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?