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Shop Local in Merritt, BC – Vision Quest Optical and Gifts

Looking for Things To Do in the Nicola Valley? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC – Vision Quest Optical and Gifts

“Come Downtown and Buy Something!” 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Decorative BC designed drum bag

Jeanine Gustafson, owner of Vision Quest Optical and Gifts, encourages people to shop local in Merritt BC and support our businesses. That’s the message she would like to send out to the people who live in the Nicola Valley.

Vision Quest is an eclectic shop right on the corner of Quilchena and Voght Street, a corner everyone passes when they are downtown Merritt. Jeanine has a prime location on the main block, and fills her windows with a lively display all year round. If you pop in to see what’s there, you’ll find jewelry, gems, glass frames, toys, cards, books and local art.

On the Quest for Vision Services? Glass Frames? 

Jeanine is an optician with 30 years experience and her shop began as a way for her to offer optical services to the people in the community. You can find a room full of diverse frames for children, women, and men in Vision Quest shop, and Jeanine can help you find a frame you like and fulfill your prescription. She offers one more great choice in the community before a person decides to head off for Kamloops or to online services. Definitely worth checking out!

Looking for Local Art? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Bead Jewelry Galore

Over the ten years Jeanine has been providing options for vision care, she has expanded the offerings in her shop. Vision Quest is full of art, crafts, and jewelry created by about 40 local artists. 

All year round there are gifts, mementos, and useful items to choose from: cards by Marilyn Lytton, blankets from Amelia Washington, handmade soap from Les Keys, baskets and beading from Charles McKay. 

Jeanine herself creates feather earrings and other jewelry. There are painted tiles and jewelry by Pauline Ouellet, cards by photographer Heidi Koehler, beading by Ashala Harvie. And beautiful pained rocks by local artist Georgina Beatty! 

1st Nations Art 

Jeanine says the majority of the artists showing their work at Vision Quest are 1st Nations from the Nicola Valley, and some

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

1st Nations Art

from nearby regions like Lillooet. Her contacts also provide her with 1st Nations items designed in BC to satisfy her visitors from other provinces and countries. Look for beautiful designs on drum bags, a red lampshade, beaded earrings, medallions, baskets, cards…

The prices at Vision Quest are reasonable and range from about $5 to…more. I was very taken with a gorgeous across-the-shoulder bright turquoise suede bag, for just over $100. 

The local work in Jeanine’s lively, full shop is worth a leisurely search.

But I will admit that the jewelry, especially the gem jewelry, at Vision Quest often draws me through the welcoming doors on Quilchena Avenue.

Gems and Trinkets Galore!

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Gems and Jewelry

Jeanine’s windows are full of her jewelry, hanging or displayed in photo frames. And once you are in the shop, the jewelry is displayed in every cabinet, and in every nook and cranny. Amethysts, rose quartz, topaz, garnets, you name it. There are simple pendants to elaborately set jewelry, rings, earrings, bracelets in all shapes and colours.

There is also a diverse assortment of costume jewelry and a variety of pretty bags for storing your gems and trinkets.

What else? 

Jeanine carries local books from local authors when possible, fun toys for kids, guitar pics…

And a good supply of beading supplies: seed beads, gem beads, and others, and lots of supporting items like thread.

Business in Merritt 

I asked Jeanine what support she gets from the community. And her reply, “I am still open.” 

Shopping Local in Merritt, BC

Tiny decorative painted bird houses

In my opinion, with years of experience in owning a retail business myself, ten years is a success story!

Jeanine Gustafson is the owner of Vision Quest, renting her prime location from the local owners of the building. She has been open for ten years and is very familiar with what works downtown, and what doesn’t. She talks about how she is supported by the City of Merritt’s policies and attention. 

What can be better? 

However, Jeanine is very clear about what does not work and the trouble she has sometimes in her dealings with the City, like keeping the cobblestones level to reduce hazards to pedestrians and make it easier for wheelchairs and walkers. 

She discusses things that a city and the locals can do to support business in the community. What Jeanine chats about sounds a lot like the discussions that I hear happening at group meetings like the Business Resurgence, Vision Merritt, and the talks of

speakers at the Community Futures seminar.

We talked about business licenses, signage, opening days, first impressions…

What Works? 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Hand made baby moccasins

Jeanine talks about other businesses and organizations which are supportive. For instance, she mentions how helpful the Open Door was to her. And comments on the support that Work BC has given to people she knows. 

“All sorts of fun people come in!” 

Jeanine enjoys the people who come in. She has regulars who pop in for tea and chats. She serves a steady flow of people coming in for optician services. And she welcomes all the visitors to town who make their way through her doors.

As we know, Merritt attracts people from all over the world. Jeanine often acts as an ambassador and tells people where to go in town, and what is happening locally. She has stories she shares with visitors, things I didn’t know about the history of some of the surrounding buildings and I’ve lived here for a lot longer….

What do you enjoy the most?

I asked Jeanine what she enjoys most about her business. After a moment’s thought, she describes the fun she has setting up

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Feather earrings by Jeanine Gustafson

the Christmas windows! Jeanine possesses the considerable Christmas village collection of the late Marguerite Kempin, a long time resident of the valley. It takes Jeanine a month to set it up, with no days off! And it will take a month to take down, ready for the next display! So it was great to hear that is a favourite part of her shop experiences.

I enjoy the Christmas window! And I know others who do too, some who take their grandchildren downtown to view it all.

Have you seen it? Whoops, it may be too late for this year. But the next display in Vision Quest’s display windows, on the corner of Voght Street and Quilchena Avenue will be there soon. Stroll by! Pop in!

Vision Quest is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 11am-5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

But Jeanine is open on Mondays in the summer months. She says Monday is a busy day in Merritt in the summer!

And how will she keep going in the slow months? Jeanine’s message to the locals: “Come downtown and buy something!”

Now that’s a positive message that supports all the shops in Merritt!

Thanks, Jeanine! Good visit! 

Shop local in Merritt BC

Blue suede bag

 

Contact Jeanine Gustafson at Vision Quest visionquestoptical@gmail.com 

Vision Quest Optical and Gifts Facebook

More on the arts and culture scene in the Nicola Valley

And if you want to see more local art visit our local Arts Gallery at the heritage Courthouse on Nicola Avenue. 

And visit our Nicola Valley Arts Council site, to see what’s happening in the arts in our valley.

The NVCAC is also on Facebook. 

And check out my Creative Community Facebook page.

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Shopping at Vision Quest

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Growing up in Merritt, BC

Growing up in Merritt

Why I love growing up in Merritt

 

“…I never had any friends later on like the ones I did when I was twelve..”Richard Dreyfuss spoke these words in the final scene of my favorite movie “Stand by Me” . For me this quote reflects my growing up in Merritt with my friends. While we may have never searched for a dead body, we did have some memorable adventures. Whether it be getting my two friends and I lost on a mountain and picking ticks out of our hair on the way down, or floating down the Nicola River in dollar store rafts, my group of friends and I did it all.  

