The Drive Home: A Photo Tour

Hwy 1 Toward Kelowna

Our time in the mountains was coming to an end. Now, we had only to make the 6 1/2 hour drive home.

We chose to take the ‘long way’ home (the quick route would have taken us to Kamloops and down). Not for any particular reason, just to make our trip last a bit longer.

Below is a photo tour of the incredible, environmentally diverse trek. We start out on Highway 1, pass to Highway 5 and return to Highway 1 (the Trans Canada) before reaching our GVRD destination.

Revelstoke Home

This takes us from a desert environment, into snowy mountains and down through the fertile, green farming valley.

Okanagan Views

Pictured above is the residential farmland of the Shuswap region. The area experiences mild winters with little snowfall and warm (sometimes HOT) summers that last a bit longer than average.

With at least 1900 hours of sun per year, that gives you enough daylight hours to enjoy all that is on offer.

Kelowna is nestled into beautiful landscape on the Okanagan Lake in the valley of the same name.

Old Car Airplane

It is around this area that the region starts to desert-ify. The trees get shorter, and the landscape is only green for a short time before browning, as it dries and burns in the hot summer sun.

You can already see the beginnings of this process, though we arrived early in the season.

Okanagan Lake is one of the the primary recreation regions in the area.

Okanagan Lake

Desert Mountains

Once you pass Kelowna and head across to Merritt, you enter BC’s desert territory. The Thompson region is on Wikipedia’s list of North American deserts.

As you drive by, the long views of the rolling desert-like landscape are incredible.

Dry Rolling Hills

The highway gives you a great overview of Merritt, as you approach.

Merritt’s motto is ‘flourish under the sun’, and for good reason. I have never passed by when the city was under cloud cover. It gets more than 2000 hours of daylight per year.

Additionally, I have never stopped in for gas and found myself in a rainstorm.

Overlooking Merritt

Sure, it rains here, but not very often – annual rainfall is about 22mm – compare that with the average 1154.7mm of rain that falls every year where I live (near Vancouver), and you can see why there is not a whole lot of ground cover.

 

Though I couldn’t live here (I would instantly melt in the heat and the sun), I do enjoy visiting the otherworldly like landscape. Compared to where I live, this place looks like the moon.

Driving 97c

Continuing down Highway 5, it is not long before you hit the climb up the Coquihalla highway.

The landscape becomes more dense and mountainous, and very quickly signs of regular rainfall are apparent.

Highway 5 winds high up and down, providing you with incredible distance views of mountain tops that (without a helicopter, or major climbing skill) you would otherwise not experience.

Overlooking Mountain Farms

The Coquihalla summit is about 1210 metres. There are a few great rest stop look outs, a place or two to camp, some picnicking sites, and even some old fashioned pay phones along the way.

The drive can be quite dangerous in the winter, particularly for truck drivers. I have actually seen a trucker or two make use of the runaway lanes in my years of Coquihalla travel. Imagine how frightening that would be.

Sunrays And Runaway Lane Driving The Coquihalla Hwy

Speeding out of control down a mountain pass, making the decision to careen off the highway onto a rough, elevated path – it would almost be like crashing – but NOT, which is the point.

It was scary enough for me being a passenger and seeing the out of control truck behind us – well, we heard it first, as he was madly honking at us to get the heck out of his way.

This was once a toll highway (the old booth is pictured below).

The Old Coquihalla Toll Booth

Hefty tolls were taken for much longer than originally anticipated (about a decade longer, actually), but (most) everyone accepted this cost, believing the tolls were well ‘worth it’.

Not only does this route dramatically shorten the drive into BC’s interior, but it is also obvious that the cost involved in creating and maintaining this high mountain pass, is extreme.

Avalanche Tunnel Coquihalla Coquihalla Avalanche Tunnel

Avalanche tunnels litter the route, protecting drivers from regular, suffocating downfalls.

There are many signs of former slides. Trees lay fallen where they were crushed, large boulders (chunks of mountain) sit beside the highway.

Coquihalla Avalanche Route

Again, I have to remark about going from blazing summer temperatures to snowy winter-ish weather in just a few turns.

One of my favourite approaches happens just before the town of Hope.

Trees Cleared By Avalanche

The mountains converge before opening to the valley. Though the town itself has seen better days (I assume!), there is nothing quite like standing in the centre of Hope on a clear day.

Sunrays Near Hope

You are entirely surrounded in all directions by dense, tree’d green, snow-capped summits. It almost triggers claustrophobia – awesome nature induced claustrophobia.

Mountains Hwy 1

On this day, the sun beamed warmly through the clouds, creating the ‘fingers of God’ phenomenon (when the beams make obvious rays from the sky). Beautiful.

Travelling Hwy 5 Near Hope Admiring Mountains Hwy 1

And just on the other side of this lies the Fraser Valley.

Only about an hour from home, the Fraser Valley has always appealed to me. The old floodplains have some of the most fertile agricultural land in BC.

Farmland In The Fraser valley

Not that I want to farm, but I sure like the way it looks. I love to imagine myself with my morning coffee, heading to the back porch to take in the view.

Bright green fields, shouldered by the Coast Mountains on one side, and the Cascade range on the other.

The Valley Chilliwack

Unfortunately, because of its geography, the Fraser Valley gets a lot of summer smog pollution from downtown Vancouver, and the rest of the GVRD.

Without decreasing overall polluting emissions, there is no foreseeable solution to this issue.

Fraser Valley Mountian View

A summer drive through the gorgeous farms of the valley, will inevitably bring you familiar yellow smog skies and fantastic, colourful pollution sunsets (that being the only benefit).

From no-see-um filled mountains, through the blazing desert, and into the lush smoggy valley – our Mountain tour has come to its conclusion.

Finally, I can say I have experienced the interior of this incredible province.

Many additional photos in the slideshow.

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘Mountain Retreat‘ section, or you can enjoy many more photos of British Columbia by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

6 responses to “The Drive Home: A Photo Tour

    • Thank you! I am with you on that. I actually cried the first time I saw the mountains. I grew up in pretty flat territory. It can still be overwhelming sometimes! 🙂

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