Friday, July 10, 2015

Oakanagan Weekend: Peachland and Kelowna

 The huge bridge connecting the West and East banks of Kelowna, BC

Two weekends ago we went for our annual visit up to the Oakanagan area, where Stefan's paternal grandparents live. It's a beautiful part of B.C. with a massive body of water, hills, seasons, and fruit orchards everywhere. Imagine me telling you--forcefully-- these photos just do not do the area justice. I haven't met a person who doesn't like going up to the Oakanagan. It's beautiful. 

The first few photos are of the Oakangan lake (it's huge and spans many large cities) and crossing it on the Kelowna bridge that separates the East and West banks. Peachland, where we spend our time, is about a 30 minute drive to the 'big city' part of Kelowna. 

 The view behind on the bridge

The kids enjoy the trip up to see their great-grandparents, stay in their own room together (oy, the nights), though this time driving up was a trial. It was incredibly hot the day we drove up, (43, or 109 !!!) and our car doesn't have air conditioning. What was going to be a midly hot 3-hour drive up from morning until noon, turned into an overheated, windy, frequent-gag-induced-stopping 5 hour drive, because the Coquihalla was closed because of a bad accident.

We had to take a back way that was incredibly windy. The kids sometimes get carsick, but because of the heat, it was exacerbated. Thankfully, I had packaged some frozen blueberries in a cooler to take up to Stefan's grandparents, and we took out the ice packs and let the kids keep the ice packs on their body until we got there. We drank a lot of water, gatorade, and made a pitstop for popsicles and some fruit bars, but the last two hours were really rough. Ani was continually feeling awful and did get sick. 

 The Oakanagan lake is so large, often with sailboats and massive ships going under the bridge

Thankfully, once we finally pulled in, there was a wonderful lunch waiting for us (thanks again, Oma!), cold water to drink, and a giant lake to jump into, which we promptly did for a few hours each day. We couldn't believe the temperature, but with the lake, we really cooled down and with AC, we slept comfortably as well! 

The region is in a valley between mountains East of us, and it gets four regular seasons--lots of snow in the winter, thunder and lightning storms, heat, and beautiful Springs. Right now BC is having not only a drought but a bad forest fire year, as well. The morning we arrived, we were told there was a forest fire not too far away from Peachland. 

 Peachland cherries from Oma's and Opa's property

Over the weekend, we enjoyed many delicious and home-cooked meals, swam in the lake (a lot), watched the Canadian women's soccer team play England, played rook, watched a lightning storm, hummingbirds, and picked fruit to take home (thanks Opa!) that barely made it one week before being demolished by our family of four.

Above you can see the bucket of ripe red cherries from Oma and Opa's backyard orchard. Stefan's grandparents are what I consider 'master gardeners', and Stefan and I always learn something new about a specific type of fruit, how to care for certain trees or plants, and what they do with all their produce throughout the year.

 They have a regular visitor to their fruit tree! 

Though we've never been at their house at the time of sightings, they have a bear that has now found his favorite spot in Peachland--in one of their fruit trees! I can't remember exactly, but I think it's the plums he's always after. Those scratches in the tree are just one piece of evidence of his/her visit. The other, is all the stone fruit 'leftovers', ahem, at the bottom of the tree!

I've only seen one bear in the wild before, on a backwoods jeep trail with my aunt and uncle in Colorado. We were far enough away (and in the shelter of a car with a gas pedal!) that we weren't afraid nor did we startle him/her, but if I found a bear in a tree in my back yard, I might freak out.

 Oma's and Opa's cherry tree, looking up into the branches

I don't know if Stefan and I will ever get the opportunity to own a home in British Columbia, where housing prices are not only outrageous, they are only getting higher. I'd like to think that someday, somewhere, we might own a home, and I would somewhat design my backyard to remind me of Oma's and Opa's beautiful space. 

Around the home, there are plants, fruit bushes, a weeping willow 'car wash' upon driveway entry, flowers, herbs around the side, and a small orchard in the backyard. Every space is used well, and they grow so much produce on their non-farm property, and it doesn't feel cluttered at all. It feels private (hedges help), mature evergreens line the back, and to the other side is a cherry orchard that ships fruit around the world. It's really a slice of heaven!

 Oma's and Opa's grapevine

Along one of their fences, they have grape vines where on our visit in late June, they were but tiny bits of fruit. Those beautiful baby grapes will be ripe and heavy in a few months! They make their own wine, baked goods,  jams, juices, and of course dried fruit. I have so much respect for the wisdom that they both have about growing their own fruit that is top-notch in taste and quality. 

Only the cherries were ripe on our visit, and we've only hit the right time of year for the infamous peaches. One year, Stefan and I were visiting (either before kids, or the kids weren't with us for a week) Oma and Opa, and they had ripe peaches on their tree, which they shared with us--a whole flat and only half made it back. The drive is only three hours. You do the math. Those peaches are divine, and I've dreamed of them ever since. This year, I learned that their original peach tree is dying, and they've planted a new one that will produce just as well, I'm sure, after about three years of growing. I take peach season very seriously around here. 

One month or so left for those bright plums

Stefan's grandparents are so hospitable and kind to let us stay with them for an extended weekend, and we treasure our visits with them in their beautiful part of the province. Peachland is a small town on the water, but it holds plenty to explore for a slow-paced vacationer. Wineries are everywhere, there are hikes all over the area, a beautiful waterfront walk and swimming bay (with lifeguards every day in the summer), salmon jumps in the Fall, and lots of local festivals to enjoy in the summer time. It's big sky country, and I love the mountain summits on the drive almost as much as relaxing once we're there. 

Thank you, once again, for the memories, Oma and Opa!

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