Summer Adventures in Merritt & Nicola Valley, BC, Canada

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Mary’s Corner Cafe Merritt, BC Canada

Unique Places to eat in Merritt, BC Canada

Mary’s Corner Cafe, Merritt BC, Canada

“There’s something special about good home cooking”.

When I am out of town I just love to find little “out of the way” gems such as cute little boutiques that scream unique and places to eat that offer a dining experience that I can take away with me. I am so proud to showcase one of these little gem’s in my very own hometown. Mary’s Corner Cafe. 

Chick Chat in a Merritt BC Coffee Shop

Today I had the pleasure of having a “Chick-Chat” with Mary Holgate, owner and creator of Mary’s Corner Cafe in Merritt, BC Canada. It was an easy interview style conversation as I have known Mary Holgate personally for over 55 years. Mary and I started grade 1 together in the little school just outside of Merritt. I asked Mary about her love and food and cooking and this was her reply, ” My mom was a big influence but I did go to school and get my red seal. I love cooking comfort food there’s something special about good home cooking”.

Mary loves to share her home cooked recipes

Mary loves to share her home cooked recipes

Cafe in Merritt BC Canada does Catering

It was my mother’s 80th Birthday and Mary was happy and excited to cater to the event. When I say Mary Holgate does “CATERING” that means she actually “CATERS to YOU”! Mary does so much more than provide the food to large events. Mary will cater home cooked meals for your families CHRISTMAS DINNER, or any other special event happening. One or 1000 Mary is fully capable of pleasing everyone, including the budget. 

Mary's Corner Cafe Merritt BC Canada

Being Creative with your food

Mary has always been creative, you can see by the special touch she adds to her meals. If she is catering to an event she makes custom styles and plate designs to fit the ocassion. Even her restaurant meals are each prepared in Mary Style, which means you get “alot” of food. https://www.facebook.com/maryscateringandpies/

Mary’s Corner Cafe in Merritt, BC Canada

“Burger and Fries with your Cheese Please”

While I was interviewing Mary Holgate I saw a meal being delivered to the table sitting next to us. The man had ordered a burger, and WOW, what a burger he got. My mouth was watering as it went by our table, and believe me, you could smell the onions and the bacon, it made me think I needed to order a hamburger and fries. At Mary’s Corner Cafe you can order EAT IN and enjoy the pretty DINER STYLE atmosphere, or you can TAKE OUT and enjoy your meal on the run. 

Mary's Corner Cafe Merritt BC Canada

Mary’s Corner Cafe, Merritt BC Canada Hamburger and Fries

Oh la la Coffee Shop Style

It’s not just the great meals that have put Mary’s Corner Cafe on the map, the desserts are piled over the top with whipping cream and frosting, and the portion sizes, “oh la la”, that is all I can say. You can bring along a friend and share an afternoon brunch, or order one to take out for your family dessert at home, just make sure you ask for a spoon so you can “dip in” on the way home. 

Mary's Corner Cafe Dessert

Mary’s Corner Cafe, Merritt BC Canada dessert

Every day from 11:00 am to 2:00 Pm Mary’s Corner Cafe will host a Buffet Lunch, you create and build your own sandwich, choose from a mouth watering “soup of the day”, and of course you will want to save room for the dessert selection which is offered in the buffet cost. 

Mary’s Corner Cafe is famous for her catering of outside events. No event is too big or too small, Mary will feed a family of 1 or a wedding of 300. Every single customer is special and important, that is why they keep coming back for more. 

Mary's Corner Cafe, Merritt BC Canada

Catering events of all sizes from Mary’s Corner Cafe Merritt BC Canada

We ended our interview with this quote from Mary which shows me that everyone who visits Mary’s Corner Cafe will go away with a full belly and a full heart…

“everything in the cafe is homemade with love”

Cafe in Merritt BC Canada

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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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Things To Do In Merritt, B.C.

Things To Do In Merritt, B.C. 

Spring, summer, fall or winter you will find many things to do in Merritt, B.C.

Seek out new stores

New and different “Things to do in Merritt, B.C.” just has to include new and different places to go. There are some new businesses in town and it took me less than 10 minutes to find two of them.

