When the Valley Bursts in Blooms
Remember the way you felt as a kid on the first warm day of spring, bursting with spring fever, itching to throw off your boots and head outside? Well, you can relive that feeling just about any spring day in the Similkameen — just grab your gear and get outdoors where mountain trails and rushing rivers are waiting for you! Winter’s thrown off its snowy coat revealing a valley bursting in bloom. From the fruit orchards of Keremeos and Cawston to the wild grass meadows of Princeton’s cattle country, the air is alive with the honeyed song of bees, perfumed by blossoms exploding in the trees. Rodeos return to the Similkameen Valley and the wineries dust off their bottles, ready to share samples of their best vintages.
Rivers run wild this time of year, and so do the animals that make this place home. Lower elevation trails once blanketed in snow reveal themselves to hikers and mountain bikers anxious to get outside and play. Waterfalls, swollen with snow melt send torrents down the Similkameen, turning an otherwise lazy river into some pretty slick whitewater, at least for a while. Sure, it’s mud season, but if you don’t mind getting a little dirty while you play, there’s lots to see and do on a warm spring day!
An early indication that spring is on the way is the sudden abundance of over-sized belt buckles and authentic 10-gallon hats you spy around town, a sure sign it’s rodeo season in the Similkameen Valley. The Chopaka Rodeo kicks off the season every Easter with cowboys and cowgirls competing in riding and roping events. The Elk’s Rodeo has been thrilling audiences for 75 years providing a full weekend of bull riding, bronco bucking fun every May. Exhilaration barely describes the excitement you’ll feel every time a cowboy straddles a bull, hanging on for dear life…or at least eight seconds. You won’t want to miss the annual pancake breakfast and cattlemen’s steak dinner; around here they’re more than just a meal — they’re a great place to meet up with the locals and learn about their cowboying ways.
Spring Time is for Birding & Wildlife Viewing
While farms and ranches are welcoming new calves and foals, Ginty’s Pond attracts birders and naturalists to the annual Meadowlark Festival, a full-immersion celebration of nature and wildlife held in the Similkameen each spring. Ask a local how to get to the Swan Lake Nature Reserve near Princeton and bring along your binoculars and best bird-viewing guide to glimpse the migratory creatures that nest or stop to rest and refuel. Spring is also the perfect time for wildlife viewing before trees and shrubs have the chance to completely leaf out. You’ll never forget the first time you see a black bear, still groggy from its winter slumber lazily grazing along the side of the road, or the sight of California Big Horn sheep and mountain goats clustered along the roadside, licking the pavement for traces of salt.