Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Kettle Valley Rail TrailClaire on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

In the summer of 1997 we did a Zippy (our tandem) tour of British Columbia and Alberta, 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles). Toward the end of our two months, we said goodbye to Steve Richards who’d been with us for three weeks in the mountains of Southern BC. Steve was later to finish his own trans-Canada tour. We got on the, still unfinished, Kettle Valley Railway (rail trail) bypassing Kelona and on to Penticton. The Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park is the most spectacular section of the trail, with 18 trestles and two tunnels in an 8.5 kilometer section. On this section, we met a couple who invited us to stay in their cabin near Penticon. They were obviously experts on riding the trail; they had us riding the unfinished trestles, with 6 inch spaces between cross-beams; we had to keep up quite a bit of speed to keep from shaking the fillings from our teeth, but it was fun. Unfortunately I can’t remember their names, but they might be found in the Canadian Love Story, British Columbia/Alberta section on this site.

We were heartbroken to learn that the Okanagan fires of 2003, burned most of the trestles. Originally built for the Kettle Valley Railway, to stop we Americans from stealing their silver and transporting it south across the border. Begun in 1896 and finished in 1916, it was, and still is, considered an engineering feat given the steepness of the terrain. It became part of the Trans Canada Trail after abandonment late in the last century.

After the fires, Canadians pulled together to replace the national treasures between 2004 and 2008. We decided we wanted to revisit the rail, and see the new and repaired trestles, and plotted a mountain bike ride. All access roads are gravel, and we decided to ride from the nearest paved road to save Turtle (our motorhome) wear and tear, and get in a good workout. We got what we wanted! A 2,000 foot elevation change in five miles is quite a grunt, for two motorhome travel softened cyclists. We wondered how we ever managed to get to the trail on a fully loaded Zippy. It could have to do with the reality that both of us were 13 years younger then. Damn. Hate those reminders.

The Myra rebuilt trestle section of trail has become somewhat a victim of its own success; the trailhead parking area, ¼ mile long, was filled on Sunday. The first few kilometers of the trail was crawling with cyclists and walkers, making the going slow, but we’d had our workout, and just wanted to see the trestles at leisure.

Unfortunately many of the cyclists thought the eight kilometer section of flat trail constituted their workout, and went way too fast for the crowding. Almost no one wore helmets, and tended to pass each other, and walkers, at high speed on the trestles. One unfortunate older woman cyclist was forced off the middle boards and crashed against the railing, unable to handle the cross beams. She was wearing a helmet, but hurt her shoulder and was in considerable distress. A doctor and a trail volunteer were soon on the scene with first aid. I have often observed that, contrary to popular belief, separate trails are in many cases not safer than the roads. I’ve seen too many inexperienced cyclists exceeding their skill level, probably because they feel safe on a trail. We support trails with our dollars and labor, but do suggest that beginning cyclists avoid the week-end warriors and get some experience in mid-week when the trails are quiet. If you are a regular trail user, call-out the speeders and obviously unsafe riders, you could save some proper trail user a painful crash. If you yourself feel the need for speed, get on the road and leave the trails for others.

Leaving his mark on the Kettle Valley Rail TrailFather and son building rock cairns, something of a tradition on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. “I was here!”

Everybody else feeds me.“Is this the way to the trail mix?”

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