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SHORT VERSION: We had a great trip. We rode 100 miles over two days. The weather was excellent: partly cloudy with rain on our travel days.
LONG VERSION, and I mean really long.
Overall, Warren and I had a successful and enjoyable trip. We rode just over 100 miles, about 60 miles on Friday and 40 on Saturday.
We drove to Penticton, about 4.5 hours from Bellingham on Thursday. Warren chatted with someone at a local bike shop about our proposed route. They first looked at him a bit sideways and let him know that there were many fun moutain bike trails in the area that we could ride. He persisted, so they pointed out a mountain bike trail about two thirds the way around our proposed route that we could use to cut back to Penticton. This would shorten the route from 120 miles to more around 100. Warren also asked about dispersed camping, and they replied, "It's Canada. You can camp wherever you want." This free camping spirit was a bit different than my earlier research. My online searching said that residents of Canada can camp on crown land, but non-residents need a permit. Even if you have a permit, as a non-resident, you cannot camp in the green zones. I could not find a map that showed what was crown land, and definitely not the green zones. So, with our bike shop beta, we looked for a place to camp for the night. It wasn't raining at the moment, but was windy and rain was forecast for the afternoon and evening. There were waves crashing against the shore of Lake Okanagan and Lake Skaha. Most of the campgrounds were close to town, along the lake, except for one about five miles east of town in the hills. It was called Lost Moose campground. After looking at the map, we found that our new proposed route ended on the same road as the campground. We had wondered where we could leave the truck, so it seemed like the perfect spot. As we drove the five miles to the campground, we climbed 2000 feet above Penticton. It was a lovely, quiet spot and we picked a site that had an awning covering the picnic table and a bit of an outdoor kitchen set up, complete with a black iron towel rack. The hosts said they had just finished the work the day before. They agreed to let us leave the truck at the campground while we were riding, which was piece of mind. We debated whether to leave from the campground or drive down to town. Warren worried if we decided to do an out and back, we would have to climb the very steep, windy road back up to the campground. After some hemming and hawing, we committed to doing the loop. How nice it would be to roll out on our bikes and then roll back in. We left at 6:45am on Friday morning heading down toward Penticton and the Kettle Valley Trail.
The Kettle Valley Trail follows the path of a railroad that had been built in 1920's to bring mining products to the port of Vancouver. The last train on the tracks was in the early 1970's, and in the subsequent decades volunteer groups transformed it into a recreation trail. The first twenty miles took us through the vineyards of Penticton and Naramata with views looking west of the Canadian Cascades and Lake Okanaga. We gradually climbed above Lake Okanagan into the Kootenay highlands. I learned that the maximum grade that a train could climb was 2.2%. There were benches for taking in the view, pit toilets every few miles and a few covered picnic tables. We passe a handful of walkers and bikers, and even two other pairs of bikepackers. One of the groups included a man who was excited to see Warren's new Surley Ghostgrappler bike. He said he had ordered one and it was waiting at home for him. He biketours 8 months of the year, so even though his bike arrived over six months ago, he had yet to see it. We continued on and the trail had a few long switchbacks before turning east, away from the lake. At mile 25 we stopped for lunch at Chute Lake. As we munched on PB&J slamwiches, Warren noticed a chipmunk had climbed onto his bike that was leaning against the tree and was poking around his bags. He shooed the chipmunk away, but not for long. It was a bold, little thing that had obviously been fed before, so we alternated between eating and hitting the ground with a stick to scare it away. It wasn't the most relaxing lunch. A man came by in van with a bike trailer as we finished up. He said he had just dropped some folks off to ride back to Penticton. We told him our proposed destination of Hydraulic Lakes and he said he had dropped a group off the day before to ride back to Penticton. "The trail was a bit flooded, but they made it around. You ought to be fine." We had been riding around quite a few puddles from yesterday's rain, but so far, the trail was passable. We said our goodbyes and headed northeast en route for Hydraulic Lakes. The trail was more of a dirt road at this point and we bumped along dodging puddles. Warren found a deep one and got his shoes all wet.
Soon we came to the first train tressel. This tressel was one of 18 tressels that had been constructed to traverse the Myra Bellavue canyon, made up of many sub canyons. On the map, the canyons look like a chicken foot, with the trail crossing from one toe to the next on the tressels. The tressels had railings and a wooden surface covering the inner 2/3rds of the width of the railway ties. There were many more people on this section of the trail. Given this and stopping to enjoy the view and take pictures, we slowly made it to the end of the canyon section. At the trailhead for the Myra Bellavue Canyon, there was a bike rental operation, and we bought some chain lube. The man there said that three years ago the puddles were much deeper. "When we sent tours out to where you just rode, we would give them rubber boots. The water came up to your knees. But they've filled them in." I was glad.
After Myra Bellavue we didn't see anyone for the next fifteen miles. We had ridden north along the lake, then turned east into the canyons and west out of them. Now we were heading more northeast towards Hydraulic Lakes at mile 60-ish. We arrived at the west end of the lakes where there was a dam, aptly named. There was a nice breeze coming off the water. The campground was a mile or so further along and we came upon the flooded part of the trail of which the van man had spoken. Luckily, the road paralleled the trail, so we rode on the road to the Hydraulic Lakes campground.
