A Birthday Weekend in the Okanagan

Since early this year, Justine has been teasing me with the weekend she had booked for my birthday. I didn't ask what it was, and was pleasantly surprised when I found out that we were spending the weekend in Osoyoos, at the south end of the Okanagan. I had never spent any time there - most of my previous trips were more north, in Kelowna or Kamloops. All of our favourite BC wineries are closer to Osoyoos, so I was really looking forward to the weekend!

We left Friday afternoon, trying to get ahead of the long weekend traffic. We thought we had done well until we got stuck in some ridiculous traffic going through Abbotsford. The drive out to the Okanagan is nice, if you could just find some way to bypass Abbotsford. It was brutal. Once you get out past Chilliwack, the drive becomes really nice. We stayed low on the #3 rather than going up the #5 through the Coquihalla. 

I made a couple of time lapse movies of parts of the drive on our way to Osoyoos.

Timelapse of the drive to the Okanagan.

Cruising through the mountains on our way to Osoyoos.

We got into Osoyoos around 6:00 p.m., after a pretty long trip. Longer than it should have been really. We checked into our room at the Watermark Hotel and got settled. It was a great spot, right on Lake Okanagan, so we walked down to the lake to have a look.

Panorama of Lake Okanagan, from the beach outside the front of the resort.

The view down the beach.

After wandering around for a bit, we got settled, had a drink on the patio then got set to head out for dinner. We did a walk up the main street to check out our choices for dinner, but frankly there were not a lot of options. We settled on a tapas place that had a nice back patio, which was perfect in the warm evening. Dinner was good, if a bit pricy, but it was a good start to our weekend.

We called it a night fairly early, as we had a long day, and we had lots planned for the weekend and were wanting to relax.

road ride okanagan

Saturday morning we slept in a little bit, then got geared up and went for a road ride. We did about 45 km over a couple of hours, and rode through the vineyards near the town. It was pretty hilly, so it was a good workout and we were pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel. The good news was we were able to scout out a bunch of wineries that we wanted to go back and check out later. 

As I am training for a triathlon, I wanted to get some experience with open water swimming in a wetsuit. So we got geared up, and went out to the lake for a swim. It was freezing cold and quite a shock to the system! But it was good practice, and I needed to feel what the cold water was going to do to me on race day. After the swim, we got cleaned up and headed across the street to the pub for some lunch. 

One of the main reasons we were in the Okanagan - it was time to taste some wine!

After lunch we headed out to do some wine tasting! The reason we were in the south Okanagan is that it is close the wineries we like the best. We started at our favourite winery - Burrowing Owl and enjoyed a tasting of some of their amazing reds. Then we bought some wine. It was a pattern that repeated itself many times over the course of the afternoon. Our next stop was Desert Hills, which makes the best whites in BC. It might be my all around favourite now. We tasted some wine, bought more wine and even joined the wine club. It was becoming an expensive trip. 

A spot of wine on the patio at Black Hills Winery.

We then hit 4 or 5 more wineries as we toured that afternoon. It was really nice, we tried some very good wine, and enjoyed the warm sunny day. Here's some photos of the festivities.

On both our road ride and the drive to the wineries, we passed this old farmhouse and barn that dated back to the late 1800s, and is an local historic site. As it was still fairly early in the afternoon, the light wasn't great, but I think they made for some interesting black and white shots.

This trip was originally set-up as a surprise for my birthday, and so Saturday night Justine had made us dinner reservations at Miradoro, at Tinhorn Creek Winery. The restaurant is in a spectacular location, up high on the hillside overlooking the valley and the surrounding wineries. 

The view from the restaurant.

Dinner was fantastic - great food, some nice wine, an amazing view and we were treated to a bit of a show as some massive storm clouds rolled in down the valley. We ended up being at the restaurant quite late,  and were one of the last groups to leave. We left the car at the restaurant and took a taxi back to the hotel.

We arrived back at the hotel just in the nick of time, as the storm that we saw coming in from the restaurant hit Osoyoos with full force. We were able to sit out on the deck and enjoy the full fury of it. There was huge sheets of lightning, massive cracks of thunder, and the rain came down in  torrents like I have never seen in BC. It was a serious tropical downpour like I have only ever seen in Southeast Asia. It was pretty spectacular, and quite the thing to experience. It was a lot of fun - especially since our timing was so good.

Then it was off to bed, with a hope that the weather would clear for us on Sunday.

Sadly, the weather on Sunday wasn't great. It wasn't raining, but it wasn't very nice either. I let Justine sleep in, and I rode up to Tinhorn Creek to retrieve the car. It was a cold, wet ride and not a lot of fun. But it had to be done. I drove back home, had a shower to warm up and then we had to sort out what to do with our last full day. 

It was an overcast, rainy day on Sunday morning. So we headed out to do some more wine tasting. First stop, Young & Wyse.

young and wyse logo

Late morning we headed out. We had one more winery we wanted to check out, which we did. We had a bottle of wine from Young & Wyse with dinner on Friday night, and really liked it. The winery was a bit out of the way, but worth the stop.

The winery was close to a Provincial Park that I had wanted to check out, so we headed down there. The was a trail through the marsh at the edge of the lake that was supposed to be good for birds. We didn't have much luck with birds - there were lots of huge carp in the river - so there's not much to show.

After a short walk, it was back in the car and we headed north. We wanted to check out another winery, Blue Mountain, and so we headed up that way. The drive was nice and the weather started to improve and clear up a bit. Blue Mountain is situated in a nice spot with views back over the vineyards and the surrounding hills. We tasted some whites, bought some bubbly and headed out.

Such a pretty picture!

Marmot! Driving out from Blue Mountain we had our first critter sighting of the day.

The clouds were still hanging around closer to town.

We started back towards Osoyoos, making a couple of stops at places that looked interesting. We weren't having much luck with birds and the like. At the north end of Lake Okanagan is a series of cool oxbows in the river, and there are some walking trails that you could hike along. As it was getting later in the afternoon, and the light was nice, we thought we'd give it a try. There was some bird life, but not a lot, and none of it very close by. The one notable encounter was an osprey in a tree, which I got some OK pics of.

Osprey in a tree.

After our walk, we went back to the old barn and farmhouse and got some pictures in better light. It was quite nice.

Much nicer light.

We then noticed that there was a road along the other side of the river that we could drive along. It looked like it would get us closer to the osprey, so we drove down aways and were rewarded with a very close view. As we were taking pictures of the osprey, we almost missed something even better! Justine happened to notice something walking across the road, from the main river to the channel on the other side - a beaver! It was huge, and then was off into the water and swimming away.

The osprey hung around for quite a while.

We didn't manage to get a pic of the beaver out of the water, but here he is swimming away.

The rest of Sunday was pretty relaxed. We went back to the unit, and chilled out for a bit. We went back to the pub for dinner (entertaining crowd to be sure...), then called it a night. I had a very early start the next day, and then it was time for us to head home.

Monday I had decided to get up at the crack of dawn to try and play a round of golf. I went up to the golf course at 6:00 a.m., only to discover that they didn't open until 6:30. Despite that, I managed to get out and play with some locals. The last time I played was in August, so I was expectedly rusty. 

The Parklands course is very lush and green.

As expected, my game was all over the place. But my putting was good, and I even managed to pull off the first eagle of my golfing career! That was pretty amazing, and made the whole round worthwhile. I was done by 10:00, and headed back to the hotel to get things packed up.

After that, it was just a drive home. It was a great drive other than Abbotsford, which was once again brutal. Still, we were home at a decent hour, and had some time to unwind before heading back to work again the next day. Justine put together a fabulous birthday surprise for me, and we had a great time.