Copyright (c), 1996-2010 by John Coulthard
Permission to copy for non commercial purposes is granted provided the source is acknowledged.
Cyclists: John (author), Murray and Nicole
Automobile: Toyota Four Runner.
Communications: Amateur Radio 2 meter radios.
The typical procedure was that one person would drive approximately half the distance we planned to cycle that day. They would park the car at a location convenient to the KVR then cycle backwards to meet the other two cyclists. Then the procedure would be repeated for the second half of the day.
(Non Amateur Radio operators may not understand the jargon in this section)
Amateur Radio 2 meter handhelds were used to provide communications between the person driving and the two people cycling. The person driving had access to a 5/8th wavelength magmount. The person cycling used a 1/4 wavelength whip. In general we would monitor the local repeater frequency, or would check with the other party on the half hour. We used the following repeaters.
Other repeaters are available, especially near Kelowna where we got some useful travel information about how to drive to the Chute Lake Lodge on the 146.660 repeater (I am not positive about that frequency). The 146.92 machine provided outstanding coverage for the greater part of the trip. With the exception of the area around Princeton it was spotty after Faulder. There is a repeater near Merritt but we did not use it.
The general procedure was that the person driving would check with the cyclists when he parked the car and then every half hour until we met. Between Faulder and Otter Lake we would call on the repeater first and if there was no response would try simplex on the repeater output frequency. On a couple of occasions, because the roads typically paralleled the KVR, the driver was able to pass on a report about the condition of the KVR roadbed during the drive.
Simplex range seemed reliable to about 10k, well beyond line of sight which was probably due to reflections from the mountains.
The following is the journal I kept during the trip. The place associated with the date is where we stayed at the end of that day. It would be useful to be familiar with, or have at hand, the book "Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway" by Dan and Sandra Langford when you read this.
May 29, 1996 (Wednesday) - Kettle Valley Provincial Park Campground. (near Rock Creek)
Left Vancouver at 9am today. Arrived at the campground at 3:30. The rain, which was very heavy in Vancouver when we left had tapered down to a light drizzle. We waited a while for it to stop then pitched the tents. The park and campground is lovely.
We cycled south about 5k before supper. A short trestle is right in the park. Almost immediately it was necessary to detour away from the KVR onto a local road. It was a quiet and pleasant local road however.
By the time we returned to camp it was starting to rain again. We had a lot of trouble lighting the fire. Chatted to Jack, my father in law, on Amateur Radio and he phoned a safe arrival message back to Eleanor (my wife).
May 30 (Thursday) - Kelowna
It rained most of the night, steady and heavy. We slept in as long as we could then drove south to Rock Creek for breakfast at the Gold Pan Restaurant ("Chuckies Special" - 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 sausages for $3.49). Still raining.
We drove further south to Midway and checked out the KVR museum. Still raining. Drove back to the campsite, this time following the side roads that we would have cycled (Most of the KVR is not cyclable here). The rural roads were quite nice and would be pleasant to cycle.
Broke camp in light rain and stored the wet gear. Drove to Beaverdell. Checked out the Beaverdell Hotel. The pub was extremely smoky. There is no campground at Beaverdell. The locals wonder why everybody keeps on asking about it. Had lunch at the Tamarack Lodge. A Reuben sandwich - not bad at all. Still raining lightly.
We chatted to a fellow cyclist who was cycling alone while his wife followed along with the car. He was heading to McCulloch but got frustrated trying to get accommodation (nobody would answer the phone apparently). Finally he just headed off in a light rain. We wondered how it worked out for him. We drove to McCulloch in a light rain and found six inches of fresh snow on the ground there. It would be very difficult cycling. We then drove down McCulloch Road to Kelowna in a light rain.
Myra Canyon is accessible by the Myra Forestry Road from lower down on McCulloch Rd. so we drove up to check it out. Same altitude as McCulloch but no snow. This road provides very easy access to the Myra Canyon stretch. We decided to try to drive to Chute Lake but gave up when the Chute Lake Road proved to be extremely difficult to traverse, even for the 4-runner. Returned to Kelowna and spent the night in a Motel. Made a reservation at the Chute Lake Lodge for the next night and got directions for an easier drive there using the Gillard Forestry Road and driving 12k on the KVR itself.
