I went out on a little bikepacking trip this week to Kananaskis seeking dirt trails. It was a short trip but good fun and a good challenge.
On Sunday after work I jumped on my Fargo, took the train west to 69th street and made my way out past Bragg Creek arriving at McLean creek after dark. Riding on the highway with 2.25″ mountain tires always feels slow but I made decent time apart from a flat in my front tire after running over a large piece of metal just outside the city.
After a great sleep I packed up and headed back out on the highway for about 10km until I arrived at the Prairie Creek Trail. I happily jumped onto the single track and got going. Lots of up and down and some challenging bits. It has been some time since I have ridden anything technical let alone loaded with my gear but I managed to avoid crashing and it was nice to work hard while it was still early enough to be cool out.
I thought I would continue from Prairie Creek Trail to Ford Creek Trail but the last section of Prairie Creek was muddy and made worse with many horse and cow tracks. After some pushing and sinking I decided to bail out to Powderface Trail. I cruised the gravel road mostly downhill towards the highway.
Just before the Highway there is a small turnoff that brings you on a mellow trail right into little elbow campground. Always nice to stay off the pavement plus I saw a coyote!
I refilled my bottles at the Little Elbow Campground and got going on the Little Elbow Trail after I found the right road. From the get-go you can see where they’ve begun maintenance to restore the trail from last years flood damage, a very daunting task. The double track is fantastic where it is still in good shape, fast wide and forgiving. The further along the trail though the more wash outs and slides become present. There was a lot of hike-a-bike this day. Wading through water, climbing into and out of big eroded areas. Tiring stuff!
After working mostly uphill all day I arrived at the Tombstone backcountry campground. A quaint little spot with a nice view. I took a dip in the river, cooked my dinner and spent the evening wandering around, reading and then watching the sunset.
The next Morning I headed southeast on the Sheep Trail to meet Keely at the Bluerock campground. While my initial hopes had been that Sheep Trail would be in better shape than Little Elbow it quickly became obvious that this would not be the case. Following the river most of the way the trail had even more wash outs and a few sections where I decided to simply walk or ride in streams as the trail was nowhere to be found. It is strange to follow along on topo maps that are simply no longer accurate.
As a backpacking trip this terrain would be no problem but it was exhausting wading, climbing up and down and pushing through all sorts of varied terrain with a bike. Even some bushwhacking was in order.
Abut 6km from Bluerock I blew out my front tire again. I put in my spare only to discover the valve was faulty and the tire would not hold air. My only option now was to patch the original tube right beside my previous patch. Not great but I ate chocolate to pass the time.
After only a short downhill section my tire blew out again. I re-patched and discovered that the o-ring on my hand pump had decided to finally die. I put in as much air as possible and rode a bit until the patch blew itself again. Boo. At this point the trail was far enough off the river and the views nice enough that I walked the last 3km or so and simply enjoyed being outside.
This brought back strangely fond memories of a day on the Great Divide where I had over 9 flats due to goathead thorns. Thank god we don’t have those here in Alberta. After over 8000km of touring with my pump and zero maintenance despite constant screaming for lubrication all I can do is be happy it made it this long. I’ll try to revive the poor fellow if possible.
Keely met me at the Trailhead and whisked me back to a campsite where we made dinner, had a fire and hung out with our friend Jaime and her 2 month daughter Mira. I’m a lucky man!
All and all I had fun and consider it a great trip despite getting my ass kicked by the terrain. For anyone considering following a similar path I can’t say I recommend it for the riding though the scenery is lovely and it was very quite out there. If you decide to do it make sure you pack light, you’ll be shouldering your bike a lot.
For a visual of my route:
For anyone following this blog I just wanted to say hello and yes we are still alive and kicking. We completed our tour this summer ending things off in Vancouver and then through various means of non transportation travelled through the states for a stop in Portland then off to Burning Man and finally San Francisco to finish things off.
We are back in Calgary and watching the snow finally melt away. The winter has been full of snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, sweater wearing, coffee drinking and our first time on fat bikes.
Thanks to everyone who helped us along the way. Without all the wonderful Warm Showers hosts, kind strangers and folks like Pablo in Portland and John in San Francisco our trip wouldn’t have been the same!
We made it to the ocean about two weeks ago, many highlights in the final stretches of the mainland Yellowhead highway, the scenery has been beautiful and the riding fun as we snaked towards the coast along the mighty Skeena River.
Among our days of riding we had the opportunity to stay in Terrace for two nights with another Warm Showers host
Matt and Amy live in Terrace with their two boys Liam and Finley (2 and 4). They have a delightful home with an amazing backyard featuring cherry trees, a garden and a shed with an area to work on bikes (which we needed to do!).
