Osoyoos desert blooms under a full moon

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      Walking in the moonlight on a summer’s night is pretty romantic to begin with. But the Osoyoos Desert Centre raises the bar with its annual Romancing the Desert event on August 8.

      As a midsummer full moon climbs in the sky, guests stroll along the 1.5-kilometre boardwalk that meanders through the desert landscape just outside Osoyoos. Visitors are given an educational tour and make about half a dozen stops along the way to mingle, sip Okanagan-produced wine, and nibble food pairings prepared by local restaurants.

      The centre is far enough away from the light of the town that you can forget it takes only a five-minute drive to get there—you become lost in the landscape.

      The event is a fundraiser for the centre, which is run by the Osoyoos Desert Society. Profits go toward habitat conservation and education.

      “I’m not one for hyperbole, but being in the desert at that time of year under the light of the full moon is purely magical,” says Denise Eastlick, the society’s executive director, in a phone interview. According to Eastlick, one year a mother and baby deer walked along a ridge in front of the moon and were silhouetted “just like the bike in E.T.”

      If you can’t make it out for the August event, the Osoyoos Desert Centre is open until early October for daytime self-guided or guided tours of the 67-acre conservation area.

      The centre offers hourlong guided tours every two hours during the summer. They’re a great way to learn about desert ecology, as well as the threatened and endangered species that have adapted to the area’s ecosystem.

      “There’s always something beautiful in bloom,” Eastlick says. Depending on the time of year, it could be the prickly pear cactus or the antelope brush that turns the landscape into a sea of yellow. There’s something magical about every time of the year in the Osoyoos desert.

      Access: To reach the Osoyoos Desert Centre, drive north from Osoyoos on Highway 97 and turn left at 146th Street. Continue up the hill until you see the centre on the left. Tickets for Romancing the Desert, which usually sell out, are $60, and are tax-deductible. See www.desert.org/ for more information.