Both “The Bee’s Knees” and “Petals and Plants” are new shops on Quilchena Avenue in the downtown core and several more will be up and running by the time you read this blog. Seek them out and enjoy something different!

The Bee’s Knees

Owner Amanda loves her job! She started out with the idea of selling clothes from home but that idea sure mushroomed! So she  began “The Bee’s Knees” in March 2018 but outgrew that tiny space almost immediately!  Next, Amanda moved to her present location in the 1900 block of Quilchena Avenue in July, taking all her great ideas (and clothes) with her! 

This lady knows how to dress her clients! Amanda will offer you ideas and combinations you probably would never have thought of yourself. She is one creative business  owner and if you are an old doll like me, her advice will help you update your wardrobe, or at least bring it into the 21st century!And, bless her, the woman carries plus sizes too! Don’t be embarrassed. Ask Amanda! Shop here at The Bee’s Knees where you won’t be all alone!

Check out “The Bee’s Knees” for great event clothes, vintage looks and up-to-the-minute designs too!

Amanda will even do your nails to match your outfit! At the Bee’s Knees you will certainly leave happy, even if you just go to look! Check out Bees Knees Boutique on facebook.

Petals & Plants

The next new place I came across when I was hunting for “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” was Petals & Plants. I heard more than one person say “Finally, a flower shop in Merritt!”

Yes, it is a flower shop- and more! Vicki, the owner, started her shop because, as she puts it, “I’m not great at retiring. I missed the people.” She won’t miss them here! The place has been full of customers and visitors every time I’ve stopped by! In addition to flowers, of course, Vicky carries lots of constantly changing items that make great gifts, so the place is likely to be full of people as well as petals & plants no matter when you go. So check it out!

Enjoy a mini spa day

For a list of “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” why not include a mini spa day! Start by going to the Aquatic Centre for a workout, followed by a swim, sauna and whirlpool. Then, take a hot shower, scrub with an exfoliant, pat down with a soft towel and use plenty of body cream. There. Now you are all soft and energized! Feels good, doesn’t it?

Afterwards? Keep your prearranged appointment at one of Merritt’s several hair salons for a wash, trim and blow dry. Then have a complete mani-pedi since many salons do both. And while you are there, try some new makeup too!

Now, you feel as fantastic as you look, so treat yourself to a nice lunch! Also, why not enjoy the rest of the day shopping?

 Return home happy, relaxed and revitalized, a new you!

Things to do in merritt, B.C.

Seniors aquafit

Take a Walk

Among the best and easiest “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” is to take a walk! Enjoy some of our gorgeous scenery and beautiful parks! Check out the possibilities in my blogs Walking Around Merritt” and “Parks in Merritt”and have some fun in any season. Incidentally, if you have kids with you, winter is a great time to walk in the park! Make snow angels, snow forts, snow people or snow pets! In addition to this, you can pack a snow picnic and add thermoses of hot soup and hot cocoa! Yum! You will have just as much fun as the kids!

Things to do in Merritt, B.C. -Parks

Ready for a picnic after a walk in one of Merritt’s parks

Check Out the Library

These days the library goes way beyond a simple place to read and borrow books. There are many “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” right in our library!  Yes, we all know about borrowing cd’s, dvd’s, and audio books. In addition to these standbys, there are also many children’s reading programs, crafting classes, story times, adult literacy programs and art classes. Besides all this, there are computer classes (and computers to use), knitting, crocheting, gardening, painting, food preserving and various discussion groups that meet at the library. Surprised?

Add to this list some very interesting lectures and guest authors who do readings. Or, if you want a quiet, peaceful day, pick out a book, sit on the comfy sofa by the fireplace and just read!

With all this available, I’m sure you will find many “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” that will entertain you at any time of the year!

Have a Pub Lunch

Well, we all like to eat, don’t we? So of course I include food in my “things to do in Merritt, B.C.”  blog. Not the regular restaurants this time, though. The pubs!

A few years ago a friend dragged me, kicking and screaming I’ll admit, to a local pub for lunch. What a revelation! I actually had fun and a good lunch- at a reasonable price! Also, the lunch crowd was lively and fun. I could hardly believe it! I enjoyed myself!

Most pubs in Merritt have daily lunch and dinner specials. Try one! You will be surprised at how good pub food can be! And no, you don’t have to order alcohol with your meal if you would rather have coffee! However, a burger and a beer can go down nicely when you are in the mood.

