Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Visit to Penticton

This weekend we were invited to Penticton by our friends Sig & Helen.  Sigs parents own a rural property a few miles outside town where we could stay.  Although Sigs parents were away on vacation in France at the time they very generously offered their home to us in their absence and hoped we would all get to meet next time we are in the area.

Mojo is packed and ready to go.


There are two ways of reaching Penticton from Vancouver.  You can either take the Crowsnest Highway (97c) through Manning Park which is very scenic but can be torturously slow if you get stuck behind RV’s or trucks or you can take the Coquihalla Highway (5) then the Okanagan Connector south. This is a simpler route but less interesting.

We decided on the scenic route going as we had all day to make the 4-5hr journey and could stop in Manning Park and perhaps do a walk while we were passing through.  However, the weather was cold & wet until we were the other side of the Coast Mountain range so the idea of stopping for a walk in Manning Park was somewhat less attractive once we were there.

We continued on into the dry desert terrain of the interior where the weather was much nicer (20 degrees and dry in Penticton versus 9 degrees and rain in Manning Park). 

Penticton is situated on a narrow strip of land between the huge Okanagan Lake to the north and much smaller Skaha Lake to the south.  Our route through Manning Park eventually brings us up the South West side of Skaha Lake.  We pull over at a small lakeside picnic area for Mojo to stretch his legs.  He seems happy to be out of the car but looking at us rather suspiciously – perhaps he’s wondering what we’ve done with all the green grass and trees he’s used to at home ?


These views towards Penticton across Skaha Lake.


Easterly and South Easterly views along Skaha Lake.



Then a plane comes in to land at Penticton airport, sweeping around right in front of us.



And makes its approach for the runway.


We didn’t stop as planned in Manning Park so had arrived a little early in the town and Sig was not yet at the house so we needed to spend a few minutes while she caught us up.  We decided to grab an ice cream.  Funnily enough Mojo appears to like Dairy Queen Blizzard Treats too……as demonstrated by his ridiculously long tongue.


So we eventually arrive at Sigs parents house.  It is situated about 9km North East of Penticton on the East side of Lake Okanagan, about halfway between Penticton and the next town along the lake called Naramata in an area known as the Naramata Bench.

The ranch house is set on just over 6 acres and is approached via a long winding driveway. Single level at the front the sloping terrain gives way to a large two-level home at the rear. 


About 2 acres of the property is dedicated to their own hobby vineyard, with about 3 or so as pasture where they keep a couple of cows and then the remaining grounds include the house, formal gardens, decks, terrace, pool area and then a large paddock seen to the right of the house in this photo which was relatively flat and grassy and a great spot for the dogs to run around.


This view is of the back of the house with the living accommodation upstairs taking advantage of the decks and lovely views and most of the sleeping areas downstairs.


There were multiple level decks and patios for catching sun at all times of the day.


Almost all of the house and the decks enjoyed lovely views over their own vineyard, paddocks and then beyond over Lake Okanagan.



Panorama view from the deck at the back of the house.

Helen, Max and Bella aren’t arriving until later as they couldn’t leave until after school hours so we had a few extra hours to settle in, prepare dinner and enjoy an aperitif or two.  This is Sig & Helens friend Sharon (left) playing cards with Sig and Basil.


David prepares the pork tenderloins on the BBQ.


Finally the rest of the troops arrive, unload the car and we sit down for an excellent meal of wild sockeye salmon, salad, pork tenderloin, rice and spicy ‘granddad sauce’.  Around the table clockwise from the left – David, Max, Sig, Bella, Sharon, Basil and Helen.


Sig had of course brought Mojos best friend Buddy, her black lab.  Plus, Sigs parents have two black labs themselves, Belle who is 10yrs old and an older girl now who struggles with lots of running around and Maggie who is 5yrs old and acts like a 9mth old puppy !  Belle is Buddys mum and Maggie is Buddys sister.