 

Being raised in Merritt, My playground was the outdoors. Everything was in walking distance, and even if it wasn’t, we would still walk 2.5 hours in the scorching 40-degree weather to find a new cliff to descend into the river.  Summers were spent playing on the river, or trying our best to leave early to get the ‘perfect’ spot under the shady tree at Monck Park beach. Dirt biking up to the lookout point up Promotory , and geocaching in Lower Nicola.  

Hunting season in the Nicola Valley

As the leaves changed colours, so did our interests. I had completed my hunting core that past April. All I wanted for my birthday was to do an overnight hunting trip with my dad. On one brisk September’s day my father and I set out for our overnighterWe set up our camp under an old fir tree, 15 minutes outside of Merritt.

After we finished setting up, with a few hours of daylight left, we started down the rough terrain below us.  Although we never shot anything, we did come across a small group of mule deer heading towards the timber. About 15 minutes after we had spotted a beautiful large black bear. We sat and watched the bear in admiration for quite some time. When we got back to camp, I sat underneath the fir tree with a breathtaking view of the Nicola Valley. I relaxed as my father prepared supper. The trip is one I will never forget. 

Wintertime in Merritt

When snow starts falling in the Nicola Valley and winter approaches, Doug’s once green lawn turns into an ice rink. If you don’t have skates to wear, he supplies them without charge.  Sledding and snowshoeing in the Nicola valley are a thing my family and I have always enjoyed and now it is our family tradition,

it’s not a successful sledding trip if you’re not leaving without a black eye (at least in my family anyway!) .

Kane valley in Merritt

The lights when I come into Merritt always put a smile on my face; the streetlights are always so beautifully decorated that you just can’t help feeling that Christmas spirit. Of course, my most favorite thing about living in Merritt at Christmas time is the parade. It’s usually me, my mother and brother’s tradition to go every year to the Christmas Parade. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. No matter how old I get, I will still get that feeling of pure joy when I see the ‘Frosty the Snowman’ Norgaard truck float, and even at the end when Santa appears.  

  

I really couldn’t wish for a better place to grow up in. I know that when I get older and leave for school, a part of me will always be here in Merritt. There are so many memories and adventures built here and I’m so proud and grateful to be able to explore The Nicola Valley and call it my hometown. The mountains and lakes have so much to offer that I hope that in the future more  kids grow up and have a similar childhood to mine growing up in a small town.  

  

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Bird Watching in Canada

Bird Watching in Canada

Bird watching in Canada is a favorite past time for thousands of people all over the world. It is no different right here in Merritt and the Nicola Valley. I Love birdwatching in Canada, and the Nicola Valley too. I do go out on occasion with some of our local Pros, like the great people at  Nicola Valley Naturalists.   When I do take that time, I am always amazed at the knowledge and at what they can spot and see! These nature and bird experts are amazing! 

Doing what I Love. Nature and Nikon

I just happened to be doing what I love, which is being outdoors and exploring and this happened! It is like a gift! This is the real deal bird watching in Canada!

I was sitting in my “Palace” my new to me, travel trailer (that I love BTW) and just outside on the lakeshore was this beautiful yellow, black and yellow bird! Camera time! I grab my Nikon and go sit in a chair close by waiting for the return! And “HE” did! This time with a baby! The baby bird started to sweetly  hop around, first on the branches of the berry tree, and then onto the ground and rocks just below! All fuzzy and cute as a baby bird can be, I start snapping away!

Bird watching in Canada is very rewarding

The little one was looking at me, looking around, waiting for daddy. Sure enough daddy comes back with some food! mushed up berries. Baby waits. Daddy hops to the ground and as you can see in the picture, this is what I saw! Isn’t this amazing?

Bird watching in Canada Western Tanager

Bird watching in Canada Western Tanager

Anticipating for the right moments to take pictures, I was once again rewarded!  Look who scurries over to see what is going on! The cutest chipmunk! He sits calmly on the rock, back turned to the baby bird as if to say “I know your there but I don’t care!” Baby bird stating right back at him also seeming to say, “I know your there and I don’t care either.” Then they looked at each other. Both caught in a stare. They both sat still for a moment both as calm as could be. 

The Western Tanager

Thanks to All About Birds I was able to learn more about the Western Tanager and so many other species. All the information you will ever need for Bird watching in Canada.  Here are some  cool facts and other information I learned about this bird.

A Male has an orange-red head, brilliant yellow body, and coal-black wings, back and tail. Females and younger ones are  similar to the males but have somewhat of a  dimmer yellow-green and black. These birds live in open woods all over the West, particularly among evergreens, where they often stay hidden in the canopy. Nevertheless, they’re a quintessential woodland denizen in summertime, where they fill the woods with their short, burry song and low, chuckling call notes.

Cool Facts

  • While most red birds owe their redness to a variety of plant pigments known as carotenoids, the Western Tanager gets it’s scarlet head feathers from a rare pigment called rhodoxanthin. Unable to make this substance in their own bodies, Western Tanagers probably obtain it from insects in their diet.
  • This species ranges farther north than any other tanager, breeding northward to a latitude of 60 degrees—into Canada’s Northwest Territories. In the chilly northernmost reaches of their breeding range, Western Tanagers may spend as little as two months before migrating south.

 

  • Male Western Tanagers sometimes perform an antic, eye-catching display, apparently a courtship ritual, in which they tumble past a female, their showy plumage flashing yellow and black.

 

  • Around the turn of the twentieth century, Western Tanagers were thought to pose a significant threat to commercial fruit crops. One observer wrote that in 1896, “the damage done to cherries in one orchard was so great that the sales of the fruit which was left did not balance the bills paid out for poison and ammunition.” Today, it is illegal to shoot native birds and Western Tanagers are safer than they were a century ago.

 

  • The oldest Western Tanager on record—a male originally banded in Nevada in 1965—had lived at least 6 years and 11 months by the time he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Oregon in 1971.

Bird watching in Canada photographs

It was fantastic! I know I had a big smile on my face as I sat and watched these three, and I knew I was capturing a great photos. Here is additional images I captured that afternoon. Hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them. 

 

Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

 

  Birdwatching in Canada Western Tanager in Merritt BC Canada

 

Local Naturalist and Bird watching

I have been able to spend enlightening times with our local experts at Nicola Valley Naturalists. They have wonderful friendly experts, and some great programs for everyone. They started a new one this year called Merritt Nature Kids!  How cool is that? 