Matt and Amy are both avid cyclists abd coincidetally riding out to Haida Gwaii in August with Liam and Finley on board! Should be amazing trip and a hat tip to them for hauling all the gear and kids.
Amy’s brother Dylan was in town from Missoula as well and he shared a bit of information on the Bicycle Benefits non-profit he had cofounded. Some great ideas that have us thinking about our own bicycle advocacy work.
The scenery as we headed west of Terrace was amazing and the weather was mostly cooperative with lots of blue sky days allowing us to see all the mountains, waterfalls and vistas. So far this stretch has been our favourite!
I believe Colin will post about our visit to Terrace and the rest of our trip to the ocean but I wanted to make a post about riding in general.
This is my first tour. The longest I’ve rode in one day prior to this trip is about 100km with the lovely Jen Miller and Angel. We ventured out to Bragg Creek last spring with two old school 10 speeds and one single speed. The head wind and hills on Spring Bank Rd were killer for me. I think I walked up almost every hill. When we arrived in Bragg we stopped for coffee and got laughed at by some speed cyclists with their carbon bikes. Regardless of the being laughed at and the flat that Angel got, we had a fun day of riding. Especially since Jen packed enough food for all three of us for two days!
So I have to say – I didn’t know what to expect when I rolled out of Jasper with a fully loaded bike that I could barely balance. Colin and I were only riding 30km our first day and it was nice knowing we would make it no matter what because of the short distance.
The first day was great! The second was manageable. The third was tough. As the days went on it started getting harder. We were riding longer distances and my muscles were getting beat up while they were trying to build. Not a great combo.
I was chowing back my recovery (shout out to all my Community Natural Fooders!) to help my muscles heal a bit. I’d say it took until the end of my second week to start feeling good. Both Colin and I are impressed by how great our backs feel! My body is finally getting stronger and as we reach the end of our third week. I’d have to say the last 4 days of riding have been the best. I’m less worried about hills (I still walk a few). I don’t worry about making it to a place that’s safe to camp because I know I could ride further if I needed to. I can ride my fully loaded bike with no hands and hold its balance!! AND keep up to the carbon speed cyclists with a heavy, steel, fully loaded bike!! It’s made for a more enjoyable day. It probably also helps that since Smithers, BC the landscape and views have been mind blowing. It’s truly a beautiful place up “north” in BC & I’m glad I had time to get strong before getting here.
To all you folks reading that love riding a bike for fun but maybe you think you’re not quite touring material – give yourself time! People told me a week to get my legs but it took me three & maybe it would take you longer but it’s totally worth it!
Much bike love,
(Posted are two old photos from the Bragg ride with Angel and Jen & a few from the last few days)
We had a great sleep sheltered in beside the cabin and awoke to a clear day. Darren invited us in for breakfast with everyone where we enjoyed quinoa with honey and cinnamon.
After breakfast Keely did some tune ups on one of the kids bikes and we packed away our home.
We said our goodbyes to Darren and the kids and then stopped by to say goodbye to Martin and Chris and take a peek at the shop they were building and the permaculture garden they had recently finished.
We headed further south and mostly downhill into Old Hazleton passing a graduating class photo shoot on the way. At the bottom of he hill we were treated to a beautiful view of the Bulkley River meeting the Skeena River.
Old Hazleton is a fascinating place where people have lived for over 10,000 years. We walked around the old town where a number of Aboriginal structures and totem poles have been restored as well as various building and steam ships from more recent days when Hazleton was a hopping trading town.
We lazily walked around enjoying the muggy day and learning about the area. In one particular shop we finally learned the name of re amazing mountain that was visible everywhere – Roche de Boule or the traditional name Stegyawden. The traditional name comes from an interesting Aborigonal tale involving a one horned goat boy and a lesson about not messing with Mother Nature.
Around 5:00 we decided we’d better hit the road if we had any chance of making it the 70 odd km to Kitwanga.
Back up the hill we went and back over the amazing bridge that takes you across the Bulkley River. The bridge is made of metal and when you look down you can see hundreds of feet to the canyon below. It is the most fun bridge I have ever crossed! Keely said looking down made her feel sick!
About 10km later we were a sweaty mess and wishing for some wind or rain. Luckily just around the corner was Seely Lake. We pulled over and jumped right in the water.
The Swimming was so fantastic and refreshing and the abundance of beauty was overwhelming. From the mountain views right down to the fish swimming around our legs it was just perfect.
After a good soak and clean we jumped back in the saddle and headed west feeling like new. The rest of the day was still roasting but what a difference a swim can make!
Some time later we reached the turn off to Highway 37 which leads to Alaska. We realize it was 10:00pm and laughed – guess we better go find the RV park up the road.
