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Biking With Brenda II

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The Kettle Valley trail is an abandoned rail bed situated between Hope and Midway, this trail is part of the Trans Canada trail system covering 800 K across BC including the Galloping Goose trail on Vancouver Island.

We were all saddened to hear of the lost Kelowna homes and a beautiful section of the Kettle Valley Trail at Myra Canyon during the raging fires of last summer. What many people fail to realize is that only 20 km of trail, including 14 wooden bridges and trestles, is closed to travel. The remaining 800 km is alive and well, there still plenty of trestles along the way.

My husband and I cycle a couple of sections each year and hope to complete the entire 800 km in the next couple of years, taking the time each trip to enjoy the adventure and the beautiful scenery..

Adventure abounds on the trail, be it wildlife sightings, hoodoo rock formations, spectacular vistas, dark tunnels, trail washouts … or even a stag party in the middle of nowhere. Picture 20 guys peacefully floating down the river using blow up dolls for floatation in 37ºC heat. They calmed down just long enough to wave at us as we crossed the second bridge over the Tulameen River west of Parr tunnel.

Party antics aside, the best adventure is often the accommodations along the way. Businesses on the trail feed us, over night us, fix our bikes and shuttle us in and out of nowhere and deliver us safely back to our cars with plenty of advice to help guide us to the best sights along the way.

Their livelihood depends on us to get up there and enjoy this historical trail, built more than 100 years ago, then dismantled in 1990 for our enjoyment, to ride and explore.

Our latest ride was the one that inspired me to write this article. OUR OTHER TRIPS HAVE TAKEN US TO OTHER SECTIONS… ALL WORTH THE RIDE, ETC.

We booked our starting point at the Princeton Castle Resort. This incredible resort sits inconspicuously in behind the town of Princeton. Nestled into130 forested acres with the quintessential meandering creek and swimming hole, the property features beautiful large and small log cabins perched over the river, in addition to a log lodge that sleeps 20, with the main floor opening to a common dining room and lounge. And for the budget-minded, or you can stay in one of the teepees that sleeps four singles.

A project that is now under way to save the rich history of 1910 Princeton Castle Ruins, is the dream of Ella, proud owner of the Princeton Castle Resort.

Referred to by many as Queen of the Castle, she holds court over one of the nicest resorts we have ever stayed in – right on the Kettle Valley Trail. Tie it all up with a lake to swim in, horses to ride, close proximity to dining and golf, numerous winter sports to enjoy – all only three hours from the Lower Mainland – and you have all the essentials for a memorable holiday.

Believe me, these log cabins are the best!

In the morning we are off to Coalmont. This ride is a nice 18k for those that are just back on a bike saddle after 20 years and there no hills just a 2% grade up or down and that’s nothing. For a small fee you can leave your car at the resort and enter the trail just above the lake. First stop, Princeton, for a quick latte at Cowboy Coffee, then over Highway 5 to catch up the trail entering a 324-metre tunnel, constructed in 1910. After that you follow the Tulameen river as it winds all the way to the town of Coalmont. We jumped in the river just past Parr for a refreshing interlude, then back into the heat of the day. Remember your sunscreen – today it is 37ºC. We pass the guys at the stag that are having so much fun floating along the river and campers on Granite Creek, another popular swimming hole on the river.

Our companions, Ingrid and Ed, are tiring, butts are getting sore as we pull up to the Coalmont Hotel – the next phase of our journey back in time.

I suspect the hotel has changed little since its glory days in 1910 when it served a thriving mining community. What a treat for antique and history buffs. Cool inside, we can tell we are going to love it here. We are greeted by Peter, proud owner of this ‘Pink beast of a Hotel’, and instinctively know to leave our city ways behind. Beer, tequila and beef are the order of the day (and probably everyday), and no whining about the cigarette smoke either. Actor/director Sean Penn (The Pledge) tried to negotiate a deal up at the Coalmont as he was scouting a location for his film..

Ingrid and I joke with Peter that we are the famous show called "Biking with Ingrid and Brenda" and we are here to plan our biking show from his hotel. Peter rolls his eyes and relates his Sean Penn story while servicing our jugs of beer and plenty of ice water to cool us down from the heat.

The locals join in and ask where we are from. One guy asks if we are interested in buying the general store, just off the trail. Says he refinished the whole store then didn’t have the social skills to deal with the customers. The $180,000 price tag included store, residence and garage.

Interestingly, we had considered buying another general store on our last Kettle Valley ride at Three Lakes, but that’s another story. We all shared some laughs before continuing upstairs to our rooms to wash up for dinner. Complimentary Epsom salts are provided for a bath in those big, old claw-foot tubs.

Later we meet up in the dining room for a baron of beef dinner, complete with all the fixins’, cooked by Peter and his wonderful staff. An après dinner stroll around town led us to the river and past all the homes of all the 70 or so residents that live there, all of whom were more than willing to share their knowledge of the area.

Tequila to wrap up the night; the bar looked pretty slow. As we headed to our rooms, Peter mentioned something about the stag stopping by later, and pre-apologized in case it got noisy … we thought he was joking.

He wasn’t joking, the party was on. ‘Nuff said.

Back on the trail for the two hour trip to Princeton without our guests Ingrid and Ed as they took the The Tulameen Bicycle shuttle down to Princeton.

We stopped once more at the Cowboy Coffee shop, only to be told, "Wow – you stayed at the Haunted Coalmont Hotel," by the young gal making our lattes. Hmm …

Back to our cars, we are on our way home, stopping at the Home Café in Hope for a delicious turkey dinner.

I wrote this article while basking in the glow of a wonderful weekend in the Kettle Valley (quite possibly the turkey dinner helped) and the desire to share and inform other adventurers seeking a unique B.C. experience. The spirit of 2010 – and the vestiges of 1910 – live vividly in the Kettle Valley.

Hope to see you on a trail sometime soon!

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