Our favourite cycling days are ones with warm sunny weather and great scenery. We love to take time to explore interesting sites and visit inviting cafes and eateries. Sure the route could be done in one sweaty hour, but we prefer to savour the experience, taking two or three hours.
It’s early Saturday morning and the sun is warm on our backs as we head east along the 25th Avenue Linear Park. Our plan is to head north, but we take a quick cycle around Polson Park. A local karate club is holding a class behind gardens of pink phlox and yellow day lilies. We stop to admire the floral clock, and check the date, which is changed daily, then head downtown, eventually following the bike path along 20th Street.
After crossing 48th Street we veer off to the right onto BX Creek Trail. Here, nestled between residential subdivisions, is a boardwalk that follows the gurgling BX Creek, shielded from the urban noise by stands of tall black cottonwoods. This is a riparian ecosystem, a moist habitat for several endangered species. A keen eye might spot a Western Toad, a Little Brown Bat, or the exotic-sounding Rubber Boa. This cool, lush corridor connects Swan Lake to upper BX Creek. From here one can see a Great Blue Heron rookery in a stand of tall trees in front of Walmart. This is one of a very few breeding sites in an urban location. Three nests were first spotted in 1968 and there are now more than 40. The best time to see the herons is in March when they lay their eggs that require about a month to hatch. The baby birds are launched at about 10 weeks old.
At Stickle Road we turn up to Pleasant Valley Road and head to 46th Avenue/BX Road, where we turn east. Here is the original BX Ranch homestead, now best known for its large dog park. The road is moderately steep but we are protected by morning shade and soon connect with East Vernon Road. Near the corner is the BX Press Cidery and Orchard, open for tastings and tales of the BX, Friday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here we are entertained and educated, learning the origins of these well-known initials. In 1864, during the Cariboo gold rush, Francis Jones Barnard purchased 6,300 acres from the Crown to fatten cattle and raise express ponies used on his stage coach runs from the valley to the Cariboo. The ranch housed Barnard’s Express, the largest freighting company in B.C., with routes covering more than 1,000 miles and second in size only to the legendary Wells Fargo.
The cidery produces cider from a variety of apples grown on land that was part of this famous ranch. We taste three varieties, the Prospector, the Hostler and the Bandit. We leave, each carrying two bottles of cider in our panier bags.
We wind back through Vernon to Okanagan Landing Road, having clocked 25 km. We’ve discovered hidden wetlands, the rolling valley that was home to one of B.C.’s most famous ranches, and experienced the crisp taste of artisan cider. And now it’s time to get home and crack open a cold bottle of cider on the back deck.
Moira McColl is a freelance writer and cycling enthusiast in Vernon. This is the second in her six-part Urban Wanderer series on cycling in the area, with the hope that it will encourage locals and visitors alike to explore the North Okanagan on two wheels.