The Kettle Valley Railway Tour
August 24-31, 1997
An abridged and trestled story
Day 1 – Midway to Beverdell
This was our longest day and unfortunately the rainiest. It rained all day. The easy part of the day was the initial 22 km, which was all on the highway. This part of the KVR is discontinuous and so staying on the highway is the best option. Less than 2 km after getting on the actual KVR right of way we had our 1st flat tire. Vicki quickly fixed the flat and we continued on. The trail was in remarkably good condition despite the rain and on the plus side, the rain kept the dust down. For the rest of the day we alternated between riding through pastures or beside creeks. After a long wet day of riding, the group made a unanimous decision to forgo the tents that evening and look for roofed accommodations in Beverdell. The Beverdell Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in BC was full, but we found rooms at the Tamarack Lodge. What a stroke of Luck! Kathy looked like a popsicle and rest of us were quite cold as well, But the folks at the Tamarack Lodge went out of their way to make us welcome.
Soon after we arrived, there was a massive explosion in the lounge of the Lodge. Everyone ducked for cover, only to find that it was Vicki’s tire that exploded. She had gone to the service station to pump up her tire, but didn’t have a tire gauge with her to check the pressure afterwards. The tire blew just as she was getting out her tire gauge back at the Lodge. Oh well, the ride would have been a little harsh with 120 psi in the tire. Later that evening, Dave and Deb joined the Beverdell Volunteer Search & Rescue Team to look for a couple of stray cyclist on the KVR trail. They were successful in finding the mother and son team. Later in the lounge of the Lodge, the son sheepishly explained how his bike had broken down after losing most of the chainring bolts from the modified crank of his bike. He was a bike mechanic in Victoria and wasn’t carrying any tools.
Day 2 – Beverdell to McCulloch Lake
After a good night sleep, we awoke to a huge breakfast prepared by the folks at Tamarack Lodge. This gave us a good start for the day, because “It’s all uphill today”. Fortunately on the KVR, the maximum grade is 2.2%. The 1st point of interest was the mining ghost town of Carmi. Some of the old mining buildings and one of the hotels are still standing. Further along, we approached our one and only creek crossing. Shannon bravely did a solo crossing of Wilkinson Creek. Everyone else took out their cameras and snapped pictures. We all wanted a picture of Shannon in expectation that she would slip and be swept away by the current. Everyone else was helped across the creek.
This was also the day that Bob learned the difference between black mud and extruded brown mud (cow patties). Everyone had been pointing out the cow patties in the middle of the trail to the riders behind. This is what considerate cyclists are supposed to do. However, Bob seemed to fixate on the soft brown mound the cyclist in front of him would point to and ended up “STEERing” directly for the cow patty. Bob confounded the situation by stepping into a fresh mound at one of our rest stops. “Don’t ride behind Bob” was the cautionary phrase for the day.
That evening, the group sat around a nice campfire and sang the 1st line from at least 100 different songs. We could never remember the lyrics past the 1st line. We were good!
Day 3 – McCulloch Lake to Chute Lake
The ride was fairly easy this day and the scenery, spectacular. We had reached the summit of the climb and would be riding on level or a slightly downhill grade for the next 2 days. Also, by the 3rd day, everyone was use to their loaded bikes and had settled into a riding routine. We would ride for 30 min. and stop for a break to regroup and possibly have a snack, or as Barb put it “Cycle a little… Eat a lot… Cycle a little… Eat a lot.” Yes, this was a normal bike club trip. The Myra Canyon was the scenic highlight of the day. Over a 10 km section, the KVR had to thread the rails through Myra Canyon. For us, this meant riding over 18 bridges and trestles and through a couple of tunnels. At one of our scenic stops overlooking the canyon, Bob posed for the club newsletter’s Centerfold. SuavÈ Bobbie emerges. Look out girls! Mothers, lock up your daughters.
