A series on the best Okanagan trails continues today with the Skaha Lake Loop located between Penticton and Okanagan Falls.

This circle route is mainly the abandoned South Spur of the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) on the west side of Skaha Lake and East Side Road (also called Eastside Road) on the other side of the lake.

Several trail websites focus only on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail as a 26- or 27-kilometre out-and-back trail in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

However, many hikers and cyclists start at Wright’s Beach Camp RV Campground on Highway 97 at the south entrance to Penticton. It’s not clear where the trail and campground begin and end but the vehicle-wide gravel trail follows the edge of Skaha Lake through Kaleden to Okanagan Falls.

The northern and southern sections of the KVR Trail are reminiscent of the Okanagan Rail Trail between Kelowna and Coldstream. But the centre section of the KVR Trail was lost to residential development many years ago and you have to walk or pedal down local streets like Ponderosa Avenue in Kaleden.

Those who want to complete the entire Skaha Lake Loop can park at Skaha Lake Park on Skaha Lake Road in Penticton, named one of Canada’s top beaches by Chatelaine magazine. Follow the waterfront promenade east to Eastside Road and then head south, the same route used by Granfondo and triathlon cycle racers.

Caution: Eastside Road may be used by the top athletes, but the roadway progressively worsens as you head south. The wide bike path in Penticton becomes a narrow paved path (as small as 30 centimetres wide) and eventually disappears with only a narrow gravel shoulder. So weekdays are better than weekends and mid-day is better than what constitutes rush hour.

An interesting alternative to following Eastside Road all the way to Okanagan Falls is to take the Granfondo route onto McLean Creek Road (watch for small signs). It leads along slight up-and-down terrain through farmland and vineyards with lots of farm animals grazing beside the tar-and-gravel road.

McLean Creek Road turns into 10 Avenue in Okanagan Falls where you head north on Highway 97 (Main Street) to 7 Avenue, Christie Memorial Provincial Park and then Kenyon Park, perfect locations for lunch or a break.

RCAF pilot officer Robert G. Christie was killed in action on Sept. 23, 1943, the only serviceman from Okanagan Falls to die in the course of the Second World War.

Railway Avenue at the west end of Kenyon Park takes you through Lions Garden Park to the KVR Trail and the KVR Trestle Bridge, often lined with people fishing.

Okanagan Falls has lots of parking to start the loop there. In Kaleden, you can join the KVR Trail at Pioneer Park where there is a lovely beach and lots of parking.

However, the Skaha Lake Loop or out-and-back KVR Trail wouldn’t be complete without a ice cream stop (once the pandemic ends) at Tickleberrys at the south end of Main Street (Highway 97).

The Okanagan Falls Winery Association (theheartofwinecountry.ca) has posted an area map there showing the location of its 15-member wineries, another reason to take a break from cycling, as well as showing the KVR Trail and East Side Road.

The scenery on the abandoned rail bed is picturesque and it is easy to look around. We have seen small shy rattlesnakes there and last Monday, a metre-long bull snake was wriggling across the trail just south of Wright’s. Watch for trumpeter swans and other birds at Sickle Point, and check out the remnants of the old Kaleden Hotel built in 1912, closed during the First World War and abandoned during the Depression.

A bit of trivia. The Kettle Valley Rail Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail comprise the longest rail trail network in British Columbia extending from Hope to Castlegar. Once a comprehensive railroad system, the decommissioned tracks are now home to an extensive recreational trail providing almost 650 kilometres of connected pathways throughout the region.

The first KVR passenger train pulled into the Penticton railway station on June 31, 1915. The railway station was beside a wharf at the base of Martin Street close to where the Penticton Peach is today.

Penticton was once the KVR headquarters with two stations, a wharf connecting with steam ships, and its own luxury railway hotel.

—————

Kayaking buddy Andrew was concerned recently when he and partner Morag were paddling local lakes under sunny skies and observed other paddlers wearing only T-shirts and shorts. The air temperature may be in the teens, but the water is still cold enough to numb hands in a matter of minutes.

That makes it progressively more difficult and eventually impossible to climb back into your kayak. And then your clothing is so cold that hypothermia is a possibility.

—————

Parks staff with the Regional District of Central Okanagan continue their RDCO Parks Instagram Live programs next week:

— Tuesday features Storytime on “Flowers and Bees.”

— Wednesday offers “Life Under the Lily Pads” as park interpreters explore what lives beneath the lily pads.

— “Learn to Fish” on Thursday and discover the secret to catching fish in the Okanagan.

— Take a geology lesson Friday as parks staff

explores a cool geological site in a regional park.

— “Wildflower Salad” is the program next Saturday. Find out what the wild residents of regional parks put on their dinner table.

Instagram Live programming is at 10 a.m. on weekdays and

1 p.m. on Saturdays.

A popular program encouraging youngsters to experience the sport of fishing in a regional park will not be held this year. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Go Fish program has been cancelled for this year in Mission Creek and Shannon Lake regional parks.

—————

With water levels rising, the Regional District of North Okanagan has temporarily closed BX Creek Trails within the BX Ranch Dog Park running to Haynes Road. BX Dog Park remains open but a section of trails within it have been deemed unsafe due to high water levels.

—————

Kelowna Paddle Centre was planning to present the 2020 Paddling Film Festival on April 21 as a fundraiser for its junior programs. Due to the coronavirus, it has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. All tickets purchased for April 21 will be honoured.

The Paddling Film Festival is an international adventure film tour presenting the world’s best paddling films of the year.

Kelowna Paddle Centre is a not-for-profit organization that provides paddling opportunities for families and individuals, aged two to 80. KPC offers summer camps, learn-to-paddle programs and classes for all ages and skill levels.

J.P. Squire is a retired reporter. Email: jp.squire@telus.net.