Cycling the Myra Canyon, Kelowna

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the road again to cycle the Myra Canyon, just south of Kelowna. Ty, Brubin  and I hit the road Friday; after picking up Ty from work, we headed north and east to Kelowna, driving through a white out and snow storm on the Hwy 97 connector just outside of Merritt. Most of the vehicles had pulled off the road because it was almost impossible to see but the intrepid Red Rocket with Ty at the wheel managed to motor through it. Just as we hit Kelowna, a text message came in from our compatriot Curly-Q saying that they couldn’t take the weather and were turning back. As I was just about to ask the folks at the front desk of the Okanagan Seasons Resort, our shack away from home, for a smaller room, who should pull up but the PT Cruiser with Barb, Christine and Doug – they’d been just joshin’ us.

We had a one bedroom suite at the Okanagan Seasons; advertised as five acres of family fun, the resort has seen better days. It has quite a bit in the way of amenities, an outdoor pool, indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and small breakfast room, but everything’s looking pretty tired. Probably in the sixties when the place was built it had been in the countryside but Kelowna has expanded so much that it’s basically just beside a long line of strip malls. Our room was fine for our purposes, although the old fridge’s pump kept coming on with a bang throughout the night, sounding like a jet engine taking off; that, along with the rattling old air conditioner and the dulcet tunes of Ty’s snoring and Brubin’s dreamtime squeeks, made sleeping a bit difficult for me on the first night.

Friday night after the drive up we had a late dinner at one of the many strip mall restaurants, Joey Kelowna, sampling some local grape and bellinis. Saturday morning we were up and ready to roll after a BBQ’d grease fest of bacon and eggs and off south to the Myra Canyon trailhead at the end of McCullough Road. After Friday night’s snowstorm we were a bit concerned about what the weather might be like but the day dawned sunny with fluffy white clouds and a coolish temperature, pretty good conditions for the 24 km cycle. We unloaded the bikes and got geared up for the ride; Brubin was settled into his basket on Ty’s bike and off we went. The Canyon is quite spectacular still even with the evidence of the devastating 2003 fire everywhere present.

Burnt trees were everywhere, with tiny new trees growing up around them. The black and grey twisted trees made fabulous shapes against the blue sky as we rode past.

The canyon has 18 trestles and 2 tunnels and the trail runs basically along the top edge of the canyon, making it quite an easy ride. We compared it favourably with cycling the Trail of the Hiawatha out of Taft Montana, another old railway line converted into a cycling trail which we’d done in 2004 and 2005. That trail is slightly longer, with more tunnels and goes much further downhill than the Myra Canyon trail. See pictures of our Idaho/Montana trip here.

We enjoyed cruising along, stopping fairly frequently for photographs and gasping at the fabulous views. As we paused for a snack at the end of one of the trestles, Brubin was let off his leash and tried to go streaking off down an embankment after the chipmunks who appeared begging for food. It could have been nasty, given that the ground was covered with loose gravel and the drop to the canyon floor was steep and looonnnnng. Luckily, we managed to call him back before he disappeared over the edge.

The chipmunks here are very cheeky and fearless, zipping around from rock to rock in search of any little nibble to be found. After stopping for our lunch of Subway sandwiches purchased at the local strip mall and trying to tempt the many chipmunks into coming closer, we headed back up the trail again, this time more quickly since the air was brisk and a bit chilly. Ty had some energy to burn at the end, so he took off like a bat out of hell, careening along the trail back to the cars; Doug and I raced back panting while Barb and Christine took their time.

After dropping Ty back off at the ranch, the four of us headed off again for a little wine tour, heading back the way we’d come to East Kelowna to sample the goodies at the Raven Cidery, a small establishment with a chicken pen and a goat house, the Avalon Winery, and the House of Rose Winery. The cider tasted like port and was very expensive so we passed on it but each of us made purchases at the two wineries. I picked up a nice bottle of Pinot Gris at Avalon, while Barb and Christine each nabbed a couple of bottles of Gewurtztraminer and Merlot. To complete the evening we BBQ’d some steaks on the courtyard of the OK Seasons and sampled the hot tub and Sauna. A gaggle of young women from Vancouver were staying at the resort for a stagette and came giggling into the pool room carrying two gigantic pink balloon cocks and a male blow-up doll just as we were leaving – lots of fun had by all!

The next day Barb, Doug, Christine and I tried out the downtown Kelowna Art Walk, a several block long cruise through the city and along the lakefront, and enjoyed the several sculptures found there. My favourites were the two silver metal pieces next to the Kelowna Library, one a nautilus-shell-shaped arrangement with engraved and relief sculptures of animal species and the other a standing infinity-shaped ribbon in which letters, numbers, and symbols were incised.

The Grand Hotel and Casino complex on the lakefront is the most upscale part of Kelowna; here, a speedboat erected on a plinth is displayed as a sculpture just outside the front door; inside bronze dolphins frolic. In the lagoon encircling the complex are many high speed, high cost boats parked next to the condos; I mused that the people I’d met in the village of Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, would be absolutely amazed at this display of luxury and wealth which for some here is merely commonplace … The preserved marsh area just north of the beach includes a few trees for nesting eagles and other large birds and a wooden boardwalk from which to admire the ducks. Nature has been made into a small museum here; as Doug noted, it’s a bit sad.

We also visited Roger, a friend of Doug’s who’s the winemaker for Grey Monk and also has his own small home winery in Oyama/Winfield, just north of Kelowna. His place has a beautiful view of Kalamalka Lake, a rich deep greenish-blue on that day. Roger gave us the lowdown on his operation (an enormous amount of work, particularly considering that he and his wife both have day jobs and two young children) and let us sample several of his creations. Each of us left with quite a few bottles – the Intrique Gewurtztraminer, especially, was a hit with us.

Read more about the Myra Canyon here. See more pictures of the canyon trip here. See pictures of the Kelowna Art Walk and lakefront here.

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