Saturday, September 29, 2012


Distance: 6.24 km (3.88 mi).
Route type: One way (vehicle drop)
Suitable for: Biking
Elevation change: 10 metres up, 585 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

This is a mostly non-technical single-track bike route. It begins above Sandon off the Queen Bess Road. Drop a vehicle at the Galena Trail parking area where the Sandon Road turns off Highway 31A. Continue on with your bikes through Sandon, crossing the bridge as you arrive. Leave Sandon  past the museum by following the well-signed forestry road towards Idaho Peak.

About 4 km along, just on the far side of a wide open meadow of fireweed, the Queen Bess Road is the lower (right) fork. Follow this for almost another half kilometer until you see a pull-out on the right sufficient for two or three vehicles in a pinch. If you've driven, this is where you leave your vehicle. Backtrack about 150 metres and look carefully for the trailhead. It's unmarked, heading down into the forest off the lower side of the road. The trail you're looking for is smooth steep dirt; there are no ramps or bridges. Just downward dirt.

The trail is moderately technical at first with a couple of steep little bits after about 500 metres. After that you're dumped out on a saner grade trail. There are plenty of switchbacks, and it's hard to find a wrong turn to take. You just keep heading steadily down at roughly the same 7% grade to the end. You'll pass the Queen Bess (Victor) mine site about half way along, then continue on down. Enjoy the ride.

You'll arrive at the junction with the Galena Trail a hundred and fifty metres from its upper trailhead. Turn right and head back to the parking area to retrieve your first vehicle.

Alternatively you can drop the first vehicle at Denver Siding, turn left at the junction of the Galena and enjoy a gentle pedal down the Upper Galena Trail, across the cable care and back down to Denver Siding.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Retallack Old Cedars Trail

Retallack Old Cedars Trail
Distance: 1.05 km (0.6 mi).
Route type: Lollipop loop
Suitable for: Walking, running
Elevation change: 35 metres up, 35 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

This short walk is a must-do for visitors any time from late spring to mid-fall. The trailhead is easily accessible right off Highway 31A, about 2 kilometres east of Fish Lake, or about 15 km from New Denver. There's a prominent sign in the midst of a straight stretch of highway marking the turnoff for Retallack Alpine Resort. Turn in at the sign, cross the bridge and park immediately after the bridge on the right. The trail is right there.

 Follow the trail beside the creek. After about 200 metres there's a fork. We usually travel counter-clockwise around this loop, so we take the right-hand fork. From here you're in the thick of the grove of old-growth cedars. One of our favourites fell this year: it's almost more impressive toppled on its side than it was standing. But gosh, the standing trees are amazing too. The undergrowth is sparse in the depths of the forest. Closer to the creek you'll find huckleberry, thimbleberry and devil's club.

At the double-back point at the western-most extent of the trail, you'll find the path climbing a couple of metres up over the roots of a large cedar that leans a little bit over the creek. Be sure to take a good look into the bear den in the base of this tree. Don't worry: it will be empty during any weather that's amenable to hiking on foot! The den is quite amazing. We've been able to fit 8 or 9 children at a time inside it. Brave children!

We love the peaceful stateliness of the Old Cedars forest. It does feel quite ancient. The ground has the springy resonant feel of terrain made of little more than centuries of cedar needles, mushroom mycelia and old air.


Friday, September 21, 2012

School canoe trip

The Grades 4-6 kids were canoeing and kayaking the lake last week. Nights at the campsites were cold -- note the greyish dusting of fresh snow on the mountain in the distance -- but the days were glorious. Fall is treating the Slocan very nicely indeed so far this year.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Galena-Alamo Loop

Galena-Alamo Loop
Distance: 14.6 km (9.03 mi).
Route type: Loop
Suitable for: Walking, running, biking
Elevation change: 406 metres up, 406 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

This route combines the lower extents of two great trails, the Galena Trail and the Alamo Wagon Road. They run along opposite sides of Carpenter Creek. At the upstream (east) end, a short but steep connecting trail links the trails by way of Alamo Siding. An easy couple of kilometres along Highway 6 links the trails at the downstream end. There's a fair bit of elevation change, as one would expect, following the course of a mountain creek. The steepest section is the southwest portion, the 2.5 kilometres of the trail nearest New Denver, along the south side of the creek. This is a bit of a hard-core grunt on a bike with a 10% grade, and it follows a gravel road where the terrain and scenery are less interesting than elsewhere. On a bike I prefer to do the route clockwise to take this as a final hair-raising downhill at 50 km/h. When running or walking I tend to go counter-clockwise.

There are two logical starting points along Highway 6 for this loop. The first is at the bottom of the Alamo Road. Park in the gravel area just to the southeast of the bridge in New Denver. The other option is to drive north on Highway 6 to the pull-out 750 metres north of the hydro transformer station and pick up the Galena Trail there.

Today I rode my bike and did the loop clockwise. Starting at the pull-out just north of town, I picked up the little wooded piece of the Galena Trail that creates a shortcut between Highway 6 and 31A. This is a lovely segment that is a shade under a kilometre long. It dumps you out on Highway 31A, where you head uphill for about a hundred metres, take a right onto Denver Siding Rd. and the next left towards the Highway Maintenance yard. Here the Galena Trail becomes a proper trail again, gradually sloping upwards at a sedate 1-2% grade. About 4.5 km along, you reach the cable car.

