Kettle Valley Railway Line

Bicycle Touring 

1,307 words

Title: Kettle Valley Railway Line; by Terry Connellan

No life like one on a bike

For the past sixteen years, and more than 
seventy-seven thousand kilometres, I've spent 
my summers wandering the main highways 
and back roads of Canada and the United States 
on a bicycle. 

My bikes have had their wheels dipped in the Atlantic, 
Pacific and Arctic (Beaufort Sea) oceans, in search 
of history, scenery, beauty, and the perfect cinnamon 
roll. I travel alone and self-sustained. Everything 
I need tent, cooking, sleeping, & entertainment 
gear I carry on board. 
        
If you are one of those poor wimps whose self image 
is dictated by the brand of beer you drink or car you're 
making payments on, face it what follows isn't for you. 
On the other hand if you like fresh air, excitement, 
challenge, spectacular scenery, good food and 
a stress-free pathway through history, come along 
with me. I'm going to share one of my favorite short 
trips with you. 
        
From Hope to Midway in British Columbia lie the 
remains of 500 kilometres of railway, built almost 
a hundred years ago to serve the mines of the BC 
interior. Much of the first half of the Kettle Valley 
Railway is difficult to traverse because of the 
construction of the Coquihalla Highway and ties 
and rails. 
        
For this three day trip I've chosen 170 rail and tie free 
kilometres of the eastern half, between Penticton and 
Westbridge. 

Start in Penticton with a heritage tour including the old 
train depot. Check trail conditions, campsite, B&B, 
and motel accommodations with the Bike Barn.

If you head out for Naramata in the early afternoon 
there will be time for a wine tasting stop at Bohumir 
and Vera Klokocka's Hillside Cellars, 1350 Naramata 
Road. Their Clevner white is a favorite in Victoria with 
The Sooke Harbour House, and you may wish to take 
a bottle along to share. If it's a hot day taste lightly. 
Remember that cycling, like driving under the 
influence, is terminal stupidity. 
        
The Camp Creek Station Pub in the village of Naramata 
is the perfect 1st night stop. This is an old fashioned 
English Pub where delicious, food, friendliness and 
good company abound, and alcohol is only an 
adjunct. I was stuck, when unable to choose between 
cheese cake and mud pie -- I ate them both. 
        
Rise early you have 35 kilometres to burn off last nights 
supper and it is all uphill on a steady 2.2% grade. Your 
start from the "Pub" is up Robinson, jog left on the 
highway, and then turn right up Smethurst road to the 
parking lot at the rail grade, turn left and you're on your way. 

Some of the trail surface is loose, fine material so you'll 
be happy with one and a half to two inch tires and pushing 
without. 
        
I hope your camera is clicking shots to look back on next 
winter because 2.4 km from the parking lot is your first 
tunnel 162 feet long. Another 9km will bring you to path 
leading uphill to your left to dome shaped rock ovens used 
to prepare food for the railway labourers and, sometimes in 
the winter, to thaw dynamite for the foolhardy. 

Back to the trail and another 2km to Horseshoe Tunnel, 
also known as Big Tunnel, curving for 1604 feet, it's dark 
in there. You can bypass the tunnel using a path to the 
left just before the entrance. My bike is equipped with the 
Canadian-made BLT light system, the best there is, 
so I rode through the tunnel. 
        
There was some rock fall and pooled water, but it wasn't 
difficult, just dark and cool. I wouldn't try it without 
a light. For the next 12km there are glimpses of Okanagan 
Lake miles away and over 2000 feet below. 

Five bridges to cross, the longest of which is 60 feet, 
and you will have ridden most of the longest stretch 
of unbroken 2.2% grade in B.C., arriving at Chute Lake. 

Throughout the province there are Forest Recreation Sites. 
Camping is free and most are user maintained, so 
"take only memories, leave only footprints." The site 
is to the right 1/3 of a  mile on a road around the south 
end of the lake, but first check out the alternative. 
        
Chute Lake Resort. Campsites for trailers etc. are $10.00 
including hot showers. I felt the area would be too noisy so 
I spoke to the owners Gary and Doreen Reed and they put me 
back in the woods at the south end of the property next to a 
special cabin. Ask them to tell you about the cabin owner and 
the plaque on the rock by the side of the lake.

After a long hot shower I had the supper special. They feature 
delicious, cyclist-sized portions, note; reserve, they run out 
early. I then crawled into my tent to sleep the kind of sleep 
that only cyclists have at almost 4000 feet above sea level, 
at the end of a perfect day. 
        
I had an early start after the Breakfast Special, surrounded 
by the fascinating artifacts in the Lodge that I couldn't see 
clearly the night before. There are only 50km to go before 
nightfall and this is to be a day of heart-stopping vistas.

I hope by now that you've done your homework for this trip. 
The assigned reading was: Railway Mileposts of British 
Columbia Volume II by Roger G. Burrows; McCulloch's Wonder 
by Barrie Sanford, and Exploring The Kettle Valley Railway 
by Beth Hill. They are all worth having in your library.  
        
The first of 18 bridges/trestles, and two tunnels that will take 
you through the awesome Myra Canyon, is a 780 foot long 
steel span. Now is the time to start your camera working you 
are entering the locale of the Canadian Broadcasting 
Corporation's 1973 filming of the "National Dream." 
Take your time, you've got all day.

I remember sitting on the safety platform in the middle of the 
434 foot frame trestle, which at 4178 feet above sea level 
is the highest point of the trip, legs dangling over the edge, 
eating my lunch, awestruck by the view, and humbled by 
the thought of the enormity of the task that faced Andrew 
McCulloch eighty years before. 
        
Next time I'll camp right in the middle of the canyon, but 
perhaps you'll prefer to carry on to either of two free 
Forest campsites on Hydraulic Lake. The campsites 
are in a pretty location amongst the trees at lakeside.
This is a favorite fishing spot, if you play your cards right 
you may end up sharing someone's catch.

From here on its a beautiful, scenic, downhill "float". Fifty 
km into the day you have the choice of packing across 
Wilkinson Creek, or if the water is too high, 6km of gravel 
road to highway 33 and rejoin the railway bed at Carmi. 
        
Stop for lunch in Beaverdell at either of two good cafes. 
Beaverdell will always be remembered for John O. Harrison, 
his fascinating tales of more than eight decades of pack 
trains, trapping, adventures and the gift of a skinning knife; 
and for gutsy Alice Zitko who with her children grown qualified 
to operate the large trucks for BEL road maintenance. 

Alice rode south with me 15km and cycled across her 
first railway trestle (an experience none of us ever forget.)
        
Your trip ends at the bridge over the west fork of the 
Kettle River at the appropriately named Westbridge. At one 
time there was a railway depot, general store, and hotel. 
These are all gone now but at today's general store the 
folks will relate history while you have one of their giant 
ice cream cones (come on you've earned it!)

This trip can be covered in less time, but why do it? Ride 
with all your senses see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and 
most of all imagine. Pause often and imagine building the 
railway; working the mines; riding the Kettle Valley Railway. 
        
The train, can you hear it? 



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