We are obsessed with cherries. So obsessed that driving 400km away and five hours each way just to pick cherries doesn’t seem like a ridiculous idea to us. I think there is something exotic for us about cherries. I remember hearing stories from my grandmother about how she used to climb the family cherry tree in their backyard in Cologne, Germany, pre WWII days. She would sit for hours on a wide branch munching on the unlimited supply of cherries, spitting the pits into the Nazi neighbour’s yard… It always sounded like a fairy tale, cherries were almost unreal. Growing up in Israel we sure enjoyed many different types of fruit, but cherries weren’t one of them, and I don’t really remember eating cherries, till, well, till we moved to BC eight years ago.
We first visited the Okanagan while we cycled the Kettle Valley Railway, on our first ever cycle touring trip during our first summer in Canada. The area is known as “Canada’s only real desert”, but I wouldn’t consider it as a real desert… Nonetheless we grew to like the area very much, especially for its warm climate, nice lakes to swim in, and well, the cherries that are grown there. We try to drive east to the Okanagan almost every summer right around cherry season.
So on Sunday morning we headed east with the sun in our eyes the whole way. It still didn’t stop me from a good sleep, but I used my pillow more as an eye cover than its normal use. We drove through Manning Park and then drove up, up, up till we reached the trailhead of Three Brothers Mountain. We had hiked that trail once before, during our first summer in Canada, but that day was grey and cold. This time the sun was out in full force and the sky was blue as it should be.
It’s a long hike, but not so strenuous, and passes through endless sub-alpine meadows. If you time it right, like we did, then the flowers should be blooming which makes a colourful carpet of orange, purple, white, yellow and green. Our destination kept on getting bigger and bigger as we got closer and after a long few hours we were finally on the top of the First Brother. I am not sure where the rest of the two brothers are, but the First Brother is good enough for us. The views all around were magnificent: mountains all the way to the horizon and the US beyond, the endless trees of Manning Provincial Park, and of course I had a good nap in the sun.
We then headed down the same way, only getting back to the car after 7pm. We drove eastwards towards Princeton and eventually stopped for the night at one of the recreational sites along the old Princeton-Hedley Highway.
The next morning we drove to Osoyoos, bought some supplies at the supermarket, had a nice breakfast by the lake and then went to do what we came there to do. We already know our favourite place to pick cherries, and we were very happy to find Charlie and his wife (they are Punjabi, like many of the farmers in the area) doing well with some remaining cherries on the trees. It was really the end of the season and we left with about 80 pounds of cherries and two boxes of apricots.
Then we could finally jump into Osoyoos lake, one of our favourites, since the water is actually warm enough that you can stay in the water for more than five minutes without losing the feeling in your toes or other body parts. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading lazily on the shore till we finally decided to start heading west, back home.
It was very hot in the car, our air conditioning is not working and for the three days you actually need it in Vancouver we decided we won’t bother fixing it. We were a bit lazy, and just put all of our fruit on the backseat, so when we first saw hitchhikers on the road we didn’t stop. Thinking about it for a few minutes we changed our minds and drove back, to pick them up. After repacking the car to make room for their huge backpacks, we managed to fit everyone and everything in, and they were grateful for the ride. Apparently the driver on their previous ride was drinking beer and driving like crazy.
It turned out that they were a Québécois couple – she was working as a cherry picker in Oliver and he was travelling around. They were on their way to Tofino for some surfing, but as we got closer to Vancouver it became clear to us that they wouldn’t make it to the ferry that night. We offered them to stay at our place and they happily agreed, it’s always nice to be kind to others and they very much appreciated the shower and good night’s sleep.
The cherries lasted for awhile and featured in some tasty baked products for our weekly market, extending my previous experiences baking with cherries. Cherry on a Bike finally delivered some cherry products (often people ask us – where are the cherries?), and hopefully more to come in the future.