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Old 08-05-2013, 04:54 PM   #1
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Ghosts, Gold, Glaciers, and Gravel

I've said it many times before that the state of my mind is directly correlated with the state of my housekeeping. As I locked my door for the final time, carelessly strewn maps, piles of dirty clothes, camping gear that didn't make the cut, and a feeble attempt at washing dishes stared back at me, dull and disheveled. It'd been a whirlwind circus for the last few weeks and I was left trying to push the stresses out. After all, I realize how much I stress I put on myself in the pursuit of peace and relaxation on the road.

Burble fired up easily and carefree, just like a Vstrom was built to do. She'd only be a member of this trip for the 60km it takes to get me to my parents' place, but I took that time to reflect on what she does for me. Burble's a commuter bike. She is low-maintenance, low-risk, and in some ways, low-enjoyment, although that's hard to believe on the short twisty detours I guide her down on my way back from work. She goes places quickly and comfortably, able to pick it up when time's an issue. I was ready, however, to bring the pace down once again and find the well-worn seat of my longstanding traveling buddy, redbike.

The plan was loosely based around ghost towns and mining settlements with a goal to raise as much dust as possible on less-traveled British Columbia backroads with a time limit of about 2 weeks. A solid day was spent on final preparations: fork service, oil change, new front tire & rotor, and a quick air filter cleanup, along with a few other bits and pieces. By day's end I was ready, and sleep was short.

Packed and prepped, redbike was ready for another wee jaunt to add a couple more to the 139K Km on the clock. If you care to follow along, the report's in the works. The trip finished yesterday and the next few weeks will see the story unfold.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:19 PM   #2
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Grandora, SK
Oddometer: 121
Ghosts, Gold, Glaciers, and Gravel

I like all of these things so I'll come along for the ride!
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:50 PM   #3
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Running the Rails

It was a leisurely 9 o'clock by the time the wheels hit the road. Insurance was changed over from Burble to redbike, and I was once more Hope-ward bound. The road is a familiar one: long straights and gentle curves make this 30km stretch less about fanfare and bravado and more about settling into the mindset of travel. I'd always wanted to see how much ol' redbike actually weighs on a trip, and there was a scale on the way:

That's 230 kilos, or a little over 500lbs for the Imperial measurers among us.

A quick fuel-up and it was onto the Coquihalla, my least favourite of the three odd-numbered highways leading north and east out of Hope. It's a superhighway with limited access, a 110km/h speed limit, and up until 10 years ago, a toll. As soon as I got on, I knew I needed a break, and the Othello Tunnels, just on the north end of Hope, beckoned.

Blasted through solid rock with none of the boring precision of today's subterranean passages, the Othello Tunnels were built on the backs of sturdy men at the turn of the last century. Constructed to move precious ore from the interior to the ports of Vancouver and beyond, the Kettle Valley Railroad makes its final stop in Hope after pounding its way through the treacherous Coquihalla Canyon.

It was a brief visit, but it was time to move on from the camera-toting families and back to the grind. On the Coquihalla, things were as expected and redbike took residence in the right lane, allowing Alberta-plated pickups to race past to find the radar traps. Redbike is not meant for the superslab and my stop, Britton Creek rest area, was a welcome relief.

Britton Creek is the eastern end of a coal-trucking haul road that starts north of Princeton in Lodestone mine. As I gingerly started the first few miles up this well-maintained gravel superhighway, I was reminded that I'm just a visitor in a land of working folks. The laden trucks and their drivers use most of the road to navigate safely, and recreational users are spared but only the barest of inches and left in a healthy cloud of dust as these land trains come hurtling past.

At one point, I noticed the road become less maintained and, thus, less coal trucking. Basking in this dust-free glory, I happily hit the occasional pothole knowing I was free. That is, until a tech-clothed woman came sprinting out of a forestry rec site to flag me down.

That's her on the left:

I pulled in and the story unfolded. These folks were on a week-long backcountry hike that was to take them from Lodestone all the way to Hope. A misplaced foot on a log yesterday had left Bill (right) with a sprained ankle, 30km away from any sort of town. The day before, they'd hobbled the 13km to the Jacobsen Lake campsite I found them at, and had sat here for a day without a single vehicle going past.

Which led them to their next question, "What the hell are you doing on this road?"
"Uh, I'm headed to Tulameen, then on to Coalmont and Princeton."
"On this road?"
"Yeah! It hooks up with the Tulameen River FSR!"
"Are you sure?"

