When the tail lights of the van that had dropped me off finally disappeared, I was probably the only person within miles. The air on the late October morning was crisp and the dark grey mass of cloud was floating so low that I could almost touch it. Everything in that day promised me rain – what a fine day for cycling in the Okanagan, wouldn’t you say?
In front of me started the Kettle Valley Rail trail and the impressive wooden trestles of Myra Canyon. I wished it had been a nicer day, but I was on a schedule, on a job actually, and today was the day for the cycling and there wasn’t really a way around it. Despite the gloomy skies, the trestles were striking in their grandeur. In all honesty, the weather went quite well with the scenery that had been destroyed repeatedly by many forest fires over the recent years.
The 18 trestle bridges and two tunnels that lay on the first 12km stretch of the cycling route sure made a scenic start to my day. I was cycling on the hills high above Kelowna at around 1200 meters and the views to Okanagan lake and the valley were quite stunning with fall colours adding splashes of yellow and orange here and there. For a while my route took me through a flat and fast forest trail where I was able to grow the distance between me and the looming rain that hadn’t caught up to me yet.
Soon I was on a softer road, which was much more laborious to pedal but the scenery was once again different and kept my mind occupied. I had left the dense part of the forest behind and was now on a more open forest area that could only be defined as wilderness. Beautiful, rough, isolated. I would not have been surprised had I spotted some wildlife here, but I was extremely thankful that no bears came my way!
When I started my adventurous cycling in the Okanagan trip, I had no idea how long would it take to bike 80km -I had never done it before. Nothing even remotely similar to such a distance. Would I be back before it got dark? Wait, did I need bear spray because I didn’t bring any?
Perhaps it was the dark rain clouds that were looming in the not-so- far-distance that got me cycling faster than I expected and with glee I noticed I was approaching the southern end of the Okanagan Lake in the early afternoon. Now, this was the best part and not just because the cycling route was in stellar condition and the rain clouds had decided not to follow me this far. This was the best part simply for one reason; wine. And to ensure I had some, I had booked a night at Therapy Vineyards & Guesthouse. YES, I spent the night at a working vineyard (well, in their comfy guesthouse obviously) and it was fabulous. And yes, I did indeed buy a bottle of ‘The Freudian Sip‘, which must be one of the most aptly named wines I have seen. And I can tell you that they are a pretty imaginative bunch in the Okanagan region when it comes to naming vineyards and wines!
The next morning I took my time as I was in no hurry; the skies looked much less threatening than yesterday and I had only a short distance to go. The Naramata Bench is a famous (in Canada anyway) wine growing region and there are a whopping 35+ wineries in approximately 20km stretch of road. I lost count of the wineries for sure but that’s really not the main point anyway.
When I eventually hopped on my bike I pedalled for about 2 kilometres until I had to stop and think if noon was too early for wine tasting. I decided it was not, and stopped for a visit at Hillside Winery and Bistro. There I got a little impromptu tour of the production area too and my bike was safe the whole time as they have a bike rack meant for cycling wine tourists. Well, not for the tourists but rather their bikes. The winery is located right of the Kettle Valley rail trail so they see a fair number of pedalling wine enthusiasts and even have a spandex friendly bistro (their words, not mine!). It was a little too early to be eating (too early for eating but not too early for wine tasting..hmm, logic never was my strong suit), so I continued cycling literally in between vineyards as the photo on the very top shows.
Some wineries were already closed for the season as it was end of October, but thankfully I happened to pass by D’Angelo Estate Winery when the owner was around and he invited me in for some wine tasting – of course! He also told me about his family business and about the region itself, which I really appreciated since I had never visited there before. I saw quite a few signs for estates for sale and he admitted that it’s tough business. Still, I could not help but dream about buying a winery in this stunningly beautiful area and live happily ever after. Perhaps it’s my retirement plan.
As I neared the end of my cycling in the Okanagan adventure I got a glimpse of the dangers on this beautiful route amongst wineries. I know what you’re thinking but no, it does not have anything to do with having had too much wine and trying to stay on the winding path (although I can see how that could become a problem!). The thing is that the vineyards are appealing not just for us but also for animals. I almost could not believe my eyes when I came across a cyclist getting up and picking up pieces that had fallen off his bike and saw a grape hungry deer jumping away. The guy had literally hit a deer on a bicycle! Later when I was driving my rental car up to the hills to my B&B I almost hit not one, but four deer, so they definitely like to hang around in the area.
From my massive balcony at the Crooked Tree B&B I watched the sun set behind the hills and enjoyed the view with a glass of Riesling as my companion. After two days of cycling in the Okanagan this was the perfect place to take a moment to appreciate the simple pleasures in life; a little bit of adventure and exploring, beautiful scenery and an excellent glass of wine. What more could you ask for?
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