Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kinsol Trestle Update

Yesterday we visited the Kinsol Trestle to see how its reconstruction is going. It's almost done!

You can see its progress via "live webcam" here (takes a while to set itself up, so be patient!).

It looks as though they have designed a steel support structure for a totally new railbed (you can see the orange/brown pipelike structure just below the railbed), which will rest on a few rebuilt loadbearing wooden supports. The rest of the structure will not be repaired, but will be left to "age in place". New railings and "lookouts" have been put in. It doesn't look like the new wood has been treated in any way (it hasn't been creosoted, in any case).

We're looking forward to being able to ride across this magnificent structure!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kettle Valley - Coalmont to Hope

We are once again on the trail, this time attempting the last section of the KVR from Coalmont to Hope.
We start in Coalmont, at the point we left off last year. The weather is fine, dry and hot for early September! The trail is dusty and quite ATV-churned, and the scenery rather "meh" until we get to Tulameen. Things improve markedly as we cross the Otter River bridge (on the cover of Dan Langford's guide to the KVR!) and the motorized traffic gets left behind.
The scenery is beautiful as we wind our way by old weathered barns in hay fields, along a chain of small blue lakes...we even get to see a bear cross our path!

The road surface is good, packed gravel, and the directions clear. We encounter only a single farmer on his tractor until we get past Thalia. It turns out that the KVR from Thalia to Brookmere is used by the locals as the main route from Brookmere to Tulameen; they prefer the flat, wide, 10km long railbed to the 26km winding logging road, which is the only other alternative. Go figure. We see 3 cars in an hour.

No trouble cycling the 42 km from Coalmont to Brookmere, although it is a long day!
The next day we bike from Brookmere to the Coquihalla summit, a little under 30km. The day starts with some really rough "ATV surf" (washboard on a large scale), which would seriously impede us if we were riding fully loaded bikes. Luckily we aren't, plus, it's downhill, so it's nothin' but a slightly challenging ride as we swim down the loose surface of the trail.
There are some short washouts on this stretch, as well as some small rock falls to walk over.
Just past Brodie, we encounter the first major washouts of the trip. The first has a trail bypass (very steep) that we carry our bikes along...
but the second one has no trail at all across its sandy slope. We have to forge a new path on the steep sand, carrying bikes and gear while a family of ATV'ers looks on from the far side.
We can hear the Coquihalla Highway now, it is across the river. At some point the highway comes up to, and swallows, the railbed. We have to go through the game fence, and follow the paved access road through the now-defunct Coldwater Provincial Park. After the park, there's no more pavement for us, and we follow the highway, skirting along the game fence along a dirt track. The ride is challenging and we enjoy it, even with the highway noise from above.
Finally at the Coquihalla Lakes (summit) we cross under the highway and get onto the paved access road to the rest area and the parked car. It has taken us 6.5 hours to cover 29km, thanks to the challenging terrain!

