Kettle River Heritage Trail

It wasn't a Yellow Brick Road covered in poppies but the Kettle River Heritage Trail was covered with white wildflowers, east of Grand Forks, above. The former CPR rail line follows the river, mostly through farmland, with a quiet rural atmosphere, perfect for getting away from busy urban life.

After cycling many of the Okanagan’s rail trails for the series on the best valley trails, the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen headed to the West Kootenays with outdoor buddies for the last 10 days of June to explore rail trails there.

Here is a summary and assessment:

— Galena Trail: We joined the historic Nakusp and Slocan Railway at the Rosebery Loop Road in Rosebery located on Highway 6 south of Nakusp.

It’s a good gravel trail to the south through a typical B.C. Interior forest with several outhouses.

Unfortunately, the small cable car that crosses Carpenter Creek at the old Alamo mine site, where you can see the remains of the old concentrator, was closed due to COVID-19. It’s best to leave your bike at the top of the steep hill and walk down to the cable car station.

When you are on an e-bike, you often don’t notice the gradual elevation changes as you climb toward New Denver. But the ride back to Rosebery was exhilarating.

— Slocan Valley Rail Trail: Part of the former CPR line, this trail extends more than 45 kilometres from Slocan in the north to South Slocan.

We headed south from Slocan on an even better gravel trail to Lemon Creek, stopping at empty Lemon Creek Campground to check out its 26 sites, some with water and power, and showers ($20, $30 and $35 a night).

One of the trail highlights is the Walter Clough Bird Sanctuary, a rich expanse of ecologically-vibrant wetlands, part of the yearly flood plain of the Slocan River. Two huge benches provide wildlife viewing opportunities.

This family-friendly trail for hiking or biking in the summer or cross-country skiing in the winter is 52 kilometres long with seven trailheads. Go to: slocanvalleyrailtrail.ca for more information.

— Great Northern Nelson-Salmo Rail Line: We cycled both directions from Nelson, the city of what seems like endless hills. It’s a grunt to get up to the rail line from downtown, but you can drive up to several trailheads. There was a waterline installation project but a clearly-signed detour on South Shepherd Road. Excellent trail with superlative views of Nelson.

— Christina Lake: Kettle River Heritage Trail. The website, christinalake.ca says: “Christina Lake is home to one of the finest sections of the Trans Canada Trail, the Kettle Valley Railbed, with two freshly-decked trestles (one of the longest on the CPR). Much of the surface has been renewed between Christina Lake and Grand Forks, making this riverside trip through the new Gilpin Grasslands Provincial Park easy and thoroughly enjoyable for families and friends. Of course, the Cascade Gorge section is unrivaled anywhere on the KVR and must be seen to appreciate the majesty of the falls.”

The smooth and well-packed gravel trail is mostly through farmland, but the route becomes confusing when it switches to Grand Forks streets. The city campground on the downtown waterfront offers tent sites for $20 and water-power sites for $36.

We also checked out rougher trails at the Castlegar campus of Selkirk College where we found the sweetest Saskatoon berries ever.

Pancakes with berries that made it into a plastic bag were delicious the next morning.

Recreation, fish and wildlife students and staff maintain more than 15 km of walking-cycling trails at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers. Our trailhead was near the Doukhobor Discovery Centre at 112 Heritage Way in Castlegar.

We also kayaked Slocan Lake from Silverton south to the hidden gem of Bannock Point Recreation Site.

There were no signs on Highway 6, only a yellow loaded dumptruck warning sign. The route featured numerous rocky shoreline ledges with incredible vistas of Slocan Lake and Valhalla Provincial Park to the west.

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Good news for those who like to watch the bird world at Robert Lake, located south of John Hindle Drive/UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.

Friends of Robert Lake Society is now incorporated. Society directors are: Karen Perry, president; Ian Walker, vice-president; Laura Hooker, secretary/treasurer; and Robert Lalonde and Louise Nelson, directors-at-large.

It’s loaded with UBCO academic heavyweights who know whereof they speak on environmental issues. Perry is an environmental chemist/geochemist; Hooker is an aquatic ecologist; Lalonde is an ecologist; and Nelson is microbiologist.

The executive has more room for directors and discussions are underway on the details of general membership. The new society has a number of concerns regarding current and future activities in and around Robert Lake.

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The Okanagan Rail Trail Run planned for May 9 was postponed due to COVID-19 with no new date announced yet.

Check okanaganrailtrailrun.com for more information as it becomes available.

The event, which offers five- and 10-kilometre and half-marathon distances, is a spectacular run from Oyama heading north on the side of Kalamalka Lake and raises funds toward Okanagan Rail Trail improvements in partnership with the Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail (FORT).

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Glenn Bond has decided to postpone the eighth annual Okanagan Trestles Tour on Sunday to July 4, 2021, due to COVID-19.

“Gatherings over 50 people will not be allowed until phase 4 of the reopening of B.C. which, if all goes well, may be September,” he explained.

The cycle tour (okanagantrestlestour.com) goes from Myra station through the Myra Canyon in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park to Penticton using the former KVR rail line/Trans Canada Trail/The Great Trail. The trail was temporarily closed in June for trestle repairs.

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter.

Email: jp.squire@telus.net