Running low on energy, even with the three-day break in the mountains, we could have used the wind at out backs as we descended from Alberta into British Columbia.
But Mother Nature was decidedly in our faces as Badass was buffeted by stiff winds on the ride into central B.C., where we chose to take the low road, meaning the old highway that wends its way through the Nicola Valley.
Cattle dot the landscape in the Nicola Valley, home to the historic Douglas Lake ranch. Pam Martin photo
It is cowboy country worthy of a western movie backdrop, dry rolling hills flecked with cattle that rose from linear lakes glistening in the sun and alive with the artwork the driving wind alternately drew and erased.
We had to brace strategically as we’d sweep around a corner and get caught up in gale-force blasts that put us in mind of Alberta’s blizzard. At least it wasn’t frigid.
We were greeted by Pam’s friend, Dorothy Jordan of Nicola Valley Paddle Company, and graciously welcomed at the home she shares with Blaine Malberg in the hills above Nicola Lake.
Dorothy Jordan and Blaine Malberg were gracious hosts in the Nicola Valley. Pam Martin photo
Our notions of a downwinder under wicked conditions on Nicola Lake soon evaporated as we sized up the risk. Maybe the next day would be calmer.
In the meantime, there was a restorative meal in the dining room of the 110-year-old Quilchena Hotel & Resort, which specializes naturally enough in the local beef. Beforehand, Blaine pointed out bullet holes in the saloon bar which spoke to exuberant cowboys of yesteryear.
The beef dinners, steak and prime rib with heavy sides of potato and vegetables, were excellent, setting us up for a good night’s sleep and a morning paddle before the rush to make the ferry to the finish line, Vancouver Island.
The wind was still daunting, so Dorothy and Blaine guided us to the pristine, startling blue of Kentucky Lake in Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park.
Kentucky Lake features blue-green water produced by a sandy bottom and the degree of sun beaming on it. Pam Martin photo
As we made our way there, the western theme continued on backroads as we steered around cows from the 130-year-old Douglas Lake Cattle Company, which boasts about 7,000 cows and 450 bulls producing close to 7,000 calves annually.
The massive ranch was founded when the Guichon brothers from the Savoie region of France joined the Cariboo gold rush, came up far short of the riches they dreamed of there, and took the steadier employment of ranching. The youngest brother, Joseph, built the Quilchena Hotel.
Badass gets a rest on a hill overlooking Nicola Lake. It would be bittersweet returning the stalwart van to the Wicked Campers depot in Vancouver. Pam Martin photo
Kentucky Lake put us in mind of Moraine Lake in the Rockies, a lovely blue-green that rippled under still-brisk winds. It was a tricky paddle, leaning into the gusts and rocking back when they subsided. Coming ashore was a blast, propelled by the stiff wind and paddling frantically back-to-front to avoid sheering off a fin.
Pam rejoices in the stunning setting of Kentucky Lake. Dorothy Jordan photo
We vowed to return to check out Dorothy’s GiddySUP adventure, which couples a morning paddle with afternoon horseback riding over the region’s rolling hills, also showcasing the region. And we plan to bring easterners with us through John’s company, Fit for Anything Adventures.
Racing to a tight timeline, we dressed into street clothes, said our adieus and headed Badass to Tsawwassen ferry terminal for the final stretch to the island and a last paddle, No. 17 and the 19th body of water.
John checks out Canoe Cove on the final paddle of the Canada 150 cross-country SUP celebration. Pam Martin photo
Canoe Cove is a convenience launching point to explore the Salish Sea and Gulf Island Marine Trails, (BC Marine Trails), water ways which thread through the Gulf islands and along the Vancouver Island’s east coast.
Blue Jellyfish and Pacifica Paddle also operate out of Brentwood Bay, where Pam runs SUP classes as well as ocean education programs and Pacifica offers SUP, canoe and kayak rentals and paddle programs for all levels.
John and Pam cross Brentwood Bay in silky-smooth conditions. Pam provides SUP lessons on the bay and Pacifica Paddle has a wide range of rentals and programming available for paddlers. Pacifica Paddle photo
John’s Fit For Anything Adventures will be teaming up with Blue Jellyfish and Pacifica to get small groups out on the water in both locations next spring as part of package tours showcasing Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Watch for a post on the latter coming up soon.
Our last relaxed paddle on Canoe Cove was a chance to reflect on all the water which had passed under our durable Cascadia inflatables from our put-in at Norris Point in Newfoundland. And it was a moment to reflect on the water still to be explored in this big, big land.
Pam gazes out from atop Lone Tree Hill near Victoria. So much more country to explore. John Kernaghan photo
Feature photo: Pam and John celebrate the last stage of their Canada 150 celebration on the ferry from the mainland to Vancouver Island. Canada Onboard photo