Triathletes training for the Challenge whiz past rocky cliffs, cool lakes and open grasslands.
In the Okanagan, the landscape seen from in the saddle is rich and diverse, and just waiting to be discovered.
The day after the big race, when sore muscles are being nursed and the last of the aid stations is being cleared away, renowned biologist and birder Richard Cannings will be giving an eco-tour, which follows the route of the Challenge bike and run courses.
Open to athletes and the public, this Meadowlark Festival tour takes place Monday, Aug. 26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) from the comfort of an air-conditioned tour bus.
“You could stop almost anywhere along this route and find something interesting to talk about,” says Cannings. “My favourite is probably Vaseux Lake, where the valley is narrowest and natural diversity is the highest — from the lake to dry grasslands, towering cliffs and pine forests.”
The tour includes a bagged lunch, and a complimentary signed copy of Cannings’ book Roadside Nature Tours through the Okanagan.
“I thought this book was very apt for the tour, as it covers all aspects of nature — from geology to forest ecology to insect biology, conservation issues, and of course, birds.”
Cannings has also co-written a new book with his son Russell Cannings, which might also come in handy on the tour.
Russell spent a year travelling around B.C. trying to spot as many different kinds of birds as possible. He kept notes on his travels detailing the province’s best birding hot spots. The result: Birdfinding in British Columbia.
This remarkably thick resource gives an idea of the diversity of B.C.’s bird populations, but at the same time serves as an insider’s guide to great walks, hikes and trails.
“I think it’s selling very well — not just to keen birders but to everyone interested in the outdoors,” says Cannings.
Cannings August eco-tour is geared towards athletes, who may well appreciate the air-conditioned bus ride, and to the rest of us who may have never contemplated running or biking the route in the first place.
There’s sure to be excellent bird spotting, and with that, a glimpse into a whole different world of competition and bird finding challenges.
Heather Allen is a writer and reader living in Penticton.