Zunoquad Squad Cycles the Kettle Valley Railroad Trail (5)

May 25

John left on his mission early.

The diminished band of six packed leisurely and pedaled through the parking lot at the approach to Myra Canyon. At the end of curved cut in the rock a vast panorama unfolded. A huge gulf dropping to Lake level was scooped out of the high plateau to which we’d ascended for three days. A dozen or so side canyons covered with the charred remains of a burnt forest and numberless rockslides, opened into it. At the top of the canyon rose a single, wide, snow-covered peak. Volcanic eruption, landslide, holocaust: a display of nature’s power, demonic and sublime.

Next into view came a fine level line threading its way from where we stood, in and out of the side canyons, heading off towards the snowy summit and then back toward us on the other side of the abyss, supported across gaps narrow and wide by a delicate latticework of trestles.

After a lengthy stop to gaze, we crossed the first trestle on a surface of new planking that produced a clean hum from the tires.

It was a smooth thrill of a ride, created by a double human triumph over nature. The first was the original construction of the railroad, motivated by the desire to extract her wealth. The second was the recent reconstruction of the trail and trestles after decay and fire, motivated by the desire to provide pleasure to visitors. As we stopped again at the end of the first trestle, two kids and their parents on bikes came up behind us. “It’s just like Disneyland,” said one.

There were two tunnels and thirteen trestles, the largest of them rebuilt by the Rotary Clubs of Kelowna, a fact of interest to Steven’s wife, Jan, who was organizing a campaign for her Rotary Club to finance construction of a bicycle trail along the railroad right of way in San Luis Obispo.

At the parking lot near the far end of the Canyon, we waited for John’s return, watching a constant stream of dirt bikes and ATV’s crossing the railroad trail. It was the back country’s only preserve free from their uncouth roars. Before long, he arrived in his Mom’s sprightly little Smart Car, popped out, opened the tailgate, and served up organic bread, humus dip, a watermelon and beer! He also gave us replacement bags of rice, dried vegetables, salami, cheese and oatmeal and then took off.

The next stage of the trip opened views of Kelowna and its lake far below through a grim landscape that alternated burn and logging slash. The afternoon grew chilly and grayer but it was cheered by the chance to pedal rhythmically without interruption, putting kilometer after kilometer behind us.

Around 5 p.m. we arrived at Chute Lake, a compound with docks, campground, canoes for rent, well-kept lawns, a playground and a large log lodge. On its windowsills appeared a collection of old steam irons, each with a different design. Inside looked inviting”a wood heater surrounded by naugahyde-covered chesterfields, a pool table, and walls decorated with antique signs and implements.

The inkeeper, Doreen, our third grandmotherly provider, spoke quietly but firmly as she looked us directly in the eye and negotiated the camping fee–$25. per two man tent. We sat warming up with coffee and huge slices of the rhubarb and apple pie she’d baked that morning on her woodstove. The conversation waxed philosophical–comparing media revolutions of the sixteenth and twenty first centuries, examining the history of ideas of God, considering different ways to face death.

Then it was time to pitch the tents, cook rice and vegetables and return to the lodge to drink beer and converse with Bruce Williams, an electrician from Campbell River who was cycling solo from Nelson to Nanaimo. Much effort was devoted to deliberating about the next day’s travel plans and connecting up with Robert. It rained hard all night and Ian and Murray’s tent leaked.

The wiki for this excursion can be found here. The Flickr Photoset is here.

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