Ex­pe­ri­ence Har­ri­son Hot Springs

Savour - - DISH - By Roslyne Buchanan

to ac­cess the Vil­lage of Har­ri­son Hot Springs, tucked into the south shore of Har­ri­son Lake, you have to pass over a bridge whether you’re ap­proach­ing from the Lower Main­land or the Okana­gan. The phys­i­cal act of travers­ing a river such as the mighty Fraser — gate­way to the Pa­cific Ocean or Har­ri­son and des­ig­nated as Canada’s first salmon strong­hold — is fit­ting. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you travel through fer­tile farm coun­try to a for­got­ten time. The area lies on a lush delta amid lofty cedars and is framed by spec­tac­u­lar snow-capped moun­tains. Un­like its trendy cousin Whistler Black­comb which is groomed in the lat­est chic, Har­ri­son Hot Springs has a coun­try ca­sual style and is a place to find soli­tude and heal­ing rather than a place to be seen and daz­zled. Most guests come for the sooth­ing min­eral hot springs as did the First Na­tions peo­ple; this was long be­fore the first re­sort, the St. Alice Ho­tel, was es­tab­lished in 1886 by Joseph Arm­strong, There is much more to do here than soak in the hot springs. Still, this quaint set­ting cre­ates the il­lu­sion of the gift of time to savour even the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing of ad­ven­tures. Har­ri­son Eco Tours of­fers a wide range of ex­pe­ri­ences — one op­tion is an in­vig­o­rat­ing jet boat ex­cur­sion from Har­ri­son Lake down the Har­ri­son River to its meet­ing place with the Fraser River. The tour be­gins with a stroll across the park­ing lot of the Har­ri­son Hot Springs Re­sort & Spa to join your knowl­edge­able and friendly guide. You can choose to sit un­der the boat’s heated canopy or stay on deck while you gaze at serene water­ways and drink in the sweet smell of the forests which cover peaks such as Mount Cheam. Chances are you’ll see soar­ing ea­gles, herons and other wa­ter­fowl, fish jumping, deer, seals and per­haps a bear. Our guide Tony ad­vised that he’d had no Big­foot sight­ings de­spite the prox­im­ity to Sasquatch Provin­cial Park. Nev­er­the­less, through­out the vil­lage you will see many stat­ues (some in­tri­cately carved) de­voted to the ape-like crea­ture. The Har­ri­son River may in­spire you try your hand at fish­ing; it is home to the world’s old­est fish, the white stur­geon, as well as salmon and trout, The pris­tine wa­ters of Har­ri­son Lake, which has no in­dus­try other than the hot springs, beck­ons you to en­joy all forms of boat­ing. In the warm­est months, you might ven­ture into the glacier-fed wa­ters for a quick swim. In any sea­son, you can recharge with a walk along the prom­e­nade where you’ll en­counter a re­laxed and friendly pop­u­la­tion, or dip into those al­lur­ing hot springs.

To ac­cess the heal­ing springs, lo­cals and day vis­i­tors can ac­cess the pub­lic pool in the vil­lage cen­tre. If you are a guest at the Har­ri­son Hot Springs Re­sort & Spa, you may choose from five pools. There are three out­door pools, which vary in tem­per­a­ture — one is des­ig­nated for fam­ily, one for adults only and the third is a lap pool. In­doors you will find a medium-sized pool for wad­ing and swim­ming, and the hottest pool which is small and cir­cu­lar with the added re­lax­ation fea­ture of a wa­ter­fall cas­cad­ing from a nearby glass wall. The en­clo­sure has 30-foot ceil­ings with large wooden rafters and ex­udes the sen­sual aroma of cedar. In this beau­ti­ful struc­ture that leads to the out­door pools and lush gar­dens, you’ll find the re­sort’s Heal­ing Spa. Com­pli­ment­ing the heal­ing as­pect of the hot springs, the spa of­fers a full menu of “stress-re­liev­ing, im­mune-sys­tem boost­ing, en­ergy-build­ing and re­bal­anc­ing treat­ments.”

Af­ter my ther­a­peu­tic 55-minute mas­sage, I was fully recharged. It was easy to re­lax in our well-ap­pointed suite over­look­ing Har­ri­son Lake. De­spite its tran­quil­lity, this site has seen tran­si­tion: first as the St. Alice Ho­tel which was de­stroyed by fire in 1920, fol­lowed by The Har­ri­son Hot Springs Ho­tel (1926 to 1949), as a con­va­les­cent hos­pi­tal op­er­ated by the Depart­ment of National De­fense (1943 to 1945). The Har­ri­son Ho­tel (1949 to 1998) un­der vary­ing own­er­ship, and fi­nally as Har­ri­son Hot Springs Re­sort & Spa since 1998 — the Delaware North Com­pa­nies took own­er­ship in 2002. Delaware North has in­vested roughly $18 mil­lion in up­grad­ing gar­dens and drive­ways, spa and pool ar­eas, gue­strooms, meet­ing and re­tail spa­ces as well as The Cop­per Room. Dur­ing our visit the ten­nis courts were be­ing re­fin­ished.

