Whistler to Hedley-British Columbia Dirt Roads, Landslides, Forest Fires, Flat Tires
I bought my 2007 BMW F650GS last summer, so being new to ADV riding, I have been a bit nervous about doing much off-pavement stuff. My friend Craig had a week of holidays booked, and we have been talking about a ride through the interior of BC for a few months. We didn't have much time for actual planning, but at the last minute I bought a used tent off ebay, threw together some basic gear and hit the road, heading for Vancouver Island from where I live in Nelson. The first morning looked a bit damp, but I was excited to hit the road anyway. I'm sure my ebay tent has enough poles, a fly etc. and I did watch a you tube video of how to fix a flat tire on a motorcycle. And I brought some Tic Tacs in case I was stranded and got hungry.
I ended up riding 2,212 kms on this little excursion, hopefully you don't mind sitting through my holiday pictures. The first couple of days is on pavement in the north Cascades on highway 20 (Washington State)
PLEASE feel free to chime in with comments....the whole point of this is to swap stories, get feedback and generally shoot the breeze with other people that are interested in bikes and riding. So lets hear from you!
"if you photograph your bike in dirt on the edge of Hwy 3, you will magically become a competent off-road rider"
I know this road really well, but it's still fun. It's also nice to stop along the way and taking photographs for a Ride Report is a good excuse.
This flower is called Indian Paintbrush, or at least, that's what we used to call it when I was a kid....
The geography changes pretty quickly along here, you leave the mountainous temperate rainforest of the Kootenays, and move into more arid sagebrush country.
I saw this great dirt road heading up into the hills....looks perfect, but his is near Rock Creek and won't get me to Vancouver Island, so this is as far as I went. In front is the first of many cattle guards that we would see on this trip.
Dropping down from the hills, the holiday town of Osoyoos and its vineyards and orchards appears. This is a great twisty stretch of highway, and quite an elevation drop.
I stopped for gas in Osoyoos, and headed for the U.S. border. Crossing any border always freaks me out, but this time everything was fine. We cross the border from Nelson to Spokane quite often, and have had some pretty weird shakedowns lately. It's a notorious drug smuggling section of the U.S./Can. border so I guess its warranted. A couple months ago, we were coming back across from a day out in Spokane with another couple. It was pitch dark out, and we were the only vehicle at the remote border station. The two border guards were very polite, efficiently processing our purchases, charging taxes etc. They seemed a bit more serious and looked more 'professional' than the usual crew, who often give the impression that their last job was with the post office, or a convenience store. We were ready to get back in the truck when he announced that we were to pull the vehicle into the lighted area and proceeded to snap on the rubber gloves, as did his partner. We all stood around in the hum of the big lights, moths flitting around, everything dark and quiet. He asked the four of us to line up at a big steel table and empty our pockets, open our wallets, girls empty the purses. It all seemed a bit much. He looked at me and Nick and told us to lift up our shirts. Uhhhhh, OK. Confirming that we had no explosives duct taped around our torsos he says, "for our safety, please stand against the brick wall while we search the vehicle" I guess old cheezies, coins and bits of gravel aren't illegal, so they let us go.
Almost immediately after crossing the border, I saw this great old sign, very politically incorrect now!
This is a huge fruit growing area. These big wooden crates are for transporting apples etc.
I had started out around noon from Nelson, and it was now getting near supper time. I hadn't really planned where to camp, so pushed on until I saw what looked like edible food, and a decent camp spot close to each other. I figured I'd found this when I rolled into the town of Twisp. The Twisp River Pub is a real beacon of good food and quality beer...they even have live music. The place was hopping as my fish Tacos arrived. Great place.
The food was great, and I could have stayed longer, but I really needed to find a place to camp. Just down the road a few minutes I found a good campground, and while they had no river front tent sites left, they had a couple spots left at the far end of the campground. Good enough, I figured. The ebay tent set up as advertised, and I settled in.
Sometime during the night I was startled awake by the sound of what must have been Harley's a few feet from my head. They were apparently setting up camp right beside me. I imagined them spotting my BMW and immediately using my tent as a urinal or something.
All three of them piled into one tent, and I never heard a thing all night.