The campground was a large field with picnic tables scattered around and a handful of outhouses. We saw three other bikepacking groups, which made me wonder about the sideways look that Warren got at the bike shop. I thought we could find a more isolated spot around the west side of the lake, back the way we had come. It would be more private and the breeze would minimize the mosquitos, for Warren's sanity. Warren is not very zen with mosquitos. We looked at several spots and even rode a bit along the forest road that we would take the next day, but the most suitable spot was close to the trail about fifty feet from the water. The very spot where we first came out of the woods and saw the lake. There was a building further back in the woods away from the water, which looked like it was either a closed up cottage or a building for the dam. We decided to embrace "It's Canada. You can camp anywhere" and set up camp. As we were pitching out tent, we heard a four-wheeler coming toward us. I thought for sure it was the ranger, and we would soon be heading back to the campground. It wasn't. The person waved and drove on.
As we made dinner and filtered water, we heard loons calling. Another pair of bikepackers rode by and said they were out on an 8 day trip. The breeze helped with the mosquitos, but after dinner and bear bag hanging, we turned in at 7:30pm. I had forgotten my sleeping pad at home, and instead was using the truck's sunshade. I padded it with all of the extra clothes we had, which wasn't very much. A good night's rest was wishful thinking for in addition to a less than cushy sleeping pad, we were awoken at dusk, around 9:30pm, as two dirt bikes revved by. Then we were kept awake by someone playing dance music for hours. I must have fallen asleep because when I woke to rearrange and try to find a soft spot, it was quiet. But early in the morning, around 3:00am, the DJ started up again and the flock of Canada geese joined in with their honking. So, we got up around 5:00am instead of pretending to sleep.
We left Hyydraulic lakes and all of its noises and headed south on the forest road. We had studied the map the previous evening and seen that we could either take the mountain bike trail part of the way and then get on a forest road, or take forest roads the entire way. Given how much my saddle bag had rubbed going over the puddle bumps, I felt the forest roads would be a better chice. The roads wound through the Kootenay highlands: Myra road to Okanagan Falls road to Beaverton road. There were kilometer signs along all of them, and it helped me throughout the day. Every 5K it would have a sign that said, "Must call 56 Down Myra" or "Must call 49 Up Okanagan". Most of the adjoining roads had name signs, and I made me feel like if someone needed help, they would be able to find them more easily. There were firepit rings at every pull out along the roads, and even the day before along the trail. "It's Canada. You can camp...and have a fire...wherever you want." Despite being Saturday, we only saw a handful of cars and motorcycles as we rode up the hills and through the river valleys of the highlands. We had thought due to the topography that the 40 miles would make for slow going and maybe take two days, but at lunch we only had 14 kilometers left. We picniced at another damed lake, Lake Ellis. We were expecting a steep climb up to the Lost Moose campground, but we actually descened after lunch and gradually climbed only a few kilometers. We were then rewarded with a 3km downhill finish with sweeping views across the lake and toward the Canadian Cascades. The truck was just where we left it and the items in the cooler were still cool. The campground was full that night, so we drove back up Beaverton road and "camped wherever we wanted." Despite being right off the road, you could walk twenty yards to an overlook of the river valley. A fellow recreationist was doing some target practice with some sort of gun, so we hoped that we wouldn't have a noisy night like the previous one. We were in luck and the shots ceased before we were done cooking dinner. We turned in early again, and a combination of the cushy sleeping pad on the bed in the back of our truck and our tired bodies made for a deep, restful sleep. 100 miles ended up being the right amount of challenge for us. Given that the route took us fewer days, we had an extra day, so we did a little rock climbing at the Skaha Bluffs on Sunday. We had been there in April with our climbing class, but this was the first time we had put our new skills to use without any instruction. It went well and the biggest scare was Warren's run-in with a gopher snake. Monday called for rain, so we decided to drive home Sunday afternoon, after a swim in Lake Skaha. We picniced on the beach and it felt hot, but when we checked the temperature, it was only 70F. I guess it's all relative, as we have had a wet, cool spring.
If you are still reading this, thanks for hanging in there. I am rarely succint in my story telling. Lessons we learned for next trip: 1. check that you have a sleeping pad 2. Wherever you want to camp, make sure it's not near a dance party.
I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our trip, and thank you to those who donated so generously. I had a cold during our trip, and along with forgetting my sleeping pad, I also forgot my nebulized medicine. Using it when we got home made me really appreciate how much it helps, especially when I have lung congestion. I am grateful to have access to the medications and medical devices that I do. Your contribultions with further the research expanding current medications for all CF mutations and for future medications and treatment modalities.
Happy June day to you,
There have been two instances this week that have inspired me to start my annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraising. First, Monday was 6/5 which folks in the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) community celebrate as 65 Roses day. There is a story of a young boy with CF who thought his illness was called 65 Roses instead of cystic fibrosis.
Second, I received an email that the Washington CF Cycle for Life will be held in September in person. The event organizers have partnered with another ride to offer an 11 mile and 24 mile route.
Despite the possibility of meeting other folks with CF, I have decided to do my own event, which may start today.
Warren and I had planned to do a bike packing trip to celebrate our birthdays. For the past 20 years Warren has done a bikepacking trip every five years, lining up with the 5’s and 10’s. This will be the second time I’ll join him. Five years ago we rode from Montana to Bellingham. This year we will do a loop starting in Penticton, BC riding along the The Great Trail, the trans Canada trail, for 80 miles and then make our way back on national forest roads. If it all goes according to our plan, it will be a 120 mile ride over 3-4 days.
I know the longer distance or greater challenge of an event do not in the end make a donation more worthy, but as the person asking for donations, it feels worthwhile to have the event challenge me physically. On my 35th birthday, I am so grateful to be healthy and to be able to consider such a ride. I believe the life expectancy for someone with CF was around 35 in 1987 when I was diagnosed.
No amount is too small, and no donation is expected. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me.