Silly hikers. I pulled out my trusty backroads atlas only to find that Jacobsen Lake campsite had remarkably positioned itself at the terminus of a faint white line. Well, there goes my pride once more. Won't be the last time I'm sure.

The conversation then turned to a plan of action. They'd sent Sandy (middle) to look for help, and I was to head into civilization and call a friend of theirs if I didn't see Sandy on my way out. As we hashed out the final details, she arrived back with a pickup truck from a silver mine 15km back, and these hikers' day just got a whole lot better.

With a nod of the head and a press of the starter button, I was on my way, heading this time in the right direction. Back to the haul road (Lodestone FSR), I made it easily over the mountain and dropped into Blakeburn and Granite Creek.

Just before the turn of the 19th century, Granite Creek was a haven for get-rich-quickers and gold-seeking prospectors. These days, a few piles of logs in the hills and a cemetery that's slowly being restored are all that's left of a tumultuous history of boom and bust. To think of the amount of change that a century can make is a true testament to how fleeting our lives are here.

Coalmont was next, as was rejoining the KVR. We'll get to that next time.

Until then, Travis, out.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-06-2013, 08:38 AM   #4
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Running the Rails, cont'd

Dropped into Coalmont at a little after noon, looking for some food and maybe a cold drink. The air was like a blast furnace, but at least it wasn't raining!

The iconic Coalmont hotel was closed, so I carried on further to Tulameen and found nothing that called out to me. I headed north along the Coalmont road that stretches on the west side of Otter Lake, looking for a quiet place to dip my feet in. Nothing came about on the west side, so I changed goals: find a connection to the KVR from the north. A nondescript two-track trail led me to a wider pathway that looked flat and straight enough to be a railbed, so I hopped on and was brought back a year and a half to my experiences on Newfoundland's T'Railway.

Long and flat is the best way to describe railbed riding, although it's kept interesting by loose gravel, whooped out sections from snowmobiles, and washouts. The occasional barbed wire fence had to be opened and closed, and at one gate crossing I met a couple of WWOOFers, which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time. I found this bit about them after the fact: . We chatted a bit and went on our separate ways. Interesting folks and a unique way to travel the world.

The railbed met back up with Otter Lake, this time on the east side,

and I found a little place to jump in.

While drying off on the rocks, a powerboat motored by, waved, then circled back to settle in deep water just off the shore. The operator made mention of the KLR parked on the embankment above and talked about the KTM 500 that he'd just picked up after owning a DRZ400 for a while. It turned out to be snackdaddy from DSBC! We had a good chat, briefly interrupted by occasional repositions of his boat on the water to avoid the rocks. The world's a small place, although I wasn't that far from home to begin with.

It was getting on in the afternoon though, so it was time to make some miles. This would become a theme of this trip: 4pm is the time to start piling on the mileage. I hopped back on redbike, up the KVR,

and made my way to Princeton before heading northeast to Summerland and my stop for the night. The roads were peaceful and uneventful, and as I dropped down the paved switchbacks into the Summerland valley, a bright yellow DRZ was waiting for me.

Hi Doug!

I'd met Doug and his wife, Barb, a few years back in a provincial campground. Our friendship started with the question, "Are you an axe murderer?" and grew quickly when it was confirmed that none of us were. We shared the cost of an overnight campsite that evening and have stayed in touch since. He escorted me back to his acreage just outside of town and after a delicious supper and beer, we got talking about machining, heat treating, and all other thing steel.

Although it was but a short catch-up, I truly value these connections that one makes along the way. I've made so many more when travelling solo than I ever have when with another rider, and it's one of the biggest reasons why I do this in my spare time.

Night fell, sleep came easily, and I'd recharge for another day of dusty backroads riding.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-10-2013, 07:04 PM   #5
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Day 2: Rancher's Choice

Blueberry pancakes were on the menu for breakfast at Doug's, and this way to start the day would become a welcome trend over the course of the trip. Typical of mornings on rides, I vainly showered, knowing that in only a couple hours' time I'd be a sweaty mess once more.

Doug's pups, Sadie and Karma were out to greet in the morning,

and I took a closer look at a fascinating contraption assembled on Doug's front lawn.

It's a British carousel from the early 1900s. As the story goes, Doug went to an auction with a trailer on the lookout for a nice pot-belly stove. The stoves were going for exorbitant amounts, but he needed to fill his trailer with something, and this carousel happened along for a few hundred bucks. Now that's value!

