Oliver trais

J.P. SQUIRE/Special to The Okanagan Weekend

The International Hike and Bike Trail meanders along the west side of Okanagan River for 18.4 kilometres of which almost 10 kilometres is paved. The trail is flat and easily accessible.

The South Okanagan rocks! Six friends decided to celebrate the arrival of fall by combining three days of cycling trails in the Oliver area with the eighth annual Garlic Festival last Saturday and the Festival of the Grape last Sunday.

The website exploreoliverbc says:

“A favourite thing to do in Oliver is to walk or ride a bike down the International Hike and Bike Trail. The trail is mostly paved, flat, easily accessible and is completely car-free.

“This well-maintained trail that meanders along the west side of Okanagan River (there is a dike-access trail on both sides in many sections) is 18.4 kilometres long of which almost 10 kilometres is paved. South of Oliver, the last eight kilometres towards Osoyoos is gravel.

“Although the trail access is right in the heart of Oliver, once you are on the trail, you are surrounded by nature. There are several oxbows and ponds where you can observe ducks, herons, eagles and painted turtles in their home environment.”

It’s also a three-season attraction, says the website.

“In early summer, watch for the beautiful lily pads that flower bright pink in the ponds. In the summer months, you will find great spots for picnics and secluded swims in the river. Fall brings the changing colors of leaves; the bright red sumac is photo-worthy. Fall is also the perfect time for watching salmon spawn in the Okanagan River.”

There are three well-known access points: the beginning of the trail at McAlpine Bridge where Highway 97 crosses the Okanagan River, and two in Oliver, one behind the Oliver Tourist Information Centre and the other behind Kinsman Playground and Water Park.

However, there are also access points inside and outside of Oliver anywhere a bridge passes over the Okanagan River.

Hellobc.com says: “Wine touring, desert scenery and cycling route in one, the International Hike and Bike Trail runs for 18.4 kilometres (11.4 miles) between Osoyoos and Oliver, taking you past 11 wineries … in Canada’s only true desert climate.”

We popped into the Oliver Tourist Information Centre to buy our tickets to the Festival of the Grape.

Outside the centre is a large 3-D-stylized map showing the trail, local roads and places of interest. Take a photo with your cellphone or digital camera that you can refer to once you are on the trail or afterward. Caution: the map is not to scale.

Two hikers on the other side of the river warned us they saw a bear beside the halfway bridge we just crossed and saw bears at both ends of the trail. We started dinging our bike bells a lot. And wished we would have brought the bear spray.

You should learn to recognize what we call puncturevine although it is more like a bush than a vine. When it dries out, the short thorns will deflate a bike tire. We found a lot of it, often encroaching on the trail.The Garlic Festival at Hester Creek Estate Winery was free, but we had to cycle up the steep hill on Road 8. There was lots of garlic for sale, samples of garlic-infused everything, artisan crafters, food trucks and live music in support of the Oliver Elementary School’s Farm to Table lunch program.

Across the road is Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery for more tastings, but the highlight of our wine tour on Saturday was Silver Sage Winery where proprietor Anna Mandola served us numerous wines, all excellent quality, and a large dose of humour. Thoroughly enjoyable and not to be missed on your next tour of Oliver wineries.

Silver Sage founders Anna and Victor Manola emigrated to the Okanagan from Romania 32 years ago. Winemaking comes naturally to the Manola family as they have four generations of winemaking experience behind them.

Victor shared his father’s experience in grape growing as back home he managed 25 hectares of vineyard. Anna’s father managed a 600-hectare vineyard and was its winemaker. From him, Anna learned the secrets of making a unique fruit wine that Silver Sage now produces.

Silver Sage was one of more than 50 wineries pouring $1 samples at the 23rd annual wine festival at Oliver Community Park. Anna’s retired sister, Elena Dudlettes, served the Sheriff three samples of his favourite, “the hot one” — raspberry wine with The Flame — which significantly warms your throat even though you are just sipping it.

We arrived just after noon and after a long lineup to get in with $30 tickets (three free samples), we spent almost all afternoon there, walking, not cycling, back to our campground at The Lakeside Resort.

Don’t trust Google on its description of the resort since pets aren’t allowed in July and August, and there is a hot tub, just for cabin guests and not for campers. And golf? Not that we saw. And it has full rates right up to Thanksgiving when camping ends (a small number of sewage/water/power sites remain open all winter).

The Festival of the Grape is definitely worth the effort with a rock band on stage, food trucks, merchant market, kids zone, fall art show and sale ($2 admission) and grape stomp competition, in addition to more wines than you can possibly sample.

