Okanagan Rail Trail

After riding for an hour through a tunnel of trees, I stop my bicycle where a landslide has opened up a view across the Kettle River Canyon. Even though its more than ninety degrees, I stand in the sun so I can see the blue sky punctured from below by firs and spruce trees. In the 1920’s the passengers of the Kettle Valley Railroad might have looked up briefly from their books or newspapers to catch a flash of this blue before the trees closed in again. 

While sweating I think this would be the perfect place to watch a golden eagle ride thermal currents. Then a large, brown raptor glides between two spruce trees. A second, identical bird follows close behind. They are hawks switch backing back and forth across my view, like hikers climbing a steep mountain. I move on when the hawks are just brown spots in the azure sky.

            This is day two of my ride from Rock Creek to Penticton, British Columbia on the Kettle Valley Trail. I have been on my bike for four hours and won’t reach today’s home at Idabel Lake for another three. Memory of the hawks’ sudden appearance distracts me from the heat and the indifferent trail conditions. I think, also, of the two loons that sang a shrill duet as they swam toward each other on Arlington Lake. I will see more of these most Canadian birds on other lakes along he trail. But they will be concentrating on fishing with no time for love songs. 

              Before spotting the Arlington Lake loons, I watched a Canadian goose hen lead her four goslings through a small set of rapids on the Kettle River. The young ones make up for their bland, monochrome coverings with cuteness. By fall time they will display the chestnut and white pattern of the adult goose. Canadian geese have become as common and unwelcome as pigeons in much of the United States but I still admire their markings and the way they protect their young.

            Brochures describing the KVR promise great views of mountains and rivers. They describe the gut tightening series of trestle bridges you must cross to reach to reach Penticton. They warn of possible run ins with black bears, moose or mountain lions. A mountain lion walked within a few feet of me the last time that I did a bike tour in British Columbia but the only evidence of one I will find on this ride is a pile of scat filled with rabbit hair. I’ll spot moose tracks but not the animal that left them. There will be no bears but three white tail deers will freeze on the trail as I slam on my brakes. Mostly my days will be full of birds and butterflies.

            The weather will change drastically the morning I ride away from Idabel Lake. Rain and clouds will drive down the temperature into the low fifties. A constant headwind will force me to wear all my warm clothes. But on the last day, while I breakfast at Naramata, the sun will return and bring with it warmth, as if nature wanted me to leave the Okanagan country with a smile on my face. 

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