I woke up early, I think it was 5:30, poked my head out of the tent.....'uhhh, we've got pirates!'
I see they are from BC...too bad they arrived so late...could have had a chat and a beer. I packed up as quietly as I could and eased out onto the road again.
It was such a perfect morning, fresh and cool, everything smelled dewey and clean.
This is the Methow Valley, which the Methow River wanders through on its way to the Pacific.
I was thinking about breakfast as I meandered along towards Winthrop, past some really beautiful scenery and tidy looking ranches.
Winthrop has been given the Olde West makeover, but I have to say, its actually pretty well done. It helped that I was there on a Sunday at 7:00am, before the tour buses arrived.
The Duck Brand Hotel and Cantina was where I went for Bacon and eggs. Good breakfast.
Great old buildings, even if they were faked up a bit.
Just a note here on picture hosting. I am using SmugMug to host these pics, and have to say that it is a really slick site, very easy to use. Makes the whole process really easy once you get used to it.
I'm sure many of you have been through here, if you haven't, its a great ride. After the Methow Valley, you head up into Steven's Pass. Some pretty dramatic looking rock spires, and some clouds that makes me think that I need to put on wet weather gear for the descent towards the coast.
Top of the pass looking back to the highway I had just ridden.
The crazy turquoise color of Diablo Lake is a bit of a surprise. Impressive views.
Highway 20 after this point, becomes decidedly less interesting. The rain didn't help either.
Not much to take pictures of, so I just worked my way through the mist, heading towards my early afternoon booking on the Anacortes-Sidney ferry.
A very concrete 'Welcome'. What was the name of the movie that was filmed in Concrete? I think it had a very young Leonardo de Caprio in it?
Woo hooo! The coast! I always get excited to arrive at the ocean, even if it is just to line up for the ferry.
On board the ferry. Its always something of a shock to realize that one is a tourist, and while I'm staring at all of them, people are probably looking at me in my weird get up. Not quite as colorful as this lady, but close.
The ferry stops at Friday Harbour on San Juan Island, to offload and pick up passengers. I wish I had time to stop, as we used to come here to visit my Uncle, and I have great memories of the place.
When we were almost at Sidney, the captain announced that we were going to come close to a couple of tall ships.
They looked great on such a beautiful day.
We landed at Sidney, and was one of the first few vehicles off the boat, which was good, as I had to catch the Mill Bay ferry in 55 minutes. I pulled up to the customs officer, who asked the usual list of questions, including, did I have mace or bear spray? I said that, yes, I had bear spray....and immediately regretted it, as I thought of my 55 minutes ticking down. He took a step back and said 'Bear Spray! Ohhhhh...yer gonna have to line up over there' so I wait for a second interrogation from another customs dude.
Great. The next guy walks up and says, 'so you have some mace?' I said 'well no, bear spray' He asked to see the can, and as long as it says its for spraying bears, not people, you're good to go. Huh?
I made the Mill Bay ferry in plenty of time, then picked up my friend Craig up island. We spent the night at his place, then had a leisurely start the next day, heading for the Nanaimo ferry, planning to stay at a friends place in Whistler that night.
It was pretty rainy when we hit Horseshoe Bay, so had to drag out the wet weather gear.
The Sea to Sky hwy up to Whistler was fine, just a bit much traffic for my liking.
We stayed at my friend Grant's palatial digs in Whistler....we were pretty pleased to see he had a heated garage for the wet bikes and gear.
Grant is a contractor and had recently renovated this house...it was pretty nice, to say the least.
We had a great meal at an Indian Restaurant in Whistler, and a checked out of the 'Hotel Grant' the next morning pretty early, and struck out for Pemberton, where we hoped to get off the pavement and onto the dirt.
There is a great breakfast stop in Pemberton called the Blackbird Bakery. Great coffee and croissants. We also bought sandwiches to pack along for lunch. We did a bit of spur of the moment route planning over some very good lattes. We had heard of the Hurley River FS Road, but thought that it would be closed because of the slide. We figured that to be sure, we'd stop in at the RCMP station in Pemberton to ask what the status was. The female officer on duty was very nice, but looked at us like we were seriously stupid when we asked about the Hurley River Rd..... "I THINK its open .... but you do realize that the Duffy Lake road is paved, and will get you to Lillooet faster?" We tried to explain, but I don't think she was buying it.