That night, while dining at Chute Lake Lodge, we experienced our 1st tent casualty. A hurricane strength storm blasted through our campsite and flattened Gord & Martin’s tent. We spent some time in the laundry room wringing out and drying Gord and Martin’s stuff. While we waited for their sleeping bags to dry, we had amateur talent night. Ernie performed the contortionist ladder crawl and Martin displayed strength and balance with one-legged squats. But the winners of the night were Deb, Bob, Angela, Martin, and Ernie showing us how many people would fit on a stool. That’s the 90’s equivalent on the old college trick of how many people can you stuff into a phone booth. Oh well, we were bored. More “entertainment” was to come later in the evening, courtesy of some rowdy neighbours. The grand finally of their drunken party was a one-man retching contest at 4:30 am. Needless to say, we got our revenge early next morning by ringing out our departure from the campsite. It wasn’t until later that we found out that some of the main culprits in the previous evening’s party were our mascots, B.O.B. II, Pavlov, Harvey and Mr. Raisin. They would be grounded the next day.
Day 4 – Chute Lake to Penticton
This was another scenic day and all downhill. We had a chance to explore Adra Tunnel. The tunnel is blocked off on both the upper and lower entrances because part of the tunnel has collapsed, but we ventured into the dark abyss anyway, to take a look. Next stop was a rock oven used by the railway crew to bake fresh bread during the construction of the Adra Tunnel. We didn’t bake any bread here, but we did give Ernie his birthday bumps by the oven. Another bit of cycling and it was time to take a snack break again, this time just after the Little Adra Tunnel. The sun was shining, there was a magnificent view of Lake Okanagan, and we were eating again. It doesn’t get any better than this!
That night we were back in civilization again, staying at the Penticton Hostel. Back to riding in traffic, breathing exhaust fumes. At the Hostel, Bob reported fumes coming from the men’s washroom many times stronger than vehicle exhaust fumes. He suspected a natural gas leak and wanted the rest of us to confirm his suspicions. No one would! Fortunately the fumes dissipated and there was no damage, except for some peeling paint on the walls. It doesn’t get any worse than this!
Our mascots, despite being grounded the previous day were out partying again. They seemed to have a life of their own and a much more exciting nightlife than the people. B.O.B. II and Mr. Raisin were spotted entertaining the women at a bar having a “Ladies Night Only”. That night B.O.B. II and Mr. Raisin came back with Twenty dollar bills stuck in their underwear. Our mascots were having so much fun that they recruited 2 new members the next morning, Buddy and Monkey.
Day 5 – Penticton to Osoyoos
We began with the ride to Okanagan Falls on the flat sandy KVR trail along Skaha Lake. The previous evening’s rain actually made the trail easier to ride. The pelting rain had consolidated the sand, leaving very few soft spots. This unfortunately, would be the last unpaved section of the KVR we would ride. After some eats [of course] and some beach time at Okanagan Falls we continued south on roads past orchards and wineries with a fruit stand stop here and there. Bob and Martin on a dare took the plunge into the fast flowing Okanagan River from McAlpine Bridge on Hwy 97. If a couple of kids can do it, so can Bob and Martin! From the bridge we followed the International Hike and Bike Corridor, a mostly paved multi-use trail that parallels the KVR right-of-way south to Lake Osoyoos. Then, it was back to the highway into Osoyoos.
Another huge storm blew in that evening, as we were about to start making supper. Our beach campsite turned to mud as 12 people huddled under a borrowed small tarp and made an enormous gourmet meal. We were in the middle of Canada’s only natural desert and it was pouring. Who can figure the weather?
Day 6 – Osoyoos to Christina Lake (by car)
Today was a travel day as we left the Okanagan Valley for points east. Dave and Pauline left for Edmonton, because Dave had become sick and could not continue. We suspect it was the six raw eggs he ate a day back. Without “Hoover” Dave to clean up the leftovers, we were going to have a tough time eating all the food we bought. At Christina Lake, we were amazed at all the antique vehicles at the campground. There were cars and trucks from the 1910’s to the 1960’s, all in mint condition. Apparently, the Christina Pines campground has an antique car rally each Labour Day weekend. We were asked if we were going to join the parade of antique vehicles the next morning, but with the possible exception of Gord’s bike, none of us were riding antiques.
