British Columbia is burning. There are 500 fires throughout the province at the moment. It has been so hot and dry everywhere for two months now, with record setting temperatures in many areas including Vancouver.
Sadly in spite of the pleas of the RCMP, we still see many places where people have unthinkingly thrown their cigarette butts out of the window of their car. One can’t help but wonder if their consciences will bother them when they see the weeping families standing in front of their burnt out homes.
Link: Terrace Mountain fire forces 2,500 to flee
The Okanagan Valley is one of the places where there is still a large, uncontrolled fire burning on the north west side of the lake, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful spot to visit; so this week I’ll continue with my travel blog of the north Okanagan.
Vernon is the largest city in the North Okanagan Regional District and is the northern entry point for the valley. Coming from eastern Canada via the Trans Canada Highway #3, one turns south on Highway 97 at either Sicamous or Salmon Arm. Ideally nestled between the beautiful Swan, Kalamalka, and Okanagan lakes it is the oldest community in British Columbia's interior.
Our sightseeing in Vernon began with a step back in time to the late 1800s at the historic O'Keefe Ranch, founded in 1867 by Cornelius O'Keefe when he and his partner, Thomas Greenhow drove cattle from Oregon to the north end of Okanagan Lake.
At that time, huge cattle ranches occupied the valley, and ranch headquarters were self-contained settlements. By the turn of the century, O'Keefe and his partner owned 20,000 acres of prime land, and were driving cattle north to sell to the hungry miners in the gold fields. The property is still a working ranch and you can spend a good afternoon touring the outbuilding as well as the beautifully preserved Victorian home. It’s a great spot where kids and adults alike can experience the history and adventure of pioneer days. I’ve included a couple of pictures.
(If you go: The ranch is open daily 9am to 5 pm, May through Thanksgiving.)
The other interesting spot in Vernon we took time to visit on this trip was Okanagan Opal Inc., which is the first company in Canada to produce and market "Canadian" precious opal gemstones. You can visit the shop to see a wonderful variety of opal gemstones, available in many different settings, styles and colours or you can also arrange a trip to their actual mine site to dig your own opals!
View Dig Your Own Opals for more information.
(Next time we head south to the Central Okanagan Valley where we visit my old hometown of Summerland)
Inside of O'Keefe Ranch General Store
Always did like a cowboy