What a day!!!

I don’t even know where to start!  I guess at the beginning …

Day one! (06.24.2017)

The start to our trip could not come soon enough.   We crossed the US border at Eastport and  were very clear we had bear spray and nothing was questioned.  It was a breeze. We drove through Sandpoint  (very beautiful).  We stopped in at Couer d’Alene at the local Costco …  and I found some tights that are not sold in Canada and bought a few pairs.

After Costco, we continued onto Wallace, ID … tiny little community with a ton of charm. I really liked the town – one of these places that you know everyone.  We stayed at the Wallace RV Park and initially booked a camp site … yes we were camping.  I love camping, my friend CK, not so much but was willing to sacrifice for $15/night.  I was informed the Thursday before we left that a cabin had opened up and it was ours if we wanted it.  Oh I took it!!!  Such a charming little cabin, tiny but so much room.  The inside was just two sets of bunk beds and the bathrooms were just down a little from the cabin.  We really enjoyed it!  We sat outside for two nights meeting people walking by and having wine – pretty close to perfect …

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Day two! (06.25.2017)

So we woke up early, transport was coming at 7:30am to take us to St. Regis, MT to drop off our car and then take us up to the trailhead in Idaho which stradles between Montana and Idaho.  Unfortunately, I purchased tickets online and had to pick them up with our turkey lunches at Lookout Pass, which is the local ski area and not  the trailhead.  A huge shout out to Prime Minister, Rick of the Center of the Universe, Silver Capital of the World for being so accommodating and driving us to Lookout Pass  and back to the trailhead just down the road.  The transport was fantastic, learned a lot and really, just enjoyed the ride.

Finally, we were at the trailhead at East Portal, so named as it’s by the east entrance of the 1.66 mile long St. Paul Pass tunnel.  Prior to starting into the tunnel, there were a couple rules (there were lots but there were two big ones), you must wear a helmet you and must have a light!  Period!  We started later than what we wanted and knew we had to get down the mountain quickly to make the 11:45am transport back to the summit at East Portal, if we couldn’t, that would put us on the 1:15pm shuttle and that was too late.  We were off …

The 15 mile rail trail was amazing, all downhill … honestly, anyone can do this one.  It is a gentle grade down following the Old Milwaukee Road rail trail.  I lost count of all the trestles and tunnels.  The biggest one was the first one, the tunnel is 1.66 miles (2.67 km).  It was long and because it was pitch dark, thank god for lights, it was really hard to see.

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I have to tell you, CK and I had a conversation about intelligence and smarts … not sure we figured it out but here is an example.  The first tunnel was of course long and looked kinda scary, there were other people which made it easier to go through.  The second tunnel was shortly after, and not as long.  As I started going through it, I said to myself ‘geez, it’s really hard to see.  Is my light working?  I’m really starting to freak out!  Why?’. It was then I realized I didn’t take my sunglasses off.  Like holy!

I like to think of myself as semi-intelligent, clearly I am not smart – although I did realize my mistake.

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The rest of the trip down was fantastic, the trail is indeed a gentle downhill grade as it meandered through the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, I burnt maybe three calories.  Got to the bottom about 11:15 and waited for the 11:45 shuttle.  The shuttle was late, why you ask, well some idiot boy (not sure his age), climbed up to the top of the tunnel … I mean, he climbed up to the top of the tunnel and was sitting right at the top.  The shuttle was late because they had to get him down.  Question?, if he was a young adult, what was he on and if he was a boy, where was his parents?

I lost count as to how many tunnels and bridges we went through … the views were absolutely stunning

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We got on the shuttle, no problems at about 12:30.  The trip was about 30min so when we arrived at the top, we stopped for food, bathroom breaks and getting bikes ready for part two.  We were on the road by 2:30 … before we left, I asked the people at the top (selling Hiawatha trail tickets) about the Olympian and if in fact we could bike it all … I was told that one of the trestles was private property and we might have to walk down and up again as the trestle was in need of  serious repairs.  Hmmm, wasn’t interested in that but too late to turn back now.

We started from East Portal and now headed East and decided to deal with it when we arrived there if that was an issue.

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The road was pretty good, like the Hiawatha, the Route of the Olympian was a downhill grade and a good trail .

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We got to the Dominion Bridge and noticed it was closed to traffic … seriously???  Like a locked gate will stop us.

