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. And there is no place better than the North Okanagan for such indulgent and interesting cycling!
It’s a sunny Wednesday morning when we rumble over the boardwalk in Polson Park. The map in the Greater Vernon Hiking and Biking Routes pamphlet has helped us decide on our route. We angle up 11th Avenue, slowing to a crawl on the hill to Middleton Way. A turn onto Sarsons Road and then onto Inverness Drive hooks us into Selkirk Drive where we pass the North Okanagan Regional District building. We coast down to the light at Highway 6, then turn on to Buchanan Road and strain as we climb another hill.
As we continue along Buchanan Road, our effort is rewarded by the sweeping view of the Coldstream valley, with its fields of tasselled corn, and green pastures reaching to the pine forests to the southeast. Much of this land is the Coldstream Ranch, first established in 1863 by three former British army officers: Charles Houghton, aged 24; Forbes George Vernon, aged 20, and his brother Charles, aged 23. In 1891 it was purchased by Lord Aberdeen, then Governor General of Canada, who began growing fruit trees. Since 1994 the ranch has been owned by Keith Balcaen, who runs it much in the same way it has always been managed.
Near Wallace Road we buy peaches at a fruit stand and devour them sitting under a tree in the orchard, then continue to the east end of Buchanan where we turn north towards a row of greenhouses high on the hill. The steep grade defeats us so we park our bikes and walk up to Lavington Roses, agreeing that this route would make a nice car ride! We walk into the greenhouse where rows of multi coloured roses and bold coloured gerberas grow. But flowers won’t travel well in our pannier bags, so we’ll have to get ours at the Vernon Farmers’ Market.
We mount our bikes and point them downhill toward Lavington. Behind the Lavington Market is Back to Earth Enviro Products and Soap Works, open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 4. Here is a world of delectable scents and soothing lotions, all made locally. There is a small selection of their cereal products that are now sold in 93 outlets in B.C. and Alberta. We’ve worked up an appetite and chose to go for lunch at Annette’s Bluenose Deli & Coffee Shop, where we enjoy delicious deli sandwiches and homemade muffins.
We continue south on School Road, passing Lavington Park; its free swimming pool is inviting but we pedal on. At the T intersection we turn right onto Learmouth Road going past Coldstream Willows Nursery, admiring its neat rows of manicured grass and trees and shrubs.
We head west on Highway 6, staying on the narrow shoulder for the couple of kilometers before reaching Kalamalka Road. The gradual downhill grade pulls us along with little effort towards Kal Beach.
Soon we are riding through Polson Park and on our way to Justice Park, across from the Court House. Here beside the boisterous waterfall we tap to the beat of Steel Wound, a folk band from Vernon, featured in a recent week’s Jammin in Justice, the Downtown Vernon Association’s summer noon-hour music in the park, a great way to chill out before we head home after 40 km and more than three hours of local exploration.
Moira McColl is a freelance writer and cycling enthusiast in Vernon. This is part of her 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.