In my opinion, a better than average weekend consists of taking some time to explore (preferably outdoors) and eating good food (if you can throw in exploring a new eatery, that's a success as well). I realize that not all weekends work out better than average, but when it's also someone's birthday (I'm just going to say it wasn't mine) you gotta do things right. This story takes place in the Okanagan, again, for a better than average weekend.
Now if you mention birthday or potluck or any reason for celebration, I'm mentally going through recipes in my head. Of cakes, cookies, loafs - just as long as it can be baked. I LOVE to bake. And this is why I took a homemade Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake with me for the birthday celebrator (okay, it was Angel). And FYI, I don't do 'healthy' when it comes to those important occasions. Full fat, full flavour, and full of love is my mission. Everyone can just learn to portion size if they're worried about it. Life is too short to skip dessert. If you need to try this yummy treat out yourself, the recipe can be found here.
Since the first food break is out of the way, I'll go ahead with some landscapes. Lake Country - the region between Kelowna and Vernon, BC - is called that for a reason...there are a lot of lakes, and many are hidden up in the mountains. I've wanted to start exploring some of these not-so-obviously-seen bodies of water for both my own curiosity and potential paddle-boarding reasons. Beaver Lake was the choice this weekend, which is approximately 17 kilometers up a gravel logging road, above Winfield. We discovered a lovely lodge up there with cabins and a store and a petting zoo! Even though it is too early in the season for functionality, there was a fair share of people up for the day for ice fishing and snow adventures. We were told by a fisherman that the lake was still frozen to two feet in depth! Which is kind of funny because I had it in my mind I'd actually see the blue waters of the lake when we got up there. The fact that it is still winter didn't cross my mind. But I'm glad it was frozen, because the landscape was quite amazing.
When we drove up to Beaver Lake, the sun was shining head on. So, it was on the way down I had Angel stop so I could take some shots, as I could see a lot better. In one of the photos below, you can see the front of Angel's F-150 because I was using the sunroof as my photo-taking position. It's a great use of a sunroof and I'm going to want one in my next vehicle. As soon as we got out of the snow and closer to the valley bottom, the yellow buttercups started to pop out in the fields. It's a sure sign of spring around these parts.
A lot of food happened between this outing and the next. And, actually, some good food happened before Beaver Lake as well. You don't have to worry, because I didn't obsess with phone camera shots and Instagram uploads of meal upon meal. I just couldn't bring myself to do that. Or maybe I was just too busy eating to remember. I did, however, find a couple food-related shots on my phone and I will share for fun. Otherwise, I just want to acknowledge the great places we discovered - in case you're planning a trip to Kelowna/Lake Country, or live there already and don't know this yet (seriously, don't miss out!):
The best Italian can be found at L'Isola Bella Bistro in Winfield. This was our second visit and there will be many more times to come. Mad Mango Cafe in downtown Kelowna has great Asian-style takeout (you take out because the place is always packed!). Get your pho or noodles and go sit at the park and look at the lake while you eat. Bubble tea is a necessity in life and Formosa Tea Cafe makes it happen (they are off of Highway 97, in a strip mall, in Kelowna). They also happen to be next to a great Japanese restaurant, but I can't mention it because we didn't go there this time (fair is fair). Birthday dinner was at Micro in downtown Kelowna. It's a sit at the bar, eat tapas, and have fabulous cocktails kind of place with superb atmosphere (the lights in the photos below are from Micro). I just want to mention that we had popcorn there...tossed in duck fat, rosemary, and sea salt. It tasted like Thanksgiving dinner, but without the calories and bloated belly to go with it! And birthday breakfast (which was the day after birthday dinner - confused?) was eggs benny at Pilgrim and Pearl, again in downtown Kelowna. Awesome breakfast and, after reading the oyster menu, I'm going back for those babies soon. So because we temporarily forgot how to cook over the weekend, Sunday dinner was at Joey Kelowna, at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 33. Good food (line caught tuna, I'm a fan) and good cocktails (I'm a sucker for a Pimm's Cup).
Whew! Anyone want to hire me as a food writer? No, seriously. I'll even remember to take photos.
After all that eating, we did what would be a good follow-up activity: we sat on our butts, in the truck, and took a drive around Okanagan Lake. (You thought I might say go for a long walk or hike? Yeah right, we ate too much to comfortably partake in any exercise.)
I lived in Kelowna in the early 90s, right after graduating high school (just don't do the math like I know you want to). I met one of my best friends in college there (you know who you are, Stacey) and we were completely obsessed with driving around for hours on end, listening any song from the Seattle grunge scene we could get our hands on. We drove a lot, but never did the loop north around the lake. It's probably a good thing too, because we drove a lot at night... and this road gets quite narrow with a lot of steep banks. I would recommend this as a daytime drive. It actually reminds me of Chuckanut Drive between Bellingham and Bow, Washington - just a lot longer. If any of you are familiar with that location, you will understand the high, curvy road along a large body of water - along Chuckanut, it's the ocean. The views on both drives are beautiful.
Being springtime - or nearly springtime - there is a lot of burning going on all over the place. Smoke will hover in valleys if the air is still. It was a very bright day when we took this drive, with a lot of contrast and a lot of smoke in some areas. It made for some interesting photos. The logs above were hiding on the west side of the lake and gave a very different look to Kelowna in the distance. There is a mill on the opposite side, right downtown, and I'm assuming these logs are destined for it. They stretched for quite a few miles north, in their shoreline 'pens.'
Westside Road was fairly quiet of traffic. I can imagine, with all the twists and turns, that in the busier summer months it could become a little slow-going. We've experienced a slow drive due to traffic when we road-tripped down the windy (and windy) Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles a few years ago. But it's not a bad thing really. It forces you to slow down and experience the beauty of the drive itself. If you can't take the time needed to enjoy something that takes time, then why do it?
Another bonus to low traffic was when we came across a herd of mountain sheep, next to the road eating, in all their curved-horned splendor. I got to use the sunroof again as a great vantage point. I see these guys a lot between Grand Forks and Christina Lake, but I've never stopped to take photos. They were so close here, and to listen to them eat and move through the grass was fantastic.
As we continued north towards Vernon - where we would then turn and head back south on Highway 97...and go for the aforementioned Sunday dinner- the landscape just got more and more spectacular. The lake had interesting patterns on the surface; there was a mix of smooth and rippled sections. I would imagine that because of the size of Okanagan Lake (135 km long and 4-5 km wide), there would be quite a few different conditions on it at any given time. We were definitely seeing that here.
I will leave you with one last image of the lake, looking north from above an area known as Fintry. I wanted to see the head of Okanagan Lake (which I did), but didn't take any photos of it. I suppose I somehow forgot, like I 'forgot' to take any food photos. But that's okay. Perhaps another time. Or if you are curious, you can do this drive one day yourself. In the meantime, thanks for joining me on this journey of a better than average weekend. May you also experience good food and great views in the weekends ahead!