You may have heard on the news last week of a massive mudslide/avalanche at Meager Creek just up the road in this same valley.
40 Million cubic metres of mud, debris and snow came careening down Meager Creek and slid into the Lillooet River.
They say its the second largest slide in modern history in BC.
Here's a picture of the slide. photo credit: Bonny Markarewicz
After gassing up, we headed up Pemberton Meadows Rd. into the Pemberton Valley following the Lillooet River.
We were really excited to hear that the Hurley River Rd might be open. I'd seen some other RR's on it and it looked fantastic.
Crossing the Lillooet River...looks pretty muddy...we could see that it had been much higher in recent days.
Wooooooo Hoooooo!! Its open! The gate that closed the rest of the road because of the mudslide was right after the turn off to Hurley, so we were in luck.
Had a funny thing happen on this stretch of gravel road. We were bombing along, eager to get the Hurley River. Rd., juddering over some pretty bumpy washboards....when I caught a flash of yellow in my rearview mirror. I whipped my head around to see my sleeping bag in its yellow waterproof bag merrily bouncing along the road behind me. I hit the brakes and headed back to get it. As I got off the bike, I noticed that my tent and sleeping pad were gone too! I cant believe I hadn't noticed. I was standing in the middle of the road holding my my sleeping bag, looking like a dork, wondering just where in the hell my other gear was, when a 4x4 truck comes barreling around the corner. They pull right up to me and an attractive girl gets out of the passenger side of the truck, holding my tent and sleeping mat. Apparently I had lost them a couple km's back and they were trying to chase me down. I sheepishly thanked her, feeling like a total amateur.
More to come!!!
Wow that was really good, cousin! Splendid photography! I missed out on a memorable trip. The Friday harbour dock brings back memories of many visits to see Uncle Arnold. Looking forward to more photos and story. Ride safe!
Hey Cuz! I wish you could have come along....next time for sure!
Stay tuned...lots more pictures of some great roads to come in the next few days....:clap
Heading up the Hurley River FS Road, what a great view over Pemberton Meadows...its a pretty good climb up, with the views just getting better as you go.
Check out the snow on the peaks ... remember this is August!
Long slow climb up, past purple fireweed on an old cutblock.....
So everything was going just swimmingly, the road was great we were having a blast. We turned off the main Hurley River Road onto East Hurley Rd.heading up to the old mining community of Bralorne. The road surface was generally really good, but I did try and dodge any really sharp looking evil rocks. This strategy seemed to be working really well, until of course, it stopped working.
I came over a little rise in the road and immediately felt the front tire go flat. This was one of my fears of riding remote roads on the bike, as I hadn't ever had to fix a flat on the bike before. Like I said at the beginning of this RR, I had watched a youtube video that showed how to do it, but had no hands on experience. In a fit of genius/paranoia, shortly before going on this trip I had bought a spare front and rear tube, a $35 mini compressor from an automotive shop, tire irons, and thrown in a few basic tools, Torx set etc. I also brought my owners manual that describes the process. It actually turned out to be alot easier than I thought. It may have been more stressful if I was on my own, but the two of us worked through the change pretty fast. (I also think Craig is pretty good on the tools, more so than me, which gave me some confidence) Just have to remove the ABS Sensor, an allen key and a wrench on two more bolts, then off with the front wheel.
It helps obviously, to have a center stand on the bike, which I had installed a few months ago. We let any remaining air out of the tire, then started to lever off one side .
After that was done, the damaged tube comes out easily. (remove the locking nut on the stem first) We put a bit of air in the new tube, and slipped it in to the tire, taking care to center the new stem and keep it 90 degrees to the rim. After it was in, we started to lever the tire back in place, making sure not to pinch the new tube. The new mini compressor was plugged into the accessory socket on my bike, and then it was just a matter of putting in 27psi of air.
I was however dripping with sweat at the end of all this, as it was pretty damn hot!
Repeat the front wheel removal, but in reverse....and we were rolling again.
We carried on for a few more km's and arrived at Bralorne .... with the new tube holding its air....
Bralorne still has a few people living there, but you can see that it used to be quite a happening little community.