A major objective of  Nicola Naturalist Society is to provide education and information on the wild organisms and ecosystems of the BC interior. Especially those that are found in the Nicola Valley area.  They have regular meetings at the theatre at NVIT. (Nicola Valley Institue of Technology), and have all kinds of great field events like amphibian monitoring and the Christmas bird count.  They can count me in for that one this year.

You don’t have to be a birder to participate in the count. Join one of the best and historic bird watching in Canada events, just go. Bring a camera and binoculars and share with us what you see.

Happy Bird watching in Canada and the rest of the world too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merritt Centennials – Hometown Hockey in the BCHL

Merritt Centennials – Hockey Night in Merritt

We watched the longest continuously run franchise in BCHL history

“Captain Crunch, started to shift momentum when he rushed the net for a lose puck and a melee occurred, a crowd gathered, some words were said, there was a shove here and push there.”

It was “Hockey Night in Merritt” for me as the Merritt Centennials (link to their website) in Merritt, British Columbia, Canada were about to take on their neighboring rivals from Salmon Arm, BC. I was stoked and ready to put my money where my mouth is starting with the purchase of 2 team hoodies. It is important to support community programs because if you do not support them you lose them to another community. No one wants that. 

Merritt Centennials

Its Official! Merritt Centennial Fan Club

Merritt Centennials Rekindled Some Hockey History

It was my first time setting foot in a hockey arena in over 10 years. To some not a big deal. To a hockey fanatic like me who played on frozen ponds, who rushed to road hockey games at the local lacrosse box every day after school, who suited up and played rep hockey most of my life and then graduated to junior hockey… it is a big deal! The last time I stepped on the ice was as a coach of the Pee Wee and then Bantam AAA Rep Hockey Teams in the Edmonton Minor Hockey system.  

Tonight Was About Hockey, Not Politics

Every hockey game, where ever you are, starts with the entrance to the hockey rink. Huh you may ask… what are you talking about? Here is what I mean. First impressions and feeling appreciated for attending can make or break any hockey experience. When I entered the rink I was greeted by name, with a smile and handshake by the Merritt Centennials President and former Merritt Mayor Neil Menard.  I was impressed with his hospitality and full of gratitude for his welcoming gestures. So far I was feeling good about my hockey experience.

Hot On The Scent Of The Merritt Centennials

As I walked through the doors of the hockey rink the atmosphere and the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. It is not a bad smell by any means. It is a hockey rink smell. Every hockey player, hockey mom, hockey dad, hockey fan knows what I am talking about. A community hockey rink has a smell of its own, a distinct smell, and when you grow up in the hockey world you recognize it no matter how long you have been away from the rink. 

But that is not the only scent I was seeking out. Not by a long shot! I skipped my dinner prior to the game so I could rekindle my love affair with the “rink dog”. To you newbies a rink dog is just a hockey word for hot dog. A hot dog at a hockey game conjures up many memories that go way back. When one combines the smell of a hockey rink with the atmosphere and the warm scent of a rink dog it is like stepping through the pearly-gates (or goal posts) of hockey heaven. For the fan it is like the pregame ritual in preparation for the game. 

The Merritt Centennials Coach is Coaching 

The puck drops and the game is on. However, the script had flipped and the home team was down 2-0 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first period. The crowd was silenced and some were stunned including myself.  This was suppose to be a top team in the league this year? How can they be down on the score clock so fast?

Coach of Merritt Centennials

Knowing when to call a time out.

The Merritt Centennial players came stumbling out of the gate slowly. They seem to have lost their legs on this night. Was I a jinx? I am not sure if it was just me, or my inner coach talking, but they were turning the puck over in their own zone at an alarming rate and their wingers were clearing the zone too quickly. Whats up boys? 

Merritt Centennials Flicked The Switch 

The Merritt Centennials were a better skating team but their execution was off and something was not clicking. It seemed the coach, being a good coach and having a feeling about his team, called a time out. As it turned out it was a good move. The real Merritt Centennials began to play. Now the score was 2-2 and it was game on! Nice call Coach Martin!

To be a contender you have to have a coach who knows his team on and off the ice. He knows which buttons to push and the when and where to push them. To be a good team its best players have to be its best players game in, and game out.  A team cannot be a good team living on the backs of its best players alone either. Never happens, just look at the Edmonton Oilers. A supporting cast down the line up, an aware coaching staff and caring trainers are all crucial to a teams success. Everybody needs to be in sync. 

Captain Crunch To The Rescue

Nic Wicks #9, the captain of the Merritt Centennials, came to play. Lets call him “Captain Crunch” and here is why. After the pep talk handed down by his coach the ice become slanted in favor of Merritt. Good timing too, because the team had dug themselves into a hole.  

The captain of the Merritt Centennials, Captain Crunch, started to shift momentum when he rushed the net for a lose puck and a melee occurred, a crowd gathered, some words were said, there was a shove here and push there. No worries for Merritt but maybe for Salmon Arm as the melee flicked on the light switch for #9. 

Merritt Centennial Hockey

A scuffle sparks some life into the team.

From the result of the final score it is probably best the Salmon Arm Silverbacks do not poke the bear anymore because they woke up “Captain Crunch” in a big way. First there was one goal by “Captain Crunch”, then another and then the hat trick. The crowd went wild! The captain of the team, came through in the crunch hence the nickname “Captain Crunch”. Hockey is full of nicknames, so what harm is another one. Maybe it will stick!

Merritt Centennials in Merritt

Captain Crunch scores!

We Win With Hockey

The game ended in a 5 -2 score in favor of the Merritt Centennials. The team started the night playing as individuals and finished the night clawing back as a team. There are many lessons one can take from watching a hockey game – the “ebs and flows” has teaching moments. There are many life skills one can learn from playing hockey including teamwork, hard work, determination, conviction, dedication, discipline and more. 

Merritt Centennial Hockey Team

Celebrating a Merritt Centennial win

Sadly to say, not all the players on the Merritt Centennials will take the next step to the next level of hockey greatness. However, many of the players will take the next step in the game of life and walk away from Canada’s great game with some very powerful life lessons which will come in handy as they continue to grow as men. 

Great win. Thanks for the entertainment and I cannot wait till the next game. 

Merritt Centennials – Hockey Night in Merritt

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Merritt BC Canada Things To Do – Mountain Biking!

Merritt BC Canada Things To Do – Mountain Biking!

Mountain biking in Merritt – steep and gnarly or smooth and flowy…

Ridge – a BC Trail with something for everyone

One of my favorite things to do in Merritt, BC Canada that never gets old! Mountain biking in Merritt can be as steep and gnarly or smooth and flowy for just about anyone from the beginner to the full-on down-hill animal. Ridge is the kind of BC trail that has a bit of something for everyone.

