For years my husband and I spent out summers traveling in our 5th wheel. It was a lifestyle we enjoyed and we especially loved exploring different regions of western Canada.
The summer of 2011, however, we decided we did not want to travel. Sitting in a vehicle for long periods was becoming hard on our arthritic bones. But we were unwilling to give up our RV so we looked for alternatives and discovered the Springs RV Resort at Harrison Hot Springs. It was formerly the Bigfoot Campground and is less than an hour’s drive from our home in Abbotsford, B.C. It is easily accessible from Highway #1, just east of Chilliwack via exit 135, then follow the signs through Agassiz. RV lots at The Springs can be leased by the season, or purchased outright. There are also spaces for short term and overnight campers. After looking the park over and talking to the hosts we decided to try it for the season; it opens mid-April and closes mid-October. This family-friendly resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, laundry facilities, communal fireplace, and a playground with children’s activities throughout the summer. Adults can enjoy social events such as bingo and poker nights, and dancing in the pavilion on special occasions.
We found many activities in the area, which kept us busy all summer long. We like to hike and discovered numerous trails to choose from. Some were an easy stroll along a beach path, while others were more demanding as we climbed over rough, rocky terrain. One of the most interesting was The Spirit Trail, which we discovered almost by accident. On a visit to the Ranger Station Art Gallery, which is located at the east end of the beach, next to the marina on Rockwell Drive, we picked up a hand-drawn map of The Spirit Trail. The information was sketchy, saying only that there were over 40 ceramic masks on the trail. Nevertheless, it looked like an interesting adventure. Our first attempt was thwarted by hordes of mosquitoes, so we went back a second time armed with mosquito repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts. This trail, through a densely wooded area, challenges you to find the masks that have been nailed high in the trees. We found all of them and took photos of each one.
An easier hike took us past the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel to the Source. From this location the spring water is pumped to the hotel and to the public pool in the centre of the village. Overflow from the holding tank runs into a low area and forms a small mud-bottom pool. Seeing no warning signs to the contrary, I took off my shoes and socks, perched on a rock, and put my feet into the water. It was very hot where it comes out of the pipe, but soothingly warm a few feet further away.
The Harrison Festival of the Arts was a weeklong event that we took in every day. There were tented stalls along the beachfront selling pottery, jewelery, art, and handcrafted items. The Harrison Hall was the venue for live performances, and there was an outdoor stage, which featured a wide variety of local and international musicians. Two of the many we enjoyed listening to included Madagascar Slim and a Celtic band.
Harrison Lake is a water lover’s paradise. Situated across from the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel are boat and aqua-bike rentals. Although the watercraft looked like a lot of fun we opted to not try any of them. Instead we took a two-hour cruise with the Shoreline Tour and Charter boat. The cruise took us along the west side of the lake past the mouth of the Harrison River, then around the far side of Echo Island. The shoreline of the island is dotted with cabins, which are accessible only by boat. We viewed Rainbow Falls, and kept our eyes peeled for wildlife. Of course stories of the Sasquatch still abound. Our tour guide pointed out a couple of rock formations that resembled a bear and an owl. The cost for seniors was $31.00 (plus tax) per person.
This was the only time we went out on the lake but we enjoyed watching all the water activities that took place all summer long. Almost daily there were water skiers, canoeists, sailboats, and kite sailing to keep us entertained as we relaxed on one of the many benches. One event of particular interest was a dragon boat competition. The competitors came from various BC clubs as well as from Washington State. There were over 60 teams in the competition. Each team consisted of 20 rowers, a steerer, and a drummer who beat the drum to synchronize the paddlers’ strokes.
In addition to our daily hikes and walks along the beach, we also explored the back roads around Harrison Hot Springs and Agassiz.
Just 20 minutes west of Harrison on Highway 7 is the Kilby Historic Site located near the junctions of the Harrison and Fraser Rivers. A stroll through the general store and museum gave us a hint that Harrison Mills was once a thriving community.
Between Agassiz and Harrison, on Golf Road, we found The Back Porch. They have a pottery studio, and roast coffee in an antique flame roaster, circa early 1900s. The aroma of fresh coffee wafted to our nostrils the minute we drove into the yard.
Another place of interest was The Farmhouse Natural Cheeses on McCallum Road. They make a variety of cheeses using milk from their own cows and goats. Some of the cheeses they make are cheddar, Gouda, brie, and feta. Even though we thought it was a bit pricey we nevertheless bought a slab of goat cheese to try and found it very tasty. In addition to cheese, their farm store also sells specialty food and unique gift items. From the store you can watch through a window as cheese is being processed.
One weekend we took in the openhouse at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz. This was formerly known as the Agassiz Experimental Farm. Established in 1886 it experimented with varieties of cereal grains, corn, root crops, and potatoes, as well as breeds of draft horses, cows and poultry. Today the Agassiz Centre is one of 19 Research Centres of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
For our weekly grocery shopping we drove the short distance to Agassiz. The town does not have any big box stores, but we discovered two bakeries and a fruit and vegetable store where we were able to buy everything we needed.
Although our daily jaunts were short compared to the many miles we put on when we are travelling, each day provided something new and interesting and when we got tired of hiking or touring we’d head back to the Springs RV Resort and relax on our deck or in the hot tub.
I am looking forward to spring 2012 when we plan to spend another summer RVing close to home.