The Development of the Kaslo River Trail


The Kaslo River was often subjected to severe flooding during the 1800s. In 1895-96, during the rebuilding of the town after one such flood, the first hydro-electric system was included in the construction. It was privately operated by George Alexander. Kaslo Creek (River) was rerouted southwards into the current channel. In 1914 the City of Kaslo purchased Kaslo Power and Light for $27,000. It was upgraded in 1931 to be fully automatic. Another flood occurred in 1948 and in 1962 the power utility was abandoned, putting Kaslo onto the BC Hydro grid.

Hiking trails began to develop along this abandoned land, but they were treacherous. In 2005 the many townspeople who like to use these trails formed the Kaslo Trailblazers Society and began the Kaslo River Trail Project.

Many volunteer hours over the past ten years have resulted in two beautiful, safe hiking trails along both sides of the river, joined by red-stained wooden bridges at each end, both built by the volunteers. Where parts of the trail have become flooded in recent years, new higher links have been created and reinforced with wooden steps. Rope railings to assist with the climb, and wooden or steel benches, dedicated to donors, make the hike more friendly to people of various physical fitness. Animal-proof garbage cans have also been added to help keep the area clean.

And the scenery is fantastic!

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Adventures in British Columbia, August, 2017 Part One – Beginning the Journey


 

My journey began a couple of months before I actually left, when I received an email from WestJet Airlines informing me of a great two-day discount on fares to British Columbia. It had been many years since the price of a return ticket had been less than $500, and it had been two years since I’d seen most of my BC family, so I had to act quickly. Through phone calls, texts and emails I was able to figure out the dates that would work for everyone, and get my flights booked by the end of the day. Jim decided he’d save his money for Arizona, so I was on my own.

Because my family members live many miles and many hours away from each other, it took me many hours of research to put together my busy itinerary, on a limited budget. Renting a car for three weeks and driving for hours by myself was out of the question, so I had to depend upon public transit. Before I left, I had most of it tweaked. I printed out two copies, one for me and one to leave with Jim. I attached mine to a large envelope and put all the necessary paper work inside, in date order. I knew that was the only way that I could keep from getting overwhelmed. I need to know my plan!

On August 7th, Jim and I drove to an inexpensive motel near the airport in Mississauga, where we stayed for the night so we wouldn’t have to leave home very early in the morning and fight the traffic to get me to the airport on time. Once we were settled into our room at the White Knight Motel, we decided to walk to the closest restaurant for dinner, where we, mostly, enjoyed a buffet of Indian food. I say mostly because I have difficulty with hot spices and a couple of dishes left me with watering eyes and burning lips, which is too bad, because I love the flavour of curry. On the way back we watched the jets flying over our heads to land at the airport behind our motel. I thought it would be noisy all night, but we didn’t really hear the roar after 11:00 pm.

plane

At 8:30 the next morning, I was on a plane bound for Kelowna. Jim was on his way home. At 10:45 BC time (I’d flown through two time zones) my long-time friend, Judy, picked me up at the airport and provided me with meals and a very comfortable room for the night, as she always does when I’m on my way to my daughter Sarah’s home in Kaslo. I am so grateful!

We had plenty of time to walk around her quiet neighbourhood in Vernon, which is about an hour away from Kelowna and a mixture of smaller properties and larger farm properties. It’s not unusual to see people on horseback trotting along her street, or a family of Quail flitting through the neighbourhood.

We also had long conversations on her porch, including discussion of the drought and wildfires that had put the province into a state of emergency. Smoke lingered in the air, obscuring the mountains.

Vernon (4)

After an early lunch the next day, she drove me to the Kelowna Bus Terminal where I caught my bus to Nelson. At 7:00 pm Sarah met me there and we had an hour to catch up while we drove to Kaslo. My traveling was done for a week.

Trekking into the Shan Hills, Day 1


Because it had continued to rain all night, Chakaphan knew that there would be too much water in the river to take the three-day trek that he’d plan, so a shorter two-day trek in another area was agreed upon.