The next day we are on the Trans Mountain pipeline access road. There's a big gate we push our bikes under, and then we're off on a steep gravel road that dives quickly down far below the KVR grade, which clings to the mountainside high above us. This is a remote stretch as the "Coke" has pulled off into a different valley altogether. We are completely alone...until we meet an encampment of ATVers with big 5th wheel trailers. How'd they get in here???
The weather is turning fall-like, there's a nippy headwind most of the day and a high fog threading the mountain tops. The road is really rough in parts, but because we're not loaded down it's OK. We see remains of trestles and snowsheds on the mountainside, relics of the KVR.  At about the halfway point the pipeline road comes up to the KVR railbed again and we can follow the original grade; a nice 2% downhill slope. There are some original tunnels, still in use and maintained by the pipeline company.
The road dips down again, leaving the railbed, but now we can follow the trail. It is a green, mossy tunnel; easy cycling along a forest path, very quiet and beautiful. The day ends with another gate and on pavement again; the access of the pipeline road to the Coquihalla highway. It has been an easier day today - all downhill on mostly good roads!
Our final day is from Aurum (the Carolin Mines road) to Hope. The day starts promisingly with reasonable weather, a good grade and lovely wooded glades, high above the highway.
At about Jessica station, though, the railbed becomes impassible and the track leads us down to the highway. At this point we have a choice of following the "bike" signs, which clearly lead us to the highway shoulder, or the TransCanadaTrail markers which lead under the highway...and, we hope, to a path off of it.  However, we are disappointed and even it leads onto the shoulder of the Coquihalla. There is no escape. We must walk on the shoulder of the Coquihalla, by now in the rain, with trucks approaching at 120km/h, for about 2 hours to cover 4 km. It's awful and it is the low point of the trip. What makes it worse is that we can see a dirt road on the opposite side of the river next to us...but there is no way to cross the water.
Thankfully, this too ends, and we access the railbed at Othello Road, to our huge relief. We're nearing the famous Othello aka QuintetteTunnels (although there are only 4...), which are truly a marvel of engineering. Four aligned tunnels with 2 bridges over the raging Coquihalla river...We pass through the tunnels and then on through the park and the sudden West Coast jungle vegetation...
The town of Hope is a mere 8km away and we coast quickly. We've made it! Over the past few years we've done from Midway to Hope, practically the entire KVR. Of course, there are still the branch lines to explore...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rail Trails in Spain - Girona to Sant Feliu

Here we are, on holiday in Spain (Catalunya), and we've got the opportunity to try out a Spanish rail-trail!
It appears that there is a network of rail-trails here, called Vias Verdes, and we decide to try one out to compare it to what BC's got to offer. The one we pick goes from Girona to the coast, about 40km to a town called Sant Feliu de Guixols. Click on the picture to enlarge and read a bit about its history. 
We rent bikes from a British/Dutch couple who've established a shop in Girona that caters to people just like us. The bikes are pretty decent! They come complete with panniers and built-in locks.
The kind folks at the shop provide us with detailed directions to get to the coast. There's a bus which will take us back to Grona...so off we go! There's nothing to do, really, but follow the signs for the Via Verde:
How hard can this be?

The route leads through a number of towns, each with its own brick stationhouse. Most of them house tourist information offices, and most have functioning, clean washrooms and a drinking fountain. Which turns out to be a real plus, as we stick our heads under the cold water on more than one occassion!

The first few towns seem to be bedroom communities or heavily agricultural, and not so scenic. Then, the route takes us into the real countryside, and we're passing through farm fields. The corn is 2m high, I've never seen it like this here. It is hot hot hot and the cicadas buzz like a maracas band...
Here comes Alf around the corner!
The track seems well used, we see lots of lycra-clad Spanish mountain bikers out for their weekend tour. Some small stretches of the route go through towns (ie. on, or next to, a road), and some of the rural sections double as farm roads, so we do encounter some motorized traffic. But in general, the route is bike-only. The road surface is superb, hard-packed dirt.
Some parts remind us of the KVR, with cuts through high banks, and bridges...

We stop for a snack in Cassa de la Selva, and encounter a milk vending machine! At first we can't believe it, but then we witness it being used by the locals, so of course we have to try it too. We get a plastic cup of cold, fresh milk for 50 euro-cents. Maybe because all the grocery stores here offer is the UHT stuff??
At about 3 pm it gets too hot for us, and we stop at a local restaurant in Castell d'Aro for a late lunch, choosing whatever they have the for menu du jour. Andrew nearly falls asleep over his crema catalana...siesta time!
After a quick look around town (there's a nice old fort/church), we start biking again at about 4, we've not got far to go anymore.
We soon hit Sant Feliu, with its sandy (busy) beach and classic boulevard.
We head for the bus station, where after a heated exchange in broken Spanish with a reluctant bus driver (customer service has some way to go...), we can throw our bikes underneath in the luggage compartment and climb aboard for a 45-minute, air-conditioned ride back to Girona.
We return the bikes and enjoy a celebratory glass of limonata!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kettle Valley Railway - Penticton to Coalmont

Labour Day long weekend, and we're cycling another leg of the KVR - this time from Penticton (where we left off in 2007) to Coalmont. We've scheduled 4 days...and are doing it using 2 cars, ferrying bikes and cyclists back and forth. Kind of a pain, but we don't want to be carrying stuff on our bikes (other than snacks and water!).

