Jim Nicolson has completed a bicycle trip along the Trans Canada Trail from Castelgar to Hope, BC in 16 days. A total of 640 km on the rail beds of the Columbia & Western Railway (C&W) and the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). Armed with a detailed guide book, laminated maps, the trail signage and, most importantly, a GPS for back up, Jim only made two wrong turns.
His Inspiration? According to Jim, “I guess I implicitly placed this trip on my bucket list ever since I had worked summers as a student for CN and CP Railways. I first worked as a coach cleaner and carman helper and then convinced CN to put me on as a sleeping car porter for the Jasper to Prince Rupert run. Working that run, I distinctly remember being awestruck by the scenery – precipitous canyons and ledges, foaming mountain rivers, luxuriant coastal vegetation and the majesty of the Skeena River. I last worked for CP as a journal bearing oiler before the running gear of rail cars was converted to sealed wheel bearings. I would fantasize about tripping across Canada on one of those yellow hand pump rail maintenance carts (jiggers) or on some kind of modified bike that could travel on one rail with an outrigger of some sort for balance on the second rail. Of course, the whole concept was entirely impractical – and obviously dangerous in that I would be competing for space on the rails with the trains (…frightening to think of my predicament if I was to meet a train or have one bear down on me from behind inside a tunnel or on a trestle). So here I am, a little over 40 years later, having lived a much more practical but entirely satisfactory version of that dream.”
Jim pulled a small, single wheel trailer behind his bike so that on the occasions when he did not end his day with commercial lodging, he had his tent.
There were a few memorable animal encounters along the way: “A 1 year old black bear cub just south of Carmi, an unknown grey-brown furry streak across the trail maybe a couple of hundred metres in front of me north of Carmi, numerous deer particularly on the KVR, one large pika darting across the trail with a mouthful so large of bright green grass so as to hide its head and give it the appearance of huge green whiskers just north of Naramata, a tick that had hitched a ride on my pack after cycling through grass north of Midway, not so many mosquitoes, numerous birds including what looked like three guinea fowl at Old Cowboy Campground, some wonderful sounding loons at Arlington Lakes Campground and aluminum TCT quail trail signs at Summerland.”
People encounters were even less common but those he did meet along the way were very friendly.
For the most part I believe I was as prepared as well as I could have been for such a venture. However, there are some things I might do differently if I was to do an extended trip under similar conditions.
For a more detailed diary of Jim’s trip please click here to download a Word Doc: