Mountain passes, mice and gold mines; Nelson (British Columbia) to Princeton (British Columbia)

 

Leg; 359 miles / 578 km
Total; 3,097 miles / 4,984 km

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Soon after leaving Nelson we hit the massive, 24 mile climb that is Bonanza Pass. We camped near the top at Nancy Greene Provincial Park. It started raining when we got their so we hid for a bit in the communal kitchen shelter. It didn’t take long before we decided to just roll out our Therma Rests and sleep in the shelter. Chris was woken up a few times in the night with rodents crawling on him! Other than that, it worked great!!

We completed the climb the next day and then descended down to Christina Lake and onto Grand Forks. As we prepared for dinner two other cycle tourers – Rachel and Simon – set up camp next doors to us. Coincidentally, they had camped at Nelson just before us, and a fellow camper had sent our photo to them on Instgram! Rachel and Simon are touring round Canada (destination unknown) with a violin and a guitar, and we got an amazing rendition of their self penned music that evening.

We left Grand Forks and climbed the 16 miles up to Eholt Summit. We had an awesome descent into Greenwood; Canada’s smallest city and home to the ‘worlds best drinking water’! Greenwood is like a time warp. We got the impression they play on the Wild West theme, but there is a genuine charm to the place that harks back to its heyday as an industrial lynchpin.

We bumped into Rachel and Simon at the coffee roasters at Rock Creek, and decided to share a campsite and provisions. We had a great evening at Kettle River Recreation site, and were very grateful for the ‘three course dinner’ of carb heavy delights. We went our own ways the next day and took Highway 33 towards Kelowna. At Beaverdell we were convinced to camp at Arlington Lakes; “it’s just off the highway”. Don’t ever believe it when a non-cyclist says this! Arlington was stunning, but it turned out to be 4km off the highway on a rocky gravel track, 2km of which was over 10% gradient.

We woke up early the next day for Chris’ birthday to see the amazing sunrise at our backcountry campground. Again, we fell foul of non-cyclists’ advice and took the Kettle Valley Railway trail to Myra Canyon. It’s a stunning route with amazing views, great wildlife (highlight for us was a super cute American Marten) and level gradient. BUT, it’s so rocky we had to push our bikes over most of it and nearly came off a few times in deep sand. The sad thing is it’s being heavily marketed as part of the ‘worlds longest cycle trail’. It shouldn’t be, because it’s dangerous and unsuitable for anything other than hiking and ATVs.

Myra Canyon on the other hand is a great cycle trail. The view over Kelowna is amazing and you get to cycle over 18 recently renovated trestles (viaducts) that got damaged by a huge wildfire in 2003 and were painstakingly restored by volunteers in 2008. It’s a truly unique experience that also takes you through caves and tunnels. All on a bike. Unfortunately there is a very steep 18% rocky descent from the end of the path to Kelowna. It’s so steep we had to replace Ties’ disc brake pads the next day! If you survive the trail, the paved switchbacks, through the picture perfect fruit orchards and wineries, are a lot of fun.

We celebrated Chris’ birthday in a few breweries in Kelowna – by far our favourite was BNA – then we cycled along the smoggy Highway 97 to Peachland. Thankfully the road got quieter and prettier, an we continued through Summerland to the utopian city of Penticton. Way back in Tobermorey (Ontario) we stayed with a lovely family who we’ve stayed in touch with and have very kindly been putting us in touch with their friends all over North America! We spent an evening with their friends Jamie and Patrick in Penticton, who have an amazing retro house and generously gave up their spare for us.

We got loads of recommendations from Jamie and Patrick and are so pleased we took their advice to cycle the east side of Skaha Lake and through the bizarre White Lakes desert. Skaha Lake has a perfectly tarmaced road, literally right on the waters’ edge. The views are incredible and the cars are very respectful of cyclists. From their we had a steep climb up to the White Lakes desert, where wildlife warning signs changed from grizzle bears and moose, to rattlesnakes and boa constrictors!! We ended the day in Keremeos, where we camped at the interesting Grist Mill heritage centre. Keremeos is rammed full of fruit stands and has a thriving Indian community. So that night we loaded up with local peaches, pears and apples, and samosas! Perfect for two hungry cyclists!!

Not long after leaving Keremeos we got only our second puncture in just over 3,000 miles. We replaced the inner tube quickly and continued along the highway to the heritage gold mining town of Hedley. It was sad to see the tours of the cliff side gold mining town were closed but the local volunteers are doing an amazing job keeping the tiny museum open. We took the old highway from Hedley to Princeton along the winding Similkameen River. We had a lazy rest day in Princeton, where we stuffed ourselves with carbs and enjoyed the view from our campsite right on the waters edge.