Starting on my first summer van life adventure of the season in beautiful British Columbia, I decided to start by getting my routines figured out. I chose a familiar region, but a new-to-me campsite at Okanagan North Provincial Park, nestled between Summerland and Peachland.
Join me as I share my experiences at this scenic campsite, and the amenities it offers, while I establish my daily routines, and set my plans to continue my road trip into a different region.
BC Van Life: Journey from Metro Vancouver
Leaving the bustling city of Metro Vancouver behind, I started early on a Sunday morning and embarked on a picturesque journey along the Crow's Nest Highway, also known as BC Highway 3. This scenic route took me through charming towns, stunning landscapes, and offered glimpses of captivating sights along the way. Not only did I anticipate breathtaking views, but I also looked forward to lower gas prices outside the metropolitan area, making the trip even more affordable.
As I hit the road, once past the metropolitan area I was treated to a visual feast of natural beauty. Passing through Fraser Valley, I relished in the sight of fertile farmlands, verdant fields, and picturesque mountains. The route then led me to the town of Hope, nestled at the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla Rivers. Known as the "Chainsaw Carving Capital," Hope is home to impressive chainsaw carvings that line the streets, adding a touch of artistic charm to the town. You'll also find lots of references to Sylvester Stallone's original Rambo movie, which was filmed in this area.
Continuing eastward, the highway guided me through Manning Park, a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Here, I couldn't resist taking a short detour to explore the park's lush forests, alpine meadows, and stunning hiking trails. The cascading waterfalls and serene lakes provided a tranquil setting to soak up the beauty of nature
Further along the Crow's Nest Highway, I reached the historic town of Princeton, renowned for its rich mining heritage. The town's beautifully preserved buildings and mining artifacts offered a glimpse into its fascinating past. Taking a stroll through the downtown area, I discovered unique shops, delightful eateries, and friendly locals eager to share stories about the town's history.
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park (North Campground)
The campgrounds of Okanagan Lake Provincial Park are nestled between the picturesque towns of Summerland and Peachland, making them a perfect base for exploring the beautiful Okanagan region. Situated along the eastern shores of Okanagan Lake, the park offers stunning views of the pristine waters and surrounding mountains.
The park is easily accessible from BC Highway 97, which runs through the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Travelling north from Summerland or south from Peachland, you'll find the park entrance conveniently located off the highway.
Camping Amenities at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park
Okanagan Lake North Provincial Park offers a total of 81 vehicle-access campsites, situated on a terraced hill with six roads. The campsites are thoughtfully arranged, with the lower-numbered sites located at the top of the hill closer to the highway, and the sites numbered 75-81 positioned closest to the water. The highway can be noisy.
Each terraced road within the campground is equipped with flush toilets. Additionally, at the bottom of the hill, there is a free cold push-button shower available for campers to enjoy a refreshing rinse. It has been quite hot the last couple of days, so I appreciated the coolness. I'm not sure I would feel the same if the weather was cool. The toilets and showers are kept impeccably clean by the camp hosts
Okanagan Lake Provincial Park boasts several access points to the beach, providing campers with several choices for relaxation and engaging in water activities. The beach is a popular spot for paddle boarding and kayaking. The sight of others enjoying themselves made me regret not purchasing the kayak I was looking at before leaving home. The beach features some trees that offer shade, creating a comfortable spot to unwind and soak up the scenery. There are also a couple of picnic benches. Keep in mind that the beach consists of pebbles, so having water shoes handy may save some delicate feet. The water itself is cool and refreshing, and within just a few steps, you'll find a fairly sharp drop-off, taking you into deeper water.
One of the modern conveniences at Okanagan Lake North Provincial Park is excellent cell coverage. It's easy to stay connected and use your devices by using hotspot capabilities. Since I don't have a data plan on my phone, using a pay-as-you-go hot-spotting device can be a cost-effective alternative. To ensure uninterrupted coverage, I use the Solis Skyroam, which provides unlimited coverage. I purchase the passes during sales and opt for 20-day passes at a time for the best savings. Over the winter, I bought a cell booster which I have yet to install. It's on my list of projects to complete this summer. That's a project that will likely go higher on the priority list when I move out of the more populated areas.
An added benefit of this campground is the fruit stand just a few hundred meters from the entrance to the park. The Okanagan has rich agricultural lands which are used for orchards, wineries, and vegetable farms. Fruit stands are a common sight. Make time to stop and buy something delicious. Beyond freshly-picked fruits and vegetables, most stands will also sell fresh-baked bread and pastries, jams, syrups, juices, non-alcoholic ciders, and other artisan goods.
Setting Up Camp: Outdoor Van Life Chores
After arriving at any campsite, it is time to tackle the outdoor chores that come with setting up camp. These tasks not only ensure a comfortable and organized living space but also add a touch of personalization to my van life adventure.
First and foremost, I lay down a trusty mud mat outside the door of my van—a trick I learned back in my Girl Guide days. This simple addition is invaluable in keeping the interior of my van clean. By wiping off the worst of the grime and leaving my shoes outdoors, I can maintain a reasonably tidy living space throughout my camping experience. The good thing with such a small space is that a thorough and deep clean takes very little time to accomplish.
To create a cozy and inviting ambiance outside my van, I decided to add some solar lights to illuminate the campsite. I strung a delightful set of pineapple-shaped solar lights over the picnic table, adding a playful and tropical touch. Additionally, I installed a couple of motion-detected solar lights strategically to illuminate my path from the campfire to the camper door. These lights also served as a perimeter light, deterring unwanted visits from animals and humans alike.
Since I prefer to do most of my cooking outdoors, I set up my trusty butane Coleman stove and oven. This reliable outdoor cooking equipment is always ready for action, allowing me to prepare delicious meals amidst the beauty of nature. Having an oven as well as a stove opens all sorts of possibilities.
