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Making-Tracks

Despite its popularity, Myra Canyon qualifies as a 'Secret Okanagan Spot'

Myra Canyon's secret spots

Sometimes a Secret Okanagan Spot might be better left as a secret for the protection of "ordinary people."

That was the debate recently when the Sheriff returned to a favourite Myra Canyon spot to be included in the SOS series.

For those who didn't read previous columns in the Secret Okanagan Spots or SOS series, they are available at: https://www.castanet.net/news/Making-Tracks/

First, some history. When the Sheriff moved to the Okanagan in 1980, a non-profit organization based in Kelowna was trying to raise $10 million to buy CPR's steel rails in the awe-inspiring Myra Canyon so it could be returned to an active rail line for tourist trains. Unfortunately, the society only raised $100,000 and the money was refunded. CPR hired a contractor to salvage the rails and ties for rehabilitation projects on the Prairies. The trestles were left intact, eventually to become a key link on the Trans Canada Trail.

Several society members owned what are called “speeders,” one-cylinder "putt-putt" railway motor cars, and the Sheriff was one of the last people to ride clackety-clack through the canyon. It was "the way it was meant to be seen" he thought at the time.

When the contractor began work, the Sheriff took his 550-cc Honda street bike up the rough Myra and June Springs forest service roads to get photos and a story. He couldn't figure out why his motorcycle kept stalling. It turns out those forest service roads were so rough at the time that they shook the battery acid out of the motorcycle battery.

With the rails gone, the Sheriff used his red Land Rover to motor through the canyon year-round, even through deep snow, towing a stuck VW Rabbit up one winter. When Mom visited, the Sheriff got past a severe washout at the Myra end but on the way back, one of the thick boards across the washout popped up, jamming between the rear wheel and gas tank. The only way to free it was jacking up the four-by-four. Mom laughed as she kind-of supervised.

When the Sheriff brought his golden retreiver, Duke the Golden Drooler, and German shepherd, Rocky (Balboa), up to the canyon, Rocky refused to walk on the trestle timbers and had to be carried across, trestle after trestle. And who could forget aerobic classmate Debbie Henderson who kept calling them "trellises"?

As the Sheriff toured the canyon one day, he and dirt-biking buddy Brian York stopped at the south end of the first tunnel, climbed up a slippery slope and had lunch overlooking the wood timber tunnel entrance.

The Sheriff remarked: "Here we are in the middle of nowhere, no one around." At that exact moment, 10 people emerged from the tunnel. And the Sheriff recognized environmentalist John Moelaert, Kelowna chairman of the anti-uranium mining Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

"Hey, John" and he waved. It was a small town back then. Everyone just about knew everyone.

The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen returned to the overlook over loose rock last week. Even though it is a well-worn path, a cautious Constant Companion Carmen remarked: "This is dangerous for ordinary people." Good thing we are not "ordinary" - anything but.

However, there is another beautiful SOS lunch spot at the south side of trestle No. 1 on the far end of the canyon, perfect as the turnaround spot for those coming from the Myra end.

Sitting there last week, dozens of people walked or biked past, not stopping for the incredible view or a break.

Back to canyon history. On May 10, 1994, the Sheriff took a photo of Carole Faye Fingler's smashed bicycle at the end of trestle No. 11, as paramedics carried her lifeless body from the trestle she had fallen from.

As a result of that, and other accidents, the Sheriff covered, through 1995, the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society's installation of decking and handrails to make the trestles safer.

The Sheriff has to admit there were tears in the eyes when 14 of the 18 trestles were destroyed or significantly damaged by the 2003 Okanagan Mountain wildfire. But on June 22, 2008, the Sheriff, in top hat and tails, was invited to play the role of Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, CPR president, for an official re-opening of the canyon, attended by 7,000 people.

Fortunately, there was no speech by the Sheriff but he got to walk at the front of the official parade with other dignitaries.

So Myra Canyon represents a lot of railway history, as well as a lot of personal history for the Sheriff.

•••

After a hugely successful inaugural event last year, you can kick off the fall Oktoberfest season with SilverStar’s Craft Beer and Cider Fest Sept. 9. It's a celebration of the finest craft beer and extensive local cidery options, with tastings poured in the mountain village. You can also sample a variety of foods and flavours that capture the spirit of the fall season while squeezing in those last days of summer fun on the trails and in the bike park.

•••

On Aug. 19, the Osoyoos Desert Centre's education series will focus on It's Getting Hot in Here: Climate Change Impacts on the Ecology of the South Okanagan.

You can learn how climate change is expected to affect the environment in the South Okanagan with an emphasis on some of the key species at the centre with ODC conservation guide Larissa Thelin, who holds a Master of Science degree in ecology from the University of Alberta and is also a science communicator specializing in educating the public on the potential impacts of climate change.

On Aug. 26, the topic is Grassland Species and Conservation. Grasslands cover less than 1% of B.C., yet are home to more than 30% of species-at-risk.

Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C. general manager Mike Dedels will talk about the different types of grasslands in the Okanagan, the ecological services they provide, and the main threats to them, including development, encroachment and invasive plants. You will also become familiar with grassland species and what the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C. is doing to conserve these special places.

Attendees will receive a free copy of the latest B.C. Grasslands magazine. All Nature Talks, free with admission. The talk will start at 11 a.m. at the centre, located at 14580 146 Avenue in Osoyoos.

•••

Looking further ahead, the Osoyoos Desert Centre and other Okanagan nature centres are going batty.

To learn more about Okanagan bats, valley residents and tourists can visit the Peachland Visitor Centre where bat counts are held every Friday night, says Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Okanagan region coordinator for the B.C. Community Bat Program.

People can also visit the Kelowna Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna, the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon and Osoyoos Desert Centre.

Rodriguez de la Vega will give a bat talk in Osoyoos at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2.

Tourists can check out Bat Resource for Okanagan Accommodation through the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (totabc.org).

There are a couple of resorts, such as Ponderosa Point Resort in Kalden and Sandy Beach Lodge in Naramata, that have bats on their properties and tourists can enjoy them as the bats come out to hunt at night.

As for Rodriguez de la Vega, she says it's been “crazy nuts” with bat counts and field season this summer.

“We will be going through the bat count data and analyzing it this fall,” she said. “In general, it looks like bat populations are still doing well, which is great news. At this time of year, August, pups are learning to fly, so they'll be found in odd spots, sometimes out in the open.

“The best advice: please leave bats alone. Do not touch them. They will likely fly off in the evening or stay for a day or two, then fly off."

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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