CASCADE GORGE, CHRISTINA LAKE BC
Santa Rosa Trail (Part of The Trans Canada Trail) Experience.
It’s Monday morning, the sun is shining and a light breeze blows gently over my face as I walk my way into the office. The current weather forecasted for the day is nothing less of sunshine at Christina Lake, but my moving weekend from Vancouver over the weekend didn’t go quite as planned, leaving me with dark circle and bags under my eyes having had only two hours of sleep the night before. Work duties call and the thought of staying awake is a challenge that I know I must conquer as my work day slowly unfolds itself.
Around mid-morning, Bob Dupee, from Wild Ways takes me by surprise and invites me to join the rest of the Christina Lakes Trail team, on our first trail bike-riding adventure. Despite my unrested self, I couldn’t say no to such a beautiful day with an adventure that was sure to entice & entertain my feast for wilderness and wildlife.
Wild Ways is where the adventure begins! Upon arriving, a bike sits in the stand awaiting my frame to load on and ride around. After a quick test drive and one change to another bike, I am now fitted with wheels that can take me anywhere, so long as my legs can keep up. With a nicely fitted helmet, “Safety First,” as Bob says, I’m ready to ride! There are four of us plus Bob, who has now become our designated tour guide. After a brief huddle we begin the ride.
Our ride begins going West along Hwy 3 for a short distance before heading through a small trail back towards the Christina Lake Gateway building. We cross the street here, and head up Santa Rosa Road with a 2% incline. Five minutes in, I start to feel my heart rate elevate, my breathing starts to increase, and it is at this time that the bike and I become best friends. I fiddle with the gears and find the perfect ratio of tension and my human power, making it to the top of the hill at the headway of the trail, slightly out of breathe and flushed pinked. We have two trail choices to choose from here; the older, thinner, forested, original Dewdney Trail or the more open, wider Santa Rosa Trail. With Bobs pre-designated route, we officially begin our first Trail ride.
The Santa Rosa Trail is an old rail system, now covered with dirt and fill, previously used by the mining industry to transport resources in and out of the area. To the left hillsides galore, with towering trees and newly budding shrubs peer at us. To the right the valley below, still used today to farm cattle, green with long grasses and the Kettle River flowing in a harmonious song and dance of water. As we ride along, feelings of peace and serenity immerse my emotions, just us, the bikes, sunshine and the scenery.
Up ahead I can see a bridge, upon closer inspection, and with Bob’s interpretational story, I realize, like the trail, the bridge too, is a piece of history. Made up of wood lattices, posts and beams, the old bridge used to house the track used by CPR. Attached to the bridge are a couple of platforms about 10ft x10ft. As Bob explains, these were used as water stations to douse the fires out from the train engines as they passed by. Below on either side you can view the river churning and flowing.
As we wind our way across the pebbly trail, we suddenly start to hear a roar. It is no lion but instead the noise of rushing water being tunneled and forced through a small narrowing of the river flowing into what locals call Cascade Falls. Bob tells us to hide the bikes and we all make our way through some brush and emerge on a rock face cliff, below the water is twirling and roaring in a frenzy to spew down the falls and out into the river, carrying with it minerals and natures debris, that will one day give more soil to grow food.
Past another trestle bridge, we are greeted by a paved road, Hwy 365 and all I can think about is how much I don’t want this adventure to end. We have a short debrief and hydration session before moving off again. Bob advises us that we can go left along Hwy 365 for 10 minutes and we’d hit the US, Canadian border. The thought of cheaper groceries and booze is very motivating but we continue along, crossing the street, bike a small distance before parking the bikes. Now on foot, we cross the highway and make our way up a bank.
At the top, stones stare at us. These are not just any stones, they are tomb stones, sitting in small rows, most of them cross-shaped and without inscription. We are at the site of an old cemetery dating back to as early as the 1800’s, proofed by a date inscribed on one of the only original square tomb stones still intact. The newer cross shaped stones are a result of a revitalization project, enacted when the site was found a few years earlier, entangled in flora, untouched and unseen for years, and have become the markers for those laid to rest over a century ago. The site is peaceful and just beyond the line of trees you can hear the soft hum of traffic on the highway. It’s hard for me to imagine how a resting place could be so forgotten and lost in time, but in the same thought, I am graciously awed by the fact that the living could care so much for the dead.
We head back down the bank across the highway, pick up our bikes that have been hiding in the bush and continue riding along Hwy 3, towards Wild Ways, past the office. The highway is, “the most unsafe part of the ride,” according to Bob because you never know how well our humans can drive their motorized vehicles. We all attempt to stay in a single line behind each other and on as much of the pebbled shoulder as possible, while small pebbles fly past us as they leave cars wheel wells.
After 3 hours of Biking the trail we arrive back at Wild Ways, all eyes and facial structures in-tact, with slightly jello feeling muscles, we are all reluctant to return our wheels and safety helmets for we know that the adventure is ending. A big thank-you to Bob, who provided us trail interpretation the entire way. I know my colleagues will attest that this is one of the best work days we’ve ever experienced. My sleepless night has become a thing of my morning and I feel invigorated from not from the exercise, but the historical scenery I’ve experienced through the ride.
I feel more connected to the natural surroundings in and around my workplace and I am more familiar and comfortable with yet another trail. I have now officially become part of the history of travelers who have traveled the same path for decades and feel grateful that I live in such a beautiful place. I know that the summer promises to be full of scenery, wildlife and historical places and I have a better understanding of how important it is to promote such beautiful places so that we can share with the world our little piece of Canadian Paradise, to protect and preserve, Christina Lake.
Submitted by Melissa Shim