Reinventing the Okanagan: The Biker and the Beekeeper

Bike riding the historic trestles of the Kettle Valley Railroad and beekeeping with Planet Bee in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia

Planet Bee

Planet Bee, 5011 Bella Vista Rd., Vernon, tel. 250-542-8088,, tours from $5.50 (add $6 to suit up and work a hive).Ed Nowek began working with honeybees as a summer job in high school in Northern Alberta, work that eventually took him to California and Mexico before he got out of the business for a decade to do marketing and run video stores.

"I liked it," said Nowek of his foray into a life not defined by honeybees. "But there was nothing I had a real passion for, nothing that I found that I really enjoyed doing like beekeeping."

Twelve years ago, got back into the bee business, but this time he wanted to "make it about educating, sharing it with people, and offering the other products of the hive—not just honey."

Nowek started Planet Bee just outside Vernon at the northern end of the Okanagan, where he leads tours of his little bee museum with a goofy, infectious enthusiasm, drawling in an easygoing Canuck patois liberally sprinkled with "Eh's."

He can crack jokes about busy female worker bees and layabout male drones with geeky glee, launch into a discussion of the mysterious bee colony death epidemic that has been making news over the past few years, and espouse the health benefits of various bee products, citing bee experts from Hippocrates and Mohammed to Renaissance natural historians and contemporary nutritionists.

The tour highlight, however, comes outside, where visitors can watch from behind protective netting as Nowek demonstrates his art on a live beehive. For a few extra bucks, anyone can suit up, don a veil, and try tending the hive themselves.

Nowek seems to get a kick out of seeing the delighted look on people's faces the first time they taste fresh honey straight from the busily buzzing comb—and their realization that perhaps bees are less the hell-bent stinging machines of their nightmares and more the fascinating creatures Nowek knows and loves.

"That’s my goal, " said Nowek. "That people will be more comfortable with bees, more understanding of bees when they leave."

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway

Monashee Adventure Tours, 1591 Highland Dr. N., Kelowna, tel. 888-762-9253 or 250-762-9253,, half-day tours from $80.The goal of mountain bike guide "Trailhead" Ed Kruger, operating out of Kelowna, the Okanagan's largest town and unofficial capital, appears to be to cram as much information about the region and its history as possible into his clients during the breather breaks on his rides along trails converted from the historic Kettle Valley Railroad.

Kruger's fascinating conversational patter careens from the esoterica of railroad history to anecdotes of colorful valley characters to the historical development of the local agricultural industry from tobacco barns and fruit orchards to today's vineyards.

"I was voted one of the best historians in the valley two years ago," said Kruger as he pointed out ancient sediment layers in the landscape dating from last glaciation period, then indicated the woods where Rambo: First Blood was filmed, and then, without pause, launched into a discourse on the local economy (apparently, there's way more profit in golf courses than in gas stations).

Though born and raised in Kelowna, Kruger started his guiding career conducting extreme mountain bike tours in the Monashee Mountains east of the valley (hence his company's name: Monashee Adventure Tours).

"God, I had some fun!" He said of his years careening down mountainsides. "But after a few broken wrists and scary crashes it was nice to get away and do some slack stuff like this. I rarely have to use my first aid kit now."

The "slack stuff" that led Kruger home to the Okanagan and that now forms the bread and butter of his business consists of relatively easy trail rides along old rail beds, which feature a nearly flat grade.

"I've had folks as young as four and as old as 87 do this ride," said Kruger of a popular half-day 20km (12-mile) route that crosses the dozen historic rail trestles of Myra Canyon, a stretch of wilderness that folks around here call "The Jewel of the Transcanada Trail."

In the mid-1990s, Kruger helped with this rails-to-trails conversion, then played an even more active role in replacing the trestles after they were destroyed in a devastating 2003 fire that consumed 3,000 acres.

The final trestle wasn't restored—and the Myra Canyon trail fully reopened—until March 2008.

In the meantime, Kruger developed his other popular range of rides: variations on vineyard hopping by bicycle.


Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in August 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.