Livin' la Vida Hobo: Riding the Rail Trails to the Kootenays
May 25, 2011 Nelson, BC

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Stopping has been Cancelled for the Time Being

As a continuation from my last blog entry, riding along the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) trail to the so-called Mile 0 in Midway, British Columbia, then picking up its sister railway, the Columbia & Western (C&W) which runs another 175 kilometres to Castlegar in the Kootenay region of the province, and finally, a short section of the old Great Northern railway which traveled between Salmo and Nelson.

Although there are very few bikers this time of the year, there were plenty of fantastic people to share the experience with along the way, resulting in the usual pleasantries and share of odd but wonderful encounters you often have while traveling.

One delight greeted me on the last stretch to Midway, where a handmade replica of a caboose lies at the side of the trail, south of the town of Beaverdell (in a hamlet called Rhone), announced by signs as "Cyclist's Rest". It is here that a local man, Paul Letard, a vetern of World War II, saw many hot and weary bicyclists traveling by his front door each summer, and decided to build a shelter with cold water and warm hospitality. Paul is nearly 90 years old, but still greets each passing bicyclist with his dog, Stubby, giving a tour and offering shelter in the caboose, which is outfitted with beds and a wood stove.

Picture Perfect Washboard Road
Invigorating for the Bladder!

I arrived in the evening in the pouring rain, looking for a place to pitch my tent - and Cyclist's Rest was like an oasis! However, the caboose was locked and there was no sign of Paul - even after I rang the bell he had left out for visitors. No doubt the sound was drowned out by the rain. I pitched my tent amongst his picnic tables and camped for the night. In the morning, just as I was packing up to hit the road, Paul and his son appeared (with Stubby, of course) and apologized - had I knocked on his front door, he would have certainly unlocked the caboose and built me a warm fire.

Unfortunately, Paul is getting on in the years and is planning to move to a retirement home in Midway. His property is now for sale, but the market is slow even for the hub of all action in the hamlet of Rhone. No doubt everyone, including Paul himself wants to see the property sold to someone who will keep the tradition going. There is one catch; Paul has plans to return!

An Oasis
Cyclist's Rest, Rhone BC

On his tour, Paul took me to a large, conspicuous rock about 2.5 metres in height and the same in diameter, surrounded by a concrete base and standing in the middle of the driveway entrance beside a flag pole with the Canadian flag. On the rock is a bronze plaque commemorating the citizens of Rhone who fought during the War (some losing their lives on D-Day), including his two brothers. "I've already ordered this year's flowers", Paul said. "Yep, 250 dollars worth, and they'll be arriving in a week."

Paul motioned for me to come around behind the epitaph, where there was a small pipe protruding from the concrete base. "That's where my ashes are going when I die", he told me, and with that, he stuck his hand (and a good portion of his arm) deep into the hole to demonstrate how deep it was. His son smiled at me politely, probably having been through this portion of the tour countless times before. "He has a morbid fascination with his death", his son whispered to me.

The epitaph certainly isn't going anywhere, though the future of the rest stop itself remains questionable. No doubt Paul's intention is to oversee the next generation of cyclists passing through Cyclist's Rest - warming themselves next to the fire or quenching themselves with cold water on a hot summer day. Let's just hope the new owner shares that same interest and generosity - and remembers to place new flowers at the foot of the epitaph each spring.

Close Encounters of the Furry Kind

Nice Kitty!
Cougar on the Trail

There's nothing like a little encounter with the furry and fanged type to spice up your day! On the final few kilometres of the C&W line, I was racing downhill, eager to stop for lunch in Castlegar. Suddenly, I spotted something large (and moving) ahead on the trail about 50 metres away and getting closer by the second. I quickly clenched the brakes and came to a sliding halt. There, looking back at me was a COUGAR, walking forward with a confident swagger! Apparently he was interested in some "Meals on Wheels".

I waved my arms above my head and yelled at the top of my lungs, hurling abuse and insults, but the cougar held its ground. I took inventory of my available weapons, grabbed my bear flare from its holster on my handlebar and fired. The explosion ripped through the forest and echoed off the cliff on the other side of the lake. I just stood there for a few seconds, stunned and deafened by the blast. I looked up and the cougar was gone. After reloading the flare, I cautiously biked forward, yelling and ringing my bell, but the cougar seemed to be long gone. Whew - alive to bike another day!

Encountering a cougar was a fairly scary experience, but in hindsight, it was an incredibly special experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. I consider myself a very lucky person to have been in the right place at the right time!

Onward on the trails eastward. But first.. a little R & R in Nelson! Cheers!


The Cyclist's Rest Caboose
Sheltering Bicyclists from the Storm
My Rooftop Inscription
Paul, his son and Stubby the Dog
Morel of the Story
(Insert groan here)
The Trail Less Travelled
Much more of this, and my Kona Dew will become a Kona Don't!
Halfway Across B.C.!
Midway - the town and literal halfway point
The Midway Caboose
I'm crazy about cabooses!
Hip Hop Hooray!
Midway, BC: "Mile 0 of the KVR", Cyclists Welcome!
It's Log!
It's Big, It's Heavy, It's Blocking the Trail.. It's Wood!
(Property owners along the trail try their best to keep motorized users off their land.. can't say I blame them)
Good Thing I'm Batman
Free Shelter
Much Appreciated Shelter
No Longer Homesick
Being from Scarborough, this made me feel right at home.
Fife Station
Population: You
Farrow Switching Box
Makes a great food cache for the night!
Due to snow on the trail, this was the preferred detour
Bulldog Tunnel
930 metres of pitch dark. Hand me a Scooby Snack, will you?
Go Towards the Light!
That little speck is the 20 foot tall tunnel exit, nearly a kilometre away. Talk about the heebie-jeebies!
Bye Bye Bulldog!
With the tunnel behind me, it was time to change into clean shorts..
Riding the Rails, Hobo Style!
Safety comes First: Always Wear a Helmet!
Columbia & Western Railway Trestle
A Sign of Civilization.. or is it?
Mo Problems, Mo Bear Bangers!
I'm Nobody's Dinner!
Osprey at Castlegar