Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I enjoyed a splendid run today at lunch.

I haven't been running much these days - having started a long break from it in early September. Getting started back to the routine is always a bit difficult, mainly fueled by my own fear that I won't be as good as I've been in the past. Negativity taints the triumph of returning to this thing I love so much.

Despite being "gone" for so long from it, today's run felt relatively easy. My lungs struggled a bit with the shift to crisp fall air that has blown in over the last two days but the fluidity of my legs made up for the rest.

Annie, my running companion, stayed closer at my side today - not quite pushing me the way she's generally so inclined to do with her swift-footed four-legged ways.

As I was polishing up a good straightaway, my mind started wandering to other runners better than me and things to change about myself. And, WHAM, just like that my body's immediate response was to throw in the towel. My jog fell to a walk while there was no physical differentiation in what my body was asking for or needing. I walked a bit and considered it all.

I started lifting my feet with more frequency and resumed my running, and I reminded myself to be sure to think of my gratitudes for the day as I ran. I found thankfulness for the yellow flowers (wherever the come from), the steady fall breeze, the sun, the clear blue sky, and MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY, MY STRONG BODY (for at least a tenth of a mile) and charging up that last hill was as easy as the speed I'd picked up over that last stretch, too.

This mantra's good enough for me, I hope it works for you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Road from Naramata, Part Two

Just a few miles past where we'd awoken, we past vineyards – lots of them. Naramata vineyards were abundant. It was too bad we were very hungry and passing them so early before they opened. Most didn't open until 10, and we were pedaling past at 6. As we past some orchards with ripe apples and pears hanging on the roadway side of the fence, I was tempted to help myself to these gifts on the “public” side of the fence. Ultimately, I thought better of it and continued on with the forward momentum.

As we passed the “Welcome to Penticton” sign we pulled off the shoulder to enjoy the remainder of our rations – a few bites of dark chocolate and nuts. Feeling somewhat more satisfied we traveled on and very soon thereafter met the Trans Canada Trail co-located with the Kettle Valley Railway – which is now a rail-trail. We eagerly took on this wide trail buffered from Naramata Road on our left and the lake down below on our right. The TCT here is situated between walls of agriculture. Being surrounded by so many vineyards and orchards made my heart leap with joy. I couldn't get the grin off my face. The riding was easy, too, making the day before seem so very far away. This blissful riding felt especially rewarding for our forward progress was evident.Before long we were in town. We turned on Main St. and rode until we reached White Spot diner. We grabbed our bags and came in for a big breakfast. During breakfast Trevor talked to his parents and coordinated a pick-up for the afternoon around 4 pm. We would ride as far as we could get, then establish a pick-up location later in the day. I wanted to linger a bit after we ate. It was drizzling outside and I felt sluggish after the big meal. Trevor encouraged, and we picked ourselves and our gear up to go. We stopped at several places in town looking for some place that might sell single rolls of toilet paper and finally met with success on the last of four places we checked. Then we rolled toward the edge of town and picked up the canal toe path to Skaha Lake.

At Skaha Lake we passed through a campground and continued on a path by the shore of the lake. It was beautiful, scenic and easy. I also felt joyful. I wondered how to find enough superlatives for how I felt about the trip by this point in time. The positive energy must have been radiating a half-mile radius in any direction. I felt on top of the world.

We pedaled through the small town of Kaleden and pulled off into Pioneer Park where we got in the lake to wash off a bit. We took some pictures, lounged in the grass, and filled our water bottles before pushing on.

We reached Okanagan Falls and pulled into the Wedge pizza place, ordered 2 10'' pizzas and enjoyed lunch off the saddle. Following lunch I ran across the street to pick up batteries and a pair of sunglasses because I knew we were heading to a portion of our trip that was alongside a highway. I wanted to be sure I had eye protection in case anything was kicked up by the vehicles and reached me on the shoulder.

