Your hosts at Bear Valley Highlands are Barbara and Joe, and sometimes their grown up children Lena and Finn. They have called this beautiful place home since 2007 and can’t imagine living anywhere else! After having lived in Germany for the first part of their lives, they decided to make the big move in 2003, first to a farm in Cherryville and then finally to Bear Valley Highlands. Read more of our story in an article published in ” The Cherryvillan” in 2017:
From Cherryville to Bear Valley:
A Wilderness Retreat
It was a sad day for Cherryville when the Fresz Deschner Family moved away; but thankfully it was to only just down the road.
“We actually found Bear Valley while on a hike with Cherryvillans, Lorna and John Guild, on our way to Camel’s Hump,” said Barbara Fresz. “We were struck by the views into the Monashee, the privacy and the potential that we saw in developing a sustainable business.”
They purchased their Bear Valley property in 2005 and moved there in 2007.
Barbara, husband Joe Deschner, and their kids, Finn and Lena, immigrated from Hamburg, Germany, to Cherryville in 2003.
“We first fell in love with the property, the Shuswap River, the ‘haunted house’ on Sugar Lake Road and the adventure of bringing it back to life. We loved the rural, down to earth community and were continuously amazed by all the help that we received. We will never forget someone like Tom Elgie, who helped with restoring our house and sadly passed away a few years ago.”
But their property and new business, Bear Valley Highlands, were calling …
“It is the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, the peace and quiet, and of course our small but very special lake. We also love being mostly self sufficient with our energy needs.”
Bear Valley Highlands offers a number of different guest accommodations; and hosts some very special art workshops and retreats during the year, as well as self-guided and corporate retreats, all with or without catering.
“We wanted to share our place with other people, but at the same time keep it small and have a small footprint on the land. This big property also comes with a responsibility, to preserve and protect it, and we are doing our best to be good stewards.”
“We have two log chalets, handcrafted by an amazing team consisting of Joe, and Bill Crebo and his two sons, Kiel and Jesse. They are beautiful, bright and cozy, and have all amenities. Our yurt is an amazing building with the very best Monashee Mountain views and views of Cherryville! It also has a full bathroom and kitchen and is 32 feet in diameter. My favourite part is the six foot glass dome in the roof which allows for great natural light and star gazing.”
“Our latest addition is a Sioux style tipi lodge, with a wooden floor, camping beds, foamies and a picnic table. We are planning to add a solar outdoor shower this year.”
“All of the accommodation is only a short walk to the lake where we offer complimentary canoes and kayaks, and where our guests love to go for a swim in the Summer. It also has some rainbow trout for fishing.”
Barbara handles all of Bear Valley’s bookings, marketing and most interactions with their guests. She cooks all food offered from scratch, using local, organic ingredients and freshly ground flour. Barbara also looks after their small herd of goats, including milking and cheese making.
Joe keeps their many kilometres of fencing intact, takes care of firewood, and doing all of the maintenance work on their 3km long driveway and on the cabins. He also looks after the larger livestock, namely their Scottish Highland Cattle.
Both Barb and Joe love their goats!
Every Spring and early Summer, Bear Valley Highlands hosts art workshops, bringing in some of the most amazing and sought after artists from all over Canada and the United States. “I usually book them 2-3 years in advance to make sure we can get the best of the best and a variety of mediums and topics. Painters (and non-painting partners) come from the Okanagan, but also from as far away as South Dakota and Ontario, to immerse themselves in three days of continuous art, and great food and company.”
“All of the classes are open to all levels of painters, so anyone can come and experience a wonderful retreat. Often starting with a fresh mind is the best way to participate in a workshop. For all workshops it is also possible to commute on a daily basis and to not stay overnight.”
On the weekend of June 3 & 4, Bear Valley Highlands will be presenting, Back to Your Roots, a series of workshops which include basket making with Willow Bender, Anneh Kessels; Canoeing and Wildcrafting with Charles Reuchel of Elements Adventure Co.; and Cheese and Bread Making with Barbara herself.
“I am really hoping to make this workshop a go, since food, sustainability and learning new skills is so close to my heart. It feels so empowering to create something with your own hands, to use your knowledge about the plant world and to feed yourself and your family with good and wholesome food.”
The course fee is $280 (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon); and accommodation including all meals (all organic and made from scratch at Bear Valley) is $180 for the 2 nights (double occupancy, singles can be partnered up). There is a 15% discount on the course fee for people who bring a friend.
And for those wondering about Finn and Lena, they are studying in Victoria, both of them in social sciences and humanities. “They still love nature and good food, and are lucky that they can find both in Victoria and on the Island. Lena will come home for the Summer to help us with workshops and Summer guests, while Finn will do his second Coop term for Sociology.”Bear Valley Highlands can be contacted at 250-306-6762; www.bearvalleyhighlands.com and www.artworkshopsbc.com. You can also follow Bear Valley Highlands on Facebook.