Merritt bc canada things to do-rock rollover Ridge trail

Pinkbike user “sidecut” shared this photo to Trailforks

Too Much Information

Getting to the top of Ridge is a substantial climb. It takes the average mountain biker about forty-five minutes to reach the top. Too Much Info is the climb of choice for all of the trails in the lower section of Iron Mountain, and one of the best climbing trails around. The switchbacks are fairly long, with a moderate number of level sections to regroup as you ride.

The climb up TMI provides some of Merritt’s best lookout points. The first is atop one of the steeper, short climbing sections that dot Too Much Info. One of the best things to do in Merritt is going for a picnic! This table is a great spot to hang out and enjoy the sunshine while enjoying the view of Swakum Mountain across the valley. It’s one of the best things to do in Merritt BC Canada!

Merritt bc canada things to do-lookout from Ridge TMI trail crossing

Pinkbike user “sidecut” shared this photo to Trailforks

Following that are three more lookouts that provide increasingly panoramic views of Swakum Mountain, the Coutlee Plateau, and the City of Merritt. The lookouts are all located at intersections of TMI and Ridge. Enjoy the sneak peeks of your downhill! Once you’ve completed the switchbacks of TMI, you’re getting close to the top! Three more switchbacks on Lone Pine trail will get you to the Ridge connector. 

High Mountain Ranchland Sunset

It’s always a tough decision for me: go for the gratification of the connector’s shorter climb, or to push up the rest of Lone Pine to the top of Upper Ridge? Both options are worth the effort, but Upper Ridge adds some pretty fun riding. This option also provides another nice rest spot in the open meadow at the tail end of Lone Pine.

The view is great from here! You’ll take in some of the trademark high mountain ranchland of the Nicola Valley. Looking Southwest, you’ll see the tree covered Iron Mountain. This spot is beautiful anytime, but the sunsets are spectacular. Every year at the summer solstice, the local club, Merritt Mountain Biking Association, leads a ride to this spot. It’s worth planning for! 

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada-Upper Ridge trail from Lone Pine trail

Pinkbike user “sidecut” posted this photo to Trailforks

Don’t Get Lost!

After scrambling up from the meadow, along the rocky Southeast switchback of Upper Ridge, you’re finally here! Unless you’re lost! The entrance to Upper Ridge can be missed, so make sure you watch for the left trail fork at the big, lone, pine. 

Okay, so the first thing you’ll likely notice is a sign. It’s a little menacing with its “experts only” warning, and it is warranted. However, it is still rated as a Black trail, so you be the judge of whether or not you consider yourself an “expert”.  Upper Ridge doesn’t waste any time! Right off you are rolling down fairly steep and jagged rocky sections, with some nice flowy singletrack mixed in. 

The Slab

This goes on for a while, with a few sections requiring a pedal here and there. Soon you’ll reach another foreboding sign. In my experience, this is the one to take the most notice of. Again, whether or not you have to be an expert to ride this section is at your discretion. You’ll soon meet an off camber rock slab, after crossing a short bridge/rocky section. This slab is intimidating and I have opted to take the ride around to the right on more than one occasion. It’s the “off camber” that makes it intimidating (not to mention the drop jump ramp at its base that appears to land in the middle of a stand of trees).

On a dry day with at least one of your friends to encourage you, the slab can be cleaned. Just watch this video from Dangerousdave to see how easy it is! He chose the ramp, which I can’t recommend, never having had the guts to attempt it. I take the slab and instead of sticking to the line leading to the ramp, there is a rollover to the right that, although a bit sketchy in its own right, has what seems to be more forgiving consequences in the event of rider failure.

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada- Ridge trail the slab off camber rock

Pinkbike user “Sidecut” shared this picture to Trailforks

Fun Things to do in Merritt BC Canada

Now it’s smooth sailing, well for the most part. You’ll get lots of the yummy flow that follows the slab/ramp in Dangerousdave’s video, plus a few more jagged rock rollovers, one of which ends with a near 90 degree turn after navigating a techy root. To see what’s in store of things to do in Merritt BC Canada, check out this video by Flarix17., for a look at all those rocks and curves, down to the finish at the former Info Centre parking lot.

Mountain biking things to do in Merritt BC Canada Ridge trail wooden feature

Pinkbike user “Canadaka” shared this picture to Trailforks

Mountain biking Ridge is one of my favorite things to do in Merritt BC Canada. There are many others that I think represent the diversity of terrain and riding style in the Merritt area. These trails were built by passionate mountain bikers who were so jazzed by the new sport of mountain biking in the 1990’s that it seems like they must have spent time doing nothing else! Some of them still live here and ride the trails, but many have moved on. 

Since moving to Merritt in 2013 and opening Breathe Bikes, I have met and ridden with a few of the trail builders that first carved out beauties like Ridge. I hope I’ve done at least a passable job of showing them how much I appreciate their work. If I haven’t and you’re reading this, please accept my many thanks! 

Things to do in Merritt BC Canada

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WILD! Flies, Skins, and Skulls…

WILD! Flies, Skins, and Skulls…

Creative Exhibition at the Courthouse Arts Gallery, Merritt Canada

Fishermen, Hunters, Photographers, Collectors, Artists…

Things to do in Merritt

Taxidermy, fly ties, carvings

Things to do in Merritt…A nature exhibition Nicola Valley style: taxidermy, fly ties, rods, skulls, pelts, eagle photography, moose airbrush painting. Collections of stuffed birds, birds’ nests,  shells…lots to see!

Who’s showing their nature art and collections at the Gallery?

  • Peter McVey, fly tier and fisherman extraordinaire. 
  • Willie Kiegerl, providing us with a variety of animal skulls to identify. And other wildlife. 
  • Dawn Shackelly’s eagle photography, and owls, big horn sheep, baby ducks… 
  • Jessie Rabbit with her bull calf and fireweed, her beautiful airbrush painting. 
  • Cindy Trent with collections: skulls, BC shells, sea stars, and bird’s nests 
  • Rory Hepner has provided beaver and coyote pelts, and animal skulls 
  • Artist Renee Hartwigs’ tri coloured owl and Joel Reid’s “find the bird” painting 
  • Mischelle and Bill Pierce have contributed both creatures and colourful fly ties 
  • Fran McMurchy created three small watercolour creeks for three fly ties in oak frames. Unique! 

And Murphy Shewchuck, who put down his fly rod years ago. And picked up his camera… 

A nature exhibition Nicola Valley style…

Things to do in Merritt

Nature collections and Renee Hartwig’s Owl Art

Our Nicola Valley, surrounding the town of Merritt Canada, is filled with hunters and fishermen and women. Lots of families in the area raise their children with skills to provide for their families from the land around. From berries to deer to lake trout. Children and adults alike celebrate bringing down their first deer, or catching their first salmon.

