Updated: Aug 10
2018 was the summer that almost didn’t happen, here in the Okanagan of BC. It rained it’s way though June, then burned it’s way through August. This has officially been recorded as the worst season for forests fires in BC, ever. For us in the valley of the Okanagan, that meant some pretty dense smoke and haze, hindering, on the one end of the scale, the enjoyment of our usual outdoor entertainments, and on the other end, actually qualifying as a health hazard and a business hazard for residents dependant upon tourism to make a living.
When my family first moved to the Okanagan when I was in my late teens, my best friend lived on a Vernon orchard. Her father would sell the business because, although we lived (according to him) in the most beautiful part of the world, he was so consumed with his crops that he was never able to simply be happy with the weather. If it wasn’t too hot for the cherries it was too wet for the apples. He sold, moved the family to Surrey where he began a construction company, and their orchard was torn out to become a vineyard. It still thrives today.
Beside Shelley’s old home is Davison Orchards, which has existed, according to their website, as a family run farm and orchard for 85 years. The Davisons began growing apples on the hillside in 1933, and have since turned the 120 acre family farm into a business with a bakery and café, a cannery, retail store, outdoor play area for children and an animal barn. Davison Orchards is a place which caters to tourist and local, to families and to schools, and it has been named the # 1 attraction in Vernon for the past six years in a row by Trip Advisor.
For more on Davison Orchards, visit their website at: https://www.davisonorchards.ca
Today, my one remaining school age child and I drove out to Davison Orchard together to ring out the summer. Arriving, the multiple parking lots were so full that we found only overflow parking in one of the orchards. Deciding we didn’t want to brave to Labour Day crowds, we altered our apple buying plan, and instead, I snapped a few quick photos, she waited in the car, and then we headed East to the beach at Mabel Lake’s Provincial Camp Site.
Mabel Lake was, not surprisingly, all but emptied out by the time we arrived. One older man had just finished rigging up his trailer and was stepping into the driver’s seat as we climbed out of the car.
“You picked the right time to arrive,” he said, and although he was referring to the fact that the previous evening’s rain had cleared the air of forest fire smoke, Sheena and I simply enjoyed having the beautiful lake almost to ourselves. As she waded, toes in to test the water, I wandered the beach with my camera.
“Somewhere I have pictures of you and your brothers and sister and cousins all playing at that playground,” I told her, as we walked past a steel climbing apparatus. She didn’t remember camping there, so on our way home, I told her of how my sister and I had taken our seven children tenting at Mabel Lake campground during the worst storm in decades.
Sheets of rain broke on us in the middle of dinner, and we did all the wrong things — leaving the dirty dishes out and untended while we dashed into our tents to escape the deluge. The darkness and falling rain lulled us all to sleep, and so the remnants of dinner remained exposed.
In the middle of the evening, I woke. The rain had stopped, and outside the tent, I heard sounds of rattling nearby. Something, I knew, was out there, and the children were separated from whatever it was by nothing more than the flimsy fabric of our tent. I lay there listening, terrified and wondering how I would protect us all. We are going to die because we were stupid, I thought. And then I thought, Don’t be scared, they can smell fear.
In the end, the sounds abated, and I, too chicken to venture into the dark, returned to sleep. In the morning, we awoke to scattered garbage and strewn dishes, which I collected, thankful to have escaped my own foolishness unscathed.
And so, at the end of the summer which almost didn’t happen, I trekked back in time to memories of the summers which truly did, and find myself grateful for the new season soon to be upon us, looking forward to the return of regular schedules and cozy sweaters, and so thankful for the daughter/traveling companion who still occasionally enjoys sharing a day with her mother.