Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 10:
Grand Forks to Greenwood: 47km
Friday, August 29, 2014.
Cloudy. 20C.

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Our ride to the east came to an end yesterday and today we began riding west. Having ridden the KVR from the Eholt summit into Grand Forks on Wednesday we decided to take the highway back over the summit to Greenwood. After a brief stop at the post office we ate breakfast in our room before leaving town.

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The smooth highway was a welcome change from bumping along the dusty rail trail and despite the traffic the scenery was equally as nice. I decided that I would count the number of hills we would climb from Grand Forks to Eholt summit, but there were really only two.

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The first one was quite steep and 3km long. The second hill lasted for 18km. We stopped a few times including this snack break in the ditch.
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After two hours of pedaling we finally reached the summit.

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After starting down the other side we stopped for lunch at Wilgress Lake. Both of us were excited to have successfully reached the summit.

The 25km ride down the other side was a little scary, but we did not get going as fast as we thought we might have. The
worst part was where there were concrete guard rails at the edge of the shoulder. All of the rocks, stones and debris collected there were rough and I thought surely that one of us would get a flat tire. That didn’t happen and in less than an hour we were in Greenwood.

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We stopped for a photo at the Tunnel of Flags- an early single lane tunnel from 1913 that passed under a wooden trestle- and then found our way to the motel. While checking in wondered if we should have looked somewhere else, but the room was nice and reminded us of the Wunderbar Motel in Wakefield, QC.

Within an hour we had seen town and plotted both our supper and dessert. We were back in our room by 4:30pm and finally got to see a baseball game. We ate at 6 o’clock and have enjoyed a relaxing evening writing our journals and planning our next few days of adventure.

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 9: Grand Forks to Cascade Falls and back: 47km.
Thursday, August 28, 2014.
Partly cloudy. 29C.

We decided to take a bit of a rest day today so we took a short walk before breakfast along the Kettle River.

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It was another sunny morning and both of us remarked how the morning can be so cool and the afternoon can be so hot. After breakfast we did some errands including getting my stitches removed at a medical clinic (I had a spot taken off of my arm 2 weeks ago), a stop at the post office and another at the hardware store. We had lunch back at the motel and sat outside in the shade. We decided to take a short bike ride out the other side of town where there is a paved trail to the Nursery Trestle.

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That didn’t take long so we kept on riding. We figured that the Cascade Falls Trestle wasn’t too much further and that it would be an interesting sight to see. The countryside here is beautiful and just being out in it is quite remarkable.

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It took longer than we thought to reach the gorge and we almost turned back a couple of kilometers beforehand. It was too high to jump from the trestle and too far down to climb down to swim. We chatted with a guy and his dog, had a snack and then headed back towards Grand Forks.

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Part way back we stopped to cool off in an irrigation sprinkler. That snapped us out of our heat trance and we made good time on the trail.

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At another stop for water I climbed up on a small grotto for a different view.

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Our final push towards home for the night was slowed by several farm gates. Stopping at each one to open, let ourselves through and then close them behind us. We joked that this would make for an interesting sporting event- farm gate relay racing.

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We rode straight to the grocery store and filled our basket. So much for taking a day off.

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 8 Midway to Grand Forks: 55km
Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
Hot and Sunny. 30C.

Midway has the most inviting looking grass covered hills overlooking the town. This morning when we got up the sun was shining and the hills were golden.

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Our plan today was to pedal to Grand Forks on the KVR so we scouted out the trail out of town before breakfast and then stopped at the grocery store for a few things including fresh peaches.

The trail was soft and sandy heading out of town and uphill. The scenery reminded me of a wild west novel. You could almost see the heat and the sweet smell of sun roasted pine needles wafted past every time we left the shade. We had been warned about the poor trail conditions before we left town, but we needed to see it for ourselves.

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After an hour of riding at barely 10km/h
we decided to try riding on the highway. The road was still heading mostly uphill to the Eholt summit, but at least it was smooth to ride on. Going up hill we pedaled slow and steady and on the brief descents we would catch our breath.

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Both of us practiced our truck surfing- riding the wake of air displaced by transport trucks whizzing past- and enjoyed the scenery as best as we could.

