Not what you’d expect to find in wine country.
But one of the unexpected joys of visiting the Okanagan Valley wine region was discovering that it’s a wine region that’s not just all about the wine and the vine.
That’s a huge plus for anyone traveling with kids or simply looking for a little ‘fear factor’ with their wine tasting.
In the southernmost region of the Okanagan Valley, winemakers, conservationists, and environmentalists strive to maintain the delicate balance between oenology and ecology in a fragile desert habitat that’s home to at least a couple dozen ‘at risk of disappearing’ plants and animals, including the much maligned rattlesnake.
Wineries display signs in their vineyards reminding everyone that the rattlesnakes pass through in the fall and the spring on their way to and from their dens. The odds, however, of visitors randomly coming across any rattlesnakes in the vineyards are fairly slim.
So if you really do want to get up close and personal with one, then your best bet is to head down to the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa.
Run by the Osoyoos Indian Band, the resort features not only North America’s first aboriginal owned-and-operated winery – Nk’Mip Cellars – but also the state of the art Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Center. The center has a rattlesnake research and tagging program and offers a daily ‘snakes alive’ educational program. Keen snake lovers can even adopt-a-snake.
Hunting for Black Widows
The Okanagan Valley wine region might stretch 250 kilometers south to north, but the highest concentration of region’s wineries can be found right in the middle of the region, in a place called the Naramata Bench.
There’s no guarantee that you will actually get a glimpse of the elusive black widow spider, but it’s a fun and unique way of checking out and learning more about the winery and vineyard.
Searching for the Lake Monster
Many have tried but none have succeeded in finding the legendary Ogopogo, a monster that lives in the depths of the Okanagan Lake.
Rumors of this creature first surfaced in 1872 and since then there have been plenty of reported sightings but so far no one has captured anything more than a quick glance of this gigantic monster.
And thanks to legislation in 1989 granting Ogopogo protected wildlife status, a glance is all that any one would be allowed anyway.
Still, wouldn’t it be cool to be among the few that can claim to having seen Ogopogo.
The closest most people will get, however, is the cartoon like Ogopogo statue on the lake shore at Okanagan Valley town of Kelowna.
(photo by Liz [email protected])