Shuswap Country, or "The Shuswap" is the area surrounding Shuswap Lake in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Located approximately 450 km northeast of Vancouver, it is a popular destination for both domestic and international travellers. In the traditional lands of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) First Nation, the area is full of stunning lakes, mountains, orchards, vinyards and breweries.
Shuswap Lake is a rather strangely-shaped lake, roughly resembling the letter "H" with 4 arms: the Shuswap, Seymour, Anstey, and Salmon arms. Travelling in the area requires navigating around these arms, often driving on 2 lane very winding roads alongside the water's edge. The lake is surrounded with small communities of year-round homes and summer cottages. Boating, fishing, swimming, and all sorts of water sports are extremely popular summer activities. The micro-climate in this area has made it an ideal location for growing wine grapes and there are many wineries, cider and malt breweries in the region.
I was coming from the Cariboo region and had decided to head south in search of better weather and a bit of civilization after several days of no cell service. I had planned to take Cunningham Road from Wells (near Barkerville) to Likely, BC to continue my Gold Rush explorations but, due to the unusually wet spring, the road was not yet opened. The only other route heading generally south was the same Cariboo Highway that I had driven on the way. I wanted to get at least as far as Hwy 24, where I would turn east. It was going to be a long day of driving.
Even on long drive days I always find something that gives me joy. Seeing wildlife along the road, and how all drivers come to a complete stop until they clear is one of those joys. I felt truly blessed to see 3 little fawns on my route.
I had a couple of recreational sites noted along the way that I was considering but the condition of the access road required higher clearance and possibly 4-wheel drive. About 5km east of Barrière BC, I knew I needed to stop just as I passed a sign for the Chinook Cove Golf and RV Club.
Fearing it would be an expensive stop, I was delighted that they offer 15 amp serviced sites for a reasonable $25 per night. Bigger rigs wanting 50 amp sites pay $40 while 30 amp sites are available for $30/$35.
The RV park is located partway up the hill, offering a gorgeous view of the North Thompson River. The washrooms and showers are impeccably clean. A sani-dump is available on site. The clubhouse includes a restaurant and there are some snacks available at the pro-shop. WIFI was available but very inconsistent and slow at my site.
The cheap sites are very basic. It's a simple gravel parking lot with water/power mounted on short poles at regular intervals. The 30 and 50 amp sites had some separation between the more clearly defined sites but are not particularly private. I appreciated being able to get a burger at the club after my long drive and the sunset was spectacular. The following day I continued my drive which took me through Kamloops and along the TransCanada Highway to the small town of Chase, BC where I decided to pull into the municipal campsite run by the local Lion's Club. The Chase Lion's RV Park is found next to the boat launch on the mouth of the South Thompson River and Little Shuswap Lake. This is a lovely little park with tent and serviced sites, showers, flush toilets and very friendly camp hosts. It takes less than 5 minutes to drive into the center of town.
I chose a non-serviced site but after a day of rain, moved to a serviced site since my solar was not able to get enough charge to keep the refrigerator cool. I enjoyed combining a camping experience with the chance to explore the little town. I spent a day running errands at the laundromat, grocery and hardware stores.
I refuse to eat hotdogs and canned chili just because I'm camping. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy good food. I had a hankering for pizza but haven't eaten pizza parlour pies since taking a pizza making class in Italy. I decided to see if I could make pizza with a cast iron pan and my campstove.
It was a success and the sad young cyclist preparing his pot noodles in the next site was thrilled when I offered to share. Soon we were chatting like old chums and enjoyed a lovely evening next to a campfire. I was pretty pleased with myself and continued to develop a basic bannock recipe with a variety of added flavours and seasoning for the rest of my trip.
Last year, I signed up to become a member of Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, breweries, farms, and dairies that offer free overnight camping to members. There aren't as many hosts in BC as in other jurisdictions, but I was near wine country and decided to make a very slow tour of Shuswap hosts.
My first host was Celista Winery (#19), located in Celista, a tiny community along the north shore of Shuswap Lake. This gorgeous winery is on the Baile & Ootes' family farm and is the most northern grape winery in Canada. As I drove up the sweeping drive in between the vineyards, I was immediately enchanted by the carriages displayed at the top of the driveway.
After checking in, I was directed to park wherever I wanted on the field behind the main parking lot. I tucked myself at the back, near the barn where I had a terrific view of the lake but also could enjoy the wildflowers and birds on the field next to me.