About halfway to Grand Forks we reached the Eholt summit and pulled off the highway into the parking lot. There was access to the KVR. I suggested that we try riding the trail again into Grand Forks because it would be all downhill from here and more shady than the highway.

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The KVR at this point diverges from highway 3 and runs down the Granby River valley and there is next to no trail access. I figured that if the trail was rough that at least we’d be going downhill. Mom agreed so off we went.

The trail was rough and sandy- a bad combination- but it was downhill for nearly 20km. We were able to essentially coast the entire way, holding on with all our might to stay in our respective tracks.

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We came across Hodges Tunnel and got off of our bikes to walk them through. It was dark and cool in the tunnel. It curved slightly and we could see a hint of light coming from the other side.

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Shortly thereafter we passed through Fishermans Tunnel where we came across the only other people we saw on the trail. We stopped for our lunch on the other side of the tunnel and the view of the valley was superb.

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After one last look at the tunnel we continued the punishing descent on the rocky trail. Eventually we arrived again in Grand Forks. The trail leads right through town and brought us right to a bike shop. We couldn’t resist going in and Mom found her favourite bike seat that has been discontinued for years.

We found the Imperial Motel again and got our same room. We sat out front for awhile relaxing before walking to the store to pick up our supper. We have our feet up now and are looking forward to bedtime. Tomorrow is a new day.

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 7: Beaverdell to Midway 76km.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014.
Sunny and hot. 30C.

Today was another amazing ride on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR). Although we left the Last Resort in Beaverdell just after 9 o’clock this morning we didn’t arrive in Midway until 7pm.

We ate our watermelon as we packed up our stuff and then rejoined the KVR at the end of a quiet paved road near a farm. We passed through a couple of farm gates which we closed behind us and an interesting barrier intended to keep ATVs off if the trail. The scenery was spectacular in the morning sun.

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We planned to stop after 10km to eat our yogurt and granola and there was a shady patch up ahead that we agreed would be the spot. All of a sudden a moose and her calf bolted across the trail just in front of us. We decided to keep pedaling for a little bit further in case something was chasing them. Just around the bend there was a footpath down to the river so we stopped there.

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After eating we got back on the bikes and carried on. It seemed like it was getting hotter every minute and because the trail was rough in spots we stopped a lot to drink water. At one of those stops I spotted a large outcropping of rock in the river and couldn’t help but think of swimming. So I jumped in and Mom got wet too.

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Shortly after our dip we passed by a beautiful little canyon. There are too many scenic spots to stop and see all of them so we kept on going.

We rode on trying to cover some more distance before lunch, but although the trail looked good at this point it had a significant washboard effect to it. We bumped and jostled along as best we could. Within a few kilometers the trail was in better shape and eventually we came across the Rhone Cyclist rest stop.

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This is a shelter and an old caboose that someone maintains as a self service rest area and there were two women already there eating lunch. We sat at a table beside them and started chatting about the KVR, where they were heading and where they were from. “Oregon” and “Edmonton” we called them and we chatted as we ate for way too long. It was great sharing cycling stories and  taking shelter from the midday sun. They left before us and after we looked in the caboose and signed our names we were off in the opposite direction.

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As soon as we hit the trail again all we could think about was swimming in the river again, but we really needed to cover some distance with over 30km still to pedal. So we put our heads down and rode. So much so that we missed a sign and ended up riding to a dead end at the back of a farm. A quick turnaround had us going back on the road for a bit before we picked up the good again. A little further on we noticed a sign in time not to make the same mistake again.

Again we were directed on to the road and then onto highway 33 which we followed until we reached the Kettle River Provincial Park. Before continuing on the KVR we needed to swim again. Down by the water and the bridge there were a lot of people swimming. We found our own spot and got into the chilly water again.

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It was just what we needed.

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After cooling off we followed the trail out if the park heading towards Rock Creek. When we got there we stopped in town to book our motel room for Saturday night and then had a snack on the steps by the gas station. Both of us were running low on energy by this point.

It was five O’clock now and we had just under 20km to go. We managed to pedal on in the late afternoon heat. Our guidebook indicated that there were several impassable sections of the trail coming up whether from private property issues or trail conditions is not important. What is, is that we spent almost an hour here and there trying to find where we were supposed to be. On the trail or side road? Side road or trail? We even ended up back on the highway crossing on a bridge when we spotted the trail below us again.

