HOPE, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Poor and content is rich, and rich enough,But riches fineless is as poor as winterTo him that ever fears he shall be poor. ~Othello. ACT III Scene 3
Walking through the Othello Tunnels is walking through a piece of British Columbia history. In 1910 the project to build a transportation route began. The biggest problem was the gorge crossing the Coquihalla River and that was resolved with a very challenging and expensive venture of breaking through the mountains. Eventually, this was successfully accomplished with the completion of the Othello Tunnels. Unfortunately, due to weathering and complications, the tunnels and the entire Kettle Valley Railway project of the Coquihalla Canyon were closed and eventually abandoned in 1961. Luckily for us, the area was preserved, maintained and turned into a provincial park, the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park.
Andrew McCulloch, who was the engineer in charge, named many of the spots he worked on after his love of Shakespeare and Shakespearean works. Driving along the Coquihalla Highway, you can see some signs posted with Shakespearean names as the highways runs along the site of Kettle Valley Railway. These signs mark the locations of some of the original sites of the project.
Our day hike was an easy, scenic one. We began on the Kettle Valley Trail which was a nice, flat walk on a wide trail. Because the mists had begun to set in, the greens of the forest were damp and the colours illuminated. Melted snow made its way from the tops of the mountains down to our level. It was a soothing sound. The birds were even out picking through the floor of the forest as there were plenty of snacks for them.
One of the greatest highlights was the stone formations, many of them granite. Giant boulders were scattered along the forest contrasting the hughes of the moss and trees. They were a combination of sharp and soft edges, colours and patterns.
As we approached the tunnels, me came along the mighty Coquihalla River. According to wikipedia
Kw’ikw’iya:la (Coquihalla) in the Halq’emeylem language of the Stó:lō, is a place name meaning “stingy container.” It refers to a fishing rock near the mouth of what is now known as the Coquihalla River.
It is hard to explain just how beautiful this location is. All I could think about was what it would have been like to live and work in this area over 100 years ago. We took this time to enjoy lunch by the river and take it all in.
After an hour of walking and a 30 minute lunch, we approached the tunnels. To think this was once solid mountain and with modern technology of the time, these man-made structures were made. The Othello Tunnels still remain and as you cross the bridges between them you have a chance to admire the rapids of the Coquihalla below. When you look around you really have a chance to see just how tiny you really are comparatively.
The tunnels themselves only take maybe 20 minutes to cross (unless you become photo happy and lost in the moment like we did). However, there are many trails in the area to extend the outing. Beyond that we approached the final leg of our hike which involved a bit more uphill but still an easy hike overall.
Once we passed the tunnels and entered the parking lot, a small trail entrance brought us to the Hope-Nicola Valley Trail. Unlike the wide trail path at the start, and tunnels and bridges of the second, this section was more “wild”. The narrow paths wound through the woods. The start began with a short, steep uphill, followed by scenic flat sections before coming to a second uphill. Of course, what goes up, must come down and this trail eventually let us back near the start of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail where we made our way for several more kms back to where we parked.
This part of the trail was very woodsy. There must have been a storm because many trees were fallen and cut to ensure there was a marked path for hikers. The result was an hour long hike that smelled like Christmas because of all the pine needles. We rescued a beetle from the centre of the path so it wouldn’t be trampled, and came across other signs of life.
I leave you with a few clips of scenery from the hike. So. Very. Soothing.