Thursday: we start in Penticton and, after crossing the canal, we climb gently until we are on the "benchlands". The weather is just right - not too warm, no rain - and the views spectacular. No ATVs either, the long weekend and nearby city notwithstanding! The Summerland Steam Train (runs in summer only) still runs on the KVR tracks and over the bridge, which has recently been restored. Because of the steam train, the bike track has a pretty big detour through Summerland, mostly on the roads. This is the least pleasant part of the trip, it is on pavement, with traffic, and lots of up and down. Finally we're off it, though, and on to a "flume trail" above the railbed. This part is lovely and makes up for the nasty road bit before. The rails are still in place almost up to Faulder, although there is not much evidence that they are actually in use. We "haul out" at Faulder station for the day and drive back to Penticton for a swim in the pool before dinner!

Friday: we pick up again at Faulder and head off into the most remote part of the trip - Faulder to Bankeir. There's no paved road here, only a dirt road and the odd Forestry Service campsite. We've timed it to (hopefully) miss most of the long weekend ATV traffic, and so far it seems to be working. Parts of the road are very sandy and soft, though, making for hard going. But there has been a lot of trail maintenance going on; trees cut back and new bridges put in (blocked to ATVs using posts). We consult Dan Langford's KVR cycling "bible" often so we don't miss sights like The Cave: We end up just on the other side of Thirsk Lake, about 6 km east of Bankeir. It has been a
long day.

Saturday: picking up where we left off
just before Bankeir, the day is a bit dreary and a fall chill is in the air. We seem to have caught up with the trail maintenance crew...this bridge is still under construction so we hop the fence and walk our bikes over. It's a bit spooky since you can look down between the sleepers to the creek bed 50 ft below...No hard rain, but as we near Bankeir and Osprey Lake, ATVs materialize. The railbed is quite churned up near the Osprey Lake summit (water tower base still there).
We have a delicious lunch at the Teepee Lakes Resort and General Store at Bankeir and then head further. Lots of ATV traffic to contend with now, even some cars on the track! The grade is flat or slightly down, which is good since the surface is quite loose. After the Erris tunnel, things perk up a bit as the grade increases and the surface improves (and the ATV traffic dies down).
Heading into Jura, the valley opens up to spectacular views!The late afternoon light is stupendous, with the dark rainclouds illuminated by the setting sun. Toby does a victory lap when we finally reach the highway and the car. 42 km today, a record!Sunday: picking up at Jura, we cruise down into Princeton to good weather and more great views.
No ATVs out here (too far from town??), which is nice. Andrew gets a flat somewhere near Belfort...but we keep pumping it up until Princeton...
...where they're putting in a new bridge for the KVR! We can see the span ready to be dropped in place.After a lunch and a tire-fixing in Princeton, we continue on. There is a long tunnel just outside of Princeton, where we wait in line with the ATVs to go through. There's a nice bridge right after.
The trail surface is mostly churned and loose, we are grateful for our fat tires and low gears. There are quite a few ATVs that come by, luckily they and their noise and fumes are gone fast, leaving silence and nice views, including red ochre cliffs and hoodoos.There's even a small washout! Excitement!
As we approach Coalmont the ATV traffic increases again. We see whole campsites full of them. By the time we hit Granite Creek the noise is pretty incessant, so we are glad to finally reach our destination! 130 km in 4 days!
Next time: Coalmont to Brookmere to Merrit?