We are set in a grassland valley, filled with creeks and lakes, surrounded by rolling hills and mountain ranges. There are a lot of choices, many paths to take, and backroads to follow- to hunt, fish, gather. Lots of nature.

Our exhibition reflects this focus on nature in the area!

I have long been fascinated with the art of fly fishing and fly tying. As a child, my family just fished with rods that fit in our Rambler. We fished enough, and I enjoyed it enough, to make sure my own kids had rods and gear enough to catch Lake Trout at Monck Park, which we ate for supper on the camp fire.

But we had friends who were hooked on fly fishing, and I watched movies with fly fishing action (looks close to meditation). And I could see the charm of those long, supple rods flashing the line out over water. And the flies…

We have one of the most well-known fly tiers in our area displaying his flies, ties, and accoutrement. Peter McVey not only told stories at our WILD! Reception, but left his book so we could read more about his adventures…

We have vintage suitcases displaying flies that others have created. Works of art!

What if you wanted to get started on fly tying?

From Gear Junkie

Catching your first fish on the fly will embed new levels of appreciation for all things fly fishing.

Things to do in Merritt

Fly Tie Watercolour art by Fran McMurchy

Most fly anglers hit a point in their fishing career when they think about tying their own flies…. There’s an entirely new level of satisfaction from catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself.

The path to tying amazing flies isn’t the easiest. And the reward is 10-fold compared to that of storebought flies.

Fly tying is an angling tool that can empower you to catch more fish. Tying flies enables an angler to not only replicate their favorite bug at the fly shop but also create their own custom patterns no one else has. The only limits you face at a tying vise are imagination and creativity.

Anglers construct flies to replicate the exact bugs found in streams.

Tying also offers the avenue to get in touch with the most artistic side of fly fishing. Fully dressed Atlantic salmon flies and modern articulated streamers can be just as artistic as painting, with the hook acting as your canvas. 

Yes! That’s what I thought when, as art gallery director in our small community, we were brainstorming Art Exhibitions.

This area is filled with fishable lakes and streams. One of our oldest slogans is “A lake a day, as long as you stay!”

The Nicola Valley is a perfect place for a Fly Tie show!

Things to do in Merritt

Ruffed Grouse, birds’ nests

And, my buddy said…taxidermy too! Well, sure!

Most of us have seen taxidermied creatures, in museums, at our uncle’s house… Taxidermy is an art in itself.

What does taxidermy mean? From answers.com

Taxi is Latin for move. Dermis is Latin for Skin. Taxidermist is a mover of skin. Taxidermy is what he does. A taxis is a division of classification especially when concerning animals. Dermous means skin, Dermy is an activity concerned with skin. So — Many types of animal skin activity.

In the Nicola Valley, we have several taxidermists. They do work for locals and also do spectacular mounts for clients outside our area. I’ve seen photos…

At the Gallery we have stuffed birds: ptarmigan, ruffed grouse, blue grouse (the smart ones), a beautiful owl… And a mounted fish.

We also have amazing carvings of birds and fish that look like the real thing…

And if you want a taste of the big critters, we have photographs of mountain sheep, bald eagles, an air brush painting of a moose calf. And real antlers of moose and deer, a buffalo hoof, a coyote and beaver pelt, two bear skulls…

Lots of skulls! Of all kinds! Coyote, beaver, raccoon, fish… Hummingbird skeleton! You can barely see it!

So here we are, in the middle of an exhibition showcasing the work of many people local to our area. Collectors, painters, fly tiers, taxidermists.

Things to Do in Merritt… Come and Visit & Get Involved!

From Oct 11-Nov 3, 2018, at the Courthouse Arts Gallery.

Things to do in Merritt

WILD! Poster by Kim Leclair

Got skulls? We are looking for donated animal skulls, bones, antlers, for a painting workshop!

This should be fun…. Want to join us?

Register for Saturday, Oct 27/18. 1-3pm at the Courthouse Arts Gallery in Merritt. $20. $10 if you bring your own skull…

Go to Nicola Valley Arts Council Facebook Page for more info!

And if you miss it, we’d love to collect skulls and antlers for more artwork, for another time. Call 250-378-6515 to donate.

Also fly tie expert and fisherman extraordinaire, Peter McVey, is telling stories, Friday Nov 3/18, 4-6pm at the Courthouse Arts Gallery, 1840 Nicola Avenue, Merritt, BC

Visit Nicola Valley Arts Council‘s site for more about the arts in the Nicola Valley.

Read my blog about Open Mic Nights in Merritt, held every Friday night at Kekuli cafe 7-9pm. Come on out!

Jano Howarth, promoting creativity in our community

Jano Howarth

Jano

Welcome to Experience Nicola Valley, with news about the Nicola Valley in BC, Canada. A great destination location! I love living here...
Jano Howarth
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Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

When you hear the word “cowboy” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Did you know that the term cowboy was first documented in the English language by 1725? It was a direct translation of the Spanish word vaquero — one who manages cattle from horseback, cowboy has the same meaning. Vaquero is rooted in the word vaca, or cow, and stems from the Latin vacca.

For some of us, it is not easy to develop trust when we are dealing with something or someone new. Dealing with a horse is not different. How can you communicate with a horse? How do horses communicate with us? To learn more about horsemanship, let me introduce our guest blogger Miles Kingdon, from Miles Kingdon Horsemanship.

I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch…

cowboyI came from Saskatchewan to the Nicola Valley, in March of 1981,  because I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch.  Most importantly, I wanted a full time cowboying job in cow country.  To live in a land where I could see the mountains and ride my horse across creeks and streams, and view wildlife year round.

I had been a cowboy on the big government pastures in Saskatchewan, but that job was seasonal; finishing for the year when the farmers took their cattle home in the late fall.  Besides, the winters were bitterly cold there, and not conducive to riding year round. 

So I headed to B.C.  When I drove into the Nicola Valley from Kamloops, on Highway 5A (the only highway at that time), I saw vast, beautiful rolling hills of bunchgrass.  I knew that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills

My first cowboying job was at the Douglas Lake Cattle Company.  Every day, I rode out in the early morning to look at a new range; with creeks, streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills to look at.  Other days, I’d be riding across a sea of grass, and knew I was in the best cow country I could ever see.

It was a good life at Douglas Lake, but I was still hungry to see what was on the other side of the ridge, so I hired on at Nicola Ranch.  I had a family of my own by then, and being at Nicola Ranch exposed me more to the Merritt Community.  Our children were born in Merritt, went to school and were involved in sports in Merritt. 