Departing Okanagan Falls, we went down a residential street for a while before turning on to Sunvalley Way where we visited two wineries – Tangled Vines and Wild Goose wineries. After tastings at both, we purchased a bottle of wine from Tangled Vines and followed the a longer route to return back to the road we had been on earlier, then we dropped down to the highway.Turning left, we rode along a beautiful stretch of highway – certainly the more scenic than I expected. When I think highway, I think narrow lanes, fast traffic, and scars on the landscape left by the “cut” of the land road. On this highway, there was a lakeshore to the right with big rocky mountains on either side of us. Trevor instructed me to keep my eyes out for big horned sheep, but I never saw one.Along the highway we passed another fruit stand. We got two fairly mushy peaches and some cherries. The cherries weren't as good as the ones we'd gotten closer to Kelowna. We pedaled on to another winery. This one is big with a distribution center and everything. We pulled in and gathered our necessary belongings and went inside. There must have been a tasting special in effect. We got four complimentary tastings each instead of two as the sign indicated. Because we had shared tastes, we sampled a total of eight wines there. Surprisingly, the rose tickled my fancy of all of them. Trevor and I found less in common at this winery than we'd found at the others. At this winery we got a call from his folks who were now getting closer. We arranged to meet in Oliver, so Trevor and I pedaled on. This time we were back on a path alongside a river. Most of this path was paved all the way to Oliver. Once there, with a little way-finding with the help of the woman at the visitor's center – we located the proper park to meet up with Trevor's parents. They were napping in the cab of the truck.

Deciding that Ossoyos Lake didn't seem all that far away, and taking advantage of their nap time, Trevor and I decide to push on and to see how far we could make it. The trail surface changed from paved to fine gravel. We kept a good pace though I felt myself more fatigued in this late part of the afternoon. I know I had a lot more energy left in me though because at one point as we passed an orchard, the farmer started spraying his crops. Not keen on being anywhere near the poison he might be using, we pedaled hard and fast (me holding my breath) until we had passed the farm and the wind that pushed the chemicals our way.

We rode within a few miles of Ossoyos Lake when we met up with his parents. We loaded the bikes in the back of the pick-up and got into the extended cab. The drive back was nice, and we stopped for ice cream at a popular spot along the way. We drove on the west side of the lake as we returned to Kelowna, and from my seat I could see most of where we'd come from through the park (see picture of park across the lake).Contented and delighted with our journey, I enjoyed a lavender bath salts soak before dinner and a hard sleep.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Road to Naramata, Part One

(From our bike packing trip in August 2009)

We got a later start than expected – which should be expected. It tends to be the norm on trips I take. Trevor and I had the bags packed, bikes loaded and adjusted, and were ready to go by about 3:30 pm or so. We pedaled off to the lake and along the shore on the bike path. We passed through City Park, stopping once for a photo, and continuing along the perimeter of the lake, past beaches – lots of beaches.

Fairly near the hospital we stopped at a grocery store to pick up dinner for the night and breakfast for the next morning. We stopped shortly thereafter at the shore at that Trevor labeled a family beach which is also popular among windsurfers. He distinguished it from the kind of nightlife scene found at Gyro beach - with its shallow warm waters and meat market appeal.

We pedaled farther south, away from the city-center on the roads that would lead to Okanagan Mountain Park. A cherry stand along the way beckoned us in and we bought and enjoyed some fresh cherries and took the rest with us for our trip. We past a winery though it was too late in the evening for us to stop in and have a taste. We stopped once more en route to the park at a small beach-front park so I could go for a swim. The water was colder than I would have preferred but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Feeling the pressure of getting to our destination, we hurried off. I had a couple of bike difficulties getting out of the park, then things leveled out as we got on the main road. Everything had felt so great and easy up to this point.

Saddle bags, check
Size and fit of the bike, check
gear-function, check

We entered Okanagan Mountain Park late in the afternoon – into early evening perhaps. It is a steep trail that ascends to Wild Horse Canyon Trail – the trail we would take through the park to exit near Naramata in a day's time.

We pushed our bikes mainly through the park this first night – up the steep trail to the junction with the Wild Horse Canyon Trail. That trail also continued to climb. We followed the terrain. I felt overly tired and somewhat irritable on Sunday night. We cut our journey's nightly destination short (not that we had a destination in mind) and set up camp, overlooking the lake and the twinkling lights of Kelowna. I believe my fatigue and attitude were fueled by dehydration. I drank lots of water – poising myself for many trips out of the tent throughout the night. I also vowed to drink ample water the next day. Sleep was restless and hard for me to find, until after 2 AM. As Trevor asked if I was ready to go, I finally found slumber that wanted to stick around. He took pictures of the moon and I dozed harder. At dawn, we got a spectacular sunrise and an early start.