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We hiked down and under the bridge and followed it once more. Right after we saw several deer out for their evening activities. This last stretch if the trail heading into Midway had us going through at least ten farm gates. At each one we had to dismount, unchain the gate, wheel each bike through, chain the gate again and then get back on the bikes. We would ride a hundred meters or so and do it all again. It was kind of neat passing by animals and such, but at the end of a long hot ride we just wanted to be done.

Eventually we got to Midway and found a room for the night. The grocery store was closed already but the Mile 0 Restaurant was open for another hour. Mom had a shower first and I rode to get a couple bottles of beer. The food at the restaurant was very good and we had homemade peach pie for dessert.

Tomorrow should be another scorcher but will be a shorter ride for us. Until then…

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 6 Myra Station to Beaverdell 75km.
Monday, August 25, 2014.
Sunny with broken clouds. 29C.

This morning we rode from our hotel to the Delta Grand to catch the shuttle bus up to the Myra Station access point to the KVR. There was a family of six, some of whom were from Ft. Lauderdale and some from Washington DC sharing the van with us so we had lots to chat about on the 45 minute ride up from Kelowna.

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At the top we got unloaded and wished them well. They were riding the 12km loop if Myra Canyon and we were heading the other way, but we couldn’t resist a sneak peak of the first trestle bridge. The canyon is breathtaking, but we will be passing back through it in a weeks time.

It was a great feeling to finally set off on the KVR. The sun was out, the air was fresh and we rode down the treed path in almost total silence. Having eaten our breakfast before we left we found our rhythm in no time. We passed by two different groups of five cycling in the opposite direction and everyone is eager to say hello. After a quick stop for a drink and sun screen a woman pushing a stroller with two little ones walked by.

We got chatting and she lives at the ranch we had just passed and her plan is to set up a lodge for cyclists. This is almost the exact location that we were having such a hard time finding a place to stay. She offered us a place to stay, but we have already made accommodations for that night next week. We said our goodbyes and set off again.

A few kilometers down the trail we passed by the McCulloch Lodge on Hydraulic Lake. This is listed on the KVR website as a place to stay, but has been closed and under construction for six years. The lake is gorgeous and we think about swimming. Better keep riding.

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The Trail is in pretty good shape and the surface varies from compact gravel to dirt track. In places it appears to be an active logging road. After riding through trees for awhile we were finally able to see out and the view was incredible. We spotted highway 33 way down below.

Most of our ride today was a gradual downhill grade which was perfect for our first day on the trail. We stopped for lunch in the sun overlooking the valley.

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The sun was beating down by noon and when we moved on we were back in the shade where it was cool again.

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We stopped again at Arlington Lakes park to take in the scenery and we thought about swimming again. We saw birds circling overhead as we rode out if the park and then heard some big rustling in the bushes nearby. We would ring our bells, blow our whistles and sing and chat to warn off any wildlife. That worked well because we didn’t see anything.

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Heading towards the Wilkinson Creek Bridge the trail descended and by the time we reached it we were no longer up on the mountain side. Following the creek for the last few kilometers was straight and fast. With one final push we pedaled over half a kilometer of rough river rock to reach Beaverdell.

Our place for the night is called Last Resort and was close by. We got the two bed bunkie, but have access to the kitchen aswell. Doris, the proprietor showed us her menu for the day and we chose the pasta au gratin over the borscht. We walked to the general store for a few more things and then to Marlies’ for ice cream. Back at the Last Resort we heated up our supper and put the ice cream in the freezer. It was all delicious. 

Just after 8 o’clock both of us are in bed. Journals, reading and I think my Mom is asleep already. Heading for Midway in the morning.

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 5: Grand Forks to Kelowna (by car) .
Sunday, August 24, 2014.
Sunny with some showers. 29C.

Plans have been made and now it’s official. We are ready to ride the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR).

On our drive from Grand Forks today we turned north up highway 33 which parallels one section of the KVR. There were two sections of the trail where we were concerned about not having any where to stay. Since we already shipped our tent and camping gear home, we needed to address the situation.

In Beaverdell we learned that the hotel we were planning on staying in actually burnt down three years ago. We solved that problem.

In another area, McCulloch Lake, the resort is closed and under construction. This would mean that we would have to cover two days worth of riding in only one day and that is not happening. We solved that problem too.

