The Canadian Desert

I chose to set my novel in a landscape that I wasn’t aware existed in Canada before I moved there; the semi-desert region of the Southern Interior of British Columbia that includes the City of Kamloops. With its dry hills and cowboy culture, it seemed to fit my conception of the southern United States better than my preconceived notion of Canada (ice hockey and snow-capped mountains).

I was aware before I moved there that the small community of Ashcroft was known for its hot summers (with daytime temperatures often surpassing 35˚C), but I was still surprised to see just how arid the landscape really was. Native vegetation that thrives in the wrinkled surrounding hills includes pungent sagebrush, a variety of grasses, prickly pear cactus and even the odd tumbleweed. The Thompson River that winds through the town provides some relief from this seemingly hostile, yet beautiful, landscape.

Agriculture has become an important part of the local economy, and one that is increasingly accessible to locals and tourists, for instance at Desert Hills Ranch. A long growing season and fertile volcanic soil make Ashcroft an ideal location for cultivating crops, providing the irrigation systems are in place to supply them with enough water. Seeing these crops flourishing against this desert-like backdrop also adds to the dramatic scenery of the town.

Several other nearby communities share Ashcroft’s semi-desert landscape, including Cache Creek, Spences Bridge and Merritt. As soon as there is any elevation, however, the desert subsides and makes way for traditional Canadian pine forests and the cold weather I was expecting. Forty-five minutes up the hill from Ashcroft is one such community; Logan Lake. Nights remain cool during Logan Lake summers and winters see an average of about four feet of snow. While Ashcroft is home to rattlesnakes, its high elevation neighbour attracts that quintessential Canadian mammal; the moose.

 

ashcroft hillsAshcroft fieldHoodoos canyon  Ashcroft hills snow

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