The trail continued to be rugged and as our distance into the backcountry increased the brush alongside the trail seemed also to compound.

The fires of 2003 burned much of Okanagan Mountain Park. Burned tree skeletons stand and comrades fall daily to the weathers of time, wind, and final deterioration. The fallen trees liter the trail's path. Budget cuts for the park also mean there are no active rangers. We pushed our bikes through thick brush, that sometimes obscured the trail to my eye, and lifted our bikes over downed trees.

Several hours of challenging terrain brought us to the junction with the initial access of a spur trail leading from private property. We would meet two access trails from this property. After passing the first one and continuing to struggle through thick brush, with thorns and briars among the brush tearing at my skin – I made a modest proposal to Trevor. I proposed we bail at the next trail junction and circumnavigate the park, picking up the Kettle Valley Railway and continuing south on it. He didn't bite the bait. In response to my protest about my legs being eaten up by the brush, he offered me his pants that he had packed and he swore (again) that he recalled this trail would open up, widen and flatten. I took him up on the pants and took him on his word. We continued on.

Up to this point the mountain bike packing trip was seeming more like a mountain bike pushing trip, which was more effort and exertion than a similar trip backpacking with feet firmly planted on the ground, gear comfortably attached to the body, and without the rolling caravan of wheels and pedals edging me off the width of the trail. With a steady grasp on doubt about this supposed idilic trail Trevor had talked about, I pushed through brush several minutes after Trevor to find him celebrating a small victory for both of us. We had reached the junction with the second trail that led to and from private property, and the one we were following became delightfully inviting.

We hopped on the bikes for the first significant amount of time since entering the park and enjoyed the ride through the canyon which was mainly downhill and flat – beautiful, too. We had to dismount intermittently still to clear downed trees, but that small inconvenience balanced the ease with which we covered the next 7 miles. Beautiful rock walls flanked both sides of the canyon as we rode further inside. We also saw green ponds, cat tails, bear scat, and a few other bike tracks – evidence that we are not the only ones to have been on this section recently.

At 10:30 we reached the junction with trails leading to Buchan Bay and Comando Bay; this became the lunch destination. We ate the remainder of our dinner supplies from the night before. The basil I'd had bought for the tuna wraps the night before seemed more satisfying, appropriate and fresh when consumed in the woods with cheese and cucumber.

By lunch, I decided that I've had enough time in the saddle while mountain biking now that we've ridden through the canyon to have some perspective on what mountain biking is all about. It's part skill, part holding on, and part prayer. I also discovered that it's harder to fall off than I thought it would be. I'd hit big rocks and brace to myself to be pounced off the bike, but the two of us just kept rolling forward.

From our lunch spot, we were looking at some uphill climbs. As we looked at the park map at the trail junction, I joke that it's up, up, up and more up. Trevor said I have one too many ups in there. Perhaps I do.

We travel what feels like a pretty good distance to Goodes Creek. In actuality it was 3 km (1.8 miles) and I am utterly exhausted. Luckily it has been overcast all day and not as hot as it could have been. I relish the sight of the trail junction and maneuver for a rest stop. Trevor gathers our water vessels and heads down the trail toward the lake to fill them up. My sit-down turns into a lay-down and I listen do loud birds squawk a lot at my presence before I doze off into a brief nap to recharge my energy.

When Trevor returns we give the map at this trail junction a look. Unlike the others we've seen, this one lists distances and estimated travel times for trails and sections. It seems we've gone about 10 miles since entering the park. It has taken us 7 hours – which the map has estimated would take 10 hours. For the next 4.5 km, the sign indicates an estimated travel time of 5 hours. This sign perplexes us a bit by offering that it may take longer than we anticipated to reach the south end of the park.

We reload our bags with full water containers and continue on. Trevor, with his high energy takes on the downhills in the saddle. Feeling less able to maintain control and very tired, I opt to walk my bike down the hill. We go down and up and up and up. My energy continues to drop and there are a few ascents that take me far longer than Trevor. He waits patiently at the top. He encourages me with “you're almost there” as I take a long stall mid-way up a sandy climb.

