Serve Yourself on Vernon’s Foodie Trail
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The aha moments come thick and fast while cycling the section of the Okanagan Rail Trail that hugs glinting green Kalamalka Lake. There are jaw-dropping vistas galore along the 23-kilometre glacial body of water. My wife, Kerry, and I are tempted frequently to stop our peddling and simply stare at the view.
There's that secluded beach we had completely to ourselves for a picnic lunch. The sun shines making the afternoon even more perfect.
And during it all, we feel virtuous because we're getting our exercise biking an impressive 46-kilometre round trip. Never mind that we're on electric-assist bikes and we ease our exertion by trying out every mode from eco and touring to sport and turbo.
"Oh yeah, I live in Coldstream where the trail head for the rail trail is and I walk and cycle it probably twice a week," she says. "I usually take the same food you're getting today for a grab-and-go lunch. My favourite picnic place is the hideaway at the five-kilometre mark. If I cycle, or walk if I'm feeling really ambitious, that makes for a great 10-kilometre round trip."
My wife and I feel immediately righteous because we're planning the complete Kalamalka round trip of 46 kilometres. We shy away from sharing with Jaydah-Ann that our bikes will be electric.
If you're looking for vegan options to pair with your Kalamalka cycling, check out the Pineapple Express Plant-Based Bistro within Eat Good Market.
We pick up our rental bikes at KalaVida Surf Shop at Kalamalka Lake Beach just outside Vernon. Owner Kevin O'Brien greets us, and we get to talking about tipping points.
"The backbone of KalaVida is stand-up paddle board rentals," he says. "For years we tried unsuccessfully with beach cruiser bikes. You'd think this the ideal location because we're right beside the beach, but really there were just not enough scenic rides without encountering too many hills in every direction."
That all changed last year when the 23-kilometre Kalamalka section of the Okanagan Rail Trail opened. "We've hit the tipping point," says O'Brien. "The rail trail is amazing, and everyone wants to cycle it. That's were KalaVida comes in with its bike rentals. You can do it on a regular bike because the grade is only three per cent. Or go with a Townie e-bike and you can go as far as you want without every worrying about getting tired."
The Kalamalka section is the northern extension of the trail that now spans 50 kilometres from the Okanagan Lake waterfront in downtown Kelowna up to Lake Country and into Coldstream's Kalamalka Lake Beach. As the name indicates, the multi-use cycling, hiking, running and walking linear trail is fashioned from the decommissioned CN railway. The railway tracks are gone, replaced with gravelled and paved recreational stretches.
Tourism Vernon and KalaVida had latched onto the rail trail section running the entire 23-kilometre west shore of Kalamalka Lake as a tourist-and-local juggernaut. "I don't think we can overstate it's importance," says Ange Chew of Tourism Vernon. "It's one of Vernon's greatest attractions and it's free. And cycling or hiking the rail trail can be done on its own or combined with the area's other greatest attractions like the lakes, wineries, food and downtown vibe."
We customize our own Foodie Trail with the grub from Helmut's, our stunning bike ride from the northern tip to the southern tip of Kalamalka Lake and back with numerous stops along the way and picnic on that isolated beach.
Hot at the end of the ride, we pull out at the quiet beach with jutting rocks near the trail head to cool off in the water. By the way, Kalamalka's greenish glow is caused by light scattering off the precipitation of calcite in the water. And the lake is named after an Okanagan native chief who used to live on shores and fish the waters.
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If you want to swim with the buzz of lots of people, just go a little farthur to Kalamalka Lake Beach.
After returning the bikes, we reward ourselves with locally brewed Underground cherry smash kombucha and coconut muffins at The Rail Cafe. The cafe is part of the same complex as KalaVida that O'Brien owns, along with the Kalamalka General Store.
Check out this ZenSeekers Facebook live describing what could be the perfect beverage to wash down the local cheese and Harry’s fish; can we interest you in an Appleanche? - head to the Davison Orchard with us and found out just what this delicious offering is.