Five ways you can enjoy B.C.'s Thompson Okanagan
Ed Kruger recently picked up 20 brand-new mountain bikes. The Kelowna-based travel guide now has over 100 bikes in his fleet, and he’s looking at a busy season.
A few days before he was reached for a phone interview on April 16, Kruger took tourists from Montreal pedalling for two hours on the restored rail trestles high above Myra Canyon, 18 kilometres from downtown. Lunch was at a winery. In all, the tour took six hours.
“Most of my cycling is leisurely cycling to gourmet food and wine,” Kruger told the Georgia Straight. “We don’t do any crazy, hard-core rides. Our rides are usually between 20 and 60 kilometres.”
Known in the business as Trailhead Ed, Kruger arranges and leads bike-touring expeditions across the Thompson Okanagan region. He provides bikes, helmets and other gadgets, transportation, and snacks and water, and he makes reservations for lunches and evening accommodation as well.
What he’s particularly excited about right now is his three-day tour. Called the B.C. High Line Tour, it was chosen by National Geographic Adventure magazine as one of the 25 best new trips in the world for 2010.
The first of nine of these excursions lined up by Kruger this year kicks off on the Victoria Day long weekend, starting on May 21.
On the first day, cyclists launch from McCulloch Lake, proceeding through the 18 trestles and two tunnels of Myra Canyon, which form a section of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a former railway line that’s been converted to a multi-use recreational trail. They then descend to Kelowna for winery stops. The first day is capped with dinner in town.
Day 2 begins with a drive in one of Kruger’s vehicles to Chute Lake Resort, above the village of Naramata. From there, cyclists go on a downhill ride to Penticton for a nice lunch and some more winery stops. Kruger’s charges spend the night in town.
“Final day we cycle up to Summerland, and jump on the steam train and do a steam-train ride through Summerland,” Kruger said. “Then after that, we finish with a winery lunch.”
Some may not have the stamina to complete the routes laid out by Kruger, but this shouldn’t be a problem. They can always hop on the tour van and get a head start to some of the wineries on the way.
“Life is good,” Kruger said of the fun he’s been having since he quit his job at a local soda plant to start up Monashee Adventure Tours 18 years ago. He’ll turn 48 this year.
Taking in the breathtaking sights of the Thompson Okanagan on a bike with a sumptuous meal and a glass of wine at the end of the road may not be the thing for everyone. But there are other ways of exploring the region.
The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has several itineraries to choose from. Here are a few.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
A wilderness area of more than 500,000 hectares, this is B.C.’s fourth-largest provincial park. It is known for its mountain scenery and waterfalls. It also offers a range of outdoor adventure activities, including rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fly-fishing, and horseback riding.
Even a one-day stay can be packed with activities. Visitors can start with three hours of white-water rafting on the Clearwater River. This can be arranged through Interior Whitewater Expeditions.
The afternoon can be spent horseback riding at one of the lodges and ranches in the park.
Another option is to explore the many waterfalls in the area. Dawson Falls is billed as the park’s mini Niagara, with the 91-metre-wide Murtle River dropping over an 18-metre cliff, according to information provided by TOTA. “A few kilometres downstream from Dawson Falls, hear the muffled roar of Helmcken Falls well before you get there,” the TOTA itinerary for a one-day visit to Wells Gray states. “The Murtle River plummets 137 metres into the plunge pool below, and is one of B.C.’s most oft-photographed waterfalls.”
How about a round of golf? There’s a nine-hole course at the Wells Gray Golf Resort and RV Park. It’s located 20 minutes from the entrance to the park.
Accommodation is available, as well as camping at Clearwater Valley Resort.