Exploring the wonder of Southeastern British Columbia.
It came out of nowhere. Dusk was falling and thick alders crowded the narrow gravel road. Traction was adequate, but when a grizzly bolted from the brush on the right, my reflexive grab of the brakes showed just how easily the tires — and I — could lose our grip:
“Oh s–t! I’m going down with a grizzly!”
It was such a close call that, in fact, I may have clipped it, and even though I had immediately gotten on the throttle, he seemed bent on revenge, charging down the road — and gaining on me. They were some of the longest split seconds of my life, and it wasn’t until he peeled off into the woods on our left that my heart returned to beating. There would be no photos, of course, but I still had all my limbs and that seemed like a reasonable trade. I was spooked just enough that the white-tailed deer standing broadside around the next corner had me wide-eyed. And when a tiny lone weasel had the same effect, I knew it was time to get off the road.
I had begun the day just west of Keremeos, B.C., and after riding in what could have been the American southwest, I came suddenly upon green orchards, lush vineyards, and perfect fields of vegetables. Irrigation had produced a stark and rich contrast to the surrounding hills. A sign called this the “Similkameen Wine Route,” and rather abruptly, the asphalt dropped into Osoyoos, “Canada’s Warmest Welcome.” If you love beaches, watersports and wine, then Osoyoos — which boasts the warmest average temperatures in the nation — is the place for you.
A dry and sunny 32 C paired perfectly with dropping the kickstand by the beach, losing (almost all) the laundry, and diving into Osoyoos Lake for a soapless bath — my first in days. Jet skis zoomed by, and I threw a ball for a playful German Shepherd who was enjoying the cool splashing as much as I was.
Once I was more respectably clothed and de-odoured, I followed the Crowsnest Highway (#3) as it rapidly switchbacked 685 metres up the flank of the Okanagan Highland, crested the edge, and I was immediately thrust onto sweeping ranch land. If the road was ever straight, it was the exception, drifting past ever-changing views from field and pasture to cliff and creek. It was a cloudless day, dimmed only by the faint smoke of a distant forest fire.
In Castlegar, I was lured by a sign proclaiming “Ice Cream Solves Every Problem.” It’s an ideology I fully embrace. Soon, I was chatting happily with a couple on BMWs who had…