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We crossed the bridge.  Behind us was the Dominion Tunnel that we crossed which was another great one.

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You know, it was a nice ride, the grade was awesome, basically enjoying it … until we got to the sketchy bridge.  At first I don’t know what is was until we crossed it (no warnings otherwise), I saw the gaps on the bridge and I was like ‘Holy Smokes’.  There are no pics because, well, I wasn’t stopping long enough to take one of the many sink holes along the bridge.  Note – don’t stand under the bridge either!

As we traveled the trail (which is also used as a road), what seemed like such a great ride, turned into a nightmare,  The trail leveled out and the roadbed got soft, like sinking soft.  The ATVers that drive this part of the trail really are doing a great job of destroying it.  We didn’t see any bikers at all on this trail, only ATVs, a few of them … one guy drove so fast around a bend he almost took us out – but the rest of  the tem slowed down and offered a friendly wave and one stopped to chat.

You can tell by the pic how bad the trail was, really hard to bike on.

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We biked parallel the I90 and the St Regis River.

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We ended up coming to a fork in the road (our first).  A road crossed our path and there was a big arrow pointing down the road to our left.  I asked CK that perhaps we were to go down there.  He said that no, the rail would not have gone way as the train would not be able to make a turn like that without tipping.  We were to go straight, on this terrible road – the sign on one of the trees said ‘private property’.

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The road ended up washed out (near Two Mile Creek) and we had to cut across (to the left, there is a small trail, down and up) to the road we should have actually been on.  It took us around the washed out area and back onto the trail.

The road didn’t improve

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Eventually we came across a bride, the I90.

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The end was close, I could taste it.

As we traveled along, we came upon the second washed out trail.  This one was a little more clear on where to go (I guess the arrow wasn’t a clear indication), as there was another trail that kinda indicated ‘you go here!’.

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We followed along the trail, a little up, a little down until we came to a road.  Nothing indicated that we should go left, but given where we figure the trail was, it was pretty good choice.

Then of course, another fork in the road.

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It is kind of hard to tell but there was the straight away, a left and right turn.  The straight part lead to the interstate, we couldn’t go left as that is where we were with the wash out so the only choice was to go right.  There is not one sign anywhere on where to go.  Yes, it isn’t a well traveled road, but it is a trail and it should have at least one or two signs.  Regardless, we went right and that was the correct decision.

Shortly after, we ended up at another road … this one was different as it was paved.  I was told by CK that if we continue straight down the trail, we would pass the town of St Regis and then have to back track to the Visitors Centre where the car was (maybe a couple of miles).  Or instead, we could travel down the paved road, turn right and head straight to the car (about a mile).  At this point, my butt and wrists were sore, I was super tired and I couldn’t ride anymore on this trail …  plus, the trail looked to be over grown.  I really wanted to take the paved road to the car.  CK agreed and that is where we went.  Maybe if it wasn’t so late, I could have sucked up up but it was already coming up to 6:30pm and I didn’t want to get suck out there after dark.

Finally, we made it to the car!

After the long day and reflecting back … I can say that I did enjoy the ride and believe, with some work (and signs), this will be an incredible ride – similar to the Hiawatha.  It does need a little TLC.  For those of you planning on this route, do your research, check out the google maps and make sure you know where you are going.  I happened to be traveling with a train buff and he knows his stuff.  If anyone does have questions, drop me a line and we will help as best as we can.

Day three! (06.26.2017)

Trip home was great.  We discovered that the Road to the Sun was still closed in places so we decided to go straight back up.  On our way, we stopped at the bridge in Saltese to snap a few pics, to show how bad this bridge was.  You can see the gaps in the bridge.

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While traveling on the interstate, we ran into Bert (Roberta), she was quite vocal about being left on the road.

img_6813img_6816img_6817Other than some issues at the Canadian border … they took our seven bottle of extra wine because I didn’t want to pay the $103 duty and taxes (which was more than double what the wine cost) – however, the guy beside me was able to bring bullets into Canada.   How is that fair?

We made it home … a little lighter of wine but made it home non-the-less.  It was a great trip!

Paulson to Castlegar, BC

On the May Long weekend (May 21st to May 23rd), myself and a friend will be biking part of the Columbian & Western trail.  The cottage (in Christina Lake, were we are staying) and transport (from Castlegar to Paulson) is all booked.  In order to prepare, I have added some information about the trail itself.

