I drove from Pender and met Sue in Kamloops where she flew in after visiting family in Alberta. The weather was hot and clear for the entire trip which was a contrast to our 2011 trip when we were constantly checking weather reports and dodging the rain.
I wish I had more photos from my drive to Kamloops via the Fraser Canyon. The late summer light was amazing and I drove with windows down most of the way as it was so hot. However, the only photo I got was this one of a flipped truck on the TransCanada highway just outside Chilliwack. Although the truck flipped the trailered car hadn’t.
Our stay in Kamloops was short but pleasurable: a motel with a pool and a visit to the amazing Surplus Herbies (thanks to my brother Rob for the tip!). From Kamloops we took Highway 97, one of our favourite small highways, which runs through high plateau ranchlands. Nearing Vernon we swung off onto Westside Road, a quiet route along (surprise!) the West side of Okanagan Lake. We spent the day meandering along with a few stops and eventually reached our destination: Okanagan Falls Provincial Campgrounds. We were very lucky and got one of the best sites: “The Sweethearts” so named for its privacy.
Just behind us the Okanagan River rattled by. We walked along the riverside trail and enjoyed watching the bats at twilight (the campsite is renown for its bat viewing opportunities).
The next day we launched our sit-on-top kayak into Skaha Lake and paddled for a few hours, first along the shore checking out houses and then back down the middle over a small reef.
There was an interesting variety of homes – everything from high end luxury (one with razor wire fencing) to funkier, older homes and the interesting property below. A group of RVs were built into structures, looking like they’d never move again. On the lakeshore sat the pagoda with Ronald McDonald perched on top.
It was lovely paddling… or just lazing back, floating!
Later we visited the Blasted Church Vineyards (named after a church which locals moved by setting a controlled explosion in the church to loosen the nails!). I was on a mission to taste some of the wines which we sell at LDB #155, Pender Island. Also I’m working my way through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust program and am trying to develop a ‘nose’ (so far I’m not impressed by my nose’s sensitivity).
After the winery we went to Skaha Bluffs, a popular climbing site.
The next day we drove south, stopping briefly in Oliver, heart of Okanagan wine country.
Just outside Oliver we visited the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. One of my co-workers recommended we stop there as Tinhorn Creek has an excellent wine education set-up, including a small demonstration vineyard where we tasted, and read about, various grapes.
Grape harvesting was in full swing and we were visiting just weeks before the local wine festival. Therefore we missed the crowds but enjoyed tasting ripe grapes and learning a bit about the wine making process.
Next we stopped by Road 13, which has this interesting castle-like building housing its tasting room. I found that tasting at two wineries in one day was plenty for me! I was starting to confuse my ‘nose’!
We drove south to Osoyoos where we discovered that Osoyoos Lake was still warm enough to swim in. Aaahhh… swimming in late summer. How good can it get? Although not crowded there were a number of other folks enjoying the hot sun and warm water.
Okanagan Falls was a perfect central location to tour the countryside. There are actually no falls at Okanagan Falls. Instead there are dams controlling the water flow so that the farms bordering the river don’t have to worry about flooding. The Kokanee salmon were spawning and we saw a few fisherman ventured out into the water to cast.
We stopped at nearby Vaseux Lake to walk through a wildlife viewing area and check out launching spots for the kayak. On the boardwalk we found animal entrails, possibly left by badgers.
I enjoy taking photos of signs and found a few good ones:
We went to Penticton and had an excellent dinner at the Dream Cafe (I don’t recall having chicken this tender anywhere else) and then went searching for more signs as the sun set.
The Twilight Motel sign in Okanagan Falls brought to mind the films of David Lynch.
We had an excellent paddle on Vaseux Lake, including circumnavigating a small island in the middle of the lake. I goofed around with my underwater camera…
We stopped at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery as we started our trip home. (This was the only winery we visited that does not sell its wine through the provincial liquor stores). The fellow behind the wine tasting bar entertained us with stories as we sampled a few wines. Sue had a sneak-peek at one of their rooms in their gorgeous guesthouse. I snapped a photo of the view, including their swimming pool.
Just down the road we found a contrast to Burrowing Owl’s beautiful buildings: an old farm house.
Driving west from Osoyoos we passed Spotted Lake, a saline alkaline lake, sacred to local aboriginal peoples.
We had a lovely drive along Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway, with a quick stop at Rustic Roots where we purchased a bottle of their excellent Orin Iced Wine. We took one detour on the Old Hedley Road, a tranquil drive winding along the north bank of the Similkameen River. Eventually we climbed into the Cascade Mountains and instead of the snow, sleet and rain we encountered there last year it continued to be hot and sunny. We set-up camp at the Lightning Lake campground in Manning Park and went for an evening stroll around the lake. So peaceful…
… or so we thought. Until we got back to our campsite and discovered we now had the neighbours from Hell. Both nights we stayed there they partied hard, ghetto blaster cranked and yelping and screaming into the night. Why oh why did they choose a large, family-friendly campground when there are so many smaller, out-of-the-way campgrounds where they would have disturbed no one?
On our last day we drove to the Cascades lookout and hiked for a few hours on the Heather Trail where the last of the sub alpine flowers were still blooming.
The hike up was well worth it. Fortunately I’d hiked a large portion of the trail years ago and encouraged Sue to keep climbing until we reached a rolling plateau with its huge views. Although haze obscured most of the surrounding peaks it was still magnificent.
Summer was a late starter but the hot, dry weather extended into the Fall this year – perfect for a road trip to the Okanagan.
Here’s what we brought home (all of which were based on our tasting except for the Burrowing Owl Merlot which we bought on reputation as it wasn’t available for tasting).
left to right:
Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2009
Rustic Roots Iced Orin 2008 (link is to their recipe page; the Apple Pie Martini is to die for!)
Road 13 Honest John’s Rose 2011 (this was a bit of a surprise as neither of us are Rose fans but this was excellent!)
Road 13 Stemwinder 2012
Disclaimer!!…. I do not work for any of these wineries! This blog has absolutely nothing to do with my job as a Liquor Distribution Branch sales associate!! and finally… I’m no wine expert (actually I’m more of a beer drinker!).