In this journal:
- endless fields of wildflowers;
- a 5km-long train;
- slopes of infinite colors.
Summer time sadness?
Summer is the magical season in Canada. After hibernating the entire winter and getting pollen allergies the entire spring, the timid, hardly-seen Canadians emerge from their suburban hideouts, in search of food, mate, and fun. Here we have a rather interesting phenomenon that scientists still cannot explain, how the Canadians are able to enjoy themselves so much in only these few months.
Our family is not an exception, either. After coming back from the Rockies, my sister decided that she could not be left out of the fleeting summer rays. So I took my family on a short 2 day roadtrip to the ski resort of Sun Peaks, about 5 hours’ drive from Vancouver. While snow was long gone, something else took over the slopes, probably making these hills even more beautiful than when they are covered by powdered snow: wildflowers.
Drag your inner 7-year-old girl out from the closet, it is time to fondle the flowers!
The roadtrip began with a drive down highway one, passing the gateway town of Hope. I elected to take the longer, yet more scenic Fraser Valley route, continuing north along the roaring Fraser River. This was the old road that first connected the rest of Canada to the west coast through the treacherous mountain passes, and the railroad, completed more than a century ago, is still chugging along this route.
The first stop is Alexandria Bridge, an old steel bridge constructed for horse-drawn wagons that used to plow along the mighty river. Long abandoned since the dawn of modern automobile age, it was preserved as a symbol of the history we all share.
First, one has to cross the railway tracks in order to access this dilapidated bridge from the highway. Unfortunately (maybe fortunately?), a train happened to pass by when we reached the crossing. While my European readers may think it is nothing more than a small inconvenience, the truth is much scarier: trains here in North America are mostly freight trains, and they are normally more than a few hundred carriages long, so we waited a solid 10 minutes for the 5-kilometer-long train to pass!
This rusting piece of past is the second iteration of the bridge, with the first one being destroyed in a flood in 1894. This newer one was finished in 1926, and was the key crossing of Cariboo Highway, which itself was a result of Oregon Treaty, a piece of paper that confined the Canadian territories by setting the 49th parallel as the border between USA and Canada. In order to facilitate a fully-Canadian route to the coast, this hazardous crossing had to be done.
Now it is only a monument to the forefathers of exploration, and a sign of late-settlement ingenuity. Narrow, hollow steel boards connect the two sides, with the bottom easily visible from every pore. Dogs cannot walk on it, so many visitors had to hold up their puppies like canine babies as they walked across.
Passing the narrow gorges, upstream is the famous interior desert. Yes, British Columbia in Canada not only has snowy peaks, wide open ocean, deep blue lakes, quiet forested fjords, but also an arid desert. The town of Lytton sits on the fork where Thompson River and Fraser River merges, and the two rivers could be clearly seen in the above photo. The muddy Fraser River passed mostly dry desert, while Thompson River spent a large amount of time in dense Wells Grey forests as seen in my last journal in Rockies, so it appeared to be mostly dark green.
Continuing north along the river, we encountered the tiny village of Spences Bridge. By the road, dozens of old cars piled up towards the sky, slowly rotting away under the scorching sun. I spent my university years in southern California, and for a minute I was transported to those airplane graveyards, where the past comes to rest. However, it clearly was newer than the train graveyard I encountered in Bolivia.
Further down the road, passing Ashcroft and Kamloops, we eventually were arriving at Sun Peaks. This ski resort was mostly abandoned during summer, and during the pandemic, it was especially quiet. The only road climbing up the hills towards the village was eerily deserted, with not a single vehicle encountered during our 30km drive.
Half of the restaurants were shut during the lowest time of the low, yet the few that were open were surprisingly high in quality and low in prices. Dinner took place in a patio fare right in front of the ski lifts, and the friendly waitresses whose contagious smiles could not be covered by the face shields served up some juicy burgers and thick sandwiches.
Our hotel was smack in the middle of the village, too, given that the entire urban area was smaller than a few blocks. One night here during our stay was 1/5 of the price of normal winter season, which made it a tremendous value for money. Not to mention, we had the entire floor to ourselves! Coronavirus risk factor, what is that? Next morning, breakfast was on the other side of the greeneries, and we had the entire restaurant for ourselves too. Heavy beef sauce as well as avocado egg benedict, and a heaping spoon of honey to go with our milk and coffee, this is what life should be!