The part we are doing is from Paulson to Castlegar (Paulson being the peak) …

Map Paulson to Castlegar

Here is a little history (I pulled this from the Internet) …

COLUMBIA & WESTERN HISTORY

RAILROAD CONSTRUCTION NELSON TO CASTLEGAR
Railroad construction on the Boundary Subdivision began in 1890 when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) chartered the Columbia and Kootenay Railway and Navigation Company (C&K). The C&K started building from Sproats Landing and was the first segment of what became the Southern mainline. (Across the Columbia River from present day Castlegar) Completion of this line provided transportation of ore from Nelson north on paddle wheelers over the Arrow Lakes and Columbia River to the CPR mainline at Revelstoke. A short extension of the C&K from Sproats Landing to Robson allowed for the construction of a rail barge slip. Robson became the terminus of the active C&K railway. Barges at first joined the C&K and C&W railways between Robson and West Robson. The Bridge across the Columbia River was completed in 1902 completing the last link in a continuous rail line between Nelson and Midway. This line was renamed the Boundary Subdivision in 1910. Grade revisions were made in the early 1940’s and late 1960’s to accommodate the construction of the dams at Brilliant and Labarthe (Hugh L Keenleyside Dam).

RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION CASTLEGAR TO MIDWAY
In 1890 gold and copper were discovered near Rossland. The Columbia and Western Railway (C&W) was charted to run from the smelter in Trail to Penticton. This line was completed to Robson West in 1897. The C&W from Rossland to Trail was a narrow gauge railway to the smelter at Trail. On April 2, 1898 surveyors led by a man named Rice reached Grand Forks with slashing crews following close behind them. By September 24, six railroad construction camps between Cascade and Grand Forks employed 250 men. A portable sawmill, operated by McPherson and Stout, supplied rail ties and timbers and W.H. Fisher supplied 70,000 rail ties from a site north of Niagara. The Columbia and Western Railway was purchased from mining developer Fritz Heinze, along with the trail smelter by CPR in 1898.

 

The Boundary country ore (from the City of Paris Mine) was delivered to the Trail smelter. On November 25, 1899 passenger service extended to Greenwood. By 1900 the railroad had reached Midway with a branch line from Eholt to the copper-rich area of Phoenix. Construction of this railroad required great effort and was often times extremely dangerous. On January 11, 1900 two men were killed by flying rock. On February 4, 1900, 100 men were sent out two shovel drifts. By reaching the Boundary District, the CPR had scored a major victory against its American railroad competitors in its bid to re-establish Canadian control in southern British Columbia. American communities along the Kettle River and tributary valleys south of the international boundary found it easier to ship via CPR than to use the long and rough wagon roads leading to J.J. Hill’s Great Northern (GN) railroad in Washington State.

Trackage was added to West Midway following the abandonment of the Carmi Subdivision (Kettle River Railway) in 1978.

CONSTRUCTION OF BRANCH LINE FROM GRAND FORKS TO REPUBLIC
The Kettle River Valley Railway (KRVR) extended its service south from Grand Forks to the copper mining areas of Republic, Washington in 1902. This line was followed later that year by Great Northern Vancouver Victoria & Eastern railway (VV&E) and the Washington & Great Northern Railway (W&GN), which also built to Republic. After Great Northern controlled lines connected Republic with the Granby Smelter, the KRVR lost most of its market to the much larger GN. Fierce rivalry between the U.S. and Canadian railroads included considerable legal maneuvering and occasional skirmishes between construction crews such as the “Battle of Midway”.

The W&GN and VV&E railways eventually completed an international route through Midway, Bridesville, Oroville, Keremeos, and Princeton to Brookmere. From Brookmere, trackage rights over CPR’s Kettle Valley Railway and Canadian Northern Railway (now Canadian National Railway) formed a route to Great Northern Fraser Valley network which terminated at Vancouver. Burlington Northern passenger trains from Spokane began to pass through Grand Forks in 1909. Many of the lines west of Curlew were abandoned during the 1930’s and passenger service on GN between Republic and Grand Forks was discontinued in 1938.

