Follow the Wisdom of the Elders — and Head to Osoyoos, British Columbia

Follow the Wisdom of the Elders and Head to Osoyoos, British Columbia, like I did, it’s a place where can you travel if you want to golf in the morning and ski in the afternoon (or vice versa)? Osoyoos, British Columbia, that’s where! While Osoyoos has become one of Canada’s business community’s best kept secrets, retirees have long known that Okanagan Valley, featuring Canada’s warmest lake, can save them from having to travel south of the border in search of warm weather leisure — or even fine homegrown wine. Moreover, because Osoyoos is located at the border between British Columbia and the state of Washington (Osoyoos Lake actually straddles the border), it is accessible to business people and travelers from both the U.S. and Canada.

You don’t have to prefer an active lifestyle to visit Osoyoos, but it helps. At this time of the year, there are four days per week when you can begin your day with a sunrise desert hike at NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre on the Osoyoos Indian Reserve. If you prefer a more adventurous way to begin your day, you can hike to Chief’s Lookout, located at the top of a 65-foot (about 20 meters) tall cliff. You can hike back down if you like, but another option is to rappel down (assistance is available if you need it).

While you are at NK’MIP, take time to appreciate the visitors’ centre, which also makes use of the wisdom of the elders. The centre, which was designed by Bruce Haden of Hotson, Bakker, Boniface Haden, and only finished in 2006, has won several awards for its design. It is partially underground, like the traditional dwellings of the First Nations of the Okanagan Valley, and has rammed-earth walls an ancient building technique that improves insulation, to keep visitors cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter. The building also features a green roof (planted with indigenous desert plants) and a low waste water system.

If the NK’MIP Centre has merely whetted your taste for hiking and adventuring, you won’t have far to go to find more options. The Osoyoos Lake area is criss-crossed with many trails that can be used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. There are also two golf courses. If you don’t mind a 45-minute drive to Mount Baldy, you really can go skiing and golfing in the same day as long as you aren’t planning to get much else done. You could even plan to stay in a cabin at Mount Baldy and take day trips into Osoyoos.

If your taste runs more to sedentary pursuits, you might like to visit the Osoyoos Art Gallery, where you are sure to find something you haven’t seen before (if you are a visitor), since the gallery features only local artists. The gallery is right downtown and during the summer season, many works by local artists are on sale, so you just might find a real bargain.

Do you have a special interest in the ecology of the desert or a child with you who is researching desert biomes? Don’t limit yourself to NK’MIP head five minutes out of town to the Osoyoos Desert Centre, where you can take a tour of the centre’s 67 acres of fragile desert plants. Likewise, if you are traveling with children, or if you are a train buff, you won’t want to miss the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad, where you can find a 4000 square foot (about 1219 square meters) Marklin layout railroad — the largest one in North America, and the only known model railroad in North America to operate a car system on some of its roads.  You may also want to check out Rattlesnake Canyon, an amusement park featuring go-karts, bumper boats, an arcade, a bungee jump, a rock-climbing wall, and much more.

Interested in wine? Visit any of several local wineries just pretend you are in the south of France and be glad that you aren’t blowing your budget, or your time, on such a long trip. The wine at Osoyoos Larose includes cherries, currants, and plums. Burrowing Owl Estate Winery has a restaurant, a guest house and a self-guided tour (and allows children if they are supervised by adults). Some wineries, such as Road 13, are historically interesting Road 13 was originally farmed as an orchard by three Russian engineers who were deported from Russia during the Russian Revolution. Tinhorn Creek winery has a regular summer concert series featuring local performing artists. On your way to any of these wineries, enjoy fresh fruit, such as peaches, cherries, and apples, from roadside stands.

In the evening, you won’t run out of things to do in Osoyoos. You could take in an Osoyoos Coyotes hockey game (KIJHL) at the Osoyoos Sunbowl Arena. You could return to NK’MIP, and see a concert, such as highlights from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, scheduled for July 23-27, 2012. Or you could explore downtown Osoyoos and visit any of a multitude of local eateries, featuring steak, seafood, pizza, grills, you name it.

Where can you stay in Osoyoos? If you like camping, stay at Lake Osoyoos, on either side of the border. To stay in the state of Washington in the U.S., make your campsite reservation with the City of Oroville. Or choose from any of British Columbia’s campgrounds near Lake Osoyoos, many of which include RV hookups, if that’s what you need. Of course, Osoyoos also has plenty of hotel accommodations as well.

Be one of the few people who knows the secret if you want to bask in desert warmth while enjoying a one of a kind vacation, you can do so right here in Canada’s Okanagan Valley, at Osoyoos.