Old Hedley Road

Old Hedley Road between Hedley and Princeton in the Similkameen Valley follows the Similkameen River, above, but also has numerous challenging climbs and exhilarating descents for cyclists.

The series on the best trails continues in the Similkameen Valley with Old Hedley Road and the KVR Rail Trail from Princeton to Coalmont — the first paved and the second, an abandoned and gravel rail line.

Canadian Biker Magazine’s website, cdnbkr.ca, describes Old Hedley Road as “a direct link to a time of Spanish explorers and gold-rush stampeders.”

Gold-rich creeks lured prospectors and adventure seekers to the Similkameen’s sage-covered hills for centuries, says writer Bill Gedye. But it is now “a land of ghost towns like Tulameen, Blackfoot and Granite City, where a cowboy named Johnny Chance once stumbled across placer gold nuggets in an unnamed stream and started a rush that lasted 10 years.”

The 32-kilometre rolling Old Hedley Road connecting Princeton to Hedley is in sharp contrast to the flat Highway 3, which also parallels the Similkameen River.

Those ups-and-downs attract lots of motorcycles but almost-no traffic makes it perfect for bicycles as well. However, its hills will be a challenge for non-e-bikers and even a workout for e-bikers like us who did it again last week.

The website, trailpeak.com, describes the 18-kilometre rail trail from Princeton to Coalmont as possibly “the most spectacular portion of the whole Kettle Valley Railway bed since it runs through the precipitous valley of the Tulameen River with plenty of birds, flowers, mammals and minerals to view.”

Starting at the west end of Princeton, the trail includes:

• A 300-metre-long tunnel (built in 1910) under the Highway 3/Crowsnest Highway ridge that separates the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers just before they merge.

• A long bridge to the north shore of the Tulameen River; red ochre cliffs which provided vermilion for the rock paintings and war paint of the Similkameen First Nation

• The fantastic shapes of hoodoos and stone pillars shaped by erosion.

Pictographs can be found along the road.

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More feedback from readers.

John S. says: “

“As an avid biker and hiker, I read with interest your article on the Grand Kelowna Triangle (Okanagan Rail Trail, Mission Creek Greenway and Kelowna waterfront).

“The piece of information that I thought was missing was the distance. I have meant to bike the Triangle for some time now and finally did it today.

“The distance is 20.5 kilomtres for whomever might be interested. It was definitely an easy, enjoyable ride. Yes, I would agree that it deserved No. 1 (as the top urban cycling route).”

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A question from reader Michael T: “I am not an avid cyclist like you though I do cycle at times. I am, however, an avid walker and walk many trails that cyclists use.

I think cycling is a lot of fun. When I go for a ride, whenever there are hikers on the trail, I give them a ring with my bicycle bell so that they are aware of me, and they really appreciate that.

“This is very seldom true for cyclists when I am hiking. Most of them assume I have eyes in the back of my head and zoom past me without regard to my well-being.

“It would be nice to be alerted before they pass me so that I don’t get badly startled as I usually do. I (and many other hikers, I am sure) would really appreciate it if you could mention this.

“A little common courtesy and a little ding from the bell (or a shout if you don’t have a bell) before you pass would go a long way to keeping the peace I feel when I am outdoors. Then we can all really enjoy the great outdoors.

“I am convinced that every bicycle should be equipped with a bell. They are cheap, weigh nothing, are easy to operate and are easy on the vocal chords.”

The Sheriff couldn’t agree more, but notes some of the worst offenders are road cyclists who don’t have a bell and seem reticent to even say anything as they pass at high speed.

The Sheriff always rings his bell when a fair distance away, not when he is almost next to other cyclists and pedestrians causing panic and an immediate jump to the side. From the diminished sound at a distance, they can tell you are approaching but not yet endangering their safety.

Bike Sense, the British Columbia Bicycle Operator’s Manual, says: “A bell is useful as a warning and as a courtesy to alert pedestrians or other road and trail users of your approach. A bell is legally required by bylaw in some jurisdictions. Check with your local police or municipality for information.”

No Okanagan government appears to have that requirement. A check of several Lower Mainland cities revealed a City of Coquitlam requirement: “Bicycles must have a bell loud enough to be heard as a warning.”

The City of Burnaby has this post from The Metro Vancouver Cyclists Handbook: “B.C. law requires that bicycles must have a bell or horn.”

Colin Stein, executive director of the BC Cycling Coalition, adds: “This is a common source of confusion, as many municipalities (like Vancouver) have bylaws requiring bicycle riders to have a bell or device ‘capable of being used as a warning.’

“Where such a bylaw exists, it is local in nature (i.e. pertaining to the municipality in question), and not part of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act. Note that Coquitlam’s reference to bells is part of a section that combines both local bylaws and the provincial MVA. Burnaby’s reference point appears to be the HUB Cyclists Handbook, which seems to erroneously reference the bell requirement as part of provincial law. You can consider our Bike Sense manual accurate on this matter.”

J.P. Squire is a avid cyclist and loves all things outdoors. Email: jp.squire@telus.net