After a frantic day of creating data sheets in the Penticton office we drove up to Vernon, taking the route back through Kelowna where we were only stuck in Bridge Traffic for about half an hour (much better than our record two hours the week before). When we arrived in Vernon we looked at a few private campgrounds, we figured a site with electricity might be more conducive to data management. The private campgrounds left a lot to be desired though, trees for one thing. They were essentially parking lots with a few picnic tables wedged between giant RVs; it may have been on the lake, but not so as you would notice.
We made our way to the closest provincial park, Ellison, which was 16km from town, down a narrow road lined with summer cabins and teeming with Lilac bushes. We set up camp close to the washhouse so we wouldn't have far to go to get hot water for dishes. This campground actually had dishwashing sinks at the washhouse, which was even more welcome than electricity (power's totally over-rated anyway). Once it stopped raining we explored the campground and discovered that it had so much more than dishwashing sinks.
We were steps away from the top of a cliff overlooking the lake with a fantastic view of the setting sun. Just down a short path was a sandy bay, very 'blue lagoon-y'. Perhaps the word lagoon-y doesn't do it justice, but it was a great spot to relax on the beach by the lake. Having seen a lot of the shoreline of Lake Okanagan, I can safely say it's a pretty special place.
We had the chance to meet some more Okanagan people, Blake and Dave were our fearless boat drivers, whose duty it was to negotiate the shallow sections (which they did very well) and whose depth of knowledge and experience made them extremely valuable resources as we learned the basics of FIM mapping. We were in fact spoiled with experienced people, many of whom have spent a lot of time working toward this project, Wes and Brent from RDCO, Susan, Lora, and Lisa from MoE, all came out with us on the boat, there were even special appearances by Simone from OCCP and Genevieve from the Water Board.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (aka Ellison Campground), we were mystified by a new species that we encountered. It was like a squirrel crossed with a groundhog, almost like some kind of a...ground...squirrel. Turns out that it was, in fact, a 'ground squirrel'. Who knew? They were determined little rodents; every time we turned around (and even when we didn't) there was another one there, in the Tostitos bag.
On our day off, we had a great hike down to Kalmalka Lake, once again through the arid landscape of Ponderosa Pine and Sagebrush ecosystem. We worked on our plant ID skills, even tried comparing the smells of different conifers. In case you're wondering, they ALL smell like gin. After our hike, we considered jumping in the lake, but the weather wasn't quite hot enough. There will be plenty of lakes to come anyway. When we returned from our hike we discovered a great coffee place, El Portillo, which had free wireless and fantastic frozen coffee drinks. They even had a live band and didn't seem to mind when we set up our 'command center' with two computers, cameras, GPS, and mountains of maps and data sheets.
One of our last days in Vernon, a heavy mist gathered over the water of Lake Okanogan. We set off from the boat launch, and we were quickly enveloped by the fog, we couldn't see the shore in any direction! Eventually the hills on the Western shore of the lake reappeared, but for a moment it was almost like something out of an 80's thriller movie. It would have been a perfect time for the Ogopogo to get us, but I guess he was otherwise engaged.
We finished some last minute data organization at our favourite coffee shop and then loaded up the truck. It was one of the only sunny afternoons that we had in the "sunny" Okanogan as we trundled out of town toward the Kootenays. We'll miss everything, especially the people and our great campsite. Not the ground-squirrels though.
The long weekend flew by and before we knew it we were back on the shores of Lake Okanagan. We stayed a night in Penticton in order to visit the Ministry of Environment office, and so we had to use our first 'hotel night'. One of the only hotels in town that had any vacancy turned out to be the Ramada Golf and Country Club. Since our main criteria for any hotel is that it has a pool, this one was ideal! It was just a bonus that it turned out to be a really nice place! Most of the clientele weren't too interested in the pool, believe it or not, so we had it to ourselves.