Adventure and landscape photographer, Dax Justin, recently spent a day exploring Myra Canyon with Monashee Adventure Tours. He shares his experience on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in fall.
The drive up to Myra Canyon, just 30 minutes outside of Kelowna, BC, was a bumpy one, so my expectations for our bike ride were that it might get a little gnarly.
But I was in for a nice surprise on this clear September day with the changing colours of autumn all around us.
We were taking the Trestles and Tunnels tour along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail with Ed Kruger from Monashee Adventure Tours. Ed’s a pioneer and ambassador in this region and you can tell he loves his job. He’s one of those people who’s taken his passion for everything outdoors – from cycling to snowshoeing – and turned it into a full-time job, which allows him to share his backyard with people who want to explore the beauty of the Okanagan.
Monashee Tours offer some cool excursions such as the guided cycling tour I did, but I’d also like to check out the more urban West Kelowna Pinot Noir Cycling Tour and the historic Columbia and Western Rail Trail Tour.
I would soon learn that this part of the Okanagan is steeped in silver and copper mining and rail history. We were going to be gliding along old rail trestles and through tunnels surrounded by this splendid steep-sided canyon.
This trail was made possible by hard-working volunteers who are as passionate as Ed, wanting to keep this area open to the public to enjoy. During the 2003 fires in Kelowna, 12 of the trestles were damaged, but the volunteers banded together to rebuild. Talk about passion and dedication.
It was pure joy cycling over these old trestles while Ed told us stories about the history of the ara. The Kettle Valley Railway was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1910 and 1914 and the steam trains of the time were a vital connection from the Coast to the Kootenays, transporting people and goods. The last trains passed through in the early ’80’s.
What’s hard to picture are the feats of engineering that went into blasting this pass through the canyon. But I could imagine a romantic image of the old days, trains snaking through, puffs of steam trailing behind.
Thankfully, we still get to enjoy these trails today – from the seat of a bike. The fresh air and views of Okanagan Lake, the Valley, vineyards and hills of the Okanagan are stunning on a crisp fall day. The smell of pine-scented the air.
The trail, including a spur line to Osoyoos, extends approximately 650 kilometres from Midway to Hope, but our easy and enjoyable ride allowed us to enjoy a gorgeous part of it, crossing 18 wooden trestles and two tunnels. While some of the trestles are 1,000 metres in the air, don’t let that worry you. There are solid railings and the trails are smooth and easy to ride, even for someone like me who hadn’t been on a mountain bike for several years.
Pretty much anyone could handle this cycling excursion. I saw young and old riding along. You can bring your own bike or rent one from Monashee Adventure Tours and head out on your own.
Passing through the tunnels is quite a trip, going into the sudden, cool darkness, and then shooting back out into the sunshine. Making it even more memorable was Ed’s ability to summon the ‘ghost trains.’
But you’ll have to find out for yourself what that means when you take his tour.
The experience of gliding through the 1,430-metre canyon at an easy pace put me in a fine fall state of mind. Before I knew it, we’d ridden 20 kilometres, and I was sad that it was over.
Learn more about the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Tag us in your photos @discoverroute97 or by using #Route97.