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?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Biking the Kootenays - Ymir to Nelson

The Burlington-Northern-Santa-Fe Rail Line between Salmo and Troup Junction was built as the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway by the American railway developer, Daniel Corbin in 1893. Apart from providing access to the mining towns of the Kootenays, this rail line ferried passengers between Spokane and Nelson. By the 1940s passenger service was withdrawn and the rail line mostly carried wood products for the rest of its active service up until 1989.

The corridor is set to become a part of the Trans Canada Trail, and the Regional District of Central Kootenay is now managing it as the Great Northern Trail.

While the trail goes from Salmo to just past Nelson, we're doing just the Ymir-Nelson part. We rent bikes in Nelson and get a cab to ferry us to Ymir, which has a lovely historic hotel:

The trail access is right across the street.

The day is hot, hot, hot and the insects sing while we sweat along the trail. We make lots of noise because it's berry season and the bears are out. No sightings, but lots of fresh scat!

Its about 18km to Apex, the highest point on this section; a slow 1% climb up. There is a lot of whining from the kids due to the heat and the unknown territory ("how much longer?"), but eventually we get to the summit. And the fun starts! A 6km, 2.5% downhill cruise into Nelson...I think I pedalled twice...we pass a lake, clearly a favourite swimming destination for the locals (remember for next time: bring swimsuit!), and zip down until we are above Nelson with lovely views of the lake. Do watch out for the single-track riders who can come down out of the bush very suddenly!

The trail continues another 5 km or so to Troup, to a swimming beach on Kootenay lake, but today we don't have time to explore that far...for next time!