Merritt-Kamloops Loop: Off the Beaten Track on Canada Day Weekend

Cycling along Nicola Lake, Highway 5A

As Canada Day long weekend was approaching, the forecast for Vancouver and the area did not look encouraging. But three hours east everything looked much better. We left not too early on Saturday morning and it was raining until Hope. As we passed Hope we realized why this town is named Hope, once you pass it there is hope for sunshine…

Nice horns!

We continued driving until we reached the small town of Merrit. We asked some people if we could park in front of their house for three days, but they weren’t so enthusiastic and suggested that we’d park in the Walmart parking lot. They said that anyway it turns into a trailer park at night time. I had heard this before about Walmart parking lots, so we headed that way. I would never buy anything at Walmart, but I guess it’s OK to use their parking…and bathrooms.

At around 3pm we were ready to go and we cycled along Highway 5A. After a few kilometers we reached Nicola Lake and cycled along it for a while with some good tail wind and it was sunny, nice and warm. There were countless sail boats on the lake, perhaps some kind of contest. Every now and then we passed a church or a farm. The Quilchena Church is a log church, which I had never seen before.

One tired Gili

After about 55km and around 8:00pm we thought it was a good time to stop. It wasn’t bad for half a day of riding. The problem was that we already passed a few lakes and now it seemed we were getting into a dryer area. I thought maybe we should have collected water in one of the lakes, but we didn’t. We found a nice gravel side road (Long Lake Road) with a lot of open space and Gili rode back a few kilometers to bring water. Then we pitched the tent, cooked dinner and off we were for a good night’s sleep.

We found a nice place to spend the night

The next day looked promising with lots of blue skies and sunshine. We continued riding along the quiet 5A, almost until Kamloops, and turned off on to Campbell road. This road hardly had any traffic and was partly paved. There were many yellow flowers and dandelions on the side.

Dandelions and Gili

After a much needed lunch break and filling up our water bottles in one of the houses we reached highway 97, which is a main road that connects Kamloops and Vernon. We rode less than 20km on that road, but it felt longer because the wind was against us. Gili is a great windbreaker though, and he was mostly riding in the front, while I enjoyed a more luxurious ride behind him. Then on the side of the road, the General Store of a tiny town called Monte Lake appeared. It was open despite it being Canada Day and it was perfect timing for an ice cream break.

Llamas along the way

We left the main road to a very quiet mostly unpaved road named Douglas Lake Rd. This road would eventually lead us back to the 5A, but we had about 100km on this road before that. With the wind, gravel road and uphill, our pace slowed down and the scenery was somewhat less interesting. A lot of trees on both sides of the road and a creek or a river appeared every now and then. The map showed a day use recreational site and we thought it would be a good place to spend the night. Either the map was wrong on the location or this place no longer exists, but anyway we didn’t find it. However, we found an excellent open area where the road crosses the Salmon River, and that was our home for the night. After dinner Gili messed around with the food hanging business for a while. We didn’t see any evidence that bears were in the area, but it’s a good idea to be cautious. After the “in between two trees method” didn’t work out, he eventually hung the food from the nearby bridge.

Lots of big farms and open skies

The next day was a bit cooler with white skies, but it was still nice and warm. We continued riding and said hello to a few horses we met on the side of the road. For some reason I don’t really trust horses, but these were rather cute and friendly to pat. I wanted to say hello to one blond baby horse but he ran away when he saw people.

Some friendly horses

For a while we rode in through “Douglas Farm, Canada’s largest cattle ’empire’”. It is so large (half a million acres) that it has its own village, named Douglas Lake, which seems to house the people who work/ed in the farm. The houses all had red roofs and the lake and hills in background reminded me of Switzerland. Of course I have never been to Switzerland, so perhaps it’s just my imagination.

Cycling towards Douglas Lake

While riding along the Douglas Farm the road was paved, but as soon as we left it and entered the Indian reservation, the road was gravel again until we left it. After the reserve it was mostly a fast downhill to 5A. Up until then we were mostly going uphill and on gravel, so that was a nice change.

When we reached the 5A we only had 25km back to Merrit on a section we already rode on the first day along Nicola Lake. Now, however, the wind was against us, and it was quite strong too. Again Gili was the wind breaker for most of the time, although we did switch for a bit.

After a long two hours we were back at the Walmart, and now we understood what those people had meant about the parking lot turning into a trailer park. There were about six RV’s parked there, and all seemed ready to spend the night in the parking lot. Our car was intact, which is always a good thing, and at around 6:30pm we were ready to start the long drive back to Vancouver.

Against the wind, back at Nicola Lake on Highway 5A

It started drizzling and once we were west of Hope it was officially pouring. We stopped for excellent Vietnamese food on Kingsway (since House of Dosa was too full) and unloaded the car in the rain. Not to worry, it seems that summer finally arrived to Vancouver and the last few days have been sunny and beautiful just like it should be. Maybe a bit late, but it seems like summer is finally here.

More photos

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2 Responses to Merritt-Kamloops Loop: Off the Beaten Track on Canada Day Weekend

  1. Stan says:

    I find your posts as fascinating as ever. Having missed out on adventures such as yours, I enjoy them vicariously. Seems to me you have been very lucky or clever, or both, in handling yourselves on these trips and you have been rewarded with some fascinating experiences. The kindness and friendliness of the people you have met on your trips is a major reward in itself and gives one a comforting appreciation of the better side of human nature.

  2. Pingback: Merritt-Kamloops Loop: A Photoblog - CycloTouringBC

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