BC Spring Bike Tour Phase 3: Okanagan and Kootenays

Back to work this week: bread for sale in Wells Tuesday evening, and bread delivered to Green Tree Health & Wellness and Bouchie Lake Country Store Wednesday morning. We’ll see you at the Quesnel Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

More news from the last stretch of our bike tour:

We left Oliver in the heat (!) of the morning and climbed over 1600m up the gravel road to Mount Baldy Ski Area – nothing like a good challenge to test our slightly weakened constitutions. This was the toughest day for me on the whole trip – I even pushed my bike for one steep section where the gravel was deep and lose. Yikes. Pushing a loaded touring bike is harder than riding it. Sunburn, sore bottom, heat rash, sore feet, migraine, numb hands, residual cramps, sore legs: cycle touring at its finest! The treat at the end of the day was another closed provincial park: creek-side camping all to ourselves! (Oh yeah, but the picnic tables had no tops or benches on them. Minor detail: after hammering in the rusty old nails that were sticking out, we sat on the table’s stumps).

Sun burn and heat rash - can you believe this is only April 20?
Sun burn and heat rash – can you believe this is only April 20?

We spent two days in Grand Forks with friends – laughing, catching up, eating, and watching the Kettle River rise. The mountain-pass-of-many-names was our next challenge: Paulson, Blueberry, Bonanza, Blueberry-Paulson. Whatever it’s called, it isn’t too hard and Tim and I had both climbed this pass previously on our cross-Canada trips. All the passes we climbed still had snow at the summits – in the bush and ditches – which was hard to believe considering the high temperatures we were riding in. It was nice to feel the cooler air at the summits, and the evenings were delightfully cool as well.

Starting up another pass - this one is pretty tame, really.
Starting up the Blueberry-Paulson-Bonanza Pass. It’s a pretty gradual climb until near the top, but then you’re near the top, so it’s just a final slog to get there. Tim LOVES climbing.

 

Paulson Bridge - way up in the air, way up in the mountains.
Paulson Bridge – way up in the air, way up in the mountains, near the summit of the pass.

We camped that night at Nancy Greene Provincial Park, also closed, and had to find a place in between snow patches and dog shit to pitch our tent. We made use of the shelter in the morning to drink our tea and eat breakfast – it was a tad damp. Another little pass to get over in the morning (we had most of the elevation in the bank on this one), and then down into Rossland. Now Tim and I were both in parts of the province we had never seen before and we were excited to check it out!

Camping beside some snow at Nancy Greene Provincial Park.
Camping beside some snow at Nancy Greene Provincial Park.

 

Some mountainous weather in the mountains - let's just say it way a chilly descent down into Rossland.
Some mountainous weather in the mountains – let’s just say it was a chilly descent down into Rossland. By the way, this is also called Strawberry Pass. Obviously it’s not a pass unless it has a few names – great way to confuse the tourists.

 

Some cool bike art beside the great bike shop in front of the local brewery in downtown Rossland. A very sweet-looking little town that needs an artisan bakery.
Some cool bike art beside the great bike shop in front of the fantastic local brewery in downtown Rossland. They even have a chocolate shop – what an inspired group of people! Great skiing and hiking and biking, by all reports as well. No artisan bread, though……

We were officially in the Kootenays now, and loving it. Lots of rivers, mountains, cool little towns, and people who stare at cycle tourists. When you’re touring if someone stares at you, they are interested in what you are doing, are jealous that you are on holidays and they are not, and probably cycle tour themselves. Or at least dream of it. If they pretend you are not there and brush by you at 100km/hour in their over-sized pick-up truck, they are not interested, and they don’t bother with a second thought beyond, “What’s that brightly-coloured bit of vermin doing on MY road?” That happens a lot near Kelowna.

The Salmo River near Ymir, BC - Wells' sister town.
The Salmo River near Ymir, BC – Wells’ sister town.

In Nelson we talked to several people who gave us tips for the next few days – good places to camp, and things to see. After turning north at the Balfour ferry, direction Kaslo, Tim and I were again in new territory. We had a pretty spectacular time for the next few days:

Hiker-Biker campground at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Everything we needed!
Hiker-Biker campground at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Everything we needed!

 

Kokanee Creek in spring flood - coming directly off the Kokanee Glacier in Glacier National Park.
Near Nelson – Kokanee Creek in spring flood – coming directly off the Kokanee Glacier in Glacier National Park. Try sleeping next to that!

 

Ahhhh, the life of a touring cyclist. Getting the dirt off and some heat into the muscles.
Ahhhh, the life of a touring cyclist. Getting the dirt off and some heat into the muscles at the Ainsworth Hot Springs.