Bonus- no one will give you a “look” if you laugh a little loudly with your friends!  

 Look at the seniors programs

If you are a senior, or know one, check out the goings-on at the Seniors Centre. This group certainly adds a lot to the “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” list. Try some of the following programs:

  • Vinyasa Yoga @ the Civic Centre
  • Seniors Free Swim @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Stretch & Stability @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Noon Hour Aqua Fit @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Stand Tall, Don’t Fall @ the Seniors Centre
  • Cribbage
  • Bingo 
    Things to do in Merritt, B.C.

    swinging seniors

                                                                           
  • Duplicate Bridge
  • Carpet Bowling .                                                           
  • Court Whist
  • Physically Challenged Floor Curling                                 
  • Floor Curling
  • Floor & Table Shuffleboard
  • Drop-in Lunch
  • Drop-in Activities, Fridays
  • Rummoli & Games
  • Drop-in Activities, Saturdays
  • General Meeting
  • Potluck

Wow! And some people think seniors aren’t active!  Compared to what? Test out some things from this list and see if you can keep up!

Go bowling

How long has it been since you got a group of friends together and went bowling? Have most of us bowled regularly (we’re talking 5 pins here) since we were kids? Or maybe not bowled regularly since we were kids! If you’re looking for “things to do in Merritt, B.C.”, bowling is a fun one with the bonus of being genuine exercise! Check out Merritt Bowling Centre.  Enjoy noise, laughter, exercise and yes, food! Bring back some of the good times of yesteryear. Repeat often.

What Else Can You Come Up With?

 While there must be dozens more ideas that I haven’t even touched on, these are a few to get you started. What new ideas can you and your friends come up with?

Your senior blogger signing off for now.

Diane 

 

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Merritt, B.C. things to do – Moonshadows RV Park and Campground

Merritt, B.C. things to do

Moonshadows campground is much more than a campground!

Check out upcoming activities at Moonshadows RV Park and Campground

Merritt B.C. things to do

Talking a Walk at Moonshadows RV and campground

Merritt, B.C. things to do offers more than just camping!  Moonshadows RV Park and Campground is much more than a campground! It is a spectacular destination family camping experience with lots of things to do for both visitors and locals. Campground manager Melvina White says, “ We want to invite the locals to come and  enjoy out gorgeous grounds. Also, we are planning events throughout the year to entice everyone.” What better way to enjoy Merritt, B.C. things to do?

Merritt, B.C. things to do

Camping in Merritt BC

This year Moonshadows RV Park and Campground hosted the first Annual pumpkin walk and did we have fun! On Halloween weekend although it was freezing cold we lit up the trails with carved pumpkins. Many community members contributed  their own pumpkins; more pumpkins  were donated from the pumpkin carving contest at Merritt’s downtown Halloween event and the rest were carved by the Moonshadows staff.  Everyone enjoyed participating in the lighting ceremony, placing the pumpkins and walking the lit paths.  We warmed our chilly toes afterward by roasting wieners and s’mores over a big bonfire.  This was only the first of many community events that Melvina will be host at the campground. Check out things to do in Merritt BC.

Winter activities at the campground

For more Merritt, B.C. things to do, pull out your snowshoes and enjoy a trek though the miles of trails in and around Moonshadows campground. Plan a group excursion or go with a friend. Bring snacks and wind down your day with a roaring bonfire!  

About the campground

Moonshadows R.V. Park and Campground is located South of Merritt at 1145 Neilson Street. The park itself is a gorgeous, treed area along the spectacular Coldwater River in an easily accessible location ideal for many day outings. For even more Merritt, B.C. things to do, fish at one of the hundreds of lakes in the area, run your quad or ATV all over the challenging mountains you see from your campsite, lace up your boots and take a hike up those inviting trails or go mountain biking! Of course, you are right beside the river so you could even swim or grab an inner tube and go floating! And remember, you are almost in town! Shopping is right on your doorstep!