We didn’t get started until nearly noon and a hazy mist still hung above the trees.  A minivan picked us up to take us to our beginning – a rough road uphill toward a Karen Village. It was a fairly easy walk, although some of the long hills upped my heart rate a bit. I was the “elder” on this trip and I probably should have done a little more cardio workout in preparation. Before we’d gone too far we stopped in a glade of lush vegetation, near a stream to enjoy the delicious lunch of chicken and rice that Chakaphan had packed for us. Dessert was sticky rice with fresh bananas and passion fruit.

No wading through the streams here

No wading through the streams here

Once more nourished, we resumed our uphill trek. Several motorcycles sped past us up the muddy trail. The scenery was breathtaking.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Rice paddies far below us

Rice paddies far below us

We reached the Karen Village at about three in the afternoon. Chakaphan and his entourage were welcomed into the store for a rest. It seemed to be a fairly prosperous village with many newer wooden houses, and a power generator.

We left that village and walked on up the road for a while longer before the real challenge began. Chakaphan led us up a very narrow path through thick foliage. It was muddy and slippery and it seemed we’d never reach the top. When we finally did, I took a few moments to appreciate the beautiful jungle plants while we all took a rest.

Bamboo

Bamboo

ginger plant

Ginger plant

Then we had to head down the other side of the hill. Again the path was narrow and hung precariously close to the edge, with a drop off of hundreds of feet. It had rained off and on most of the day and by now the treads of my running shoes were filled with the thick, red mud and my backpack tended to sometimes throw me a little off balance. One particular little downward slope nearly got the best of me. My feet started to slide and I could find nothing to grab onto. The weight of the bag pulled me backwards over the edge as Sarah and Kendrick behind me gasped and poor Chakaphan turned around in anguish. Fortunately there were many trees on the hill and I didn’t go far before I was turned around and had my feet planted against a couple of them. I was pulled back up and from then on Chakaphan stayed close to me, offering his hand many times. At the first opportunity he found me a sturdy walking stick.

We finally arrived at our destination, a Lisu Village, at about 6:00 pm, wet, muddy and exhausted. A warm shower and soft bed would have been greatly appreciated, but that turned out to be a pipe dream. This village was far more primitive than the Karen Village. The only “shower” was a pipe protruding from the side of the hill, hurling fresh, clean and very cold water down from above, and the children of the village perched on the hill watching, fascinated with their “white” visitors. How was I going to get out of my mud-soaked clothes and wash in that glorious water?

Lisu Village Children

Captivated Lisu Village Children

Sarah changed into a Sarong that she’d taken with her. I finally decided that I needed to get the mud off my clothes anyway so just dove under the waterfall and scrubbed the best I could. I ducked into the outhouse and stripped off my wet clothes and wrapped myself up in my towel, having to be careful not to drop anything on the mud-covered floor. Day light was rapidly fading and I knew that I would soon be unable to find my way around (I suffer from night blindness). Sarah led me to our “room”, where the women and children were all lined up on a bench, still watching! Chakaphan had to send them on their way so we could get dressed.

Once cleaned, we were invited to the Cookhouse, where Chakaphan was busy preparing an evening meal over an open fire pit.

Lisu Village Cook House

The Village dog waits expectantly outside the Cook House

Meal Prep, Lisu Village

Meal Prep, Lisu Village

We could hear the chatter of the women outside. Chakaphan explained, “They want to come in to show you the things that they make. They sell them very cheap and it helps them out.” Of course we agreed, and we were soon surrounded by smiling women spreading their wares out on the tables before us. Pretty hand-woven fabric had been crafted into little purses, eye glass cases and water-bottle holders, obviously made with tourists in mind. Sarah and I picked out a couple of items each and handed them the few baht that they were asking. They left happy. We were then served a wonderful meal of stir-fried fish and vegetables and fruit.

Using our flash lights, we once more made our way to the toilets and then off to “bed.” We all were bunked together in a large bamboo hut similar to the ones in Mae Hong Son, but this time the mattresses were only the thin foam mats that Chakaphan had supplied and the pillows were small, filled with grain, and very hard. Despite how tired I was, it was difficult to get to sleep, but I eventually dozed off, wondering what the next day would bring.