We set up camp and cooked dinner as a huge almost full moon rose over the mountains with sun still shining behind us. We wouldn’t be heading North much more on this trip so we enjoyed the clear night and unfamiliar brightness in the sky past midnight.
We stayed in a RV park in Houston, showered and ate lots of food. Nothing too spectacular to mention other than we had a gradual downhill for 30km into town (Just flying!), I attempted to ride a bull riding sculpture of the the town hero (I’m pathetic at climbing so Colin made fun of me a bit), and Houston is the home to the largest fly fishing rod IN THE WORLD.
We made our way towards Smithers and stopped at a warm showers (cycling host network) along the way in a village called Telkwa. Our host, John, was not home but gave us directions to the cabin he offers cyclists. The place was called Rainbow Adult Park and a bicycle was hanging from the sign. It’s hard to guess what you can expect from an “adult park” but it was perfect. The tiny green cabin sat at the end of a mobile home residential area on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Bulkley river. It had a double bed and a set of bunks. We had access to wifi, showers and laundry. I might have accidentally mistaken the doors inside the laundry area and walked in on a middle aged fellow frying eggs in his tighty-whiteys but we still got everything else we needed. Just another story to add to Keelys embarrassing moments.
The next day we had a rainy ride to Smithers. Our warm showers host in this town had to cancel on us so Colin and I walked around town – drank the most amazing chai tea at Eagle Mountain Books – and tried to think up a plan of where to stay. I had emailed another host in town but never heard back. So in a desperate moment I called her and asked if we could stay.
Laura has 5 kids (20, 19, 15, 3 and 2). She is a teacher\librarian and obviously has a lot on her plate (don’t get me wrong – it’s a lot of awesome). Regardless of the full life and the paper marking that the end of the school year brings she welcomed us into her home and Colin and I enjoyed a comfy couch sleep for two nights!
Their family was amazing and I enjoyed seeing how Laura and her husband, Floyd live such a busy life with cool and calm ‘tudes.
Laura’s mom lived next door and had done quite a bit of bike touring herself and gave us some good tips of places to sleep for free along the way (RCMP building yards and road maintenance property).
We headed to a reserve called Moricetown for aboriginal day. The town, also set on the Bulkley river, has a massive river canon that the locals harpoon on. Sadly the river has been too high for good fishing and we didn’t get to see the action. Regardless, we stopped at the canon and explored around a bit.
We stopped at their community area and enjoyed free BBQ’d salmon and drumming by the elders. It was a perfect break for a 27 degree day.
Our goal was to reach Old Hazleton so we biked on later into the evening. There is a campsite in Ksan where the old town has been inhabited for over 10000 years. Just before reaching town we were stopped by a man and his family in a ford truck. Darren and his four kids quickly invited us to stay on their property for the night and have a fire with them. Free camping? Free fire? Heck yes!
And what a property they had!! The view was breathtaking and their company was fantastic.
The land they lived on was also shared with two other guys, Chris and Martin. Chris is from Vancouver and Martin from Germany. The two of them, along with Darren are starting a project called commonunity. Like other hippie-esk living situations they would share all responsibilities, supply themselves with food they grow in a permaculture garden and live off the land as much as possible.
Jade, Darren’s oldest, quickly looked at us and stated “this house has NO power or running water” and sighed as a teenager might in an iPhone world.
Even though these kids didn’t have power or running water at their dads they seemed to know more then Colin and I did about foraging from the land. The youngest one was eating young tree needles and dandelion leaves as we hung around the fire. They will definitely grow up to be neat little forest children.
We rolled out of Co-op lake with a few kilometers of pure downhill gravel riding to enjoy, our sights set on Burns Lake for some breakfast/lunch.
After the gravel we still had twenty odd kilometers to ride and it was hot riding. When we arrived sweaty and hungry we were bummed to find that Burns Lake isn’t exactly hopping on a Sunday.
After going to the end of town and back we finally ended up in the only open restaurant other than the breakfast place serving a weird all day Chinese food Father’s Day buffet.
Luckily that restaurant was an awesome pub with a large variety of gluten free dishes. We filled our bellies and headed to the lake for a dip and a good ol’ hobo wash down.
After some lazing in the sun and grabbing a few groceries we headed out of town in search of somewhere to camp at one of the nearby small lakes or at the airport as an older gentleman had suggested.
The airport didn’t pan out but we lucked out and stumbled across a free campground on Rose Lake. The campground was a cute little setup that included a tent shelter, picnic tables an old swing set and a wood shed. The campground was called Rose Lake Memorial Park and was just the ticket.
We hit that hay and waited for sleep, unfortunately my mind was not as tired as my body.