Moon Shadows proudly hosts 50 fully serviced RV sites, 8 Power only sites, 36 non-serviced RV & tent sites and 19 tenting sites, available throughout the year. The fully serviced campsites have electrical, wireless internet capabilities (two park networks and a Shaw hotspot), and water & sewage hookups with sewage disposal facilities. All campsites have picnic tables. Choose from: 20, 30 and 50 amp power, plus plenty of pull-through sites. Please refer to our campsite map for details. 

Merritt, B.C. things to do

Hoodoos Merritt BC Moonshadows Rv Park Coldwater River

This campground boasts many services and amenities, including:

Comfort Stations – located at the administration building are laundry facilities, hot showers and bathrooms. The restrooms are wheelchair accessible including a shower stall for special needs guests. 

Services: 

Dumping station on site for guests using non-serviced sites and metered propane delivery are available for longer term stays. 

Campground Store – providing basic groceries, ice, camping supplies, local tackle and bait, firewood, souvenirs and clothing. Also sells cold beverages, ice cream treats, refreshments and munchies. 

Recreation Area – with space for outdoor activities and a horseshoe pit. Also a few rides (FREE!) for the little ones as well as an arcade game and TV room for your entertainment. 

All of the campsites are set within the beautiful trees and provide access to the Coldwater River. Red rock pathways and roads wind their way throughout the entire campground. The site is secure, immaculate and scenic.

We invite you to enjoy a great vacation getaway at Moon Shadows RV Park and Campground.  Register by telephone or email

Moon Shadows RV Park and Campground is open all year round with our main season running from Apr 15 through October 14. Drop-ins are welcome. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak camping season (June 25 through September 8).

Visitors – Visitors please register at the office.

Pet Friendly – Please check with office for details

Gate – For the privacy of our guests the campground entrance is gated during festivals.

Remember watch for upcoming events at Moonshadows RV Park and Campground!

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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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Food Adventure, Vancouver Style

Food Adventure, Vancouver Style

Journey through fascinating West End Neighbourhoods

“...I did ask them to please open a location in the Nicola Valley!”

Mid-summer, I enjoyed a trip to the Coast to take in “Bard on the Beach” with good friends. I also participated in a most fabulous Food Adventure, Vancouver Style, with one of my besties. 

 
Maureen, an old pal from high school on Saltspring Island, joined me for a whirlwind 24 hours. We spent the first afternoon/evening enjoying my favourite Vancouver walkabout. Starting at the Rosedale on Robson Hotel, we ambled up Robson to Denman, across Denman to Davie, up Davie to Granville, and across Granville back to Robson.
 
This is a great way to journey through fascinating West End neighbourhoods, each with its own special vibe. It is also a grand way to experience an abundance of fine food and bevies, if you go about it in the way we did.
 
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Up to the Garden Patio of the Gallery Cafe

We started our personal Food-Fest at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Gallery Cafe. One of my best-loved Vancouver eateries, this cafeteria offers local, organic choices.
 
Their website states it well: “An established tradition in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the Gallery Café…offers a classic, yet casual dining experience. Enjoy a wide range of delicacies from elegant entrees and tasty soups and salads to sinfully decadent desserts. Classical music, breathtaking floral arrangements and one of the best outdoor patios in the city complete the experience.”  
 

 

Sit outside on the garden patio in the sunshine 

Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

A fruitful salad

It is a treat to sit outside on the garden patio in the sunshine, enjoying strains of classical music. It is also fun to watch people in the courtyard below and on Robson Street.
 
I ordered my favourite rare ahi tuna salad with its delightful sesame dressing. Maureen chose a gorgeous salad of greens, strawberries, peaches & nasturtium flowers with a tangy citrus dressing. 
 
We then shared an order of tiramisu, a rare treat for me, as I can’t handle the espresso content after noon. Both salads were delightful, and the tiramisu exquisite.  If you
 
Definitely try the Gallery Cafe!

 

 

Everything on the Forage menu looked amazing

Next stop was the farm-to-table Forage in the Listel Hotel, further up Robson Street. We bellied up to their glitzy bar and chose from a great selection of BC Craft beers & ciders. Maureen went for Yellow Dog ‘Go Fetch’ Lime Ginger Sour from Port Moody. I decided on a Dry Pear Cider from the Naramata
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Naramata Dry Pear Cider

Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Dry Pear Cider

Cider Company. Both were refreshing, dry and pleasing.
 
