Ryan, Jeanine, and I made the five-hour trip up to my family’s cottage in Naramata, nestled against Okanagan Lake. It’s absolutely the kind of place where you can focus on the simple things and forget about the outside world, since the modest Pan-Abode style cabin doesn’t have a TV or internet connection and it’s a peaceful and quaint little place at the end of the road. It does have indoor plumbing and electricity, so it’s perfect. The final kilometres of the drive winds along the famous Naramata Bench, known for an abundance of hillside vineyards and award-winning wineries. On a sunny evening, you could almost imagine you’re in Tuscany….The view from OK Falls – look how low the snow line is!
March in the Okanagan can be a bit of a crapshoot in terms of weather and we were treated to a very mixed bag. From sunshine to gusty strong winds (Thanks for letting me draft behind you, Ryan!), showers to flurries, we experienced it all while our legs churned out long training rides, because that was our purpose for being there. We hoped to get the luxury of some mild weather for logging lots of quality base miles, since things at home were very wet. What we got was drier, but not quite the sunshine we ached for.
However, we discovered some fabulous road riding routes we hadn’t known even existed! The folks at the Bike Barn in Penticton were kind enough to suggest some fantastic rides and provided us with maps and descriptions. I had done very little road cycling in the area previously, sticking mostly to the region’s super fun mountain bike trails, but since the snow line still hovered quite low, we primarily chose to roll on pavement. It didn’t feel like a chore, though, as we discovered hundreds of kilometres of twisty, scenic and rolling backroads south and west of Penticton. The bands of asphalt meandered past dozens of vineyards with their skeletal bare vines, and climbed into ranch-dotted hillsides. At the highest points, ridges of snow still lined the roads and dry grasses poked their tips through white.
We rode a big chunk of the Penticton Gran Fondo route, which I can imagine will be gorgeous in the summertime when the grapevines are lush and leafy – although possibly a scorcher. We also completed an epic ride, involving Green Lake Road, Twin Lakes, and Green Mountain Road – we definitely racked up a solid amount of climbing, but we were awarded with a wicked long descent from the Apex Mountain Guest Ranch.
Our informal “camp” was a great break from the Wet Coast weather as well as a nice change from our regular riding routes that had started to feel a little stale. We slept in, spent hours making and eating big breakfasts (cheddar and bacon waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, etc.) and listening to CBC Radio before rolling out for our rides in the early afternoon. My one regret is that there wasn’t enough time for napping, since we’d usually get home from our rides around dinnertime! Where does the time go?
We only took our mountain bikes out twice – once in order to do a recovery spin, since road gearing makes it impossible to ride easy on the steep, long climb from the cottage. The second time we went mountain biking, Ryan and I rode from the cottage, and ascended Chute Lake Road to Glen Fir, where we jumped onto a very snowy/slushy KVR, which we followed south towards Penticton. We exited the KVR at Riddle Road and climbed into the Three Blind Mice trail network and into deeper snow (which was getting deeper by the minute!), where we bumped into a blast from the past – Ian – who totally dropped us on foot. His little dog is pretty quick too! It was quite chilly and windy and we were glad to get our legs pumping on the tough snowy uphills in order to warm up. We had a hoot as we rolled along soft white singletrack and slip-slid down some sections. We were misled by elk and deer tracks a few times — it’s hard to find the path when it’s under a blanket of snow! I guess the trails weren’t quite ready for us, but we did manage to log a solid four-hour ride nonetheless.
Now I’m back home and starting to think more about racing, but it would sure be nice to spend a little more time in Naramata….