James in His Jeep Getting Java–Kokanee Creek

Crow’s Nest Highway was a spectacular drive, with these statues on the side of the road (there were many, I stopped to photograph two of them). While they made the drive interesting, it bothered me that they seemed to be for entrances to private high-end homes for the uber wealthy. They kind of said, “You can’t afford here. Move on.”

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While researching where I was going to camp, my original plan was to drive to Drumheller. When I saw Kokanee Creek online, it looked so beautiful that I decided to spend a few days there instead. Glad I did.

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I was a short walk to the lake and in a spot where I couldn’t see my neighbours. I could hear them though, as the kids playing in the campsite were screaming at the top of their lungs (one repeated the same Queen’s lyrics “We are the champions” over and over). They even rode their bikes into the washrooms, spreading wet mud everywhere. Thankfully, they were only there for the weekend and I was there for a few days into the week.

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I did have one thunderstorm while I was there, and branches from above broke and fell on my tent. The poles snapped in two, but the tent held up enough to get me through the night and early morning. The day turned out sunny (plus 30), with intermittent sun showers. I bought another tent, and carried on the rest of my trip making a mental note to invest in a much, much better tent..

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This was my view each morning when I woke up. I’d make a cup of coffee, walk to the lake, and sit and stare at the water.

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Instead of an inspirational song, I’ve added a video that I took while sitting on the beach. Enjoy!

James in His Jeep Getting Java – The Camping Edition

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Maybe it’s all the apocalypse writing and reading I’ve been doing over the last few years, but I got back into camping this summer. This trip I took west instead of south, and I stayed in Canada to visit a few places I’d never been.

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My goal was to drive from Vancouver to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. I booked campsites in Manning Park, Kokanee Creek, and Stemwinder Provincial Park. I drove the Crow’s Nest Highway (Hwy 3) from Hope to Nelson and stopped in a few really great towns.

What I didn’t know when I began was the necessity of booking your campsite ahead of time. Unlike when I was a kid, one cannot simply go into a campsite and expect a great spot. (Get the reference there?) I booked mine the week ahead, but because I was travelling on odd days (I began on a Friday and ended on a Friday) I was able to secure some sweet spots. If you haven’t used Discover Camping yet, it is a really simple service that lets you see photos of your spot. Unlike dating sites, these photos accurately represent what you’ll find when meeting.

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I originally wanted to spend Friday to Sunday in Manning Park, but by the time I went to book the only spots for that time frame were in overflow near the highway. Instead, I changed my dates to just Friday to Saturday, which opened up a spot in the Lightning Lake Large Loop section which was pretty sweet. A close walk to the lake, and a pretty private (and quiet) camping area.

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It was also early enough in the season that there were no fire bans. You do have to remember to bring cash for firewood, as it is illegal to transport out of park wood into your site.

The night I spent in Manning was actually pretty terrible. (No fault to the site at all.) Being summer, I was prepared for summer heat and not for the quickly changing temperatures of the mountains. It got cold that night–no idea how cold, but my tent, sleeping bag, and the sweater/pants/pyjamas I wore were not enough to stave off the cold. To say it was rough is to understate just how cold I got. I’m from Winnipeg–I’ve dealt with -40 and colder.

After Manning, I drove Crow’s Nest to Princeton, BC, a little town of about 3,000 people. It had an old feel to it and very friendly people. I discovered a very tasty cafe, the Cowboy Coffee. Had french toast and coffee there–highly recommend.

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While in Princeton, I knew I’d need a better sleeping bag if I wanted to survive another night. I found the outdoor store, Princeton Outdoor Supply, who was very helpful and had a sleeping bag that should do the trick. He suggested that I take the one I have and put it inside the new one, and sleep with the two if I got cold. It was a great idea, actually, and gave me the leeway to have a cooler night if needed.

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Plus, I saw this deer. Didn’t seem to mind me or the traffic at all.

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While on my trip, I listened to a local singer/songwriter Land of Deborah. Give her a listen–she’s great road trip tunes!

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Penny, Mission

I have a favourite coffee place in Mission, BC. The Penny is an amazing cafe that gives back to its community by supporting an outreach program that offers comfort, relationships, support and food to those in need. (In their words from their site.)

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Walking inside, it seems like any other cafe. Friendly staff, neighbours who greet one another, and plenty of comfy places to sit.

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But there’s something very special about supporting a neighbourhood space that is using its profits to better the situations of those in need.

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This last Christmas while there, a neighbourhood Santa stopped in to greet everyone and offer candy canes. He’s been doing this for 33 years!

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Everyone in the cafe was thrilled.

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I definitely recommend this place if you are ever in Mission. The coffee is great, and they very often have gluten-free treats!

For a theme song, I thought this fit well.

Zombies and the British Columbia Interior

In 2010, I was trying to decide what kind of book I wanted to write and a friend of mine in tae kwon do suggested zombies. At the time, I laughed and told him that zombies were not scary and maybe a little stupid. “I’m going to bring you some reading material next class, and your mind will be changed.” I’m always up for a challenge, so I accepted.

He brought me the Walking Dead comics, World War Z: Recorded Attacks graphic novel, and World War Z the novel. My. Mind. Was. Blown. This sent me on a spiral of discovering George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (plus the remake by Zack Snyder), playing Left for Dead 2 on STEAM, and coming up with my own story that started my then named novel, Zombiepocalypse.

Clinton, BC 2012

At the time, I used to take a yearly trip from Vancouver to Williams Lake to sell books for Vancouver Kidsbooks at a teacher’s conference. This particular year, after all the literature given to me by my tae kwon do pal, I wound up stopping in a little town called, Clinton. Clinton has a population of just under 600 people and is quite beautiful. It looks like an old frontier town, and gives its visitors a sense of history. As I pulled over my rented van filled with books for the conference, I knew that I had found the place where Zombiepocalypse would take place.

First, a few highlights from the town. In a lot that’s been for sale every year I’ve visited, there are posts with shingles nailed to them. On each shingle is someone’s name and where they are from. This was an incredible sense of history to me–kind of like a library, but with carvings instead of paper books.

I started to imagine where my character might have grown up, who he was, what kind of upbringing he had. Unlike a big city where zombies would thrive by the thousands, what would small town life look like?

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More importantly, who would be his enemies? Who would he compete with for the scraps of what was left? As I drove down the highway wondering where his enemies might hold up, I came across Hat Creek Ranch and knew, instinctively, that this was where the my main character would find his nemesis.

Equally important, was knowing the topography of the area. While I was lucky enough to be able to drive the area (over the course of a few summers, too) I also had the benefit of Google Maps.

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It’s been a long time since 2010 when I wrote the first draft, and now, six years later, I have the final draft and a final title: Rise of the One-Eyed King. Over the next few months, I’ll let you know when you can pre-order a copy for your very own. It will release July 1st.

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One of the many songs that inspired the novel, and the theme of this post: