Moncton, New Brunswick to Lake Country, British Columbia / October 19, 2019
“We should look for a temporary legal cannabis job, helping with a harvest,” Mat said in a manner so nonchalant I thought he was joking. I looked over at him, eyes rolled to the top of my sockets. “I’m serious,” he said, “type it in the Google search.”
‘Legal cannabis harvest job in BC’ I wrote in the search bar and hit enter. Milliseconds later, it appeared from the deep ether of the world wide web and sat at the top of the list. I read it aloud ‘Seeking Temporary Outdoor Cannabis Harvest Workers for October/November in Lake Country, British Columbia’. Mat smirked, “That’s it, that’s our job!”
I was endlessly impressed by Mat’s ability to remain hopeful for the future and continually manifest the outcomes he desired. A hundred “what ifs” rolled around in my head but he had a level of certainty I envied. “Easy there,” I said pragmatically, squashing a bit of his enthusiasm, “we’ll have to apply first.”
Three days later we were boarding a plane from the Moncton International Airport to our new contract job just north of Kelowna, BC. Never once did he say, ‘I told you so’. We waved goodbye to Mat’s parents and the amazing technicolor trees of the famed East Coast fall as we dragged our boxed up bikes towards the oversize luggage area.
We touched down in Kelowna at eight o’clock that evening and heaved what was left of our beat up bike boxes down the road to the bus stop. “We’re headed for Wood Lake.” I told the driver, “Can you let us know when we’re there?”
As luck would have it, my brother’s girlfriend owned a bright, white two bedroom condo at the south end of Wood Lake with a beautiful view of the mountains. She wasn’t living there at the time and was generous enough to rent it for ‘family rates’ to a couple of vagabonds for a few weeks while we worked in Winfield.
It turned out that we were a stone’s throw from the gravel rail trail that would lead us south to our worksite, a mere 15 minute bike ride away, or north to circumnavigate the turquoise blue waters of Wood Lake, traversing the Pelmewash parkway to the Spion Kop hiking trails. It was too perfect.
I’m not at liberty to say too much about the actual work we did during the cannabis harvest but I will say we had a blast. We were hired for the night shift which started at 3P and ended at 11P. Our schedule was a godsend since we stunk up every square inch of the condo building with the smell of fresh weed when we wafted through at the end of our shift. Luckily most everyone was in bed.
We had a super fun crew, listened to lots of gangster rap and from time to time, Mat and I got to be left alone in one of many giant greenhouses with over two thousand super healthy, sticky budded cannabis plants that smelt like fresh squeezed lemons. It was heavenly.
Some of the workers were cannabis enthusiasts, while others like Cindy asked us “What part of the plant do you smoke?” Some of the managers came from big pharma while others came from the underground. A few employees had come out of retirement to ‘see what it was like’ and for others this was their first ever job. The diversity kept it fun.
Perhaps the biggest gift of all came from our foreman, Tony, who had lived in the area for quite some time. He knew we were keen for adventure and exploration, so he hooked us up with some famous Lake Country gravel climbs that we could squeeze in before work.
He told us about the Oyama Lake Lookout, a gritty gravel climb up a fun forest service road on the east side of Wood Lake with spectacular views from the top that looked down upon the Okanagan Valley, Kalamalka and Wood Lake and across to Terrance Mountain.
As soon as we hit the view spot, the skies blew over and the first snowfall of the season graced the ground. We maxed out at 56 km/hr as we railed back down the road, grateful for our neoprene winter bike gloves and the foresight to bring them.
Another favourite was the meaty climb up Beaver Lake Road to Swalwell Lake, gaining over one thousand metres in elevation as we navigated the giant potholes and washboard wrinkles left over by the weather gods and heavy summer traffic. We had the place all to ourselves until the maintenance man at the Beaver Lake Resort came to regal us with stories of the pristine fishing hole.
We questioned him about the Okanagan High Rim Trail (OHRT) sign we had seen on our way in and he told us about the 55km hiking trail, linking Philpott Road of Highway 33 near Kelowna to Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park in Vernon. It’s been on our to-do list ever since. Maybe we’ll bike it, maybe we’ll hike it, maybe we’ll want to do both? Perhaps 2021 will be the year.
We wrapped up twenty one straight days of work in the Gardens of Cannabis Eden with the heart-felt offering to stay on full-time for the company of which we were employed. Alas, we weren’t in the market for a long-term relationship, we were looking to keep the novelty of new possibilities palpable on our horizons, so we politely declined and packed our bags.
We had enjoyed our time in the Okanagan Valley, the views were beautiful, the people were kind and the hiking and biking were undoubtedly fun, but there was something about it that just wasn’t us. The Kootenays were calling and we answered back.
Having kept ourselves in peak physical condition since arriving in the Valley, we were ready for anything. We decided to embark on a six day ‘Shoulder Season Extravaganza’, an almost-winter bike commute that would take us from the south shores of Wood Lake in Winfield, up and over the Monashee Pass and down, down, down to the Faquier cable ferry.
From here we could traverse north along the west edge of the Upper Arrow Lakes, turn inland at Nakusp and ride down through the Slocan Valley, eventually ending up back to our ‘home base’ in Nelson, BC. Though I should note, we had no official ‘home’ to go back to.
With nothing to lose and elevation to gain, we packed up our panniers, mounted our steeds and headed off into the unknown.