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Photo Beth Girdler
Geoff Somers, David and Dave Clarke on the SS Sicamous in Penticton

SS Sicamous

Hullo all, hope all is well. This installment finds "Morrison" the van humming through southern B.C. We spied, on a rocky outcrop, high above the road, a small grouping of white dots. "Could be a herd of mountain goats "says Beth. "Could be a pack of wild cotton balls," thinks I. I've heard tell of them in these parts. Unpredictable and vicious. Turns out they were the former right enough, obligingly ambling down some impossible precipice for us to get a good look at them. Wonderful!! Consider all Easterners suitably impressed.

It was an odd mix, this country. At one moment harsh and forbidding, at the next bend lush and bucolic.

"A fruit stand!" all but me exclaim as we round a bend into a sea of orchards. The cherries were in season and the van careened into the first stand we came to, so all could sate themselves on the long anticipated, pitted delights.

Having been raised largely without benefit of fruit, save the trusty banana, I was less than enthusiastic about this particular bounty of nature. Maraschino was the brand of cherry I knew best, and I didn't see any unearthly red cherries in heavy syrup lying about. The chorus of ecstatic exclamations was enough to tempt me to try a few. After a pound and a half I had seen the light.

We were on our way to Naramata, outside Penticton. Of course upon arrival we found out that Penticton is apparently a suburb of Naramata. The things you don't know, although all was forgiven because we hailed from "the Eastern Bloc." The reason we were on our way to that particular destination was to play a benefit concert on the refurbished C.P. paddle steamer the S.S.Sicamous. This was hosted and arranged by our friends, Doug and Patti Mathias, of Claybank Lavender Farm in Naramata. Doug plays in the band The Bad Parkers, and we had the great pleasure of meeting said Parkers and didn't think they were too bad at all. There is a substantial cherry orchard on the Mathias farm so we got to pick cherries at every step. I strapped on a basket and got a lesson from Doug on the art of picking. An experienced picker can fill 70 baskets in a ten-hour day. I managed one basket in an indeterminate period of time. I hadn't found my calling. I got to climb the high tripod picker's ladders and, due to a recurring bout of colour blindness, managed to pick half a dozen unripened apricots. Add fruit picker to pilot and electrician as poor career choices for the colour blind.

Patti grows a lovely crop of lavender and produces a splendid array of products. Oils, soaps and extracts among many others. We were housed for the stay in an apartment above the barn, sleeping under sheaves of drying lavender, a heady and intoxicating air. The view was breathtaking, overlooking Lake Okanogan and the surrounding orchards.

As I said earlier, our reason for the visit was to play the SS Sicamous concert. I have a hard time putting into words the beauty of the vessel; its elegance and charm are quite literally indescribable. We were all immediately in love with the ship, struck dumb by its exquisite lines. When Geoff and Dave struck up a fiddle and guitar waltz in the splendor of the dining room, it was a wondrous moment indeed. My mind raced back through the years, to when the lake was graced by her service and the surrounding mountains echoed with her whistle.

We would all like to thank Doug and Patti for the hospitality and companionship and Alexa for and her inspired enthusiasm and our tour of the Sicamous.

The following day saw us travelling back through the mountains to Calgary. We all agreed that leaving BC was a sad prospect. We ended up making our mountain passage in the falling dark, reaching Golden as the light left. It was a thoughtful crew that crossed Rogers Pass and wound its way back through the mountains to the lights of Calgary. At two in the morning, car and word games exhausted, we pulled up in front of Maggie and Ron Dunbarton's welcoming house.

More on Calgary and the Festival in the next card. Until then, all the best from all of us, yours,

Wednesday, August 8
The Okanogan Valley

David Francey appearing next week:

August 9-12
Edmonton Folk Music Festival
Edmonton, Alberta

Click here for the complete summer schedule...