Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway

Thursday 06Aug2009

After hiking in Cathedral Provincial Park for two days, my arms are still sore from supporting my Canon 50D camera by its lens throughout all that hiking. It was then time to try hurting other body parts by doing a 2-day bike trip on the Kettle Valley Trail.

After most of the trestle bridges along the length of the trail burned down in 2003, it looked as if this amazing rails to trails route in the Okanogan region of BC might be closed down for good. It was just in January of 2003 when the trail received historic status after major rebuilding of many of the bridges was finished. We've been wanting to ride a portion of the KVR trail since even before the fire and were fortunate to be able to do that now.

From Penticton, where we spent the night at a Days Inn, we were picked up by Mimi from Ambrosia Tours. After throwing our bikes and loaded panniers, sleeping bags, and water bottles into her van, we were entertained the whole 2 hour drive to Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park to start our ride with the Myra Canyon. Thanks to the advice from our friends Lynn and Jim, who had cycled the route before, we had some idea of what we were in for. It was a great bonus to hear from Mimi her tips on living better by avoiding restaurants, especially Chinese?!, and avoiding electronic devices like the iPhone I was checking during the drive as, once again, I feared I would lose cell/data coverage. Turned out not to be an issue; there must be some important Rogers person who lives in the area as reception is great (but non-existent to Telus customers.)

The views were mind blowing for the Myra Canyon portion of the ride. At each bridge, and often in-between, there were new sights to behold. The dirt trail was in really good shape and I was beginning to think that people before us were mistaken about the trail being tough to do. The last 10km of the 36 were like the final 6.25 miles of running a 26.25 marathon. Between the sand and the washboard gravel, it was a struggle at times to go any faster than 10 km/h and this is on an almost flat course.

Arriving at Chute Lake Resort was such a relief. The thought of being able to jump in the lake when we got here kept us going through the abandoned burnt-out forests on the skidding trail of sand and gravel. Well, first I had a whole day of tweets and a much needed and rare for me beer to take care of before jumping in the lake. The cabins are in decor from the 40s and 50s as is the menu...let's just say they are known for their hamburgers, fries and pie. In fact they only have hamburgers, fries and pie! Although almost everyone comes here after travelling for many hours on bikes, and almost all are west coast health nuts, there is nothing healthy about the menu...but it tasted sooo gooood!

An interesting pastime of the owner is collecting antiques. Rather than your typical furniture and fine china, their ecclectic mix of items focuses on transportation and industrial tools. Many items are within the lodge where you register and dine, including a glass trunk filled with Mason-type jars - one of which is valued at $1,100.00 and a glass cabinet containing glass telephone line insulators; the type that used to adorn the top of telephone polls. Behind the lodge is the 'museum,' which is an open barn, with more items than you can imagine. As Doreen says, you will want to go through it at least three times to see everything. The collection includes signs from old gas stations, license plates going back many decades, industrial age looking blow torches, an early telephone answering machine, gumball machine, tractors, bicycles, and an early 1950's Chrysler Imperial.

Tomorrow we will start with their traditional breakfast then be on our way to Penticton, stopping at a Vineyard for lunch just outside of town. Saturday and Sunday we will be picking up our lids from their camps and be able to compare stories.

Friday 7Aug2009
Well it was easy to roll out of bed this morning. Not just because I couldn't even stay awake past 9pm last night, but because when you step out of bed, the whole cabin floor is tilted just enough from the head of the bed to the kitchen sink, that you have to keep moving to prevent yourself from falling.

Breakfast at the lodge, which we had to order the night before, was a nice pairing to the dinner from the previous night. We did need to stock up on carbs for another day but it is beginning to feel a bit like hiking and biking is just an excuse to eat a lot! Eggs, toast with jam & peanut butter, hash browns, slice of ham, juice and a pot of coffee to get us to Penticton. Nothing could possibly harder than the previous day. Afterall, these last 42km are a steady downhill, with a planned stop at Hillside Estates Cellar for lunch at the 36km mark.

Despite the slight downhill grade, the day of cycling was still not easy as one might imagine it would be. It was still 20km before I felt that the surface was predictable enought to allow me to clip in both bike shoes instead of just one. Of course, I'm not someone who takes chances on a mountain bike. When I see people going to steep runs at Whistler, I'm never thinking 'I would live to do that!' In retrospect, perhaps I needed fatter tires on my hard-tail mountain bike. I don't know if full suspension would have helped too. All the jostling about also managed to dislodge the bottom bolt securing my book-rack to the bike frame so on pannier began to rub against the spokes. I was pretty frustrated by the time I caught up with Laura, who just so happen to have a spare bolt?! We kept leapfrogging with the group of 10 others throughout the day. At one point I learned that two of them had their panniers fly right of their bikes that day.

The temperature began to rise to 34 C as the trail became more bikable as we approached Naramata. Beautiful views of the vineyards below and more people on bile or just strolling as we reached Hillside Estates Winery at the outskirts of Penticton. The food was great and the wine pairing of the Gamay with Mediterranean lunch was a nice touch. We were so glad to top off our ride with this great meal.

The last six kms meandered through orchards until it overlooked the beach in Penticton. Down the city streets to the beach and back to our car at the Days Inn. We were fortunate to be able to shower and use the pool to cool down before the >5 hr drive back to Vancouver. The drive did not start well in terms of marital bliss thanks to the intrusion of our recently acquires GPS. Let's just say, make sure you have yours set to allow U-turns!