All three of the labs will take your attention for some fuss given the opportunity.

IMG_2582 Mojo turns a blind eye while Belle gets her belly rubbed.

IMG_2585 The following morning we were up fairly early to let the dogs run around and burn off some energy.  It was a good opportunity to explore the gardens.  We really noticed how much more colour there still was in the gardens around Penticton and Sigs parents house was no exception.  The location of the Okanagan behind the Coast Mountain range gives them a much longer summer then down on the coast where we are already slipping into fall.

These beds were in the front garden alongside the driveway.


Baskets and planters at the front of the house.

IMG_2596 An excellent range of dahlias






After an explore of the gardens and paddock we had a terrific hearty breakfast of homemade waffles, fruit, bacon and syrup.

By then the sun was coming around onto the back of the house so we took the dogs down to the pool for some aqua aerobics.  Unfortunately the pool is not heated so none of the adults were brave enough to jump in themselves (didn’t stop Bas, Max and Bella) and it was definitely still fair game for the dogs.  The game with the labs is to throw a Kong attached to a rope into the pool, the dogs leap into the deep end to get them then swim out climbing up the steps.  Simple, and they love it !

Maggie returning with her catch.


Even Belle is doing great, she still loves swimming and they believe the water helps her joints.


Buddy demonstrates the flying leap into the pool.


Mojo, much as he loves water and swimming is quite particular about how it should happen – ideally a nice calm piece of water with a gentle slope down into it is his perfect scenario.  Needless to say the mini-tidal waves caused by the repeated belly-flops of three 70lb labs and the quite steep steps down into the pool meant Mojo just couldn’t bring himself to get in and swim.  He raced around the pool area quite a bit watching all the fun but settled for just paddling on the steps.


A quick piece of movie showing the dogs around the pool.

Although Mojo wouldn’t actually swim, getting him out of the pool once he’d discovered paddling on the steps was difficult.


As the dogs dried off in the sun and we prepared to go out for the day we were treated to a small fly-by by five small planes.


They flew past us once shown below, then they returned and did a loop or two before disappearing.

Since the earliest European settlers arrived in the Okanagan the region has been a hugely successful fruit growing area.  Every road is lined with fruit stands selling the wares of the adjacent farms – right now there were nectarines, peaches, plums, apples, pears.

However the mid 1990’s saw a shift in the agriculture of the region from fruit to vineyards.  While this was not good news for some of the original local industries that relied on the fruit, as a whole it has brought in a huge amount of new wealth to the region and a vast new tourist industry.  According to wiki there are 88 wineries within an hour of Penticton (I could well believe there are more than that now) and 22 on the Naramata bench alone.

All of the wineries are open seven days a week with tasting rooms where you can sample their produce for free (or a token $2/visit donation to charity) and decide if you want to buy.  Some of the winery names were ones we were familiar with having bought their wines in liquor stores previously.  However, many of the others are smaller operations and you can only buy their wine in selected restaurants or direct at the winery.

We couldn’t think of a better way to spend a sunny summers afternoon in the Okanagan than visiting a few recommended wineries. The first was Lake Breeze which was situated about 5km from the house we were staying in. 


Lake Breeze winery is unusual is so much as it has it’s own patio restaurant which we decided would be a great spot for lunch.  While we waited for a table we visited the tasting room.  I was surprised what a laid-back and informal atmosphere it was, no pretentions and no expectations for you to know or care more or less about particular wines – just a good chance to taste the different ones they have and decide what you like !

David, Sig and Sharon in the tasting room.


Then our table was ready in the restaurant so we had a fantastic and brilliant value meal in their lovely patio restaurant.  There is no indoor area at all, it’s all out in the courtyard, screened from the sun by large umbrellas – testament to the long dry summers they have.  Wouldn’t really work in Vancouver unless they supplied the patrons with wetsuits !


As we leave Lake Breeze Sig and Sharon point out the house that they think they could imagine living in…..if they were forced to.