After crossing the cable car, the steep hill takes you to the old Alamo Siding site. About 20 metres after passing the main ruins of Alamo Siding, a trail branches off to the right through the grass, heading immediately uphill. It crosses some of the wreckage, and then continues upwards through the woods, eventually arriving at this tumbledown supply house in a meadow. It dates back a hundred years and was still mostly standing until just a few years ago. Now its roof and main timbers have crumbled. There's still a lovely garden of now-feral irises out front, and it's still a property with an amazing view.

The trail passes in front of the house and then winds past it on the left side. Continue uphill a little further and you'll meet the Alamo Wagon Road.

Turn right on the Alamo Wagon Road and follow it as it meanders mostly downhill. It's very rooty, and there are places where scree slopes lend a fair bit of technical exposure to the trail. It can be tempting to get going fairly fast on a bike on parts of this trail, but keep your eyes well ahead as the trail has a tendency to veer to the left with no warning, in order to avoid plummeting off some pretty steep cliffs. It's a pretty straight-forward trail to follow otherwise.

There are some lovely views of the creek far below, the Valhalla mountains, the lake and New Denver to be had from the trail. Eventually as you near New Denver it widens a bit and then later becomes a gravel road. Just stay to the creek (right) side and carry on straight ahead and straight down.

In no time at all you'll be back down in New Denver. From here you just take a right on Highway 6 and head north out of town to your starting point.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lower Galena Trail

Lower Galena Trail
Distance: 8.03 km (5 mi).
Route type: Out and back
Suitable for: Walking, running, biking, XC skiing, snowshoeing
Elevation change: 104 metres up, 104 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

Looking south from the Rosebery trailhead
Heading north out of New Denver, the highway winds up past the hydro transformer station. About 700 metres later there's an obvious vehicle pull-out on the right. Park here. The trailhead is almost directly, across the highway, though you may not be able to see it until you walk over. The little slope down from the roadbed is practically the most technical part of the trail.

Alternatively drive 4 km north to the unincorporated hamlet of Rosebery. Take the first left onto DaRosa Dr., and then take another left into the abandoned log yard and pick your way along the tracks as far south and as close to the highway as you can. You'll find the north trailhead here.

The trail is an easy walk, ride or run in either direction. The grade is a steady downhill of about 2% for most of the northward journey. The most southerly kilometre of the route has a couple of horizontal stone stiles to prevent the passage of motorized vehicles. Cyclists will need to dismount and wiggle through. The northerly third of the route has occasional side-trails down to the beach. Lake water is potable, so this is a good chance to refill a water bottle on a hot summer day. Or just to jump in the lake for a quick cooling swim.

Because the trail hugs the lake, it tends to be free of snow fairly early in spring. The tree cover and proximity to the lake makes snow-cover a bit spotty in the winter. Occasionally the trail is snowy enough for XC skiing, and it is a good snowshoe route for most of the colder months.

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Carpenter Creekside Loop

Carpenter Creekside Loop
Distance: 5.69 km (3.54 mi).
Route type: Loop
Suitable for: Walking, running, biking
Elevation change: 123 metres up, 123 metres down
Technical difficulty rating:  
Navigational difficulty rating:  

This is a fabulous little loop that is mostly shaded and takes in some lovely views of Carpenter Creek. It is a combination of the old powerstation supply trail and a portion of the Galena Trail, with fun but steep connector that joins the two trails. At its furthest extent the loop brings you to the location of the old power station and the amazing narrow chute the creek runs through at that point. When running or walking, it's nice to do the loop counterclockwise starting in town at the corner of Columbia St. and Slocan Ave.. Take the first right north of the Carpenter Creek bridge and follow this little street straight to the end, pulling over to park. The trail begins following the creek just to the right through some grasses.

Initially the creekside trail meanders amongst small trees and worn stones on the floodplain of Carpenter Creek. The creek hasn't flooded here in decades, as indicated by the size of the trees. Cyclists will be happy for any suspension their bikes are equipped with, as the trail bumps along over a lot of river rocks. After about 0.75 km, the trail moves up a bit onto the bed of what was the supply trail for the old power station, but still stays near the creek. The going gets easier as a result. It's a gradual uphill.

About 50 metres after the first steeper up-hill section begins, there's a switchback on the left. This connects the Creekside Trail to the Galena Trail along the railgrade above. Before heading up and back, though, I took a detour to the chute. A small mossy trail continues along beside the creek. There's some scrambling involved, and it's important to stay alert doing so: pretty soon there is some steep exposure above the creek.

This is the view directly down. The creek has been funnelled into an incredibly narrow space. The boulder wedged between the walls of the canyon is probably two metres across at its maximum width. I can't imagine how it got stuck there!

For comparison, here's what the creek spreads out into just a couple of kilometres further downstream. It's a lot of water that travels through here.

Heading back to the switchback, I usually walk the connector up to the Galena Trail. It's quite steep. I have managed to bike it downhill, though it has involved a lot of adrenaline -- a lot!

The connector meets the Galena Trail near the little bridge over Turris Creek. Turn left to head back towards town. The Galena is a smooth gradual slope back to the highway maintenance yard. At that point there's a little bit of asphalt to get back to the start-point. Head straight along the road until it ends, and carry on straight across it to find the abandoned street that goes straight down the hill. About halfway down the broken asphalt hill of what used to be an extension of 10th Ave., a little trail heads off the the left through the trees for a couple of hundred metres. It spits you out on the main road, Highway 31A. After half a kilometre or so, Columbia St. is on the left, and taking that for a block will lead you back to your start-point.

When biking the loop I go in the opposite direction so that the steepest sections are downhill. If riding up the highway, I usually stay on the road until Denver Siding Road to keep the grade more manageable.

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