 

CONSTRUCTION OF BRANCH LINE FROM EHOLT TO PHOENIX
Although the vast copper deposits at Phoenix were discovered in 1891, it was not until CPR’s Columbia & Western Railway entered the Boundary District in 1899 that development became feasible. Only with the construction of the Granby Company’s large smelter at Grand Forks, and the construction of CPR’s branch into Phoenix, could the ore be extracted and refined economically. Phoenix Branch construction began from Eholt on CPR’s Boundary Section in 1899. Many crews were employed to work on this construction. One of these crews, working under J.V.Welsh, consisted of 125 men. The last spike on this branch was driven at Phoenix on May 23, 1900. The Grand Forks Smelter was completed by August of that year and several spurs were added later to serve other mines. One of these spurs led to the Smelter Lake Dam, the remains of which are visible today.

CPR’S Shay-type geared locomotives were transferred from the Rossland Branch for use on the steep grades of the Phoenix Branch. These engines were withdrawn after a spectacular runaway accident (Dead-man’s Wreck) which destroyed a CPR engine in 1904. By 1905, the VV&E was also operating a line into the mining areas of Phoenix and GN opened its line later that year. With easier grades than CPR’s Phoenix Branch from Eholt, GN was able to handle heavier trains and soon became the major carrier of Phoenix ores to the Grand Forks smelter. In 1913, the CPR allowed the KRVR to use its Grand Forks round-house in exchange for CPR’s use of Kettle River Valley Railway’s downtown station.

BEGINNINGS OF A LINE NORTH FROM GRAND FORKS
In 1904, the Kettle River Valley Railway (KRVR) received permission to build north from Grand Forks on a route projected to run through Vernon to the coal fields of the Nicola area. Construction was slow and by 1907 the line had stalled at Lynch Creek, only 20 miles north of Cuprum. The following year, negotiations began with the CPR, resulting in a 1910 agreement between the CPR and KRVR charter and in 1911 the name was officially simplified to Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). When the line was leased to the CPR in 1913, the KVR became the seed which allowed the CPR to complete its southern route westward from Midway.

CONSTRUCTION OF SPUR FROM GREENWOOD TO MOTHER LODE
A branch line was constructed by the CPR from Greenwood to Deadwood Camp and the Mother Lode Mine during 1900. Also called the Deadwood Spur, the line opened the copper-rich Deadwood Ridge area for mining development. The B.C. Copper Company Smelter was completed in 1901 on the spur above Greenwood and shortly thereafter employed 400 men. The company built a smelter at Grand Forks that, in 1900, was connected to the mines at Phoenix by a branch of the CPR. The first ore was shipped in July of that year and the smelter blown in on August 21. By 1905 more than 1,995,800 tonnes of ore had been shipped and the Granby smelter became the largest copper smelter in the British Empire and the second largest in the world. In 1910 most of the ore bodies at Phoenix were under control of the Granby Company. However some remained in the hands of the B.C. Copper Company and the New Dominion Copper Company which shipped ore to their smelters at Greenwood and Boundary Falls.

 

THE LATER YEARS (THE 50’S 60’S 70’S AND 80’S)
After the completion of the Kettle Valley Railway linking Midway to Hope through Penticton and Princeton and over the Coquilhalla Pass in 1915, Nelson had become only a day’s travel by passenger train from Vancouver and ten hours from Penticton. Trade and commerce in the Kootenays, which was once dependent upon Great Northern and Spokane in the United States, came under British Columbia’s control. Trade in southern B.C. had all but ceased to flow across the border to the U.S.

Following World War 1, copper prices fell and the copper mines and the Granby and Greenwood smelters closed. Between 1918 and 1920 every copper smelter in the Boundary District closed down, effectively destroying CPR’s hopes that Boundary copper traffic would be redirected to Vancouver on their Kettle Valley Railway. The Phoenix spur from Eholt was closed in 1919 and abandoned in 1921. The Mother Lode spur from Greenwood was abandoned in 1919.

Daily passenger service which included eastbound Train #11 (Kootenay Express) and west-bound Train #12 (Kettle Valley Express) was continued throughout most of the railroad’s operating history. After the war, the railroad also experienced an increase in local freight traffic. The three biggest local traffic commodities during post-war years were coal, lumber and fruit. When the highways and airlines stripped the KVR of its passenger trade and its lucrative freight traffic, the railway’s steep grades became uncompetitive relative to the lesser grades of CPR’s mainline. Another factor leading to the demise of the KVR was the opening of the Hope-Princeton highway in 1951. The remaining bulk commodity traffic required longer and heavier trains.