The new addition to my setup this year has been the canopy. Recognizing the importance of shade and protection from rain but not wanting to spend a ton of money, I invested in a portable canopy last summer. Setting it up for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was. I used strong magnets to attach one end of the canopy to the roof of my van and propped the other end on sturdy poles that I staked to the ground. This created a shaded area from the door of the van stretching over the picnic table that offered respite from the sun's rays and the rain during the couple of thunderstorms that moved through the area.
When I wanted to head into town for a bit of exploration, I lowered the magnet side of the canopy to the ground, staked it securely (just in case of wind), and drove away. Upon my return, reattaching it to the van's roof was a simple task and I was soon sitting under the canopy enjoying a cup of coffee. However, it was at this moment that I realized I had turned it the wrong way! It served as a gentle reminder to double-check the orientation when setting up the canopy at my next site.
BC Van Life Routines and Short Explorations
My morning van life routine always starts with a leisurely wake-up, allowing me to savour the peaceful ambiance surrounding my campsite. This is very unusual for me, I rarely sleep past 06:00 at home, but I sleep longer in Wanda. I try to use park toilets and showers to reduce the number of times I need to find dump stations. Waking up a little later usually means no waiting for the shower, which is an added bonus. There are many parks without showers -- if I'm at one of those, I will often connect my water heater to my water supply and have a quick shower, using a pop-up shower tent placed next to the van, close to the water tank.
Ablutions taken care of, every morning follows with a fresh cup of coffee, bubbling away in my camp percolator. I also carry a french press but the good old-fashioned camp kettle makes excellent coffee. I love how the smell of coffee lingers in the air as the pot merrily bubbles away. I don't tend to eat much in the morning but I do enjoy a fruit smoothie or fruit bowl mid-morning which I prepare in a portable battery-operated blender.
With the van tidied up and the essentials in place, it is time to indulge in a morning activity. I will stop in at visitor centers to get maps, ideas and suggestions. In this region of British Columbia, I might go for a hike or head to a beach area. Some mornings are reserved for chores such as picking up supplies or doing laundry
In the afternoons, I usually play my flute for an hour or so. I have a bunch of music and recorded accompaniments on my computer that I play along with. I try to do this inside the van around 13:00, as most campsites are pretty empty at that time and I have less chance of disturbing other campers. I've never received a complaint and usually get compliments from those who figure out where the music is coming from. I love playing in the middle of a forest (even if that forest is on a campsite). The sound resonates through the trees in a way that I truly enjoy.
Depending upon my mood, the afternoon is likely to include time to read and get myself engrossed in a book in a way that I often can't do at home or do some planning. The tranquil atmosphere of the park created an ideal space for me to immerse myself in the pages and let my imagination roam free. This is also a good time to check the information guides I've picked up along the way at local information centers,
Another afternoon activity might include working on some projects around the van or for my personal learning. I continue to develop my competence in learning French and Spanish, but I also have a bunch of simple fixes around the van. Because a van is always moving, things get loose and need tightening up regularly. This year, the string lights had fallen over the winter, so they needed a touch-up of glue. I do have LCD pot lights on the ceiling but I don't like the brightness of the light, so I've been adjusting with battery-powered lights to get a range of light levels. I also added some USB-charged lights inside. I can charge these when I have a good power supply and won't be draining my house batteries on dull days.
As evening approaches, I set up the campfire, allowing its warm glow to envelop the campsite. The benefit of starting the fire during dinner prep is that it keeps the mosquitoes away. While the fire crackles and dances, I prepare a delicious dinner allowing the fresh air to enhance the flavours, making each bite a true delight.
I eat the same way when I'm travelling as when I'm at home... with more snacks on travel days. When I'm settled in a campsite, I may even bake biscuits, cookies or brownies. I have a chest-style fridge to keep food fresh but it doesn't include a freezer. For that reason, I tend to carry little meat and a lot of staples. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals.
The smell of the other night's macaroni and cheese brought the young Australian campers over from the next site, claiming that an argument needed to be settled about what they were smelling. I invited them to join me so they brought over some wine and a loaf of delicious bread. That's something I truly appreciate about this style of travel -- the chance brief encounters, shared campfires, and the exchange of stories.
Evenings are for settling in. I often work on the blog, read, do some trip planning, watch movies, or just stare into the campfire. I love the sound of crackling campfires, hearing the quiet voices floating through the campground and watching the stars appear in the sky overhead.
BC Van Life Moves to the Boundary Region
With a couple of easy and fulfilling days behind me, the lure of new places is calling me, beckoning me to explore the enchanting Boundary—an area I have yet to fully discover. The BC Wildfire Service indicates that fires in the region are in remote areas that aren't on my vague itinerary and predicted wind patterns will blow the smoke away from the area.
By the time you read this, I will have continued along the Crow's Nest Highway and moved into the Boundary region which hugs the Canada/US border. Join me as I continue my summer van life adventure, immersing myself in the breathtaking landscapes and the stories of the area.
As my summer van life adventure begins, Okanagan Lake Provincial Park served as a perfect starting point to establish routines and enjoy the familiar beauty of the region. Now, with a couple of easy days behind me, I'm excited to heed the call of the Boundary Region and explore the wonders that await me in this captivating part of British Columbia. This is an area of rugged mountains, fertile valleys, a long history including First Nations, fur-trading, colonialism, settlement and industry and the sad stories of the thousands of Japanese-Canadians who were forcibly removed from their coastal homes and interned in towns throughout the area during WWII. Stay tuned for more stories from my summer van life journey in the breathtaking landscapes of BC's Boundary region
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