That night I spent much too long straining my ears trying to figure out what kind of beast was foraging around in the small treed area behind us. As time went on I no longer had to strain my ears and simply hoped the sporadic near by crunching and trashing wouldn’t make it’s way into our tent. Keely was pretty sure it was a moose and I agree. For some reason it was just one of those over active mind in the tent nights.
Eventually sleep could wait no longer and I slipped away for a few hours of rest.
Keely and I packed up the next morning a bit groggy and headed out towards Houston. It was a nice day of riding with sunny weather and we enjoyed a lengthily mid day break at a small shop in Topley.
Since leaving Culcluz lake we have been threw a fair amount that we haven’t caught up on writing down. So I’ll try to give y’all the gist.
We arrived in Vanderhoof,THE GEOGRAPHICAL CENTRE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, to a off and on rainy day. We found a place to have dinner (GF pizza!) and also got to have a shower! There was a local farmers market happening so we checked it out and bought a tiny bit of raspberry honey from a very nice lady. She also a had pug puppy and I was a happy gal hanging in her tent. The town had a nice pathway system so Colin and I rode around for awhile in the evening and checked out the bird sanctuary island from a lookout point along the river. We met a fleece wearing dude named Patrick who was meeting up with a tree planting crew the next day. It so happens that our friends Kirsty and Brianna are on that crew and we asked him to say hi to them, then gave him the key code to the shower rooms at our campsite so he could score a clean up as well.
The next day we rode to Beaumont Provincial Park and got our camp site set up just before a quick storm moved in. After about a hour the sun was back a-blazing and Colin and I enjoyed a cold but wonderful evening dip in the lake.
Our park ranger gave us free wood after I did a survey for BC parks and we had a huge fire.
In the morning we chatted a bit with a fellow from a tiny town near Radium. He was riding his motorbike up to the Dust to Dawson gathering and then over to Alaska before being back in three weeks for his sons wedding. We hope you have a fun trip and better luck with the rainbow trout up north!
We moseyed on threw Fraser lake in the hot sun but got caught by a flash storm. We pulled our bikes off on a tiny road to get rain geared up and heard a voice calling to us. A nice couple, the Renshaws, lived just down the road and saw us ride up in a panic. They welcomed us into there home and made us tea and coffee while the storm passed. They had a beautiful home and we enjoyed chatting with them about there years out there on their acreage. Thanks for the rain break!!
We booked it a rode over 70km that day to a free campsite on a lake called co-op lake. Owned by the forestry industry this campsite wasn’t your typical provincial park with beautiful facilities and beaches. Mud pits roads and an old outhouse was the decor. It was defiantly the place for anyone who fishes to just show up, catch a bucket and roll back to town. There were a couple other campers with us and it worked just perfect for a free night on a pretty lake!
Photos might get added tomorrow when we are in Houston.
When we were in Prince George my cousin Margie generously offered us the keys to her cabin west of PG. Her family bought it after my grandpa past away, who had originally owned it. Two nights ago we got the chance to stay there, which was really nice.
We mostly lazed under blankets drinking tea and listening to the radio cause it was a rainy day.
We explored around the cabiny streets a bit and I snapped a few photos of Culcluz lake, the quirky out house full of losing lottery tickets and the old cabin with its new deck!
We had a tough day coming out of Prince George.
Our first challenge was a 3KM stretch of highway construction that left us on a busy road without a shoulder. We chose to walk beside the road on gravel for a ways until a friendly construction worker named Jordan offered us a ride in his truck.
Jordan moved back to Prince George recently and was working 12 hour days 7 days a week. He told us he planned to travel after working and when asked where he answered “anywhere but here”.
Our next challenge was yet more construction. We had been making our way up and out of downtown Prince George on a busy road with a tiny shoulder only to be stopped by a construction worker who would not let us pass on the current road as it had been reduced to one lane.
Frustrated we asked a number of questions about how far the construction went on and what alternatives we had without getting any useful information other than go up the hill by Walmart.
We did find an alternate route and finally climbed out of Prince George.
The next 40 km were spent on the highway white knuckled as an unimaginable number of logging trucks, hauling trucks, heavy machinery trucks, road maintenance trucks, line painting trucks, Pepsi trucks, Live Trout trucks Dodge, Ford and Chevy trucks all blew past us on an almost shoulderless road.
It wasn’t very fun and it was hot.
We did eventually make it to the Bednesti Lake RV park which is pretty run down but offered us a great tent site right on the lake for a very cheap price. In the morning we also discovered a tiny diner which we thought was condemned but in fact had great breakfast muffins and copious coffee and people watching for Keely.
We’re looking forward to getting west of Vanderhoof as we hear there are less trucks.