May 31 (Friday) - Chute Lake Lodge
Overcast with light rain this morning. We pack up, do a little shopping then drive up the Gillard Forest Road to the KVR on the other side of the Myra Canyon and only 12km from Chute Lake. This was an extremely easy drive. Any family sedan could make it. We then cycled back 25k through the Myra Canyon to the Myra Forestry Road we drove up yesterday. The weather today was always overcast with occasional very light rain. Very pleasant cycling weather.
The first trestle we crossed had open ties. It was very wide and we walked easily across it. Then on to the Myra Canyon with it's 18 trestles and two tunnels. The KVR on this side of Myra Canyon is very accessible by road at several points. However we only met about two cars. The Myra Canyon section itself can only be accessed by bike or on foot.
Myra Canyon is certainly impressive. The trestles are all planked and have guard rails. We met a few other cyclists and hikers here. They came up from Kelowna for a day trip.
The ground squirrels in Myra Canyon were exceptionally bold. One perched up on my bike seat and posed for a picture. We retraced our tracks back to the car. After 50Km I feel like a break so volunteered to drive the car down the KVR to Chute Lake and check us into the Lodge.
The Chute Lake Lodge is a lovely rustic place. It is a log structure with several small log cabins scattered around it. It is all very old. We stayed in a partially modernized log cabin. It had electricity and a toilet, but was heated with a wood stove. By the time I got us checked in Murray and Nicole arrived on their bikes.
We finally saw a few patches of blue sky as the sun went down. Managed to dry out my tent on a picnic table.
June 1 (Saturday) - Okanogan Lake Provincial Park.
This is as good as it gets. Feeling tired at the end of a great day, camped in the beautiful Okanogan Lake Park. The birds are singing and the air is filled with the smell of flowers.
We woke to clear skies up at Chute Lake Lodge and had a lazy morning. Left about 11am. Murray drove the first part down to Glenfir and started cycling back up the hill to meet us. Nicole and I head down. It is very pleasant. The weather is not hot but it does not threaten rain. We meet Murray at the Adra Tunnel, which has been sealed and cannot be navigated. A short hike takes us around it. There is not much view from the upper parts of this stretch. The trees are high. But after the tunnel vistas over the Okanogan Valley start to reveal themselves. It is a lovely coast down the hill. It is possible to maintain 20km/hr just by pedaling lightly. I drove the car down to Naramata then cycled back to meet Murray and Nicole. Then a little shopping in Penticton and we drove to our campsite.
My right wrist was giving me some problems so I was happy for the lighter day. The weather outlook is good so we plan to make Princeton over the next two days.
The cycling today, while pleasant, was not as impressive as the Myra Canyon and its 18 trestles and views of the valley.
June 2 (Saturday) - Chain Lake Forestry Campsite
Woke to an overcast day after an uneasy sleep. Drove to Summerland and spent some time trying to find the train museum. Finally managed to find the starting point for the Steam Train rides, which currently only uses the first part of the track. We did get a map and instructions on how to get to Faulder. I dropped Murray and Nicole there then drove to Thirsk and started cycling back.
Nice country. A few isolated farms. I met a fellow on a standard 10 speed road bike. He had parked his car in Princeton the day before and cycled to Penticton along the highway. Now he was returning on the KVR. Planned to pick up the highway when the paved portion starts again. That is a lot of ground to cover in two days!
I met Murray and Nicole just about a km past the Trout Creek trestle. They had a real problem there as the trestle had been removed and the creek was swollen and dangerous. They elected to spend 45 minutes scrambling up the bank to the highway (rather than cycle back to find road access). Then it was a short pedal to where highway 40 crossed the KVR.
We cycled together back to Thirsk, then Murray drove to Chain Lake to pedal back to meet us while Nicole and I carried on. It is pretty recreational country here on the lakes (Thirsk, Osprey, Link and Chain). We surprised a bear on the track near Chain Lake.
