Okanagan Lake from the vineyards on the Lower Bench, Penticton, wine country on the road to Naramata.
photo © Don MacIver, British Columbia, Canada 2014
Having lived in several regions of coastal British Columbia for nearly thirty years, between the large metropolitan centre of Vancouver on the Lower Mainland, its allure the striking beauty of the towering Coastal Mountain ranges to the north and east and infinite expanse of the Pacific Ocean on its western flank, to the splendour of Vancouver Island with the heritage of BC’s capital city of Victoria, its drier climate and remarkable vistas through mountains, rivers, lakes and farmlands, we came to a point in our middle-age lives where change was desired and imminent.
Life on the coast and island beyond was wonderful and life-changing in so many ways yet my wife Andrea and I sensed the need for new beginnings, a time to chose a location and lifestyle that closely paralleled our interests, our heartfelt grounding, desire and aspirations looking forward into the future. As a writer I am at liberty to live literally anywhere, conditional only with respect to the requisite availability of reliable internet services, the very foundation of my published writings and communications for my literary endeavours and my newly launched professional editing services business. My creative writing is published here on WordPress, my central hub for all online literary initiatives and my editing business lives on the pages of LastingImpressionsEditing.
While both Andrea and I have family connections on the coast I also have similar connection in West Kelowna, BC where we have chosen to plant our feet on the soil of our new homeland since February, 2014. I had relatives, cousins of my father and their spouses, who lived their retirement years in Kelowna, a city they grew to cherish in their formative years and though they are all gone now they rest in the municipal cemetery high in the mountain foothills east of Knox Mountain overlooking the beautiful city, Okanagan Lake (pictured above) which dissects metropolitan Kelowna and its sister cities of West Kelowna and Westbank, and the striking mountain ranges that shoulder the lake along its 91 mile elongation from Penticton to the south and Vernon to the north.
Okanagan Lake, pristine, stunning in its size, beauty and flanking geography, lays in the core of the Okanagan Valley, also referred to as the Okanagan Basin and Okanagan Country. Kelowna is situated at mid-point of this expansive lake, with the cities of Kelowna and West Kelowna connected by the floating ‘pontoon’ type William R. Bennett Bridge, so named in honour of the former provincial Premier who was himself a native of Kelowna.
Kelowna, four hundred kilometers northeast of Vancouver and a 3.5 hour drive, is situated at the core of Okanagan Valley and is the primary city in the region. The Okanagan Valley, also known as the Okanagan Basin and Okanagan Country spans a vast region including south into Washington State in the US. The allure of the region is a blend of temperate, dry climate, its arid vineyard soils, the beauty of the lake and shouldering mountains and its abundant yield of fruits and world-renowned winery vineyards. Hundreds of lush, expansive vineyards shoulder the lakes throughout the Valley from the wine country of northeast Kelowna down through Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos to the south and extending over to Grand Forks to the east along Crowsnest Highway.
Of interesting note is the history behind the production of wine, dating back to 1850 when the Oblate Mission was established for planting grapevines to supply sacramental wines. Early twentieth century prohibition wiped out established wineries and it would not be until the early 1930’s when the winery industry was revived. Settlers to the regions quickly discovered the high quality of grapes, now over 60 varieties which contribute to world-class award winning grape growing and wine production throughout the Valley. The climate is moderate and ideal for vineyard growers. Temperatures will soar to over 40C (104F) and well above average sunshine through the growing season.
The Okanagan and neighboring Similkameen Valleys are abundant not only with vineyards but also many of the finest fruits in the country. Cherries peak in late July annually and are fabulous. Fruit stands dot the main highways throughout the region and flourish from late spring to early fall with consumers traveling long distances to stock up on the lush fruit and fall yield of pumpkins. Keremeous, nestled along the Similkameen River and Valley of the same name, is a thriving community whose lifeblood is the fruit growing industry. Dependence on a high quality yield, the industry in the regions is at times victim to the volatility of Mother Nature in the region and susceptible to the crippling damage of rain, excessive heat, frost and hailstorms.
I suppose this article sounds like it was written for the tourism industry yet the stunning beauty and agriculture of the region speaks wholly for itself. British Columbia is an incredibly province to travel through, its landscape ever-changing from one region to another. For us, the climate and remarkable beauty of the Okanagan Valley is a tremendous allure. The mountains, foothills and valleys are semi-arid desert-like landscapes abundant with sandy soil and clusters of cactus and sagebrush in the southern regions progressively more abundant with cedars, hemlock and ponderosa, bull, blackjack and western yellow pine trees moving northward.
Andrea and I have both traveled here with frequency over the years, I for treasured moments with beloved relatives now gone from us. Their loving, caring spirit rests in the foothills above Kelowna, a meaningful element of our newfound life in this new homeland. This new phase of our life together seems to suit us both very well, the natural beauty of our surroundings remarkably and truly inspiring for my writing. A comfortable distance for day trips to the Lower Mainland afford us easy connection with our siblings and son while being a step away from painful memories of lost family on the coast. Our beloved parents remain close to heart and home, traveling with us in spirit on this, our new journey. We live in West Kelowna, a thriving and growing city with a flavour of life in the countryside, minutes from the lake and surrounded by vineyards, farmland, hobby farms and mountains while nicely a step away from the commercial areas that serve our every need just beyond the small valley we are situated in.
Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the larger city centers including the huge expanse of Metro Vancouver and its surrounding municipalities of the GVRD, life now in the Okanagan Valley seems a natural progression for us, timely, rejuvenating, a new frontier to explore, love and live in for years to come. We cannot predict eventualities of the future but for the moment we bask in its bounty and beauty, aspiring to sustain in one of the most beautiful regions in the world and walk in the path of our ancestors to experience the love of the land that so aptly claimed their vision, heart and soul for decades past.
Together we embrace and carry on family heritage, tradition and bold new beginnings. In aside, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that I enjoy a good glass of wine on occasion, just one in a long list of positives that brought us to our newfound homeland, the striking allure of the Okanagan Valley.
Drop by some time…you just may want to stay…or at least linger for a good time.
West Kelowna, BC
photo c/o Google Search