 

Cooking up a typical dinner for us while on tour - veggies and pasta.
Cooking up a typical dinner for us while on tour – veggies and pasta.

 

The rain chases us down Kootenay Lake to Kaslo - we escaped unscathed!
The rain chases us up Kootenay Lake to Kaslo – we escaped unscathed!

 

Snacks on a day off - beer and chips.
Snacks on a day off – beer and chips.

 

Our new favourite MUST-CYCLE route: Kaslo to New Denver.
Our new favourite MUST-CYCLE route: Kaslo to New Denver.

 

The loveliest stretch of road in the province! And no traffic.
Beside the  Kaslo River – the loveliest stretch of road in the province! And no traffic.

 

Cycling along Summit Lake towards the closed Provincial Park, where we have the whole park and a rain shelter to ourselves!
Cycling along Summit Lake towards the closed Provincial Park, where we have the whole park and a rain shelter to ourselves! The rain shelter came in handy this time.

 

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A very cool bike shop in Nakusp – Shon’s Bike and Ski. They sell and repair bikes and skis, stock clothing and accessories, and plan to have a coffee bar, a hostel upstairs and brews on tap – definitely worth a visit!

 

Another nice stretch of road between the Needles ferry across Kootenay Lake over the Monashee Pass to Cherryville.
Another nice stretch of road between the Needles ferry (across Lower Arrow Lake) over the Monashee Pass to Cherryville. Oh, no – back in the Okanagan, land of pick-ups and rednecks.

As we neared Vernon the traffic got heavier and more obnoxious. We spoke to some cyclists and got news of a side-route to a provincial park on the shores of Kalamalka Lake. Interesting place – a load of docks and parking and jetties and ramps for launching motorized water-craft into the clean and clear water, and a meagre 5m stretch of rocky “beach” barely cut out of the brush for PEOPLE to access the murky water of a small bay. I did manage a small dip in the water, however difficult they made it. May 1, first “swim” of the season!

Crossing the four-laned and extremely busy highway 97 south of Vernon - the unorthodox way.
Crossing the four-laned and extremely busy highway 97 south of Vernon – the unorthodox way.

We had a disappointing visit to the new MEC in Kelowna. That store is just not what it used to be! We did talk to a cycle tourist who gave us some good info for the next day’s adventure: in order to avoid busy highways we opted to cycle from Kelowna to Pentiction on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. This first required us to climb some 900m up a steep gravel road to get to the trail – we left Kelowna quite early in the morning to beat the heat, and were at the trail by 10:30.

On the Kettle Valley Railway's nice-to-cycle non-motorized section - the Myra Canyon with its restored railway trestles and hard-packed trail surface.
On the Kettle Valley Railway’s nice-to-cycle non-motorized section – the Myra Canyon with its restored railway trestles and hard-packed trail surface.

 

14 out of the 18 Myra Canyon railway trestles, built in 1915, burned in the area's 2003 forest fire. All have since been restored - just for cyclists and walkers.
14 out of the 18 Myra Canyon railway trestles, built in and around 1915, burned in the area’s 2003 forest fire. All have since been restored – just for cyclists and walkers! Way to go, Kelowna.

 

A motorized-not-so-nice-to-cycle section of the Kettle Valley Railway. Ruts, washboard, sand, water, large loose rocks, and all of the above.
A motorized not-so-nice-to-cycle section of the Kettle Valley Railway: ruts, washboard, sand, water, large loose rocks, small loose rocks, and sections with all of the above.

 

A large Ponderosa Pine.
A large Ponderosa Pine.

 

Another rock oven - yawn! They're all the same. And what's so special, anyway.
Another rock oven – yawn! They’re all the same. And what’s so special, anyway? They were built by the crews of Europeans who were hired to build the railway.

Our trip ended with visits with friends in Penticton and Oliver and a road-trip home with all our gear and bikes in Helene’s roomy car. All in all, giardia notwithstanding, we had a fantastic trip. We are, erm, glad to be home and to be busying for the work season ahead. One thing we are truly excited about is to be at the Quesnel Farmer’s Market this coming Saturday. Can’t wait to see all our market buddies and to buy some good fresh tasty food!

 

One thought on “BC Spring Bike Tour Phase 3: Okanagan and Kootenays

  1. Loved your blog. My partner and I are coming from Scotland to do a similar route this June / July… hopefully 6 weeks starting from Calgary. Would love to be able to pick your brains for tips and ideas. Regards, Camilla

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