Kelowna – Part 2

Day 4

Thursday morning was grey once more. We went back to Bright Jenny to start the day and then made our way to the Kelowna Art Gallery. Unfortunately, their main gallery was closed for an exhibition installation, but the other three were open with smaller exhibitions. I was most interested in a video of rotating “still-life” portraits taken during the early months of the pandemic called Social Distancing Portraits. The artist, Adad Hannah, had his subjects stay as still as they could for thirty seconds while he filmed them from a distance. Each living picture had accompanying music and interview text discussing the pandemic and social isolation, social justice movements, and police reform. It was an incredibly powerful and affecting exhibition.

At Bright Jenny

From the gallery, we walked down to the lakeshore. I popped into the visitor’s center for a bit, and then we continued along the waterfront. The Sylix/Okanagan people were the valley’s first inhabitants thousands of years before missionaries and settlers arrived from Britain and eastern Canada. Kelowna’s name is taken from the Syilx word for grizzly bear, and there are nods to it throughout town, including a large sculpture on the lakefront. Kelowna sits halfway along the thin s-curve of Okanagan Lake, which stretches 84 miles from Penticton to Vernon and is dotted with several smaller communities. Okanagan Lake even has a lake monster: Ogopogo! The Interior Salish First Nation people referred to N’ha-a-itk, the spirit of the lake. Those tales morphed into a creature called Ogopogo, an 82-foot green serpent-like beast with the head of a horse, goat, or reptile (descriptions vary). There have been “sightings” and photographs, but they have all proven inconclusive.

We wanted to sneak in a couple more wine tastings in the afternoon. We decided to drive across the lake to West Kelowna, stopping at a supermarket to buy lunch, wine snacks, and dinner items. We chose to visit Frind Estate Winery, a newer establishment with a gorgeous lakefront setting. Frind is certainly more upscale and offers more than just wine with an onsite restaurant, bakery, and cafe. It was quiet when we arrived, though, so it felt more approachable. We enjoyed a leisurely tasting – I tended to like their whites best – and then walked around the grounds. Their expansive lakefront lawn and beach are the main draw. I could imagine spending a warm summer afternoon with a crisp Viognier and a sandwich from the cafe out on the lawn.

We had time for one more stop before the wineries closed for the day, so we opted to drive back across the lake to Kelowna’s southeast bench. We drove along the water, where several lakefront parks looked like ideal summer escapes. We ended up at Summerhill Pyramid, an organic winery that also uses biodynamic farming practices. Like Gray Monk, it had a more commercial feel. Signs in multiple languages, a large parking lot, and an outdoor tasting pagoda gave the impression that the winery often accommodates large tour bus groups. When we arrived, it was clearly the end of the day, and the tasting room was emptying out. Our sommelier was helpful and knowledgable but not very talkative, and it felt like work to carry the conversation. Despite that, the wines were excellent, and he offered to let us try ice wine – something we have seen in Canada on many occasions and never understood. (It’s much, much too sweet for my taste.)

Summerhill’s patio

The tasting was free, so we bought a bottle of their Cabernet Franc and wandered outside to look at the pyramid before we left. We followed a set of steps up to the pyramid’s entrance and realized we could go inside! It was a bit dark, though the stairs were lit, and we stumbled up, embracing the mystery of it all. Inside, it’s basically a cellar where wines are brought to clarify within a True Pyramid. There’s a lot of mysticism and sacred geometry involved in the intervention of the pyramid. (If you’re curious, you can read the founder’s explanation.) It was a fun way to end our visit.

Day 5

Our last day was all about cross-country skiing! We were a bit early for the downhill ski season at the area resorts, but Silver Star Resort’s opening day for Nordic skiing was our final full day in BC. Zach called ahead of time and made a reservation for a classic-style Nordic lesson at 9:30, but that meant we needed to leave Kelowna around 7:30 to arrive and rent gear for our lesson. The drive to Vernon was gorgeous – the sun was out, and it promised to be a beautiful day. When we arrived at the ticket booth, there was a little confusion about where to send us since we still needed to pay for our lesson and rental gear. It all got sorted out in the end, but it was definitely a good thing we arrived early.

Our instructor was an Australian named Tas. She was awesome – very encouraging and personable. First, we went over to a mostly flat practice area to get acquainted with our skis. Tas had us do a lap up and back on one ski first, then switch to the other leg. Only after those single-ski laps did we put on both skis, and only after that did we add the poles. It was a great way to build up our skills and confidence. For the final part of our lesson, we went for a real run. The trail was a bit busy – which made me anxious – and it was so… not flat! It was excellent practice, but the slopes were intimidating on the descent and difficult on the return. Zach escaped unscathed, but I fell several times.

Exhausted, hungry, and sweaty, we retreated to Bugaboos Cafe for a snack and coffee at Tas’s suggestion. Since we have not invested in Nordic skiing attire, we were feeling fairly hot in our ski pants. Fortunately, I ditched my jacket when we arrived, and my fleece was more than enough on a sunny day. We each had a croissant sandwich and a coffee on the patio, where we were able to cool off. It had been slightly cloudy on the mountain when we arrived but cleared up during our lesson. By the time we were at Bugaboos, it was almost a perfect bluebird day.

Eager to get in more practice, we decided to try a different run on our own. It was a bit flatter than our first trail and much more my speed. There were some bobbles here and there but we both ended up feeling a lot more confident in our abilities. It was scenic too. We were often surrounded by soaring snow-flocked evergreens, lending an air of solitude to our exercise. Plus, while crossing some of the unopened downhill runs, we had expansive views of the valley below the mountain. We were pretty worn out by the time we returned to the resort, so we decided to call it a day. Nordic skiing is a lot more physical than I thought it would be, but I really enjoyed it.

On our solo run

We got back to Kelowna around 3:00, and with only an hour of daylight left, we scooped up Tru and drove to Knox Mountain Park for a walk. We parked at the bottom of the park and meandered up the trail. Tru had some energy to expend, so he was only too happy to be on a trail. It was a nice way to get a different view of Kelowna, even if we didn’t make it all the way to the top.

To cap our day, Zach and I went to Rustic Reel Brewing Company for dinner. So much of our trip was about wine that we hadn’t saved much time (or room!) for beer. It was a bit busy with Friday happy hour revelers, but we managed to snag a table. All of the beers we had were wonderful – coffee stout, red IPA, double IPA – but the sandwiches we ordered were outta this world; I actually cleaned my plate! (I had their chicken club, and Zach had a brisket sandwich.)

The next morning we left and did the entire drive to Boise. It was a long day but didn’t feel nearly as arduous as our drive from Kanab the previous year. We left Kelowna at 7:30 in the morning, stopping in Peachland at a fantastic bakery – Bliss – for lattes and breakfast before following the lake south to Penticton, curving through vineyards and orchards in Oliver and Osoyoos, and crossing the border back into Washington.

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