Day 7 – Christina Lake to Farron
The toughest climb of the whole trip was the 1.9 km of 8-10% grade up Fife Rd. We needed to ride up Fife Rd to get to the railway right-of-way high above the shore of Christina Lake. We were now on the Columbia and Western railway and in bear country. There were fabulous views of Christina Lake as the C&W grade hugged the hillsides high above Christina Lake. A couple in an ATV passed us going the other way and reported seeing a mother bear and her cub about 2.5 km ahead. The next 2.5 km and 5 km after that seemed to go by very slowly. Every shadow in the bush was a bear. Vicky and Barb started singing songs [with made up lyrics because we didn’t know any real lyrics] and got the whole group to join in, loudly. “Vicki stopped for a quicky…”. That was one of the lyrics not a report on Vicki’s habits. We survived to finish our ride that day and camp in a meadow at the top of Farron pass in the middle nowhere. In a huge meadow, we managed to pitch our tents inches apart. Safety in numbers? Next we broke up into work groups to get water, setup our backcountry kitchen and hang the food. Left over railway ties made an excellent table for cooking. That cooking included Ernie’s backcountry green onion cakes. Hanging up the food away from the bears proved to be a more difficult task than we expected. After 1.5 hours and great monkey impressions by Bob and Martin, we finally managed to get all the bags of food up a tree. If we didn’t realize it before, the weight of all those food bags certainly indicated that we were not starving ourselves on this trip.
After the food was finally hung, we all went back to our tents to sleep, or so we thought. It started in Deb and Angela’s tent with “ohs” and “ughs” from Deb mixed with smacking noises of a hand or fist hitting the tent and hitting other things in the tent. Then Deb asked for a knife. What was Deb torturing in her tent? Did Angela fear for her life? Should we get out the bear spray and use it on Deb? Apparently, she was trying to kill a bug in her tent. Poor bug. Poor Angela.
Day 8 – Farron to Castlegar
The day dawned clear and cold. We went to check our food bags. Yes, the food was fine and there were no signs of bears. Breakfast consisted of “stick to your ribs” oatmeal. The oatmeal passed the upside down spoon test. We didn’t have a wall to throw it against for the definitive test. When we finally got moving, the miles disappeared quickly in the morning because of the downhill ride. Our 1st scenic point was the Bulldog tunnel. At 916m long, the tunnel is DARK, DARK, DARK and SCARY in the middle. Just ask Barb. Some people rode through the tunnel with their headlights on. But the headlights only cast a small circle of light on the tunnel floor which is littered with rocks. It was a difficult ride. Others decided to walk instead. Further along the trail, the rail right-of-way follows around the edge of Lower Arrow Lake into Castlegar. This section has numerous tunnels and open bridges and trestles to cross. Wow, what a view from the McCormack Creek Bridge. It’s 58m/190ft down to the bottom of the creek. While crossing this bridge, one of Barb’s sandals fell off her bike and through the spaces between the ties. Barb went back to look for the sandal, anticipating the worst. But she couldn’t believe her luck when her sandal was still within reach, hanging by a velcro thread. God was on Barb side this day.
Then came the last 10 km, the part that Ernie had warned everyone about. The trail was extremely rocky and maneuvering the bikes through the rocks was very difficult especially for the people with front racks. But we all made it eventually, minus a few chainring and rack bolts. Right Vicki? Alas, Vicki also had another flat coming down a nice hill during the final ride into Castlegar and that is where we discovered she had lost 3 chainring bolts and the 2 remaining ones were loose.
On Bob fun meter scale, this trip was a 10 out of 10.
Submitted by Pavolv, B.O.B. II, Buddy, Harvey, Mr. Raisin and Monkey.