A cowboy may not plan on involving himself in the community too much, because of his time spent at work, but he will, through the love of his children and interest in their daily activities.  It is inevitable for the parents.  They will rub shoulders with other parents and become involved in community functions, and as a result, feel like part of that community.

A new learning curve for this cowboy

cowboyAs the years rolled by, my interest in other ranges, and the desire to do better for my family, led me to the other big ranches across BC; the Bar K Ranch, Empire Valley Ranch, and the Gang Ranch.  These places were all a new learning curve for this cowboy.  Learning how to fit into a new environment, and acclimatize to each new system’s way of doing things; all were good for me.  I gained more knowledge about grasslands and different herd management practices. 

Also, very important to me, was making a new string of horses for me to go to work with.  Taking the horses from being young and inexperienced to a finished bridle horse, at each ranch. 

Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

A horse experienced at roping and doctoring cattle, cutting, and sorting cattle, and eventually becoming a willing partner that anyone, even my children,  could eventually ride.  And they did.  And until my children gained enough experience to be good help to the crew, the horses would take care of them throughout the day at work, and bring them home safely.

Not only did the horses watch how they carried my children through their formative and impressionable years, but so did the cowboys we rode with, always watched out for them.  Each of those hands became like uncles or aunts to our kids.  This is part of what makes our community so unique.  Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley. 

At one time, the native community provided most of the recruits for the cowboy crews, and as the years rolled by, people from all over Canada, the US and beyond came to ride on these legendary outfits; some to move on to new ranges, some to stay and raise their families.  Ultimately, my family and I always came back to the Nicola Valley.  It wasn’t just the ranges and the scenery, the forgiving environment, and the horses, it was the community.  The people, and their empathy for others held us here. 

Back when I was younger, and cowboying at Douglas Lake, one of the older hands did the math and figured we were riding an average of 5,000 miles/year horseback.  Some of us questioned that, but the elders on the crew attested to that figure.  Some outfits were less distance covered on horseback, while some, like the Gang Ranch, were a bit more.

I understand the horse…

So, after over forty years of cowboying for a wage, I’ve come to make a lot of friends in the cattle industry, and I’ve gotten to a place where I understand the horse quite a bit better.  It makes a difference in me, at days end, to count my blessings and tally up how many things were a bit better today than yesterday, with my horses, dogs, saddle partners and life.

It seemed the natural thing to do, once I left cowboying for the outfits full time, to hang my shingle out doing workshops.  To teach the skills we learned going places on horses, and making a living as a cowboy.  So, today, my wife and saddle partner, Possum, and I are making a business of that.  We have two more horsemanship/stockmanship workshops coming up this summer in the valley, at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. 

There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.

cowboyNow, I can pass on these skills to whomever may be interested in working with horses and cattle.  There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.  And I really enjoy passing on knowledge to our youth, who, during their impressionable years, grow and gain knowledge the most. That is what they really desire.

Ultimately, after years of freedom and adventure, going places horseback, I had a few good stories to tell, and my wife pushed me to write them down.  As a result, we are looking at publishing our first book later this year.  It will be stories of life horseback, mostly situated in this valley of ours.

Many great adventures

The horse has brought me to many great adventures, and contact with a lot of good people.  The horse will do this for others as well. As long as there’s these grasslands and cattle that need to be maintained, there will be men and women riding down a trail and listening to their spurs chiming in time to their horse’s stride.  I have been blessed to grow in this community, and have come to love this valley, and the people in it.

Thanks, Miles Kingdon! We look forward to your book!

Click here for more info on Miles’ workshops. “Miles Kingdon Horsemanship offers a wide range of clinics, camps and workshops.”

Miles Facebook Page

For more reading on the cowboy experience in the Nicola Valley, read Etelka’s blog on the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.

cowboy
 

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Parks in Merritt

Parks in Merritt

Think picnicking is only for summer?

Parks

Ready for a picnic!

This senior does parks and picnics all year round- even during thunderstorms and in the snow! And Merritt is a great place to do it.

Autumn is a perfect time for parks and picnics! Think picnicking is only for summer? This senior does parks and picnics all year round- even during thunderstorms and in the snow! And Merritt is a great place to do it.

Park and picnic prep

Start by getting a few friends as well as some play gear together- baseball, bat and gloves, soccer ball etc.  Or maybe a deck of cards or a few board games is more your style.

If you want a super easy picnic lunch before you head for your park of choice, most of the restaurants in Merritt will be happy to do a boxed lunch for your group, just give them a bit of a heads up.

Now take your gear, lunch and friends to one of the following places. ..

Rotary Park, Merritt 

Parks

Rotary Park

A fun park for everyone, kids and adults alike. The Nicola River runs along its south side. There are picnic tables scattered along the river and throughout the park or if you prefer, spread a blanket under a friendly tree. During hot weather, the spray park is operating and kids of all ages will love it! Settle that lunch with a gentle walk along paths lined with flower gardens while the young ones play. Or join them if you want some real exercise                   

Rotary Park Thunderstorm                                                                                                                                                          

Would you like the adventure of picnicking during a thunderstorm?  In addition to all the regular good park stuff, Rotary Park has a band shell that offers shelter and a great view of the flash bangs too. I had a blast doing this with some young kids. There was lots of laughing and shrieking- from all of us. They pronounced it “The best picnic EVER!”

         Rotary Park is washroom equipped.

Lion’s Memorial Park, Merritt

Parks

Lions Memorial Park

Here is a pocket park that not only has gorgeous flowerbeds but also riverside picnic tables as well as a picturesque bridge.  In addition to these, it has a surprise. As you stare up at the green and yellow structure, you may well ask, “What is that?”

Lions Memorial Park Wind Onion                                                                                                                                    

Known as the Wild Wind Onion, this helical windmill is the invention of Merritt’s Heinz Lange, a teacher who became fascinated with wind power in the 1960s. He developed a wind-powered ice fishing machine and later moved to building wind-powered “lake Aerators”, which were installed on several lakes in the area.

 

Parks

Lion’s Memorial Park Wind Onion

Merritt’s “Wind Onion”, built in the 1990s shows these features clearly in its outer blades. Take a little time to look at this unusual structure. After all, we Merrittonians are pretty proud of it!

The Lange family donated the wind onion and archival materials to the Nicola Valley Museum and the City of Merritt in 2014.                                                 

Central Park, Merritt

Here is a perfect park for letting off steam! There is plenty of room for soccer or any other game that needs space. Let the kids or grandkids  run around freely. Watch a game, or play one. Choose a big, shady “picnic tree” to kick back and relax under. Spread out the goodies and enjoy a family feast! Or walk the path at the park’s edge and just soak up the sun.

Fairley Park, Merritt

This may not be the kind of  park you expect as a picnic spot, but it is perfect for little kids! Small and fenced, it is a safe place for them to play. And the bright toy-like jungle gym is sure to be a big hit. Also, they can play in plain sight while you sit at the picnic table, chat with friends and set up the food. Or go join the kids and eat later!

