Water…we knew we were going to need lots of water. The temperature was 36 degrees Celcius when last we looked and it was not yet noon. Anita and I re-examined our packs before heading west.
Waves of heat bounced off the pavement. We had parked my SUV out at Coalmont, so we were ready. Anita and I had been planning this excursion since June, so no hot day was going to deter us from our destination. We both hopped on our mountain bikes and biked away from the Spotlight office up past the Princeton Arena towards the Bridge of Dreams.
As a member of the Vermilion Trails Society, this first part of the bike trip was a checklist of pride. The Bridge of Dreams was our baby. The pavement was ours. We cycled on, under Highway #3 past the Weyerhaeuser Roundhouse, another VTS project, past Phifer’s Fountain which VTS was instrumental in bringing to town and towards the outskirts of town past trees and bushes we had planted. It was a nice feeling knowing that Princeton was a little better because of the group I was involved with.
We came to the Princeton Tunnel. It is long, dark and cool inside. The reprieve from the heat is brief but welcomed. We stop at the trestle. I show Anita where we jump off into the Tulameen River. “No way,” she says looking down. “You could not get me to do that. I would rather jump out of a plane.”
I laugh at my friend. I used those same words a week ago. Anita and I head away from town.
The bike trip itself is 18.9 kilometers from the Princeton Gateway at Irly Bird. Parts of it are deep with unpacked surface material. It is a bit of a slug to push through. By the time, we bike out past the red bluffs, the hoodoos and the Thomas farm, Anita and I are needing a break. We pass our lunch destination by accident and find ourselves at the gazebo, another VTS project. Sitting under the shade of the roof, we soak up the scenery. The river roars quietly below us. Another tunnel lies just ahead. We agree we have burned off the calories from our mochas with whipped cream from CoCos earlier in the day as we munch on trail mix and sandwiches. Both Anita and I are feeling good still. “What a beautiful trail,” she exclaims looking around. “I know…we are lucky,” I reply.
My friend Anita is from Hope. She has done bits of the Trans Canada Trail and is delighted with our trip so far today. Anita had heard about the Kettle Valley Rail Trail last winter on a trip to China RIdge showshoeing.
The Tulameen River is calling our name. We look down at it longingly. We are hot…very hot. “What do you think the temperature is now?” Anita asks. “It feels like 38…maybe 40,” I reply. “We need to swim.”
Anita and I bike through the second tunnel keeping one eye firmly on the road and one eye darting back and forth to the river. We are scouting for a swimming hole. The bank is too steep where we are, but we are not discouraged.
For a half hour, we cycle on. Then, victory. Just before the second trestle, there is a spot to climb down to the river. We kick down our kick stands and carefully descend down a rocky trail. Runners off and we are in.
The river is cold, but heavenly. This is Anita’s first time in the river this year. “It’s freezing,” she states. “It’s awesome,” I reply. I swim around in a deep pool made for swimmers. Anita dips under again.
Cooled off, we ascend to our bikes. Another cyclists whizs by as we drink deep from our water bottles. He is heavily packed down…obviously camping along the way to somewhere much farther than we are going.
Anita and I bike into Coalmont just before 3 in the afternoon. The trip was exhilerating, but more than enough in the heat. We load our bikes into my SUV and head into town and the Brown Bridge Pub. Time for a reward. A cool drink and something salty should fit the bill…