Everything on the Forage food menu looked amazing, but we chose to share “the Vietnamese style bison carpaccio, sweet soy, crispy shallot, hazelnut” from the SNACK section. Now, perhaps raw buffalo meat doesn’t appeal, but this was a perfect share plate with a tantalizing combination of textures and flavours. YUMMY!
 
Forage offers a number of intriguing-looking food events, so I will return for the full meal deal, next time I am looking for a Food Adventure, Vancouver Style.  
 
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Bison Carpaccio, Vietnamese Style

This appetizer was a true winner

From Robson, we turned onto Denman Street, where I somehow managed to miss the original Banana Leaf Restaurant, one of my all-time faves. We found ourselves at The Cactus Club, English Bay, chosen primarily for its location on the beach. But we were dazzled by their ceviche.  Made with “Ocean Wise™ Lois Lake Steelhead, sustainably harvested prawns, red onions, thai basil, mint, cilantro, & nuoc cham”, this appetizer was a true winner. It was the first time either of us had enjoyed trout/salmon in ceviche, usually prepared with white fish. Yum Yum!
 
Wanting to stick with bubbly, I opted for the 200 ml bottle of Codorniu Brut Clasico Cava.  I have been absolutely mad for Cava since I visited Spain, where it is inexpensive and plentiful. Maureen tried a Flat Rock Cellars’ Limestone Ridge Riesling, light, a little fruity and a happy choice from nearby her current home in Ontario.
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Ol’ buddies, ol’ pals

 
Next was a small detour to sit upon a log in English Bay to watch the sun sink into the sea.  Then a wee side trip down memory lane to our old ‘hood of Harwood near Beach, where we were roommates in the mid-’70’s.

A remarkable Appetizer Sampler for Two comprised of many Malaysian favourites

Walking up Davie Street, I was tickled pink to find another Banana Leaf Restaurant. It was after 8 pm on a Monday, and there was a special offering of bottles of wine half price, so we ordered a smooth Jackson Triggs Merlot, knowing we would have enough left over to take back to our room.
 
We discovered a remarkable Appetizer Sampler for Two comprised of many Malaysian favourites: papaya and pineapple green asian salad, chicken satay skewers, spring rolls, calamari and roti canai. Oh, roti canai, I love you so! The sauces and dips that accompanied this selection were stellar.
 
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Roti Canai

Buddha Bar music, playing in the background, so very cool

The Banana Leaf  truly serves “Mouth-watering dishes with authentic flavor which will transport you to the heart of Malaysia.” I adore the varied and delightful flavours of their Malaysian Cuisine. As well, lovely ambiance is created by “Buddha Bar” music playing in the background, so very cool. 
 
The Banana Leaf was the perfect end to our Food Adventure, Vancouver Style.  We were satiated and perfectly happy to pass by other tempting treats on our walk back to the hotel.
 
Of all the foods we savoured on our personal Food-Fest, Maureen and I both found Banana Leaf THE BEST. I know from experience that they consistently serve affordable, fabulous, fresh food. In fact, before I left Vancouver, I stopped at their Broadway location to order my faves to bring back to the Nicola Valley. 
 
And, yes, I did ask them to please open a location in the Nicola Valley!
 
Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Malaysian seafood

Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Jasmine Rice

Food Adventures, Vancouver Style

Sambal green beans with shrimp and tomato

One could plan an entire Food Adventure, Vancouver Style by visiting all five locations of the Banana Leaf. It would be fun to eat a different course at each one. Walking from one to the next would be a great way to make room in the belly for more things on the menu!

Yes! Next time!

And read more here for a taste of our own Nicola Food Adventures!

Cheers!

JGS

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Bikepacking Merritt

Bikepacking Merritt – the Epic 1000

The BC Epic is a 1000km traverse across South Central BC

 I rode as fast as I thought I could, without injuring or killing myself…

Darch Oborne participated in the BC Epic 1000, and tells us about the bikepacking adventure. In his words…

The BC Epic 1000 is an offroad, unofficial, completely self-supported bikepacking ride/race in the spirit

bikepacking

The beginning in Merritt, BC

of the underground “Tour divide” style and under the same rules. No registration (other than on the website), no support, no insurance, no prizes – it is simply a plotted route with a suggested time for an unofficial group ride. Show up and ride at your own risk.

