Monday, May 22, 2006

Othello Tunnels, British Columbia

Railroad travel requires little comparative width, but the rail bed must be almost flat with no sudden vertical change. The necessity of such construction often required significant engineering feats, well illustrated in the construction of a railroad through the Coquihalla Canyon. The remains of this accomplishment of engineering make for a pleasant and fascinating walk near the town of Hope, B.C.

To view the tunnels and trestles of this daring endeavor to join the coast and the interior, travel east on Highway 1 to the town of Hope, following Highway 1 where it branches away from Highway 3. Turn right on the Old Hope-Princeton Highway briefly, then left on 6th Ave. Take the next right, the Kawkawa Lake Road (don’t miss it by looking to the left, where the road has a different name). In under 2 miles, at a major fork, take the right fork onto Othello Road. Follow that for approximately two more miles, and turn right on Tunnel Road (look for the signs for the Othello Tunnels). Tunnel Road ends in a parking lot, where you will pay a parking fee of $3. Vandalism is a problem in this area, so be sure to take your valuables or put them out of sight. 

An easy stroll through the tunnels, over the trestles and back is only 1.2 miles, but may take an hour or more as you stop to read signs about the railroad and admire the work of both man and nature.

If you are ready for more exercise and more history, hike the Hope-Nicola Valley trail as well, for a loop trip of around 5 miles. To reach the Hope-Nicola trail, walk past the last tunnel until just after a yellow gate across the old railroad bed. There, turn right up a trail that climbs steeply to the northeast, and then swings around to the northwest in a gentler climb. An open area provides a view of the highway across the river and you may spot an osprey nest perched at the top of a tall tree trunk. At the summit, a small plaque on a tree describes the history of the trail.

Start downhill from here. The vegetation encroaches over the trail in places and you may wonder if it will peter out. It doesn’t. Keep downhill until you reach a t-intersection with a sign indicating the Hope-Nicola Valley trail and turn right. You will reach a small clearing, stay to the right again. Emerge onto an old road, also signed for the Hope-Nicola Valley trail. (GPS 49.22.882 N, 121.22.142 W) Turn right here for a gentle descent to Tunnel Road, turn right and walk along the road to your car.

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