This is less of a story about spending Father’s Day with Mom in the Okanagan than it is a lesson in having very few items on your travel agenda in order to take advantage of unplanned opportunities.
Mom was in the Okanagan from Edmonton for the weekend, but on Father’s Day, we had no plan except that Mom wanted to go on a hike. The weather had been poor on Saturday, but the sun was shining on Father’s Day. We started the day at Mom’s hostel in Penticton with a home-made breakfast of peanut butter and banana-filled bagels and while we were eating, I offered Mom a couple of options for hikes. One was an hour walk along the Trans-Canada Trail from Naramata to the first train tunnel, which is about a 90-minute walk out and back along a 2.2 percent grade, with tremendous views of Okanagan Lake and the Naramata vineyards. The other was a hike up Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, a more strenuous hike because of the steepness of the trail, but that promised excellent 360-degree views from the summit.
Mom was up for a challenge and opted for a Giant’s Head Mountain summit attempt.
Despite that many people would find the mountain to be a reasonably light workout, Mom is in her 70s, so it was to be no easy task. But by taking one step at a time and resting frequently, she managed to stand on the summit and was rewarded with magnificent views of the Okanagan Valley.
From the top, we saw the Kettle Valley Steam Engine puffing its way around a hill in Summerland. The steam engine operates twice daily for tourists on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, starting at the railhead and travelling to the Trout Creek Bridge and back. The Trout Creek Bridge is a 76-meter steel truss bridge, and at 72 meters above the creek, it is the highest structure on the Kettle Valley Railroad (KVR).
After descending the mountain, Mom and I enjoyed a lunch of tomato and cucumber sandwiches in a grocery store parking lot, under the shade of a fruit tree. We talked about the Kettle Valley steam engine and it occurred to me that the timing was right to catch up with the train at the Trout Creek Bridge, where it stops to let the passengers off for a break and photo opportunity. After a couple of my famous detours, courtesy of misreading my map, we found the bridge, and sure enough, there stood the train with its disembarked passengers.
We enjoyed some people-watching, and when the train departed, we wandered out on the bridge, enjoying views of Trout Creek below. Mom claimed that she had recently walked along a train rail for 147 steps before losing her balance. Always one for a challenge, I walked on the rail to the trail head and back – 400 steps without losing my balance before stepping off the rail and looking at Mom with a ‘let’s-see-if-you-can-beat-that’ expression. Hehe.
I have always been very impressed with the town of Summerland for their work in protecting the 10 kilometers of Canadian Pacific rail that is now being used by the steam engine. One of the sponsors of the Kettle Valley Steam Railroad is the Dirty Laundry Vineyard, so Mom and I decided to drive up there to buy some wine in honour of their support.
What a pleasant surprise! The Dirty Laundry Vineyard is a rock star among its peers. From the greeting at the door, to the brilliant décor, to the fantastic view of the valley, to the fabulous live jazz band, to the wine-tasting service, to the entertaining and sassy story of the name of the winery itself, the Dirty Laundry Vineyard has proven itself to be a class act. Even the employees of the Thornhaven Winery up the street speak highly of the Dirty Laundry Vineyard accomplishments. If you only have time to visit one winery on your visit to Summerland, make it the Dirty Laundry Vineyard. You will love it!
That evening, Mom and I played Cribbage at her hostel while enjoying a bottle of the Dirty Laundry’s award-winning Gewurztraminer.
The day started with a decision on a hike, which led to us seeing the steam engine from the summit, which made us think about visiting the steam engine at Trout Creek, which made us think about visiting the sponsor winery, which led to us enjoying a splendid bottle of wine to end the day.
Father’s Day was fabulous, made more so not only because I was able to spend it with Mom, but because we had virtually no agenda and merely followed the storyline as it unfolded.
Less is better, as they say.