Some great old buildings. Must be weird at night.
We rode through Gold Bridge, which is just a few buildings really, a store, post office etc., then hit the junction of the Carpenter Lake Road, we head towards Lillooet. Its a good road, winding along Carpenter Lake ... we saw almost no other traffic of any kind. There must be good berries along this road, because every few hundred meters was a pile of purple bear crap .... I have no idea why they choose to dump on the road.... We came around one corner and saw a good size black bear, possibly coming down to make a deposit. He took off up a 45 degree scree slope, running uphill at an amazing speed, reminding me to never try and outrun a bear.
Carpenter Lake ends at the Mission Dam, which has a tunnel. Which requires a stop. For repeated riding back and forth through tunnel. Cuz its fun.:rofl
There's blacktop on parts of this road, mainly the southern end if I remember right.
You can see the red (dead) trees in the distance that have been killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Most of BC has huge swaths of dead Lodgepole Pine just ripe for massive forest fires.
We came out at the basecamp for the Yalakom River fire, a huge fire that they were fighting with tankers and helicopters. A week before one of the choppers had crashed, seriously injuring the two pilots.
Photo Credit: Kayla Pepper
Looked like a small placer mining operation down by the Yalakom River.
I love the squared logs in this old building...what a lot of work using hand tools (to say nothing of dove tailing the corners!)
This is one of the coolest stop signs I've ever seen! Written in English and the local Tl'itl'ikt First Nation (Lillooet Indian Band) At least, I'm assuming that's the language...feel free to correct me.
We turned onto the Moon Creek Road, and at a bridge noticed dozens of cars parked along side the road. We had to slow down to cross the narrow bridge. All the people we saw were local first nations, heading down to the Fraser River far below us. I couldn't quite work out what was going on, then it dawned on me that they were fishing for salmon. We pulled over and watched for a bit as they methodically swooped their long handled nets back and forth in the turbulent brown water. Others had gill nets tied between long poles, and they sat on the shore nearby. Further upstream we could see big camps set up, with drying racks erected from which to hang the newly caught salmon. It was an amazing sight, one that has been going on in the same spot for thousands of years.
More to come...stay tuned!
We gassed up in Lillooet and looked around for some food. We got some pulled pork sandwiches to go from this little hot dog stand. Mr. Pulled Pork man and his wife were super nice....and gave us some advice on campsites, which of course turned out to be somewhat suspect.
Maybe sending tourists to remote Grizzly infested campsites with pulled pork sandwiches helps pass the time on slow days.
We camped at the Texas Creek FS campsite anyway, not to worry, we were packing special scottish bear repellent.
The camp site was really just a firepit in a clearing beside the creek, which was OK. The problem was that the creek was so loud that it was actually kind of difficult to sleep, and we both were eager to check out asap in the morning.
This next stretch of road was truly spectacular....its a dirt road the hugs the steep hills high above the Fraser River, through sage brush, ducking into cool hairpins where the creeks come down out of the mountains. We would stop frequently to admire the view of the Fraser far below us and the green hayfields that look like pool tables across the valley.
This is the Stein River, flowing out to the Fraser from the Stein Valley Provincial Park....which sounds like an amazing place. 50 species of mammals, no road access, hiking only. Also one of the largest native pictograph sites in Canada.
Apparently we are going to be ferried across the raging Fraser on this orange tugboat. Hmmmm. No wonder we didn't see anyone else on this road. The little spool of cable on the rickety yellow stand thingy is giving me sooooo much confidence in this whole enterprise.
The ferry looks like its sinking. Not a lot of freeboard there! The ferry dudes look a bit too relaxed for my liking.
If it all goes to hell at this point, we can attempt an Evil Kneivel style self rescue....
I'll post more pics in the coming days......so, check back!
Yo! RiderJones! Another excellent RR. Keep it coming!
Fantastic report and great pictures, I love Canada and cant wait to get back there again.
Good on you going on the ride when you have little experience, that really makes it a true "Adventure" :bow
Geoff in the Desert.
I'm looking forward to the rest. I like the pictures, and you've done a good job laying them out and putting the story in between. You've sown some ideas of taking the bike up to BC in my head, now, too.
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