2010 Race 2 Finish travel blog

the road west of Oliver is lined with orchards

and turning up the valley there are a lot of vineyards

at the end of the valley the scenery gets more natural

at the end of the road we came to the Desert Center

sign at the entrance

the society operates out of this modest building

view up valley north of the center


the center's museum is small but interesting

there are well mounted specimens of wildlife

and a good comparison of skeletons and skulls

sign at the entrance to the Native Plant Meadow

next to it is this bird bath and it is obviously attracting...

we started down the path

no artificially planted yard was ever more beautiful than this









a honey bee is working these flowers

some of the desert's plants are tiny and delicate

others are sharp and prickly


these flowers are buckwheat

more beautiful plants grew along the boardwalk



these bloom for a while

and eventually turn to these




above the valley this highway climbs to the top

view down the valley from the boardwalk








the first interpretive stop

the stop features these bat boxes


it has a roof designed to stay cool with ventilation over and...

a tiny bird was drinking from this pond but it flew away...

there was a badger burrow hidden in the weeds nearby






looking back the way we came that tiny white dot is our...




every direction you look out here the view is magnificent

Antelope brush is the key plant on this desert - it provides...

it supplies forage for mule deer and big horn sheep - and...

one of the many beautiful varieties of grasses


there are prickly pear cacti out here but they are tiny

they turn colors as they mature


this moss like ground mat is the cryptobiotic layer that supports all...

if you pour water on it the layer turns green

if it is damaged the layer takes generations to regenerate - hence...

one of the most beautiful plants on the preserve





across the valley are the vineyards and orchards

not hard to see how they've changed the ecology of the desert






with a last look we left the desert preserve

orchards half a mile away


and peppers grow here


we need food and we need space and nature - hopefully the...

we headed west out of the valley

down valley the agricultural development is more widespread


this road ascends the east side of the valley

view from the top of the road

looking south


the view north


continuing east the scenery and the weather were dramatic



sheets of rain




here we're near the border and the mountains in the distance are...












coming into Grand Forks

it's not easy to leave a country that looks this good!

A close-up look at one of Canada's rarest ecosystems


This was our last driving day in Canada and we spent it driving first to the Osoyoos Desert Center southwest of Oliver, and then to the town of Grand Forks, B.C. on the U.S. - Canadian International Border.

In the past two years we’ve spent over five months in Canada, and we’ve driven thousands of miles through all ten of the nation’s provinces. This country still has the ability to surprise and amaze us. Today we took a closer look at Canada’s end of the northern Sonoran Desert. It was a poignant reminder that food for the soul is as necessary to our well being as food for the body.

In the words of their written tour guide: “The Osoyoos Desert Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Antelope brush ecosystem in the South Okanagan. Through education we aim to generate public knowledge, respect and active concern for fragile and endangered habitats worldwide.”

The society’s vision may be worldwide, but their focus is on this particular ‘fragile and endangered habitat’. They operate out of a small building at the edge of the valley and they offer guided and self guided tours of a plot of desert they have fenced off and protected.

The ‘enemy’ is lined up across the valley. Vineyards, orchards and the gardens of a growing agribusiness line the river banks. One vineyard extends all the way to the Center’s fence. The geometric squares of cultivated green are in sharp contrast to the soft shapes and earthy colors of the natural flora.

Hopefully a balance will be found so the two can co-exist, but a volunteer at the center did not sound hopeful. She was a native of Spain, where she says goats and sheep have been grazed in the vineyards and orchards for centuries. Modern growers will have none of it. Nor do their counterparts in the ranching business want the National Park that’s proposed for the valley. They’re afraid if it comes they will no longer be able to graze their cattle on public land.

We studied the collection of specimens in the center’s little museum, then we went outside and took a walk through their Native Plant Meadow before taking the longer 1.5 kilometer walk on their boardwalk. The plant meadow stresses the good sense of landscaping yards with native plants. The examples they show would make a lovely yard for any home, and as easy to maintain as they are water and energy efficient.

On the longer boardwalk there were stops along the way with interpretive signs and information. The written guide was another good source of information. Our visit to the center was two hours well spent, and the pictures above document the beauty of the place.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving east along the U.S. - Canadian border to Grand Forks. The scenery and weather were both dramatic. We will sadly miss this wonderful country. At Grand Forks we took a campsite on the river and settled in for two nights before going south. Our last day in Canada was spent relaxing and catching up on chores, so we are now ready for re-entry. Hopefully we won't burn up on re-entry!

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