Monday, August 22, 2011

Arrow Lakes–Driving on the rails.

After a spell in Saskatchewan, Hailey and I thought it was time to do some more touring in BC.  So we headed out west once again on the Trans Canada highway over Roger’s pass, then south of Revelstoke onto the ferry.

We soon found ourselves in the Castlegar area, and decided to check out Syringa provincial park, on the shores of the Arrow Lakes.

After a few days visiting friends and camping in the official campground, which was very quiet I must say, it was time to head out and find some more isolated locales.  From the park, I could see what I was told was an abandoned railroad grade on the far side of the lake, so when I found a forestry road heading in the right direction, I checked it out.

Unfortunately, the Shields Creek FSR ended with huge gates and ‘private’ signs before reaching the lake shore, but the old rail bed looked like it had limited potential.  It was narrow, with few if any places to turn around and the low branches looked ready to rip the kayak or the fridge vent off the roof of the camper.  But it was time to find a location to spend the night, so I took the ‘Motorized traffic permitted’ sign at face value, and bravely headed out into the unknown.CIMG6349CIMG6302

The kayak and fridge vent seemed to be surviving, and the truck did not seem worried by the vertical drops on the lake side of the trail. Then came a tunnel!  Everything seemed to fit OK.


Next, we came to a high trestle with narrow railings. We tested the width, and at no point did both mirrors rub the railing at the same time


and I figured that if the trestle was built to hold trains loaded with lumber or ore (!), it should have no trouble with a truck. The map showed no reasonable ‘escape routes’ onto logging roads for miles and miles.  When there was finally a place to turn around we did so and found a wide spot next to a trestle to spend the night.  Watching the sun set from this high vantage point on the lake was spectacular.  Hailey and I had time to explore the bridge and take some photos as well.


Hailey walking the rail.

A chance conversation that evening with another person on the route indicated that contrary to my expectations, I could perhaps drive all the way out to the main highway via this old rail bed!  So, in the morning, we continued on!


There were more tunnels.


There was another trestle.




And one tunnel that was a half mile long!


There were lots of scenic viewpoints, and a couple of primitive campsites.


There was a historical marker at the location of a mysterious explosion onboard a train in 1924.


Note: At the end of the trail I found a kiosk that described the abandoned rail line as being for use by foot, horse and bicycles only!  Oops!  But then I spotted another sign saying that ‘motorized traffic’ was permitted.  Upon closer examination, I could see that the ‘no’ on the sign had been painted over, but I was not sure if it was an official change or the work of a vandal.  Clearly, I had met other motor vehicles on the way, including 7 quads the first evening.

An online search later seemed to show that there was a bit of controversy over the intended use, with intense lobbying to allow some motorized traffic.  The non-motorized lobby was concerned about vandalism and garbage if vehicles were allowed.  I did not see any sign of either.

I had also started on the trail other than the designated entrances, so I had no chance to read any information on the trail.

A bike-blogger blogs about the section of trail from the start at Castlegar that I did not travel – more good photos, too!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Limestone Mountain Lookout

A couple weeks earlier we had been touring around the backroads in the area, and made an attempt to locate the correct road to the Limestone Mountain lookout (51.8818°N 115.422°W ).  We managed to drive almost around the mountain, but found a dead end road that was still several kilometres and a couple of deep watersheds over.

After a bit of online research we found that the correct turn-off of the main limestone road was at a sign to LM6, one of many gas wells in the area. Coincidentally, my neighbour asked me just the day prior if I knew the way to the lookout!

Although the access road into the entire area is signed to indicate the huge gate at the entrance could be locked at any time without notice, clearly it was of little concern to the many many campers and RV’s set up in random locations along the river – very nice spots, and the price is right!

Knowing the correct route made the navigation easy this time, and we found that one could actually drive right to the top of the ridge, though this is actually several kms from the actual lookout.  The last km or so gets pretty rough, and ‘city’ vehicles may wish to park to avoid getting hung up in some rocks.  My truck was felling frisky without the camper on it’s back and bounced the way up no problem.


A group on quads arrived soon after us, and even brought up some wood for a campfire above treeline.  I noticed an oil leak coming from one of them, so it must have encountered one of the rocks on the way up.  That machine was loaded onto their ‘support’ vehicle for the trip down.  I was very pleased to see that after the departure of the fairly large group, there was not one scrap of litter or any other signs of their passage.


When researching the route, I had discovered that there was a geocache in the area, and sure enough, my two gps led me directly to my first ever ‘find’.


Much to my surprise, it turns out that my neighbor had found the cache just the day before.  There are a number of communications towers in this location, and from here it is still a few kms of very scenic ridgeline hiking to the fire lookout itself.  Too bad there is a line of power poles all the way as well.



Because of the location on top of a mountain, there is not a fire lookout tower, just a lookout on top of the tower cabin.


We had lucked out with the weather, and enjoyed spectacular scenery for 360*.  It was sure nice to be doing some hiking in some real mountains again!CIMG6186CIMG6187CIMG6188CIMG6189

One of the local residents was out catching some rays, and agreed to pose for a few photos.


I’ve been internet ‘challenged’ the last while, being on the road without my satellite gear, and usually out of Roger’s cell phone coverage.  Therefore I have not been able to keep up to date with other goings-on in the RV blogging world.  But I did notice a new addition to the Bayfield Bunch.  Welcome Eve to the fame of blog world!  Hope to meet you next winter down south!

Next post:  Back to BC – and some railroad driving.


Next:  Back to BC again!