Chain Lake has a nice Forestry Services campground. We found a site right on the water. Primitive. Beautiful. Peaceful. Campfire. A good day. I am weary.
June 3 (Monday) - Otter Lake Provincial Park (Between Princeton and Brookmere)
Woke early to rain after a restless dream filled night (dreams of swollen raging rivers). The rain didn't last long but I ended up folding a wet tent again.
Nicole and I headed off at 9:30 while Murray drove to Princeton and will cycle back to meet us.
This was a straight forward and lovely cycle. One trestle had been removed but it was easily bypassed on the nearby highway. the KVR went through forests, clearcuts, farms and down into open cattle country. Very nice vistas. Excellent, second only to Myra Canyon.
I drove from Princeton to Otter Lake Provincial Park in the afternoon while Murray and Nicole pedaled. Tried to check out the Granite Creek Forest Services campsite, but it was hard to find and I wasted too much time and didn't get to do much cycling in the afternoon.
The KVR is completely washed out shortly after the second tunnel after leaving Princeton. Murray and Nicole had to take the highway to Coalmont.
All my driving did result in finding a lovely campsite on Otter Lake. We all had a bath in the lake. Cold but worth it. The weather turned threatening and a few showers materialized, but nothing serious.
June 4 (Tuesday) - Monck Lake Provincial Park
(on Nicola Lake near Merritt)
Driving to Brookmere was not as straight forward as I hoped it would be. I did the driving in the morning. The road takes a long departure from the KVR just before Thalia. The KVR highway overpass at this point has burned down necessitating what looks like a trivial detour down to the highway and back up again.
The road from this point to Brookmere is a slow gravel back country road. Probably about 30k of driving to get 10k further down the KVR. Made good use of our back country road guide, although in retrospect it was not needed. It was noon by the time I reached Brookmere. When I got there I discovered a sign on the KVR announcing it was closed permanently due to a washout at Thalia. What to do? I dreaded the thought of going back over those 30km if it wasn't necessary.
I hadn't managed a radio contact since I left. Decided to cycle down the 10k to Thalia on the bike. If the KVR was impassable I would return and start driving. About 4k down the KVR I got a weak call on the Radio from Murray saying that they "were on the road", so I turned around and retraced my steps to the truck and prepared to drive. But then he came in stronger and I found he was forced to the road before Thalia, in a section where the highway parallels the KVR. They hadn't reached Thalia yet. So I settled back for lunch and waited until he got there to check it out.
Murray called again a few minutes later. The washout at Thalia was not severe at all. A 4 wheel drive would get through easily and for bikers it was trivial. So I started cycling again and met them halfway up the stretch between Thalia and Brookmere. Covered that section of the KVR 4 times :-). On the way back to the car we were passed by a pickup truck and a truck carrying a bulldozer. The fellow said they were going to repair the "road". I gather the local people use the KVR as a quicker way to drive to Tulameen and Coalmont. My 30km round about drive may not have been necessary.
Murray took over the driving while Nicole and I pedaled down towards, Brodie and the Coquihalla Valley. A nice pleasant cycle with changing country. The switchback to Brodie was very interesting. A minor washout near Brodie was easily navigated. There are numerous trestles over the Coldwater River along this stretch. There were no problems until we passed Pine. The KVR has been wiped out there by a massive washout and we decided to terminate our trip at that point. We contacted Murray on the radio, backtracked to the previous crossing and he picked us up before we reached Coldwater Road.
We went to the Monck Provincial Park on Nicola Lake for the night. A very lovely place to finish our trip.
June 5 (Wednesday) - Vancouver, B.C.
Naturally our day started with a rain shower, but it didn't last and our tents were nice and dry by the time we packed up for the drive home. Attempted to look at the KVR as we drove the Coquihalla but it was very difficult to pick up the traces. The Quintette tunnels at Othello have been turned into a park. We stopped to visit but could only walk through the first tunnel due to restoration work.