The BC Epic is a 1000km (1040 to be exact), 11,000m elevation traverse across South Central BC starting in Merrit and ending in Fernie (or vice versa if you choose) mostly along the Trans Canada Trail. The route is about 80% off road on mostly old decommissioned rail grades

The BC Epic 1000 bikepacking ride, since 2015

2018 was the third year of the bikepacking race, created by Dr. Lennard Pretorius of Kamloops. Jame Oborne and Lennard are also the first two riders to complete the Merritt 150 Epic on June 16, in eleven hours and forty-seven minutes. Lennard rode the first and second ‘1000’s’ and had a course record for a while. Virtually single-handedly, Lennard conceived and organized the Epic, seeing it grow from sixteen riders in 2016 to sixty-seven entrants in 2018. Quite an achievement! I predict there will be 100 racers in 2019.

I’d guess that of the sixty-seven riders entered, ten were extreme athletes, with three or four being extremely extreme, ie: 600 miles of off-road riding in less than three days, with less than six hours of sleep! Most of us “racers” chose to get at least some sleep (four to six hours in my case). nightly. Usually right at the side of the trail, after an evening meal at 9 PM, consisting of a couple of energy bars!

Many racers had lights and rode into the dark. My strategy was to ride as fast as I could without injury and to ride long, ie: from the crack of dawn at 4 AM to dark at 9 PM, to at least try to keep up with the middle of the pack.

The grades are less than three percent, but just relentless

The route is mostly old railway bed, including the KVR to Midway and Columbia Western to Castlegar. The grades are less than three percent, but just relentless, such as the climb out of Princeton to Summerland and Christina Lake to Castlegar–they just go on and on and on! But, through beautiful upland fields of flowers, several trestles, tunnels, raging rivers, beautiful forests, lovely meadows are all part of the Epic.

Many bikepacking racers stopped and took pictures of the beautiful features, often allowing me to catch up to them. Then there’s the torture of the Grey Creek Pass. Sixteen kilometers of ‘up’ on gravel, rutted road, at grades to sixteen percent–hike a bike for fifteen kilometers! No fun at all, after already being on the trail for four days.

It is self-supported, meaning you carry what you think you’ll need for each section ahead, including food and water. You can stop at towns or houses for provisions–root beers and double teenburgers–YUM! (I had some coupons from the mail).

I carried my small stove for a quick coffee

bikepacking

Darch begins the Epic 1000

You carry what you think you’ll need to give you a good sleep, dry riding etc. I carried my small stove for a quick coffee/hot choc in the AM (I only used it twice), and I used a Kelty Thermarest pad, summer bag, and Tyvek covering, all wrapped up in my 1/2 body bag from Kiwanis Surplus store. The bikes of choice are Surly big boys, with 2.5″ to 2.8″ width tires.

I used my Transition Smuggler 29″ with gravel tires (2.5″ on the front and 2.3″ on the rear) until I broke the Hammerschmidt bottom bracket bolt about 3 miles N of Beaverdell at 6 AM on Day 3. Luckily, my son James was in Vernon and after a two-hour wait, he arrived with his Trek hardtail 29″.

Within another two hours, I was on the road, with most of my gear mounted on it. It proved to be a lively, but “hard-on-the-ass” steed and I was able to finish the race with it. Thanks, James–my option was to hitch to Kelowna and buy or rent a bike (sure, on Canada Day)!

There are no support stations, no route markings

I rode as fast as I thought I could, without injuring/killing myself, which was mostly fourteen to sixteen in the saddle daily, with four to six hours of “sleep” at the side of the trail. I figured that if I rode slow and steady, and long, I could maybe keep up with some of the pack. After day one, I only saw two riders for the next five days. We were all so spread out over the 600 miles. Most riders carried a SPOT GPS tracking device, so I checked my relative position a few times, but that’s disheartening when I was (only) halfway, in Grand Forks and Evan Deutsche had finished in Fernie!

There are no support stations, no route markings (other than Trans Cda Trail signs) and you rely on your GPS (my old Garmin did not function well at all—should have tested it more thoroughly). I carried a SPOT tracker with an SOS button for extreme emergency, but it enabled my family to track my slow progress towards the finish in Fernie. The SPOT ate batteries and I had to re-supply twice–not able to find AAA Lithium in Midway or Greenwood. Carry more spares!

