Thompson Okanagan: let me count the ways!
Thompson Okanagan: let me count the
By Mike Keenan
When Elizabeth Barrett Browning
penned, "How do I love thee?" she was referring to British
Okanagan valley, neatly tucked between the Kootenay Rockies (east) and Cariboo mountains (west). Here, one may ski, shoot a
round of golf, horseback ride, tour an historic site and sip fermented grape
juice at an award-winning winery in a single day. Based upon outdoor recreation
and palette, allow me, like Elizabeth,
to enumerate the ways. For fans of David Letterman, here are the top ten picks,
beginning with recreation:
1. Mount Robson Provincial Park
is a 20-minute drive northeast from Valemount via Highways 5 and 16. Mount Robson, designated an UNESCO World Heritage
Site, claims the Canadian Rockies'
highest peak, an advancing glacier and the legendary Berg Lake Trail. Here,
views of iconic wilderness are incredibly awe-inspiring!
2. Apex Mountain, a 35-minute drive west from Penticton with 56 km (35
miles) of trails constitutes a must-do for cross-country skiers. The Swedish
National Team trained here! Inviting trails are located at the Nickel Plate
Nordic Centre and groomed for all abilities, including children and beginners.
Plus, there's a heated lodge with a
waxing room and kitchen facilities. For alpine aficionados, Apex Mountain
Resort with average annual snowfall of 6 m (19.6 ft), accumulates
impressive powder over varied terrain and offers short lift lines to accessible
The next two choices might be based solely upon their
sonorous, compelling names, yet they have plenty to offer as well:
3. Osoyoos inhabits the valley's southern tip, north of Washington State.
It exists in the middle of Canada's only desert, a prime grape-growing region with
more than 15 estate wineries within a short, 15-minute drive of the town
centre. A popular summer holiday destination, it has shaped into the geographic
solution for retirees who wish to escape harsher climates.
4. Sicamous, at the junction of Highway 97A and
the Trans Canada Highway,
occupies a narrow channel between Mara and Shuswap Lakes
and is known as the "Houseboat Capital of Canada." Ply the calm
waters of both lakes with the Monashee Mountain Range for a beautiful
background screen. There are golf courses, an expansive trail system and a
lively arts scene. Favoured by ideal snowmobiling conditions, Sicamous garnered
a snowmobile "Favourite Powder Riding" award.
5. Wells Gray Provincial
Park, a one-hour drive north from Clearwater, displays the impressive Helmcken
Falls, gauged twice the height of Niagara Falls, plunging with a roar, 137 m (449 ft) into Helmcken Canyon. Sunset viewing is de rigeur, the
whole canyon bathed in soft, orange light. The park promotes healthy hiking,
exhibiting lakes, rivers and streams traversing several geo-climatic zones with
an incredible variety of flora that favours black and grizzlybears, wolves,
cougars, lynx, bobcats, wolverine, moose, deer, mountain goats and caribou as
well as a myriad collection of birds (200 species), insects and freshwater
fish. Bring a camera for the breathtaking views.
Have you worked up an appetite?
Here are my choices for the palette.
6. The Okanagan
Wine Route includes 60 wineries with unique
ambience and tasting rooms, many clustered around the 111 km (69 mile)-long
impressive Okanagan Lake, where, after some tastings, one might spot Ogopogo, Canada's version of the Loch Ness Monster. This tasty
route snakes through the Okanagan
Valley from Osoyoos
in the south to Salmon Arm in the north.
It was Father Charles Pandosy, an Oblate missionary
who founded the region's first Roman
Catholic mission in 1860; but the good priest also planted BC's first vineyard and apple orchard in Kelowna. Vineyards
and orchards, including North America's first Aboriginal winery in Osoyoos, are scattered
throughout the valley with wine and fruit festivals throughout the year. The
region is blessed with near-perfect conditions for growing all types of fruit
including apples, peaches, cherries and apricots.
7. Vernon offers an array of appetizing local
food products and here one may discover how to cook with lavender at a lavender
farm; learn about honey production at a honey farm; buy artisan cheese from a
"boutique dairy"; pick fruit at a u-pick orchard or, if worn out from
hiking, purchase it from a roadside stand. Popular attractions include Gatzke's Farm Market, Kelowna Land
& Orchard, Davison Orchards and Planet Bee Honey Farm.
