Showing them a good time

Summit Seekers enjoyed a guided ride with Kelowna Snowmobile Club members

sledders on the trail
Sleds provide an ideal way to explore the history behind the railway. photo courtesy of Louise Middlemiss

A Valentines weekend ride from Idabel to Chute Lake Resort and back home on the world famous Kettle Valley Railbed (also known as the Trans Canada Trail), was a highlight for a group of 46 sledders from the Lower Mainland’s Summit Seekers Snowmobile Club.

Starting off on Friday, February 12, James Abday took a smaller group up into the Greystokes for a playful day in the meadows, and by Friday evening a few more had arrived for the weekend. We took some of them on a night ride to overlook the brilliant lights of Kelowna from the Kettle Valley Railbed (KVR). Some of the kids found it very exciting to be out on a night ride where some of the trails had a spooky look to them, I can just imagine what was going through their curious minds, scared and excited all at the same time.

By 9 a.m. the next morning, we were almost ready for a final count before heading off on a day-long 119-kilometre ride. With a few final instructions, we headed off across Idabel Lake; when looking back, there was a row of lights behind me that stretched the length of the lake, which is about two kilometres long. What a wonderful sight. 46 snowmobiles got into position in one long line and we headed off onto the trail. It was almost non-stop until we got to our first stop at the Canyon Lakes cabin, and then the Penticton Forestry Shelter. With the help of Manfred and a few others, they manned every intersection as we were travelling along to make sure no one took a wrong turn, and this was continued until we got home. After a lunch stop at Chute Lake Resort, we headed back on the KVR.

The trestles and tunnels impressed them the most, as a lot of them have never seen them and can’t ride bikes in the summer to experience the 12-kilometre Wonder of the Myra Canyon, which is sought after all over the world by cyclists. The group enjoyed the trip so much that they plan to be back next year to stay in the area for a week, taking in the Greystokes with hopefully even deeper powder in the meadows—as well as a bit of hill climbing in the Sunshine bowl on Little White, a luncheon ride to Big White and another look at the Myra Canyon Trestles.

The Kettle Valley Railway

Conceived in the late 1880s as a route to allow the mines of the Kootenay District of southern B.C. access to Vancouver, the KVR became an epic struggle of personalities, politics, finance and geography. Over half a dozen governments rose and fell on issues related to its development and construction. Approximately 100 workers died building and operating it. The KVR earned its nickname, McCulloch’s Wonder, from the railway’s chief engineer, Andrew McCulloch. He built the remarkable railway across the backbone of three mountain ranges and some of the most rugged river canyons on the face of the earth. A number of people called it the most difficult and expensive railway ever built. Finally, on May 13, 1915, the Kettle Valley Railway line between Midway and Merritt was opened for service and the first passenger train made the trip over the tracks.

You have to marvel at the feat it took to build this massive project, with very limited tools and the trestles hanging precariously on the sides of the Myra Canyon. That can only be appreciated by taking in all the 18 trestles and the two tunnels to see the work that those men did. So if you can’t ride a bike or stand the heat, a snowmobile is the next best thing. In the winter there aren’t the hundreds of people each day to watch out for, and it’s another kind of beauty altogether, with the snow-covered canyons and rock outcroppings—a picture postcard, and a must-see.


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