We ascend again and I stop – body tired – for a break. Trevor scouts off to the side and sees an old road bed. He thinks this might be an unmarked junction with Wildhorse Canyon Trail and a trail that leads up the ridge. We check the map and decide to give it a shot. The trail that was well defined near the junction quickly deteriorates, but we follow creek beds and animal trails diagonally toward water and the southwest corner of the park. Moving becomes more difficult without even a poorly cut back trail to follow. Some of our time is spent way finding – some of it clambering over tangled webs of downed trees or moving around them.

After a necessary snack break of a couple handfuls of nuts, we proceed a ways. Not too long after that stop, Trevor is riding along and gets a flat back tire. Despite having packed all the right tools to replace the inner-tube, he's surprised to find that the back wheel of his bike is not a quick release. After fruitless efforts to loosen the nut and some frustration, Trevor problem-solves his way out of this predicament by patching the holes in his inner-tube while it's still on the rim. We work together to get it patched in four different places, then pumped it up in hopes that it would hold for the remainder of the trip.

We bushwhack with our bikes for a long time. Finally, after cresting a high point, we can see the road we want to take to lead us to Naramata. It's just on the other side of another rocky-faced hillside, over some open rolling terrain, and beside a vineyard. With our destination in sight, moving forward continues to be fruitful. We push.

It's late afternoon and nearing early evening when we get to the rocky-faced hillside. I'm standing beside a lone pine that I'd been using as a landmark and feel disappointed. This hillside had seemed so close to the road when we saw it earlier. Now standing here, it seemed still so far away. While I was crestfallen about the distance the stronger feeling is utter exhaustion. I have pulled, lifted, pushed and heaved that bike and the gear in the paniers for about 12 hours and the muscles in my body are starting to revolt. I'm weak and tired. Standing at the crest, it is also clear that distance isn't the only thing between us and the road – a significant steep, rocky descent is necessary and I know that my body could not control the bike down this section. I tell Trevor we may have to camp here.

Trevor says he can take both bikes down this section. I move under my own effort to hike down without my bike. That alone seems like so much to me. I rest on a rock, feeling sick and a little woozy, while he brings both bikes down one at a time. Once Trevor arrives with the bikes we eat the rest of our staple rations – a granola bar each. I can see from my perch that the private land we're headed toward to reach the road has a fence established on the lake-side of the property. I don't see it on the park side but I already (slightly) anticipate it.

We continue moving south and call “victory” at the edge of the private property before it is visible that the fence is completely encircling it. It's high and it's wired, enclosing a vineyard. We begin walking the perimeter of the fence back toward the hills and away from the lake.

At a large gate, locked with a big chain, I contemplate passing our bikes through. Trevor doesn't offer any opinion on this; he will go with whichever decision I choose – to squeeze through or to continue walking around the fence. I fear that once inside the vineyard we won't be able to get out the other side of the property if it is also gated on the road side. We push onward along the fence line.

Another smaller gate appears and I feel desperate. Just this distance from the last gate to this one was difficult. We are both low on water and nearly out. A motorcycle roars up the road, then a four-wheeler starts cruising through the vineyards turning on sprinklers. I holler at the driver. He is unresponsive – either ignoring me or unable to hear me for his motor. Lingering by the gate, we wait while he is at lower vines, then he returns. I yell again and receive no recognition. He turns and heads away from us. Dejected, we pick up our bikes and continue pushing on. Luckily our movement catches his eye and he turns off his motor and yells to us “hello there.”

“Hello” I return “May we pass through the property?”

“I suppose” he retorts.

Jeff, the foreman for the vineyards was just doing a nightly check of the sprinklers. He found the right key for the gate and let us in and instructed us to follow the road before us up until it turns into pavement. And, just like that the road to Naramata opens before us.

I asked Jeff if we could get some water somewhere. He said to meet him at the office and he could get us some there.

As we pedaled on the dirt road toward the office, we moved smoothly and effortlessly. It was a far cry from the day we'd just been through. Biking again seemed like a reasonable form of movement to me.

It was dusk when we reached the office. We filled about six liters and drank roughly a liter each on site.

We pedaled out of the main gate and on down Naramata Drive, walking our bikes up some of the hills and reaching Chute Branch Rd. after dark (this is where Jeff indicated we would have been walking to if we had continued to follow the fence line). We set up camp beneath a power line as rain that had threatened and sprinkled on us throughout the day set in at a steadier pace. While I didn't feel as though I had a deep sleep, I'm sure I must have slept hard and well. At 5 a.m. We were awake and started moving toward the next part of our journey.