Lions Bike Park, Merritt

While not a picnicking kind of park, this sure is a fun place for bike-riding kids. There are lots of dips and jumps to challenge even the skilled. If you have the grandkid’s bikes and helmets along, they can  also burn off some excess energy here.

It will benefit the adults too. You will hear fewer “Are we there yet?” questions after a stop at Lions Bike Park!

Parks

Picnics and Parks in Merritt

Centennial Park, Merritt

The Coldwater River runs along the north side of this park. There are great picnic spots here with tables overlooking the river. Trees offer both shade and also gorgeous colours at this time of year. Not only is the park edged with flowerbeds, but also the park itself is a large green space just ripe for laughter and play. So picnic, laugh, play and enjoy, then come back another day and do it all over again!

Read more about Merritt’s parks….

Spirit Square, Merritt

Definitely non-conventional, this little city park is designed as a gathering place. It makes a good picnic spot too. Bring cushions and  lawn chairs to sit on because the built-in benches are concrete. Not only does the park’s water feature add a gurgle of interest but also the pretty gardens are filled with flowers and ornamental grasses.

Notice the stage? Not only is it a good place to belt out a tune with your friends, but also its shelter makes this park another thunderstorm picnic spot!

Can anyone in your group play the piano? There is a painted piano at Spirit Square that everyone is welcome to use. So go for it! Get the people around you up and dancing! I dare you! Start some big fun in the heart of our little city.

Merritt’s Parks – what do you think?

In my last blog, I talked about Merritt’s great walks for seniors.  

Now, it’s autumn. Leaves are turning and the colours are stunning! How long has it been since you treated yourself to the beauty that is all around us? Don’t waste a minute more! Call a friend, toss your favorite goodies into a basket and go picnic in one of Merritt’s parks. See you there!

Your senior blogger,

Diane 

Parks

     

        

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Walks in Merritt

Walks in Merritt, Canada

Seven Trails to Choose From

From super easy to good uphill challenges, these Merritt walks offer

Walks in Merritt, Canada

I love walking trails!

something for everyone!

As a senior, walking is something I seriously enjoy! It gives me plenty of gentle exercise while offering interesting nature views, busy urban scenes and sometimes – ice cream! And walks in Merritt, Canada offer all of these!

These seven walks are great not only for seniors but also for everyone who enjoys a good walk. Turn your walk into a serious hike, if you must, by choosing two or more challenging walks in the same day.

I am going to give you step by step walking instructions, but I have included a map of these trails at the end of my blog.

Walks in Merritt #1 – Coldwater River/Voght Street – 3.4 km

Walks in Merritt, Canada

River trail

Are you a bird watcher? Or would you like to see the salmon run? Then this is the walk for you!

Start just past Central School. Enjoy the views as you follow the scenic Coldwater River and the western boundary of Voght Park to Canford Avenue. Next, cross Main St and walk along the river to the bridge.

At the bridge, stop and see the spot where the Coldwater River flows into the Nicola River. Then turn back a short distance to the place where the trail meets Quilchena Ave.

Follow Quilchena Avenue to Voght Street, then turn right and return to your starting point.

Now, isn’t this a great walk? One of my favs to walk, or bike ride!

 

 

Walks in Merritt #2 – Collettville/Voght Park – 3.2 km

Here is another good walk, not only for bird watching but also for salmon viewing. Begin at the corner of Coldwater Avenue and Voght Street and head south along Voght Street.

This walk first takes you past Central School (on your right), then over the bridge that crosses the Coldwater River. Turn right onto Lindley Creek Road, then right again at Fir Ave. Follow Fir Avenue to Hill Street. Now turn right and follow Hill Street. At Main Street, cross the bridge and follow Main Street to Canford Aveue. Now turn right and walk along Canford Avenue to Cleasby Street. Turn left at Cleasby and then right at Coldwater Avenue. Walk along Coldwater Avenue as far as Voght Street. A good place to look for Salmon is as you cross the Coldwater River. And the southern half of this route is the best area for bird watching.

Walks in Merritt #3 – Diamondvale – 2.2 km

Here is a peaceful walk around a residential neighbourhood. Begin at the corner of Clapperton Avenue and Menzies Street. Follow Armstrong onto Bann Street. Turn right and follow Bann for one block. Turn right at Scott Place and in the cul-de-sac look for a walkway on the right hand side. Follow this walkway to Sage Street. Continue on Sage to Clapperton Avenue. Turn right and continue to Menzies Street.

Walks in Merritt #4 – The Flagpole – 1.5 km

This walk may be short, but is it challenging! It is dusty and all up hill! My advice is to choose a coolish day. There is no shade on this route! The walk starts just before the cemetery on the north side of Juniper Drive and switchbacks up to the flagpole.

This is a good walk to exercise both your heart and your leg muscles. It is popular with dog owners but do remember to take water for your pet and yourself. Once you reach the flagpole, you reap a generous reward. Not just the workout itself but also the gorgeous, panoramic view of Merritt and the valley.

Walks in Merritt #5 – Parker/Juniper – 4.7 km

This walk offers some good views of Merritt. In addition, in spring, birdwatchers may want to take time to seek out meadowlarks around the golf course.

Begin at Grimmet Street and follow Parker Avenue to Juniper Drive. Continue along Juniper past houses, the cemetery (on your right) and the golf course on your left,  to Nicola Ave. Watch out for truck traffic on the lower half of Juniper above Norgaard Ready-Mix. Also along Nicola Avenue to the bridge. Turn left at the stop sign and follow Nicola Avenue to Cleasby Street.

Then left onto Cleasby and follow this street to First Avenue. Next, turn right and continue walking. Notice the beautiful Sikh temple on your right and the river on your left. When you reach Voght Street, turn left and continue up Voght Street to Grimmet. This last stretch is up hill. Central Park will be on your left, a fun place you may want to explore another time.

Walks in Merritt, Canada #6 – Rotary Park and Trails – 1.3 km

Walks in Merritt, Canada

Rotary Park Trail

This trail is popular not only with senior walkers, but also with bike riding children and dog walkers too.

Built by the Rotary Clubs of Merritt with the help from the City of Merritt and the City Public Works employees, this route starts at the eastern edge of Rotary Park. It follows the north side of Central Park. From the other direction, the starting point is near the RCMP station.

At Rotary Park, the paved walkway links to the path around the park’s circumference. This is an easy and pretty walk.

Lots of grass, trees, shade and flowers. If it is summer and you have children with you, bring bathing suits. They will enjoy the spray park and you will too!

In addition to all this, there is a band shell and music in the park so check this out!      