David, Mojo and I next to the Lake Breeze vineyards.


After Lake Breeze we visited Poplar Grove winery and then La Frenz, both of which were within a couple of kilometres of where we were staying.

These were the vineyards at La Frenz.


Their grapes ready for harvesting soon.

IMG_2659 IMG_2660

After a long and fun afternoon we eventually met Helen, Helens mum Jill and the kids back at the house had another excellent meal and a relaxing evening at the house.

The following morning was grey and overcast but otherwise dry.  After breakfast Sig, Sharon and I went and checked out a neighbours property as they were away on vacation so wanted an eye kept on it.  They are slightly around the corner from Sigs parents home so have a more southerly view down the lake towards Penticton from the back of their property.


Closer view of Penticton from the neighbours patio.


After this we put Belle the old lab back in the house and head out for a walk with the dogs.  Running alongside the boundary of sigs parents property is the Kettle Valley Railway Trail – a multiuse recreational trail created from the abandoned Kettle Valley Railroad which ran right through southern BC from Alberta to Hope but was gradually closed between 1961 and 1989.  The trail makes a great local spot to run the dogs as it’s easy flat walking and safe being away from any roads.


Some sections of the old railway had to be cut through great swaths of rock.

IMG_2666 Sig had mentioned that we are in ‘Rattler Country’ and having grown up here knew what to listen and look for to keep safe from rattlesnakes. 

IMG_2667 Views to the North up the lake past the town of Summerland on the opposite bank.


The trail continues as light gravel, flat and easy.  It is multi use so potentially you could meet cyclists, horses etc although we only saw other walkers.


The panorama view from the Kettle Valley Railway at the point at which we turned around and started heading back to the house.

Sig commands the attention of all three dogs with us, I’m sure it’s nothing to do with the treats she’s handing out.

IMG_2671 Is that an impostor ?

IMG_2672 We walk back up through the paddocks owned by Sigs parents.


We pass one of their cows.


Bella goes to say hi to one of the cattle.  Not seen here because we weren’t videoing Mojo then goes bouncing up to the cow all guns blazing to try and protect Bella from the big hairy beast with horns.  It was very cute.  The cow just looked at Mojo with total contempt wondering who this little upstart from the city was.


We pass through their own vineyard.


Their grapes are getting ready too.  Thanksgiving Weekend is apparently the usual time that they harvest so it’s all hands on deck at that time.


After the walk we pack bags, load the cars and tidy the house then bid farewell to everybody. 

Immediately after leaving the house we stop at the Ruby Tuesday winery as a friend of ours in Vancouver had asked us to pick up a couple of bottles of their wine.

IMG_2684 We pick a couple up for ourselves for good measure.


We then make our way towards home.  Rather than returning the way we came through Manning Park we decide to try the alternative route starting initially up the West side of Lake Okanagan through Summerland and Peachland before turning onto the Okanagan Connector and Coquihalla Highway back to Highway 1.

While Googling I discovered this map (click link) showing the altitude variation on the Okanagan Connector.  I had noticed that we did get very high as the temperature dropped from 16 degrees in Peachland to 6 degrees at the top and it was a long slog uphill to begin with.  In the direction we were driving we went from right-to-left on this map – as you can see it was about 30kms of almost continuous up hill.   It’s no wonder the ‘Okanagan Connector’ is a well known road name on traffic reports during winter conditions !

Despite the extra 20kms this route takes and torrential rain for most of the journey home we still shaved over 1hr off our outbound journey time so we will definitely use this route in future when visiting the North Okanagan.

It was a really fun weekend, thanks Sigs parents for allowing us the use of their lovely home and Sig & Helen for inviting us and being great hosts.  We will definitely want to visit this part of the Province again as it had such a different feel to the coast region, we want to explore the town of Penticton more which we didn’t really see this time plus the beaches on the two lakes which are both supposed to be excellent and of course………the other 85 wineries within an hours drive !

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