Saturday, August 4, 2012

K&S Railgrade to Payne Bluff

K&S Railgrade to Payne Bluff
Distance: 7.41 km (4.60 mi).
Route type: One way (vehicle drop?)
Suitable for: Walking, running, biking
Elevation change: 66 metres up, 306 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

I did this as a quick ride they other night as a thunderstorm was getting ready to break. I didn't quite beat the weather, but I beat dusk and by the time the rain came I was hot and ready for a bit of a soaking. It took me just over half an hour, not counting the times I stopped to take photos and explore. There were a bunch of logs down across the descending part of the trail, which interrupted the wild fun of the descent, but probably helped preserve my focus.

I started at the trailhead in Sandon. The first couple of kilometres are fast, flat, smooth double-track. You can actually drive this section with an AWD vehicle if you don't mind your vehicle being brushed by twigs, as there's a small parking area at the end, but it's so smooth, shady and lovely that I don't see the point.

After the little parking area with the outhouse, the trail narrows to single-track. This is where the fun begins. After 500 metres you come to an old mine. The ore-cart tracks are still in place. The hut that shelters the mine opening is right next to the trail, and you can peer in and maybe see some of the broken bits of core drill sample that have been left there.

After the mine, the trail becomes a bit rougher. It scrambles over slopes of mine tailings, jumps over roots, dodges rocks and dips precipitously down and then up again out of creek-bed valleys. It passes by the Payne Concentrator site (more tailings) another mine site (this one with a little interpretive sign).

The view opens up in places, so that you can look down on Carpenter Creek and eventually on Three Forks, where Kane Creek, Seaton Creek and Carpenter Creek all join to head towards Slocan Lake. I kept my eyes peeled for the fork in the trail. The right fork leads to Payne Bluff, a nice short side trip that leads to the location of the famous photo of workers building the narrow-gauge railway, seemingly almost hanging off the side of a cliff face, was taken.

But as the lightning flashed I declined the side-trip and headed down to Three Forks. A few of the switchbacks were too tight for me on my bike and I confess I hopped off. I'm sure more hard-core mountain-bikers could have skidded and hopped their rear tires around them, but I wasn't taking any risks riding alone.

By riding or running the gravel highway to Sandon it would be possible to make this route into a loop, but it sure was nice to have someone willing to drop me at the top. The one-way route could also be walked or run in reverse from Three Forks towards Sandon, but it's not really great to bike that way: much of the first kilometer has an uphill grade of 17% or so.

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