More of J.P. Squire's Secret Okanagan Spots

Garnet or Garnett Valley?

The SOS series 2.0 continues this week after an e-bike outing in Summerland on Monday.

For those who missed last Sunday's column (it's still available here) the SOS series is about Secret Okanagan Spots, places you wouldn't ever find if all you do is the Okanagan Rail Trail to Coldstream, Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna or the KVR Trail (Kettle Valley Railway) in the South Okanagan.

This week's SOS is scenic, rural Garnet Valley Road in Summerland which leads to a second SOS at Garnet Lake. It usually only takes a few minutes of cycling Garnet Valley Road when you discover this SOS secret is held almost exclusively by road cyclists. They love the workout of an uphill climb as training, then the glorious descent down rolling hills as their cooldown.

Garnet Valley Road is the modern-day version of the Cariboo Gold Trail, the route used by California gold seekers to reach the Cariboo goldfields, and also used by American cattlemen to provide cattle and supplies to gold towns like Barkerville.

Garnet is actually a misspelling of the last name of brothers Edgar and William Garnett According to the Summerland Review, the two pioneers pre-empted their land at the entrance to Garnett Valley in 1887 and again in 1889. The family name, Garnett, is spelled with a second “t” but often the second “t” is forgotten due to a provincial map published in 1920.

Some of the letters of the map title covered the second “t” of the name Garnett. Since then, maps have incorrectly used the name Garnet.

Garnet (or Garnett) Valley Road is one of the oldest roads in British Columbia. The first map to show this road (trail) was a map attributed to Samuel Black in 1833. Another old road, the Princeton-Summerland Road, was identified on a map in 1827. Both roads were originally First Nation trails; sections have been carbon-dated back 6,000 years.

Garnett Valley Road, part of the Okanagan Fur Brigade Trail system, was first described in 1811 and used for the fur trade from 1825 to 1847. After that, there was little use until British Columbia’s gold rush in 1858.
If you don't mind a switch to gravel washboard (road cyclists hate it), you can continue up present day Garnet Valley Road to the hidden jewel of Garnet Lake aka the Garnet Reservoir formed in the 1920s by damming Eneas Creek. A new dam was constructed downstream in 1978.

Unfortunately, the lake – one of 12 dammed lakes and reservoirs serving Summerland – was closed to angling in 2021 due to the illegal introduction of largemouth bass. Recreational activities like canoeing and kayaking are still allowed. Not allowed in this source of domestic and irrigation water are: swimming, camping, campfires and gas-powered motors.

Priest Camp Historic Park, a 50-acre park on the lake, is the site of the first non-native settlement in the Okanagan Valley, first identified on maps in 1846. It was used by fur traders, miners and ranchers driving cattle north to rail construction camps.

If you venture further up Garnet Valley Road, you will reach an information kiosk on the Antlers Saddle Conservation Lands which protect important wildlife habitat. In the 1980s, the province had the foresight to purchase a number of properties in Garnet Valley just north of Summerland to augment existing Crown lands and conserve some of the highest quality ungulate winter range some wildlife biologists had ever seen.


Big White Ski Resort hosts Sunday Sessions by opening its Bronze course at the Slopestyle Centre to the public every Sunday in August.

These sessions will bring together riders for fun progressions sessions including tips from local pros to prepare for the end-of-season slopestyle event. There is free access with a valid Bike Park day ticket or season pass. Slopestyle access-only passes are available for purchase from the ticket office.

Canadian coach Brayden Barrett-Hay brought his dirt jumper, downhill and trail bikes to Western Canada's mountains in 2021 and now a brand ambassador for Bike Big White. For more info, contact [email protected].

"We also have great accommodation packages for bikers, including two nights’ accommodation, plus lift passes for $222. Our Hot Summer Deals page features all the latest deals," said marketing associate Deanna Kristensen.

"Our 3-Day Dirt Pass is new this season and provides a flexible option for bikers looking to save money and ride any three days unrestricted. An adult 3-Day Dirt Pass is just $150."

The inaugural Summer Music Series will feature Rusty Someone & Garrett Scatterty 2-4 p.m. on July 29 and the father-daughter Americana duo of Bray & Co. 2-4 p.m. on Aug. 5.

The annual SilverStar Wine Festival on Aug. 10-13 will bring together some of the region’s most renowned winemakers for wine seminars, wine dinners and the Signature Walk-Around Tasting taking place outdoors on Aug. 12. The weekend will also feature live music and a Polson Park Market Artisan Market pop-up featuring local vendors.

The Sun Peaks concert lineup has live outdoor entertainment Slopeside from Canadian music icons Current Swell on July 29 and The Yellow Brick Road Experience – Centre Stage at Sun Peaks Centre - on Aug. 4.


The Vernon Outdoors Club is taking 75 members for a week of hiking around Kaslo starting July 24, reports president Rudi van Zwaaij. "On July 16, the VOC hiked the Eagle Pass Trail to the lookout at 2,350-metre elevation. Stunning alpine meadows and scenery. The Crazy Creek FSR was fixed up last fall and in good condition for any high clearance vehicle to the trailhead," he said this week.


On July 29, the Osoyoos Desert Centre will host Biodiversity, Badgers, and Bridges: How improving Habitat Connectivity can help Wildlife as part of its Nature Talks series. Centre conservation guide Kaylee Lesmeister will delve into biodiversity, why it’s important and how we can help to reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation on wildlife.

"Biodiversity all over the world is facing increasing pressures due to human-caused habitat loss, and structures like roads and highways further fragment remaining habitat patches. Animals need to move around between habitat areas to find food, mates and other resources.

But without a safe way to cross roads, these animals put themselves and people at risk," she said.

All Nature Talks start at 11 a.m. at the centre,14580 146 Ave., Osoyoos, and are free with admission.

Early Bird Tours are 7:15-8:45 a.m. on Thursdays from July 27 to Aug. 24. During an early morning walk and talk on the 1.5-km boardwalk trail, you can learn about what’s on the breakfast menu for bobcats, snakes and other predators, and which “early birds” actually do get the worm. Bring along your coffee. Advanced registration is not required.

Gates open at 7 a.m.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

J.P. Squire arrived in the Okanagan Valley from flatland Chatham, Ont. in the middle of the night in the spring of 1980. Waking up in the Highway 97 motel, he looked across the then-four-lane roadway at Mount Baldy and commented: "Oh my God, there's mountains." Driving into downtown Kelowna, he exclaimed: "Oh my God, there's a lake."

The rest is history. After less than a month in Kelowna, he concluded: "I'm going to live here for a long time." And he did.

Within weeks and months, he was hiking local hillsides, playing rec hockey at Memorial Arena and downhill skiing at Big White Ski Resort. After purchasing a hobby farm in the Glenmore Valley in 1986, he bought the first of many Tennessee Walking Horses. After meeting Constant Companion Carmen in 1999, he bought two touring kayaks and they began exploring Interior lakes and B.C.'s coast.

The outdoor recreation column began with downhill ski coverage every winter as the Ski Sheriff but soon progressed to a year-round column as the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff.

His extensive list of contacts in Okanagan outdoor recreation clubs, organizations and groups means a constant flow of emails about upcoming events and activities which will be posted on Castanet every Sunday.

You can email the Sheriff at: [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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