And speaking of spares, you have to carry anything you think you’ll need to repair yourself and your bike, and for any weather, etc. As for a Hammerschmidt bottom bracket bolt (we’d just changed the bottom bracket days before the race–go figure)! I carried three tubes and used only one, but a few racers slashed their tires and went through several tubes.

I kept looking for Lance Armstrong’s care packages

bikepacking

You carry what you need

Of the 29 scratches (non-finishers) in the race, most were for human failings, ie: tendons/hamstrings/chafing etc. Mechanicals played their part, but most racers had put many, many miles on their steeds and knew what to expect of them. I did several ‘long’ rides on local gravel roads, ie: six to seven hours and did an overnight trip to Princeton and slept in the bush.

I should have “trained” harder, faster, and longer, but at seventy-three, there’s a limit to my strength and endurance, which I knew beforehand.  All through the race, I kept looking for Lance Armstrong’s care packages, but alas, I found none.

I passed so many lovely lakes and streams that I desperately wanted to dip in and just stop and enjoy, but I did not succumb until the last evening at Koocanusa lake. What a joy to swim and wash after five days of hard riding! On reflection, maybe except for the awful Grey Creek Pass, the route would be nice to do in, say, two weeks, in a group–still riding hard, but stopping to smell the roses…often.

Who wants to do it? The Epic 1000

Nope, not again, for me…unless? I’ll be pleased to assist other Nicola Valley rider who wants to do it and I’ll continue to help Lennard with organizing a BBQ, home hosting, etc. The BC Epic 1000 is a free event, totally volunteer, which turns my cranks for sure. Any riders wanting to try bike-packing, I’d be glad to loan equipment and accompany you if desired. Go to Bikepacking.com for the best info. The kindred spirit of the racers was super, although, as stated above, I rarely saw another racer after day one, until the finish.

My thanks to my family and friends who sent texts of encouragement along the way, those who helped

bikepacking

Darch’s upports- Travis Fehr of Breathe Bikes, Merritt. And wife Catherine

with the BBQ, home hosting, and to Mayor Menard who came out at 7 AM to start the race. Thanks to MMBA for renting the Park for the BBQ, which was appreciated by all the racers, as they got to meet each other–often for the first time.

Racers filled over fifty Merritt motel rooms the night before, and many will be back to enjoy the hospitality they experienced as well as the mountain biking on our great trails. A win for all.

Ride On!

Guest Blog post (and ride) by Darch Oborne

Executive Director of Merritt Mountain Bike Association

Thanks, Darch! Epic effort!

For more on Darch, and his contributions to our biking experiences in the Nicola Valley, click here.

And for those of you who would like to get on board this sport…

From the site Bikepacking: Simply put, bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping. It evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking, but with the range and thrill of riding a mountain bike. It’s about exploring places less traveled, both near and far, via singletrack trails, gravel, and abandoned dirt roads, carrying only essential gear. Ride, eat, sleep, repeat, enjoy!

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Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo

Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo

Celebrating 60 Years

Dedicated to celebrating and preserving the western culture and way of life 

Experience Nicola Valley

Rodeo action at the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo – Merritt Pro Photo

Our western culture and lifestyle is important to us.  Not only has the Nicola Valley Rodeo Association (NVRA) spent the last 60 years celebrating and preserving this culture , it also hosts a wide range of equine and livestock events. Furthermore, the NVRA hosts everything from professional rodeos to 4-H and high school events! The Nicola Valley Professional Rodeo takes place on the September long weekend every year. For 60 years, our Nicola Valley has welcomed competitive professionals. They are now vying for $20,000 in prize money. This is  the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s (CPRA) Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.

60th Annual Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo

September 1 -2 , 2018.  Celebrate 60 years with us!  

We offer close-to-the-action covered grandstand seating, free parking, food concessions and beer gardens. We also include crafters, saddle makers and vendors selling all things uniquely western.  In addition, come watch the professional cowboys and cowgirls  fight for a position at the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR). The Labour Day Weekend is busy in Merritt, not only with our Annual Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo but also with the Fall Fair.   Come visit our valley this September long weekend and celebrate 60 great years with us!