Upon ingesting an ungodly amount of food, we proceeded to the main event. The ski lifts sitting at the center would normally bring skiers up in winter and mountain biking junkies up in summer, yet we were doing neither. The day pass was a reasonable 20 dollars, and all four of us were up the long, steep lift in a jiffy.
From the top of the 15-minute ride was a series of trails and routes, all leading to over a dozen different mountain peaks. I decided to take my family to a mildly difficult yet wildly rewarding hike called “Top of the World”. Well, the mid-mountain where the chairlift ended was already 1850m above sea level, yet we were determined to go higher.
The steep slopes presented a challenge to my family, yet there was no better place to slow down and enjoy the tiny things around me. Millions, I mean literally millions, of wildflowers dotted around the verdant mountainside. I never throught these random grasses would present such a stunning and overwhelming show for us in the summer, as I was merely looking for a place to get away from the cabin fever, and Sun Peaks happened to have a well-placed advertisement on my blog. But wow, those posters and photos were mere understatements to what was truly around these evergreen corners. It was the first time that I realized those promotional photos were not doing justice to the sceneries they are supposed to glorify!
I have seen wildflowers, yet I have never seen them like this. Not only is this a very healthy mix of different flower types and shapes, but also is this a perfect blend of every color imaginable. Yellow, white, purple, blue, orange, red, are all bursting with joy and elation on the crispy green background, evenly spaced out yet chaotically soothing. Walking amongst them was almost like living in a well-crafted videogame.
Mild daisy, fiery red paintbrush, grape-like lupin, essentially yellow chrysanthemum, orange alpine lily, pale white hemlock, and dark purple alpine daisy, all were competing for my wildly insufficient attention. They all blended into a kind of impressionist painting, with individual paint dot invisible and hard to focus, yet every field of view unforgettable.
Yet, there are a few other residents that are more mobile and fluffy. Tons of ground squirrels dug holes underneath the soil, and we could frequently hear their calling echoing between the pine trees. Numerous bumble bees were working overtime, trying their hardest to harvest every single drop of this ocean of honey buffet. Perhaps for them, this is the equivalent of Las Vegas on Christmas Eve.
We eventually reached the peak, aptly named Top of the World, sitting at 2050m over sea level. From here, even the furthest horizons could be easily seen, and I could even tell a few parts of the Kamloops City and Salmon Arm, which we visited during our last trip.
Yet, this was not the end, as the most spectacular part of these hills was yet to be seen. While my mother and sister were frolicking around, screaming at the top of their lungs about the most beautiful wildflower fields they had ever seen, I quietly took them down the other side of the peak, towards another steep slope that was unassuming upon a quick glance.
This is Juniper Ridge, where the densest of flowers congregate, on top of a mountain overlooking the entire highland. The colors are so densely packed that almost no green was left, as every pixel of my eye was filled with red, yellow, orange, purple, blue and more. This is the truly sunny side, both for the mountain, but also for my heart.
This is by far the best flower experience I have ever had. When I was young, once every blue moon, my aunt used to call my mother with a frantic voice, telling us that her epiphany was about to open. We would all drop everything we had, and rush over to her house just to witness its one-time, 3-hour bloom. Yes, epiphany, the word that normally describes a sudden realization, is used to characterize an Asian flower that blooms with immense fragrance but for an incredibly short amount of time. Ever since then, I had been a great fan of flowers, for it is seeing fields of wildflowers in the wild, or witnessing a master gardner at work with meticulously trimmed leaves. Hell, I even go see cherry blossoms every year in Japan! Flowers represent hope, joy, and future, and we all know, in times like today, we need these elements in our lives more than ever.
What else can I possibly add to this impeccable creation of nature that will not tarnish its serene beauty? Mother Earth had already brought these happy residents up this hill, and the only job for us as humans are to observe and record. Beauty is always there regardless whether there are beholders or not, but it is the luck of an admirer to ever lay eyes on such delicate delights. I sat on the field, along with the slope full of flowers, and looked into the endless sky, as happy as all the other petaled residents of Juniper Ridge.
After seemingly an eternity, I slowly descended the mountain of a thousand palettes, and began riding down the hill. Sun Peaks was clearly visible beneath me, together with its quiet streets and mirror-perfect lakes.
During the long drive home, I could not believe that I had seen such an exquisite view, in a place that few had even heard of. This is truly an amazing experience, and maybe I have found a new ritual to perform every year. Out there on the hills, the flowers may be ephemeral. However, in my heart, those beauties will linger on, and bloom eternal.
-=ForeverYoung|Sun Peaks 2020=-