Crossing into Canada: The Creston Valley

Mileage today: 98 miles Total Mileage: 4,766 miles

A glorious day today driving up through the beautiful valleys north of Sandpoint, across the border into Canada, and then the lovely Creston valley.

The weather was perfect today – 22C – and bright blue skies. Little trace of smoke haze at all which was very nice. We followed Rt 2/95 north along the byway. Stopped at Bonner’s Ferry, an old town on the banks of the Kootenay River. It’s an old gold rush town and in 1864 a man called Edward Bonner established a ferry here, hence the name. The original town had to be built on stilts to survive the spring floods. These lasted till a dam was built in 1975. Now the ferry and the stilts are long gone. We had a quick look round and then moved on.

The scenery was lovely by now, tall forested mountains on either side of the river valley with small farms dotted along the valley. A lovely timeless scene.

About 20 minutes after Bonner’s Ferry, we came to the US/Canada Border. I haven’t been to Canada for over 30 years and never to British Columbia, so this is exciting. We didn’t know if we would be stamped out of the USA, but, in fact, we just drove through. About 50 yards later we came to the Canadian entry point and approached the booth in the car. An officer took our passports and I guess checked that we’d filled in the CanPass on line, stamped us in and off we went again. Took about 3 minutes. Oh, he asked if we had any liquor and tobacco. We had an open bottle of JD and 4 beers and he didn’t care about that and no tobacco.

Creston was about 40 minutes ahead set in a river valley with really steep hills on either side. The valley was fairly wide and with a succession of more small farms of all sorts, but clearly a lot of fruit farms. There is a lot of agri-tourism here, farm stalls, pick your own, vineyards with tasting rooms, breweries….. It has always been a valley of abundance. The First Nations, have made the valleys floodplains their homes for thousands of years. European and American settlers arrived in the 1880s by steamboat and rail. They formed the town of Creston on the ledge above the floodplains and then dammed the Kootenay River and wetlands to convert the valley floor into farmlands. On the eastern side of the valley ancient cedars were cleared and replaced by farms and fruit orchards. The valley grew into the patchwork of farms that are visible today.

We made a first stop at a lovely vineyard called Skimmerhorn . They have a tasting room and a patio overlooking the vineyard. The manager gave us a tasting of 4 wines: 3 white and 1 red. They were all delicious but we particularly liked one of the white wines named Autumn Tryst, so we bought a bottle of that. The tasting was absolutely free. We ate our picnic lunch in the vineyard.

There was a farmer’s market in town but it closed at 1pm so by the time we returned to Creston, we’d missed it which was a great shame. We headed a little north of Creston to Wynndel, a collection of farms more than a village. We came across a distillery so of course we thought we would stop there. It was very much a cottage industry place with a massive still in the back garden. Nice tasting room though and they make all sorts of spirits, all apple based. We tried the brandy first. They have a multiple gold medal winning apple brandy and it was fabulous. We also tried the ginger brandy which was not so great. Then gins. We tried the Butterfly Blue gin both straight and with tonic. The blueness was achieved by flower petals, no artificial colouring. It was ok. Then we tried the Floral Gin, which was also nice but perhaps a bit sweet for our tastes. The lady in charge was very nice. We enjoyed talking to her. We decided to buy a bottle of the apple brandy. It will be very nice at Xmas. She wouldn’t let us leave till we’d tried their Apple Pie Moonshine. Wow, that was interesting. Had a definite taste of apples and cinnamon. Delicious.

We were hoping to buy some more cherries – pick your own would have been nice – but time was passing on and Bob had a problem with data roaming on his phone. My phone package worked as normal in the States but does not work in Canada. He bought a local SIM in the States which obviously worked perfectly down there and he bought an extension for roaming in Canada. Calls and texts are working fine but he cannot connect to the internet other than by wifi. It will give us a problem with GPS if we cannot resolve it.

Got to our hotel late afternoon and checked in. We are in the Creston Hotel and Suites. In fact we are in the guest annexe across the road and have a suite – kitchen, lounge and bedroom. It’s very nice and comfortable and apparently quieter than being in the main place which has Jimmy’s Bar and Grill as part of it.

Bob spent some time on the phone with TMobile trying to sort out his data roaming with no luck. A browse online reveals this is quite the problem apparently…… So, we are going to have to go old school on the navigation from here on in to some extent. We can download the route to Google maps before we leave every morning and it will work fine without data unless for some reason we have to go off route. However, we do have the large scale map of British Columbia too so it should be fine. (They were never seen again…….! )

Tonight we had dinner out in Jimmys Bar and Grill, the pub restaurant attached to our hotel. It was really good and reasonably priced. We both went for steaks with salad and accompaniments. I had some local red wine and Bob had local dark beer. Couldn’t fault it. There was a live band that came on at 8pm. They were good musicians. The singer was ok but the musicians were better.

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