 

Although the KVR produced an operating profit for most of its years, the railway never came close to paying off the massive capital investment of its difficult construction. Nevertheless; the KVR halted the flow of Kootenay trade to the United States at a critical time in B.C.’s history and thus provided an important contribution in the development of the Province. Through freight service on the KVR was terminated shortly after abandonment of the Coquihalla line in July of 1961, and due to major devastation by avalanches the previous winter. The line was abandoned after serving for nearly 50 years. The extensive bridges of this line quickly succumbed to the forces of nature and the demolition practices of the Canadian Army. Some of the smaller bridges that crossed narrow creeks were sold for scrap. Most of the resident buildings, station platforms and other Right of Way buildings were torn down or set ablaze. Rolling stock was removed, followed by rails and ties. The 131 miles of trackage between Penticton and Midway were abandoned in 1978. This portion is now part of the Trans Canada Trail network in southern B.C. Rails were removed between Midway and Castlegar in 1990. Today Burlington Northern continues to provide rail service to Pope & Talbot (now Interfor) sawmill for a little longer as they too are struggling along. The section in the industrial area between the two bridges in Grand Forks was purchased from CPR in 1992 by Pope & Talbot and CanPar Industries which operate it as a private railway. This section of the railroad has remained in active use. A bypass trail routes you to the town of Grand Forks and connects you back on the Columbia and Western. The entire railway including the Kettle Valley Railway is now part of the Spirit of 2010 Trail and Trans-Canada Trail systems in British Columbia.

The following Brief history of CPR’s Boundary Subdivision between Castlegar and Midway is to a large extent from the following sources:
Roger Burrows “Railway Milepost: British Columbia, Volume II
John Garden “The Crow and the Kettle”
Dan Langford’s “Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway”. Volume III

very VERY excited – more to come …

The Legacy Trail

A few of us biked The Legacy Trail yesterday … from Canmore to Banff, BC – it is roughly 25k from the downtown of Canmore to downtown Banff.

We got a little confused as to how to get to the trail from the parking lot, so I am hoping this will help.  The address to park is 907 – 7 Avenue, Canmore, BC.  It is long-term parking with a washroom – I read somewhere they had a bike pump there but I couldn’t see one.  You can also park at the Canmore Visitor Centre … it will knock about a km or so off your ride.

When you park, follow 7th Avenue until you get to the end … you won’t be able to go straight anymore as you have run out of road.  At this point, turn left and follow to just before the highway.  On your left, you will see a small field of sorts with lots of prairie dogs (Canmore sure loves their prairie dogs).  The trail begins there, just follow the path through town.

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This is probably one of my favourite rides.  You do have traffic on one side but a gorgeous view of the mountains on the other.  The trail does tend to get busy so watch out for other bikers.  The best part is when you get to Banff, lock up your bikes and take a tour of the town … we always like to stop for food before heading back.

Great start to 2015

Hi Everyone … it’s been awhile.  There hasn’t been a whole lot to report.  After the floods of June 2013, a lot of the trails were shut down.  There is still some repairs going one, but overall, most are back up and running – albeit, with some detours.

If you live in the Lake Bonavista area or Bonavista/Avenda/Canyon Meadows area … there is a lovely little loop, roughly about 18-19k.  There are a couple steep parts (I am a suck so I call them steep), but a really nice ride.

Bike Loop

Cannot Wait!!!

So things have been a bit busy for me … trying really hard to get into shape.  I have done a bit of biking, mostly path riding – I do try to bike home (from work) at least twice a week which works out to be about 35k.  I did do one trail ride a couple weeks ago (with a friend), the Moose Loop out in the Bragg Creek area – it is about a 9k loop.  It is a relatively easy hike (I have done it before), however, I didn’t account for all the mud … it is not the easiest stuff to bike in.  I have also been running … I downloaded an app ‘Couch to 5k’, my ultimate goal is to be able to run 10k.  I am sooo not a runner.

I am so excited for Sunday (June 2nd) as I signed up for a Meet Up event.  The last Meet Up I did was a coffee one and I was a tag along – really wasn’t my thing.  This one is a bike/hike one out near Lake Minnewanka (Cascade Fire Road/Stoney Cascade Ridge).  I haven’t done this one before so it will be interesting to see how I do as this will be the first big bike trail ride of the season, hopefully all the path riding I have been doing will be enough to get me through this – it is estimated to be roughly 28k of biking and 4k of hiking.

Oi Vay … I may have to take Monday off of work to recuperate.