The Cop­per Room is an­other el­e­ment of that mag­i­cal time for­got­ten and is truly an heir­loom of din­ing tra­di­tion. It of­fers the el­e­gance of dine and dance old-style with Fraser Val­ley “farm-to-ta­ble” cui­sine and live mu­sic by one of the two house bands. “The Jones Boys”, who have been play­ing there for 25 years, en­ter­tained us with a range of tunes ex­tend­ing from Glenn Miller’s clas­sic sup­per club mu­sic to Bob Seger’s old-time rock-and-roll. There is a dress code but don’t worry. Just leave T-shirts, shorts and run­ning shoes be­hind and spruce up a bit in good jeans and a nice pair of shoes. The taste­ful decor harkens back to a golden age; ladies in par­tic­u­lar might en­joy dolling up a bit more. Other din­ing op­tions are avail­able within the ho­tel and the Vil­lage. Al­though the Vil­lage is small, it of­fers a va­ri­ety from pubs and cafés to The Black For­est Steak and Sch­nitzel House and the Ki­tami Ja­panese Restau­rant. Golf­ing is avail­able at the lo­cal nine-hole course or you can en­joy a scenic drive to the Pretty Re­sort Prop­erty at his­toric Har­ri­son Mills for ac­cess to the 18-hole Sand­piper Golf Course. This course was de­signed by Cana­dian Russ Olsen; he lever­aged its lo­ca­tion on Har­ri­son

River to sculpt the at­trac­tive track cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the stun­ning moun­tain vis­tas and nat­u­ral forests. Well-man­i­cured and easy to walk, the par 72 course is com­plete with im­pres­sive warm-up and train­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Ar­rive early or linger to dine at the River’s Edge Restau­rant. Or bet­ter yet, stay a night at the stately Rowena’s Inn on the River. Don’t miss the Agas­siz-Har­ri­son Mills Cir­cle Farm Tour, a gas­tro­nomic ex­trav­a­ganza of the re­gion’s agri­cul­tural bounty. With most farms only a five to 15-minute drive away, you can wind your way through charm­ing coun­try roads on a self-guided tour to ar­ti­san cheese-mak­ers, or­ganic cof­fee roast­ing sheds, nut pro­duc­ers, herb and ed­i­ble flower nurs­eries and demon­stra­tion kitchens that sell home-made fudge, jams and sal­sas. De­bra Am­rein-Boyes, one of Canada’s top ar­ti­sanal cheese mak­ers, head cheese maker and coowner of The Farm­house Nat­u­ral Cheeses, praised the tour for its sup­port to lo­cal farm­ers and ed­u­cat­ing vis­i­tors about where food comes from. She said, “It’s an awe­some tool for tourism and as­sists in ad­dress­ing con­cerns about our farm­ing cul­ture. If peo­ple don’t learn the im­por­tance of buy­ing lo­cal to sup­port lo­cal pro­duc­ers as well as for their own health and fu­ture food-source se­cu­rity, the younger gen­er­a­tions won’t take over and a way of life will be lost.” On their fam­ily farm, a large range of ar­ti­san cheeses and dairy prod­ucts are made us­ing the rich pure milk from their own cows and goats. You can wit­ness the cheese mak­ing process through view­ing win­dows, as well as taste and buy about 20 va­ri­eties of cheese. The quaint shop also sells milk, farm-raised meats and veg­eta­bles, lo­cal and re­gional food prod­ucts and gifts in­clud­ing Am­rein-Boyes’ in­for­ma­tive book 200 Easy Home­made Cheese Recipes: From Ched­dar and Brie to But­ter and Yo­gurt. At the Tasty Chicken Farm, the Wouda fam­ily raises non-med­i­cated, or­gan­i­cally-fed free range chicken and turkey on five pris­tine acres be­tween a hazel­nut orchard and re­claimed wet­lands. From her front porch, Hoa Wouda retails chicken and turkey as well as grass-fed beef and lamb. In fact, the sheep be­long to her brother-in-law and win­ter at his prop­erty, then graze with the chick­ens to pro­tect them from ea­gles. To make the busi­ness sus­tain­able the fam­ily has di­ver­si­fied, says Hoa. She op­er­ates the re­tail as­pect, her old­est son Philip mar­kets the busi­ness, and hus­band John tends the an­i­mals. Cana­dian Hazel­nut is Canada’s largest cer­ti­fied or­ganic hazel­nut orchard, owned by Pen­nti and Deb­bie Han­ni­nen and fam­ily, In sea­son you can pick your own hazel­nuts or pe­ruse the shop to

sam­ple flavoured hazel­nuts and pur­chase a di­verse range of hazel­nut prod­ucts in­clud­ing flour, oil, ice cream, and roasted or choco­late-cov­ered hazel­nuts. With the flat to­pog­ra­phy of the val­ley, it’s easy ter­rain for cycling — the sev­enth an­nual Cy­cle Tour Agas­siz will be held on July 27. Part of Slow Food Van­cou­ver Cy­cle Tours, you can start and fin­ish your self-guided tour any time be­tween 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and ex­plore the many farms that are open for this day only. A shop­ping shut­tle ser­vice will col­lect your pur­chases from the farms and de­liver them back to the regis­tra­tion area for pick up to al­low you a leisurely tour with­out hav­ing to haul an ex­tra load. An ex­cel­lent fam­ily ac­tiv­ity, the tour sup­ports the Slow Food move­ment and Fraser Val­ley farm­ers. The Tulips of the Val­ley fes­ti­val takes place for two weeks at the end of each April, sub­ject to Mother Na­ture’s sched­ule. Here you can tip­toe by (sorry, not in) the tulips — some 30 acres of as­sorted colours and va­ri­eties. Vi­brant red, yel­low, pink and pur­ple tulips span the land, of­fer­ing a sharp con­trast against the moun­tain back­drop. Freshly cut and pot­ted tulips can be pur­chased as well as goods from other lo­cal pro­duc­ers. Dress for the weather, rub­ber boots may be a good choice. More im­por­tantly, be sure to bring your cam­era. tulip­soft­he­val­ley.com tourismhar­ri­son.com

Goats at Farm­house Nat­u­ral Cheeses De­bra Am­rein-boyes, Head Cheese­maker and Owner of The Farm­house Nat­u­ral Cheeses

A gor­geous view of Har­ri­son Lake and Mt. Cheam

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