‘A last resort’: Man walks Kelowna to Penticton following Highway 97 closure – Okanagan


A Penticton, B.C., resident is sharing his story after walking over 10 hours to get to work.

Last Monday, Matthew Macdonald made a routine trip to Kelowna by bus to visit his grandchildren.

Highway 97 was closed later that day following a rockslide which meant MacDonald couldn’t take the bus home. So, instead, he set out on foot back to Penticton from Kelowna.

“Every second week I go up to Kelowna to see my grandkids. I take the bus, the number seven to go up there,” said Macdonald.

“I was struggling to find a way to get back home. I was asking BC Transit to see how to get back home. They had no options for me, just to wait a couple of days, but I couldn’t, I have my job. I just decided at lunchtime, just to start walking.”

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Click to play video: 'Caution urged on unpaved detours to avoid Highway 97 closure'

Caution urged on unpaved detours to avoid Highway 97 closure

The head groundskeeper is one of the longest-employed employees at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and said he did not want to miss more than a day of work.

Macdonald was in high spirits a week later, despite making the entire journey in flip-flops and running into a few hurdles along the way.

“It was a last resort,” said Macdonald.

“I can’t miss work. I love the company; I love the people here. I missed one day; I’m not going to miss two in a row.”

Penticton Lakeside Resort Manager, Brannigan Mosses, said it’s no surprise that Macdonald went to great lengths in order to show up for work.

“Surreal for a split second until I realized who I was talking to. Matthew is just completely loyal in all ways possible, including walking from Kelowna to Penticton to get to work because he didn’t want to miss two days,” said Mosses.

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“It was really interesting hearing about how that journey took place from all the great detail that he added from being turned away from being able to cross the actual slide itself and being detoured down to the water line and experiencing all sorts of wildlife, snakes, he said there was a lot of snakes and the bare skat.”

Click to play video: 'Additional detour routes available for Highway 97'

Additional detour routes available for Highway 97

According to Mossess, the tourism sector has taken a massive hit due to a recent travel ban and now the rockslide.

The Penticton Lakeside Resort went from around 75-90 percent occupancy down to 5-17 per cent in just a week.

“When you have a team like that, through all the difficulties, the ups, and downs that we’ve experienced over the past couple of weeks, it really warms your heart and just knowing that there’s a team mentality where culture is everything, especially during these times,” said Mosses.

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“I’m grateful to have a team that has that mentality that they will walk day and night to get to their workplace.”

According to the general manager, there are plans in the works to buy Macdonald a new pair of running shoes.

When asked if Macdonald ever make the journey again on foot he had this to say:

“Oh, heck no, no. I love taking the bus and there’s nothing wrong with the BC transit they just couldn’t bring me back home,” said Macdonald.

Meanwhile, there is still no timeline as to when Highway 97 will reopen. But for now, travelers are being asked to use neighbouring highways or forest service roads to get around.

Click to play video: 'South Okanagan officials respond to highway closure'

South Okanagan officials respond to highway closure

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