and canoeing lake. The Kettle Valley Railroad, an ex-railroad now turned pathway, runs along the eastern side of the lake - a great cycling route. The Tulameen River flows out of Otter Lake, south towards the town of Coalmont and beyond. There are some great swimming holes here.
As well, because this area was a mining site in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, you have some old abandoned mine shafts scattered about, including some overgrown graveyards! Despite how out of the way this place is, it does have quite the history!
My family regularly goes to Tulameen every summer. It's a tradition we started in 1997 and we (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) have been going every year since. We normally rent a multiple bedroom house either in the town of Tulameen, or along the west coast of Otter Lake a short drive north of town. I've only been twice mind you - in 1997 and 2005, but it's a place where not much changes, and I quite like it that way. Definitely a nice summer getaway that's not too far from Vancouver. It's only a 4-5 hour drive away.
If like us you make it “across the border” to Banff National Park and the beautiful Lake Louise, I would say this activity should be high on your list of things to do. Actually, it would literally be a “high” as the gondola takes you on a fourteen-minute ride to an elevation of 2088 metres (6850 feet), where the views of the lake below and surrounding mountains are really stunning.
If you’re a bit nervous of travelling in this way, you might like to know that you are given a choice of an open chair or fully enclosed gondola car. I was keen to have the former (better photos!) and thought it would be just a case of luck which would come along as we reached the front of the queue, but no – the attendant asked us which we would like and let a closed car go by empty so that we could have an open chair.
At the top of the mountain, in addition of course to those wonderful views, is an Interpretation Centre and a number of hiking trails. Since our visit I see that they’ve added guided walks and interpretive talks to the list of what’s on offer. There’s also a lodge where you can get a snack or more substantial meal. This is open May 15th - Sept. 30th, for breakfast 8.30 am – 11.00 am and lunch 11.30 am – 2.30 pm.
If exploring the Canadian Rockies in the National Parks of British Columbia, it’s an easy step across the border to Banff National Park in Alberta. We decided that it would mean too much rushing around to do this properly, so have left most of it to be discovered, I hope, on a later trip. But we did make time to check out Lake Louise, just a few miles away from our base in Yoho. And this is such a photogenic spot that we were really glad we’d done so. I particularly liked the way the glacier on the far side of the lake sweeps down almost into the water, creating beautiful symmetry and great reflections.
With more time we would have liked to have explored the shores of the lake on foot on the Lakeshore Trail, visited other nearby lakes, or even splashed out on a night in the amazing-looking Chateau Lake Louise. But we did manage to fit in a trip on the Lake Louise Gondola – see my other tip for details of that experience.
Well, ok, you can't actually do this anymore because somebody cut it down. I don't know if the sign is still somewhere, but I did find a Golden Spruce Motel at Port Clements on the web.
2007 Update: I saw the Golden Spruce on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1987, on my first trip there. I was lucky to have seen it when I did. By the time I next visited, a disgruntled forestry worker (Grant Hadwin) had been to see the Golden Spruce and cut it down. I recently read the book "The Golden Spruce", by John Vaillant (ISBN 978-0-677-97645-8). I found it an enjoyable biography of the tree, the Queen Charlotte Islands, to some degree, as well as the guy who cut down the tree. I had been thinking it was less "golden" than it is; however, looking again at my photo, it is surprisingly golden and does rather stand out from the surrounding forest. Pity it's gone.
I know that once this was the largest truck in the world but I am not sure if it still is. It is gigantic. It is the TEREX Titan located in Sparwood. Here are some statistics about the Titan. It's height is 6.88m and with the box raised it is 17.07m high. It's length is 20.09m and it's width is 7.57m. It's weight is 260 tons and it's payload is 350 tons. The Titan's tires are 3.35m in diameter. There are some benches nearby if you care to rest your feet. Sparwood is located in southeastren BC. It is the first town you come across on the Crowsnest Pass Highway when you come from Alberta and the truck is located just off the highway when you enter Sparwood. The Titan is pretty easy to see.
Apparantly this is supposed to be the upper limit of salmon migration but I've read that it might be a little farther up. They are nice falls and are good for a rest stop from driving. Rearguard Falls are on the Fraser river. They are south of the Yellowhead Highway on the strip close to the Alberta border before it forks going to Prince George and Valemount.
While the suggestion on their website that the Merritt Walk of Stars somehow rivals Hollywood's could be seen as overstating its allure somewhat, it is not without interest, especially to fans of good country music - and, for that matter, to fans of bad country music.
Merritt, a mere three hours drive from Vancouver, hosts an annual country music festival festival that has attracted the great and the good including Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Kenny Rogers and Jerry Lee Lewis. Some 12 years ago the Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the organisers of the festival inaugurated a system of bronze stars along the streets and some hand and foot prints. They now count more than 100, and a map, showing who can be found where, is available on the Walk of Stars website along with some information on each of the artists. There are also links to the websites of each of the Stars.
I wandered in the early morning sunlight and deserted street and spotted those of many people I had never heard of. It was only later I discovered the website and all became clear. The town also boasts some very colourful murals of certain country artists and a memorial wall.
The Merritt Walk of Stars centre can be found at 2185-B Voght Street
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