 

Walks in Merritt #7 – Walk of Stars/Murals Downtown Merritt – 2.4 km

Walks in Merritt, Canada

Walk of Stars display seen throughout Merritt

Do your handprints match those of the Merritt Mountain Music Festival’s past performers? Try them out and see! Almost 70 plaques of Country Musicians handprints are waiting in Merritt’s downtown core!

In addition, ten giant sized murals of country performers are painted on the sides of buildings in the downtown area. This is an easy, flat walk passing several restaurants, stores and (big bonus) places selling ice cream!

I may be a senior blogger but everybody loves ice cream! Yumm.

Let’s see you out on these walks around Merritt, Canada! I’ll be choosing a couple of these to do again soon!

Special thanks to the Rotary Club of Merritt for allowing us to share their map and some of their trail descriptions with you.

walks in Merritt, Canada

Enjoy these walking routes throughout Merritt.

 See you on the trails!

From your senior blogger,

Diane

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Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert

Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert

Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden and UniTea Cafe, Ashcroft, BC

“… a Mexican Fiesta of luscious fresh produce!”

There are many kinds of food adventures, and yesterday I had a particularly delightful one, involving not only ogling, handling and buying fresh, ripe, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, but also eating some with a dear, old friend! I fetched her for a journey from Merritt to Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden in Ashcroft. It was a grand day for a drive, not too hot, and the smoke had receded, revealing blue sky. Who knew we would find Mexican Food in our Canadian desert?
 
Just over an hour’s drive northwest of Merritt, through gorgeous sagebrush hills, Ashcroft is a delightful village whose Gold Rush historic downtown is couched between the railway tracks and the emerald Thompson River.  The town of Ashcroft straddles the Thompson, and Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden can be found on the west side of the bridge.
 

An Oasis in the Desert!

Driving through some of the Ranch’s gorgeous green fields, my first thought was, “Zowie! An oasis in the desert!”
Mexican Food in the Canadian Desert
 
Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden is aptly named because Ashcroft is found in a unique desert setting. According to Wikipedia, is “the driest place in Canada, south of the high arctic”!  According to Desert Hills Ranch’s website, “early in the 20th century, settlers of Ashcroft found that its rich volcanic soil produced some of the best produce in the world. They found that, as long as you added water to the fertile soil, it would grow nearly anything.”

 
Ashcroft BC

Painting of Ashcroft by E.J.Hughes, 1965

BC & Canada’s Hot Spot

Often the official hot spot for both BC and all of Canada, Ashcroft’s plentiful heat, soil and water helped its settlers become major producers of potatoes and tomatoes in the early 20th Century. Now potatoes and tomatoes represent only a small fraction of the huge variety of vegetables and fruits now grown at Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden. Family owned and operated since 1983, it draws folk from all over.

A Mexican Fiesta of Luscious Fresh Produce! 

Mexican Food

Pick a peck of perfect peppers

Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden is a feast for the senses. Outside, huge hanging floral baskets scent the air, while pots and pots and pots of kale, in their purples, greens and blues, line the outside of the packing shed. Walking toward the Market, we find boxes of fruit stacked high and ready for transport, their contents colourful and inviting. My friend grabs a grocery cart to assist her walking, I opt for a red wagon, and we head indoors to shop.

Mexican Food in the Canadian Desert

A harvest of many colours

Inside, a Mexican Fiesta of luscious fresh produce! Scores of large cardboard bins contain gorgeous fresh-picked fruits and vegetables in a multitude of colours: dark green cucumbers, jalapeños, watermelon, beans, broccoli and zucchini; purple peppers, plums, onions, cabbage and eggplant; orange peppers, nectarines & peaches; yellow peppers & melons; light green pears, cabbage and honeydew melons; white potatoes, onions, and garlic; red sweet & hot peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.
 
I can tell that the peaches and nectarines have been ripened on the tree by the telltale branch mark near the stem.  The watermelons ring with that perfect hollow sound when knocked.
 

Seedless sweet watermelon

 
Mexican music streams from the speakers in deference to the many Mexican workers who work here, imported each spring & summer to assist with the planting, tending, picking, hauling & packing. It was fun to be able to practice my meagre Spanish on a few of the staff. They were so ready and available to help!
 

Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert!

Imported as well, are many Mexican grocery items. Facing one wall, with strains of Mexican music playing in the background, I felt as if I had been transported to my favourite grocery store in Puerto Escondido! Here I was, finding Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert: canned salsas & peppers, hot sauces, drinks, and spices galore, including my favourite, Chili con Limon! 
 
I find all I need to make a fresh Pico de Gallo – roma tomatoes, jalapenos, gigantic 2 pound sweet onions and cilantro. Finally, our carts bursting with fabulous, inexpensive produce, we head to the busy checkout. I can only begin to imagine how many mouths this farm feeds, with markets in both Ashcroft and Cache Creek. They are currently open seven days a week, from 9 am to 5 pm.
 
Getting peckish, we inquire about lunch. We had heard that Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden also served terrific tacos, and we were eager to enjoy their authenticity.  Turns out tacos are available only on weekends. Next time, we will be sure to visit on a Saturday or Sunday.  There is a shady picnic area on the hillside, where you can enjoy your tacos, or a picnic of your own making, or a Foothills Creamery ice cream cone from the Market.
 
All watered up for Mexican food, and simply not able to let it go, I search online, and find that the UniTea Cafe in Ashcroft serves some Mex! We head downtown, doing a wee circle tour to enjoy the historical sights and lovely mosaics that abound.
 

More Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert

Nadine busy in the kitchen at the UniTea Cafe

UniTea Cafe

The UniTea Cafe is a groovy little tea room, serving comfort foods, a wide variety of drinks, coffee and, of course, perfectly brewed full-leaf teas. Also, quesadillas and, lucky for us, on that day, the special was burritos! Stuffed with many good things and cheesy-messy as they should be, and including a side of tomatoes and cucumbers from Desert Hills Ranch Market Garden. Both were delicious!  
 
 
 
Oh, and the UniTea Cafe is licensed, so I enjoyed a cold Corona with lime and, my companion, a chilled Chardonnay. All this, accompanied by a lovely collection of Spanish
tunes, and we were, again, transported, enjoying Mexican Food in our Canadian Desert!
 
The UniTea Cafe often hosts musicians, so check out their Facebook Page for upcoming concerts.
(For other coffee house music opportunities in the area check out Coffee House Music in Merritt, Canada.)
 
Satiated and happy, my dear friend and I continued our circle tour, back through Spences Bridge, along the Nicola River, through the beautiful Nicola Valley and home.
What a treat to discover the tastes, sounds, smells and colours of Mexico, so close to home!
 
JGS
August 23, 2018
 
 
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