If you want a less crowded experience, choose another weekend for a leisurely exploration of the trail and Oliver’s wineries.

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Last weekend, the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society held an official unveiling for a huge mural by the Gallagher’s Canyon Art Society about a kilometre from the Myra parking lot, south of Kelowna. The installation was in the storm shelter near trestle no. 11.

“We lucked out weather-wise as the temperature up there was about 5 C during the day. There was frost on the ground in the early morning but it warmed up as the sun rose,” said society president Denis Davis.

In August, the original was installed in the new Tourism Kelowna Visitor Center in downtown Kelowna. A digital reproduction was produced for the storm shelter.

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On Wednesday, the Sheriff tried to catch up with a group of Central Okanagan Outdoors Club cyclists on the Mission Creek Greenway.

Unfortunately, the group went up the steep hill to The Ponds neighbourhood in the Upper Mission area of Kelowna instead.

So the Sheriff biked up the Greenway past the Hollywood Road South trailhead and past the three major bridges to check out a stair replacement project by Cabin Forestry Services of Vernon.

Work started on Tuesday so this part of the trail will be closed each weekday and four weekday evenings until late November.

“Crews will be replacing five sets of aging crib stairs along a steep, half-kilometre section upstream from the Smoothing Stones Bridge to make it safer for use,” said

regional district communications officer Bruce Smith.

“This requires the section to be closed each Monday morning through Friday afternoon, including evenings.

“While the stairs are being replaced, this section of the Greenway will be open for visitors from late Friday afternoon through each weekend.”

Cabin Forestry Services did the original stairway cribbing 10 years ago and was also responsible for upgrading the High Rim Trail between Joe Rich near Kelowna to Vernon many, many years ago.

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Registered members of the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club are invited to attend the annual general meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the German Canadian Harmony Club, 1696 Cary Rd., in Kelowna. The club will also hold its annual Firewood Day on Oct. 27. Those who want to share a ride can meet at 9 a.m. at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna or at 10 a.m. at the main cabin. There will be firewood cutting at the Log and Meadow cabins on Oct. 19 with the same schedule. Phone Hugh Carmichael at 250-763-5214 for more details.

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A reminder that the Best of the Fest tour of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Kelowna Community Theatre. Tickets are available at most outdoor stores in Kelowna.

The guest speaker will be Barry ‘Bubba’ Blanchard who is considered one of Canada’s foremost alpine climbers.

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The Vernon Ski and Snowboard Swap is 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Vernon Recreation Centre, 3310 – 37th Ave. in Vernon.

Consignments of new and used equipment and clothing will be accepted 3:30-7 p.m. on Friday with consignment tickets at $2 each. Payout is 12:30-3 p.m. on Oct. 19.

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If you are interested in Okanagan wildlife, then the Nature Power Hour at the EECO is for you.

The drop-in session takes place on Saturdays at 11 a.m. outside the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan in Mission Creek Regional Park, Springfield and Durnin roads in Kelowna.

For more information, go to: rdco.com/parksevents or call the EECO at 250-469-6140.

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The fall edition of the Tracks Walking Club is now underway.

A walking leader is co-ordinating this free nine-week outdoor walking program. As a member of the club, you will receive support and motivational tips to keep you moving in nature.

Walks started at 15 minutes and increase in duration by five minutes per walk until participants are walking 60 minutes per walk over the nine-week program. Call 250-469-6140 or email eeco@cord.bc.ca to see if space is available.

Two locations are available: Mission Creek Regional Park, 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Nov. 27 and Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park in West Kelowna at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays through Nov. 26.

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You can participate in a virtual scavenger hunt while you explore Bertram Creek Regional Park today with the Agents of Discovery App.

Download the free app onto your smartphone from the App Store or Play Store and join regional parks staff at the south end of Lakeshore Road between noon and 4 p.m. It’s a great way to explore trails and features in this 18-hectare waterfront park.

You don’t have to pre-register, just visit the park. A parks services crew will be there to greet you and help you get started. Bring a mobile device (iOS and Android) so you can plug into the virtual treasure hunt. For more information, go to: rdco.com/parksevents or call the EECO at 250-469-6140.

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A special Spooktacular Pumpkin Walk pre-Halloween event will be held on Oct. 27 at Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna.

Drop off your carved pumpkin with an LED light inside at the Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan from 3 to 5 p.m. Then, from 5 to 8 p.m., wear your best costume, stroll the pathways of illuminated and creatively carved jack-o-lanterns in the park, and cast your vote for the best pumpkins. Prizes will be awarded for the scariest, most original and funniest jack-o-lanterns.

For more information, go to: rdco.com/parksevents or call the EECO at 250-469-6140.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net