 Performance Times:

Experience Nicola Valley

Bronc Riding – Merritt Pro Photo

  • Saturday, Sept 1st @1 pm
  • Sunday, Sept 2nd @ 1 pm

 2018 Rodeo attractions:

  • Wacey Mulvahill Wild Pony Events
  • Stock saddle bronc and peewee barrel racing
  • Beer Gardens, food vendors and onsite concession

Admission:

Tickets available in advance at Merritt Summer Nights Market at the gate, or by contacting: 

Melissa Dinsdale: 250-315-9305,  or  Haley Rutherford: 250-378-5059

Pricing:

  • Kids 10 & Under: Free 
    When accompanied by an adult (maximum two children per adult) 
  • Students & Seniors: $13
  • Seniors over 80 – Free
  • Adults: $15 
  • Admission:  CASH ONLY- No dogs allowed

Bus service is available to the rodeo grounds. See the schedule below for full details. Bus schedule

What you can find at the grounds

Experience Nicola Valley

Out of the chutes – Merritt Pro Photo

The Nicola Valley Rodeo Association operates and maintains grounds that host not only the annual professional rodeo but also the little britches rodeo and everything in between. This venue is  perfect for equine and outdoor events. It offers stalls, bucking chutes, announcers, box seating and even a covered grandstand.

Rodeo History

Rodeos in the Nicola Valley area started with people just wanting to have fun! We still do!

July 1st always brought out crowds eager to see the Cowboy Race, Hurdle Race and the Ladies’ Race.  not to mention any other entertainment on offer!

Victoria Day was always a major celebration. It included horse racing, gymkhana events, athletic sports and of course,  the big parade! There were marching bands, floats and huge crowds!

Lower Nicola offered special train fares for any events held there. Of course, people took full advantage of these deals and lined up for tickets! They looked forward to these early stampedes for months ahead!  They also prepared for them months in advance! The annual Bachelors’ Ball was the gala event!  Personal invitations were sent out to the valley’s single ladies who hoped to find that “special someone”.

It began as a Stampede

The Rodeo began its life as a Stampede 1934.  Workers scrambled to build corrals and chutes right in Voght Park. Zack Walker became manager, Leo Morrissey secretary-treasurer. Hans Richter brought a string of bucking horses from Kamloops Reserve to challenge the riders. The real action took place on August 3 and 4, 1934.  John Guichon, Harry Ferguson, Sid Brueke and Tom Shuter were the judges presenting prizes.  Winners took home prizes up to $100 for bronco riding, steer wrestling and other events.

Storekeepers decorated their windows, restaurants offered ‘Stampede Specials’.  Pioneer families held mini reunions.  And, of course there was the giant parade! No one missed that unless they were unconscious!

Advertising for the 1935 event at the Voght Park Stampede Grounds guaranteed “a fast, snappy exhibition” as well as “a clear view from the grandstand”. Admission was 50 cents. Of course, the parade was as big a draw as the stampede.

In 1941, the Stampede was cancelled due to the second world war. It was revived in 1959 by the Nicola Valley Riding and Roping Club. Vern (Blondie) Ellingson, Gordon Walker and Ted Spencer took the reins  in 1966 and ran the Stampede as a private enterprise. The organization and volunteers helped wherever they could.

The Stampede soon grew beyond an amateur rodeo and attracted high calibre professional cowboys. Soon, it became a 3-day Labour Day weekend event. When Ted Spencer was killed in an accident in 1969, his widow, Larein, handed the venture over to the community.

The Rodeo Association is formed

The Nicola Valley Rodeo Association was formed and then renamed the NV Memorial Rodeo Association in honour of Ted Spencer. John Collett managed it over the next decade. Furthermore, with a lot of donated material and man hours, the rodeo arena was erected at Collettville.

Scaled back to two days, the 1978 rodeo saw 196 competitors, including 46 of the top 50 Canadian Rodeo Cowboys. They were  vying for $10,000 in prizes!

The 1981 joint Rodeo Fall Fair land purchase started the task of building new facilities.  All levels of government and many local businesses contributed. 1982 saw the first official Rodeo Fair Days.

This Labour Day Weekend we will enjoy the Nicola Valley Fall Fair in addition to the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo, and the parade! 

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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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