Monday, September 23, 2013

Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway

It's called McCulloch's Wonder. A railway engineering marvel that took nearly 20 years to build. It traverses incredible canyons, mountains & rivers, winding its way through some of the most breathtaking vistas and views on the planet.

In 1910 Andrew McCulloch was hired as the Chief Engineer of the Kettle Valley Railway. It would be the project that would forever define his career. He was an avid reader of Shakespeare and to this day you can still see that influence... Juliet Creek, Othello Tunnels, Iago Mountain. They all are names inspired by this passionate man. After the KVR opened, it was a main route for moving goods from the interior of the province to the coast and the railway thrived for many years. But then declining demands for moving ore, fruit from the Okanagan and other goods forced the inevitable closure of the line and, sadly, the last section of the railway was closed in 1990.

But fortunately for us the KVR has been reborn into a remarkable trail for hikers, walkers, cyclists and explorers. Tens of thousands of tourists, from all over the world, come to experience the wonder of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. And since this 'wonder' is basically in our back yard we thought it was about time we did too. Together with four of my wonderful friends we started to plan our first biking/geocaching trip.

The KVR is approximately 600 km long so obviously we weren't going to tackle it in just one trip! The most
popular section of the trail is the Myra Canyon route but we decided to save that for another time. On this trip we decided to visit Tulameen.

Tulameen? Where is that you say? Well let me tell you that Tulameen, British Columbia is one of my favourite places in BC. It is a quiet little "cabin town" just north of Princeton and about 3 hours from Vancouver. Once upon a time this land was the hopeful destination for thousands of gold miners, searching for their fortune. Today the air is heavy with the echoes of their past. Ghost towns like Granite Creek and Blakeburn are waiting to be rediscovered and lovely little Coalmont lingers on still. If you're a history lover, there is no better place to explore in BC than Tulameen.

We rented a gorgeous little house right in Tulameen called The Front Porch. This adorable little cottage went way beyond our expectations. It was clean & well stocked, beautifully decorated and just a few metres away from the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. If you're planning a visit to this area we highly recommend the Front Porch as your home base.

On our first day, after a hardy breakfast, we got on our bikes and got started biking up the KVR. There are about 70 geocaches between Tulameen and Brookmere. We cycled along beautiful Otter Lake, water on one side and mountain on the other. It was just breathtaking. Most of the caches along the KVR series are pretty easy finds. They aren't meant to be difficult, they are meant to get you out there. And we were sure loving being out there.

Signing the logbook

We were starting to think, well this is nice. Nice bike ride, nice easy caches and then we came to SITC#5 Thank You Kris and Jordy - GC2ZEJD. Once we read the cache page we knew that one of us would be "up a tree" - literally. At this point I have to digress a bit and explain that we are a group of "mature" women. Now we don't consider
ourselves old, in fact we act like teenagers most of the time, but the reality is that 3 of us are already grandmothers! Tree climbing isn't something we do very often any more. But you know, there is something to be said for pushing your boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. After a lot of encouragement from my fellow cachers I was the one who made the climb. I haven't been that excited to sign a logbook for a long time!
The next day we took our bikes to Princeton and then biked the KVR from Princeton to as far as the HooDoos cache. This gorgeous section of the KVR includes one of the many tunnels along the trail. This tunnel travels underneath the Hope-Princeton highway and is about 300 metres long. At first we thought, "piece of cake!" but then, when we got about half way through, we were very happy that we brought our flashlights along! It was so dark we couldn't even see the bikes we were sitting on! After the tunnel we crossed the Tulameen River and rode along some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Our main goal today was to reach an earthcache called "The Red Wall" and we were so glad we did. This unique and historically significant site is not to be missed. Wow.

Before we knew it our first biking adventure was over. Fortunately we had no mishaps or flat tires.... just some aching, under-used muscles and some sore backsides! And it was all worth it...we collected a lot more "smileys" to log, spent time with dear friends and gained a hundred more memories to cherish.

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