After settling in, I made my way back to the wine tasting room, walking through a lovely forested walkway.
I enjoyed a tasting of white, rosé, and red wines. The wines of this area are made with the same grapes and share many of the notes as German wines. They tend to be more sweet than dry. My personal preference is for drier wines and especially enjoyed the Cracklin' Rosé and the Foch Reserve. I bought a bottle of each.
A picnic of cheese, bread, crackers and chocolate can be purchased in the tasting room and taken out onto the patio to enjoy with a glass of wine. The farm and vineyards are very large with two main fields of grapes. Near the carriages is a beautiful gazebo set up as part of their wedding venue service.
I was very sorry that I didn't arrive on Wednesday or Saturday when owner Jake Ootes offers entertaining and very popular tours. I was delighted after closing when the family's children came out and played on the carriages with great imagination and laughter.
Recline Ridge is a smaller operation with a nice patio and picnic area overlooking the vineyard. After my tasting, I bought another couple of bottles, a fruity yet not too sweet 2019 Maréchal Foch, and a 2020 Shuswap Foch.
The camping was in the parking lot right in front of the tasting room. It was a quiet night and the wine-maker was already in the vinyard when I awoke in the morning.
After two wineries I was ready to change things up a bit and decided my next host would be the famous DeMille's Farm Market in Salmon Arm, only 15 minutes down the road. Salmon Arm is one of the bigger towns in the area with a population of approximately 18,000 residents.
DeMille's is located right beside the highway and is so much more than a farm market. I was expecting lots of fruits and vegetables and maybe a couple of animals. DeMille's has been a family operation since 1970 and is very popular with locals and visitors alike.
I was not expecting a well-stocked grocery, gift shop, liquor store and a lovely animal habitat that included goats, chickens, pigs, alpacas, emus, and llamas! RVs can park in their parking lot. I chose a spot right in front of the llamas. It was noisy during the day due to road construction nearby but in the evening, when work ended for the day, it became much quieter. Even the highway noise fades.
While in Salmon Arm, I also visited the Peter Jannick Nature Park. This is a small park along the river which was once an overgrown city lot. The park includes a picnic area and some benches along the path to sit and enjoy watching the birds.
Even though the park is surrounded by residences, it is quiet, peaceful and pleasant. I enjoyed seeing the grebes swimming in the shallows.
As I returned to Wanda, there was a loud kerfuffle outside the van. It was a female Rocky Mountain Grouse and her two chicks being stalked by a cat. The chicks hid in the tall grass while mom casually led the cat away.
When the cat gave up, she rounded up her chicks and they toddled off through the grass.
My final Harvest host was Northyard Cidery, also in Salmon Arm. This is a fairly new operation run by partners Alison (the cider maker) and Kathleen. Like myself, Alison is not a beer drinker and when she found herself at a craft beer festival she was feeling a little left out until she discovered craft cider. Alison studied the process and techniques of making cider and the partners began looking for property so they could source their own fruit.
I thoroughly enjoyed my tasting complete with great conversation. I began with a flight of 4 ciders: Dry Cider, Semi-Dry Cider, Grapefruit Hop, and Raspberry. Each was crisp, tasty, and refreshing... perfect for drinking on a patio on a hot afternoon. I think the Dry Cider is my favourite but the Grapefruit Hop is a close second. I will be searching for Northyard Ciders locally.
Alison picked out a lovely spot for me in the orchard. It was private with a beautiful view.
I really enjoyed watching the sun fade as I made my dinner and used the garlic scapes that I also bought at the tasting room.
I enjoyed the change of pace after a couple of weeks in more remote locations. Not only did I enjoy great wines, refreshing cider, and fresh fruits and veggies but I was in beautiful locations with incredibly welcoming hosts. I wish there were more hosts in BC but more hosts are added constantly and I expect that more businesses will join as Harvest Hosts becomes more well known locally. There are many hosts in the USA and in Eastern Canada. It's a great exchange: the businesses pull in customers who may not have otherwise visited and all they are required to do is provide a place to park overnight. Customers get a free site for the night and a great experience. It is expected that campers will spend some money ($20 suggested) but I found that not to be a problem. As I left the Shuswap area headed to the Okanagan, I had a good supply of wine and cider: enough to enjoy for the remainder of my trip and take home to share with family and friends.
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