From — and even within — our fair city of Vancouver, we can experience peace and tranquility and be immersed in spectacular natural settings without going far. In fact, we can achieve this by heading off in practically any direction of the compass. One appealing destination for a weekend away, or even a simple Sunday drive is Harrison Lake; 2 hours east of Vancouver. This picturesque, 75 km long deep blue lake is nestled amongst
the Coastal Mountains. At its southern tip is the town ofHarrison Hot Springs, home to the World Championships of Sand Sculpture, still on display until October 9. (www.harrisand.org) Artists from all over the world have created magnificent sand sculptures along the wide beach.

It is estimated that this region has been inhabited for 10,000 years, since the retreat of the last ice age. The earliest humans, perhaps from Asia, were the predecessors of the Stò:lo people, a Coast Salish tribe. (See www.stolonation.bc.ca  and xaytem.museum.bc.ca/index.htm ) Coast Salish people traveled by canoe to benefit from the healing springs that bubble from the ground at a temperature of 58 to 62 degrees. The nameHarrison derived in the mid 1800’s from a deputy governor of theHudson’s Bay Company who never visited the springs (or evenNorth America). For a time this was a stopover on the gold rush trail.

Whether or not you have aches and pains, you may want to take your bathing suit along and soak in the internationally famous mineral waters. If you’re a day visitor, visit the public pool. (I had the feeling of being in a peaceful, meditative Japanese bath house.) Alternatively, if you stay at Harrison Hot Springs’ Resort and Spa, you can use their attractive pool.

I discovered that the Harrison Hot Springs’ Resort and Spa is more than willing to live up to its reputation as a spa destination by offering restaurant options that are healthful, delicious, and exquisitely presented. We enjoyed a magical evening at the Resort’s Copper Room, listening to the live music. The menu offers a superb entree that consists of a stack of seasonalFraserValleyvegetables, marinated with aged Balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and basil, topped with a grilled Portobello mushroom and pea sprouts. As an alternative entrée, one of us enjoyed a stack composed of delicious marinated tofu, sautéed onion, truffle flavored white beans, and asparagus.

Chef Boban Kovachevich provided us with a four course vegan meal, including Clear Essence Tomato Soup; Pear Harrison (stuffed with wild mushrooms and cashews nuts); and several flavours of nondairy fruit ice cream to complete the meal. Each dish was a treat for the eye as well as for the taste buds.

Here’s a tip that will help you get a good meal at all sorts of dining establishments, if you have special requirements. First, if time permits, phone ahead to allow the chef time to plan, before he’s immersed in the dinner rush. Second, if you have food sensitivities, have diet-related health conditions, or are vegan, you’ll often do very well if you ask your server about options beyond the posted menu. Our engaging server, Martin, and the manager Gamal Hanna informed us that the Harrison menu is being revised to increase the number of healthful (including vegan) options available.

While in the area, you’ll discover plenty of ways to enjoy yourself. You can stock up on hazelnuts grown in this region, from small local businesses.HarrisonLakeand vicinity is a rich area for rock hounding, and the unearthing of fossils. None among my circle of friends actually has seen a Sasquatch–but perhaps I just don’t know the right people.

In summer, triathlons are run from Harrison Mills to Chehalis. (www.triathlons.net) This year, my friend Carollyne and I (pictured above) finished first in our age category– and last in the whole race. Don’t be afraid to try. In fact, join us next summer–especially if you swim, cycle and run even slower than we do. (We’ll appreciate that.)

Vesanto Melina, registered dietitian is an author of food and nutrition classics (“Cooking Vegetarian”,“The New Becoming Vegetarian” (US title), “Becoming Vegetarian”(Canadian title), “Becoming Vegan”, “Raising Vegetarian Children”, and The Food Allergy Survival Guide”. For personal nutritional consultations, call her home office (604-882-6782) or email Vesanto@nutrispeak.com. Website: www.nutrispeak.com.

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