8. Remember those thick, dripping, sugary jam
sandwiches that you devoured as a child? The Summerland Sweets Factory
is a family-run company (since 1962) that produces jams, jellies and syrups
found on most grocers' shelves.
Tours of the factory are free and yes indeed, include delightful samples!
With freshwater fishing at its finest, the Thompson
Okanagan combines opportunities to satisfy both recreation and the palette It's home to more than 1,000 lakes, hundreds teeming
with salmon, kokanee, steelhead, whitefish and trout, where anglers cast while
viewing spectacular mountains, wetlands, waterfalls, old-growth cedar and
hemlock. Say goodbye to stress!
9. Freshwater fishing tours suit every budget
and skill level while fishing charters and resorts offer the equipment and
expertise needed to access any location however remote. With 200 nearby lakes
full of steelhead, eastern brook and Kamloops
trout, Dolly Varden, char and kokanee, Kamloops
is touted as a prime freshwater fishing destination. 2,000 hours of sunlight
per annum fuels underwater plant growth that supports large fish populations
while alkaline waters promote fast growth and size.
10. The Summerland Trout Hatchery, established
in 1928 ranks as the oldest, continuously running BC trout hatchery, yearly
stocking fish for 275 interior lakes. An interpretive centre features
aquariums, educational models, videos and displays for the entire family.
Now that you are suitably
famished, it's time to rate the best
area restaurants, but here I rely on Okanagan Life Magazine with the
results of their readers' survey:
1. The Brown Derby
2. Hungry Jack's (Enderby)
3. Intermezzo Restaurant (Vernon)
1. Bouchon's Bistro
2. Ric's Grill (Kamloops)
& Ricardo's Mediterranean
Kitchen (Lake Country)
3. Fresco Restaurant (Kelowna) & La Bussola
1. Black Iron Grill & Steak House (Penticton)
2. Cozy Bay Seafood Cafe (Summerland)
3. Cantaloupe Annie's (Oliver)
Mike Keenan writes a
weekly newspaper column for the St. Catharines
Standard and has been published in the Globe and Mail, Buffalo
Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Pulse
Magazine. He is editor of the zines, What Travel Writers Say: www.whattravelwriterssay.com
& Synapse Magazine: www.synapsemagazine.ca.
Mike is an award-winning poet and former President of the Canadian Authors
Association, Niagara and Vice-President of the
national body. He belongs to the North American Travel Journalist Association
and the Travel Media Association of Canada. In his "spare"
time, he is Executive Officer and founder of The Council on World Affairs of Canada:
Thompson Okanagan Tourism: Mount Robson (Alan Fortune), Nordic skier (Don
Shuswap Lake (Alan Fortune), Helmcken Falls, Blue Mountain Vineyards (Don
Erica's fruit stand (Don Weixl),
Kamloops (Don Weixl), Snowmobiling, sunrise on Kamloops Lake (Alan Fortune), Berg
Lake hikers (Alan Fortune), canoeing near Mt. Robson (Alan Fortune), sleigh
near Salmon Arm (Don Weixl), toboggan near Salmon Arm (Don Weixl), mileage sign
(Don Weixl), peppers (Don Weixl)
If you go
Thompson Okanagan Tourism: http://www.totabc.com
Apex Mountain Resort: http://www.apexresort.com/
Davison Orchards: http://www.davisonorchards.ca/
Gatzke's Farm Market: http://www.gatzkefarmmarkets.com/
Kelowna Land & Orchard: http://www.k-l-o.com/
Mount Robson Provincial Park: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mtrobson.html
Okanagan Life Magazine: http://www.okanaganlife.com/
The Okanagan Wine Route: http://www.grouptourplanner.com/Okanagan_Wine_Route.cfm
Planet Bee Honey Farm: http://www.planetbee.com/
Salmon Arm: http://www.salmonarm.ca/siteengine/activepage.asp?bhcp=1
The Summerland Trout Hatchery: http://www.gofishbc.com/slh.htm
Wells Gray Provincial Park: http://www.wellsgray.ca/
What's happening, money,
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/