The last wrinkle was how to get from Kelowna up to the trail access point at Myra Station. Our guide book gives directions to the station from town and it sounds pretty straightforward. We decided to scout the route in our rental car.

We came across a sign indicating that the access point was 10km up this road.    This road is at least 15km from downtown. Now this road is UP. Very steep and winding and then it turns into a narrow gravel road and continues to twist and turn upwards. Kelowna looks like a miniature village off in the distance. We made it to the top without careening off of the edge and sure enough there were many vehicles parked in the lot.

People were loading and unloading bikes many of whom looked like Sunday day trippers. We learned that Myra Station is 3400 feet above Kelowna and there is no way we are riding 25km up 500m and then pedaling 70 more kilometers to Beaverdell. We are ambitious, but we are not superhuman.

So we drove way back down to Kelowna  to book our seats on the shuttle that will take us and four other cycle tourists up to Myra Station. Then we found our hotel, did some shopping for supper, breakfast for two days and lunch too. We dropped off the rental car and then pedaled 6km back to our hotel.

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On the way back we crossed the highway on a neat pedestrian bridge…

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…and took pictures of the hills that we won’t be riding up in the morning.

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We are all packed and eager to get on our bikes, seriously…

Across the Rockies in 28 Days

Day 4: Cranbrook to Kimberley and Back via the Northstar Rail Trail: 59km.
– Cranbrook to Grand Forks (by car).
Saturday, August 23, 2014.
Sunny with some clouds. 17C.

Today we hopped on our bikes before breakfast and left the motel in search of the Northstar Rail Trail. Just outside town we found the trailhead and set off on the paved pathway towards Kimberly. The distance markers started at 26km and counted down as we pedalled on. The sun was out and it was a beautiful morning.

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Both of us found our legs and got into a good groove right away.

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We saw lots of other people on the trail enjoying the warm sunshine.

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There was a nice downhill stretch about halfway along and at the bottom we crossed a trestle bridge over the St. Mary River. The final push up into Kimberly was tough as our legs had seemed to run out of steam.

We had been given breakfast vouchers for a local restaurant by the motel proprietor that expired at 11am. We realized that we wouldn’t make it back to Cranbrook in time to be able to use them, but we didn’t care because the ride was so amazing. Then it occurred to me that we wouldn’t be back in Cranbrook for our 11 o’clock check out time either, so I called the motel to let them know what we had done. The proprietor was very understanding and appreciated the phone call.

In Kimberly we found the grocery store and picked up our own breakfast of yogurt, granola and watermelon. We ate in front of the post office watching the town go by. When we were finished we hopped back on our bikes and rolled downhill to pick up the trail back.

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The ride back was incredible. We rolled downhill for most of the first 15km stopping only to take some pictures. No wonder why it was so challenging pedaling the last stretch into Kimberly.

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Back across the trestle bridge we thought we would have a tough climb, but we kept our legs moving and crested the hill with little effort. The last few kilometers were a pleasure. When we got back to the motel it was one o’clock so we quickly packed our bags into the car along with the bikes and left town.

On the way into Creston we stopped at a local market for maple smoked sockeye, fresh strawberries and a couple peaches. We stopped at the tourist information center and had a picnic on the trunk of the car.

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We had an amazing view of the Selkirk mountains.

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After lunch we gassed up and then set off for the Kootenay Pass which connects Creston with Salmo and is the highest mountain pass in Canada at 1774m. It was 21C at the bottom and dropped to 11C at the summit. It rained briefly as we reached the top and the descent was an 8 degree grade for 8km before the road slowly leveled off. We both felt thankful that we were not pedaling this route afterall.

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Eventually we arrived in Castlegar, or rather passed by Castlegar, but stopped at a rest stop to get this great view of the town. We carried on and began the ascent of the Bonanza Pass. Again the temperature fluctuated from 29C in Castlegar to 15C at the 1535m summit. On the way down to Christina Lake there was a sudden sun shower of spectacular proportions.

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We ended up driving to Grand Forks to spend the night and the town is nestled in the mountains in the most beautiful sense of the term. We whipped up another yummy microwave concoction and then spent some time figuring out our next course if action. We will drop of the rental car in Kelowna tomorrow and then…