Anyway, the riding started soon after. We headed up Garnet Lake road, past the dam that reserves Summerland's drinking water, and soon found ourselves on rutted roads leading us over a hill north towards Peachland, and further, Kelowna.

I thanked Doug for making me sweat early in the morning on the rocky, loose, downhill trail that dropped us into Peachland, we parted ways, and I headed to Kelowna. Popped in to see a coworker, a quick sub sandwich for lunch, and I was headed up the West Side road, carrying north towards some tasty-looking gravel roads.

I found my turnoff, Whiteman Creek FSR, which took me further to Bouleau Lake, a small, but beautiful lake in the middle of not-as-touched wilderness. My plan at Bouleau Lake was to head further west, but this sign loomed ominously:

Now, I've had pretty good luck getting through "No Thru Roads" in the past, so I figured, "Why stop now?"

Again, this supposed dead end carried me into through roads and cattle country, specifically that of Douglas Lake Ranch near Merritt:

A gate further on told me that it was unpassable, but it was open and as I sat there taking down the contact number, a forestry truck of some sort raced past in a cloud of dust. That's the taste I was talking about. Chalky, gritty, dust. In any case, I figured if they're humming on through, I should have no problem, and got onto Salmon River FSR shortly after.

Westwold was next, and it was getting on in hours by this point. I stopped for a Gatorade, made friends with a cycling German:

He's got over 60K miles on that bike in 30-odd countries. No matter how hardcore we motorcyclists think we are, these bicyclists are another breed.

Onward to Kamloops for water and gas, then back into the woods to find camping. 20km of grasslands turning to forest came and went, and I wound into the hills above the Tranquille River. Signage for a user-maintained Provincial Park made me stop and turn around for the driveway, and I dropped down a rutted road leading me to more ruts, then finally a cliff overlooking a canyon, 60-some feet deep.

This works.

After setting up camp, I went on a small mission to see how impassable the cliff side actually was.

The dry soil and loosely rooted shrubs made the going tough, and I decided that it'd be best to tackle this another time, perhaps with ropes, but most importantly with somebody knowing where I actually am so they know where to fish for a corpse.

I realized several times along this trip that although I never actually got that far into the wilderness (a town was never more than 100km away), there is a lot of less-travelled country in southern BC that can get a person in trouble fast, leaving very few options for self-rescue and even less chance of a stranger stumbling along at the right time. A SPOT locator or similar would probably make sense for future voyages, and later in the trip, this decision would be solidified.

But, I get ahead of myself.

Night fell, and after a supper of chili (which I forgot is a royal pain to clean up after), I settled down with a fire and a science project. Cows had at once been plentiful in the area, and had left their mark in now-dry heaps of digested plant matter. I'd heard once of tribesmen using these delicious morsels for campfire fuel, so I had to try for myself.

Well hot shit, it burns.

Night fell, the embers burned down, and I drooped my lids to a starry sky and not-so-distant water churning itself over a rocky bed.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:01 PM   #6
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Day 3: Rangeland and Reservoirs

Light came before the sun as my all-too-wary lids flicked open at 5am. It'd been a lovely sleep until around 2am when I was awoken by 6 gunshots in rapid succession that seemed quite nearby. Of course, camping solo makes every sound seem 20 feet from one's tent, but even so, it couldn't have been more than a few hundred yards away. They sounded like .22's and after my heart calmed down, I figured I was safe to go back to bed. They weren't firing at me, and if anything, they'd scared off any creepy beasties that were considering me as a midnight snack.

A quick walk around camp in the morning yielded nothing, and I once again came up short on finding a path down to the riverbed. Ah well, another time I'm sure. I fixed breakfast (oatmeal as usual: blueberry pancakes don't get cooked on my camp stove) and took down camp. I had lots of things to see today and I was happy to get back to the gravel highways where the KLR felt most at home.

Keeping on Tranquille FSR towards Criss Creek, I pulled off down a road marked "No Exit" once more. I was looking for a shortcut that would get me to the Deadman Valley Hoodoos. Not more than a couple clicks later, the forest opened up,

and soon after a gate marked by a dead giant blocked any further progress.

Side note:

Grouse. This one loped across my path as I'd turned around to get back on the main line. For 80% of the days out, if I'd have been carrying a .22, a slingshot, or even a really big stick, I'm pretty sure I could've had grouse for dinner. These creatures have to be the dumbest birds on the planet, and the only way I can fathom that they still exist is they must reproduce like bunnies. Note to self: research legalities on harvesting grouse for next time.

Anyway, back at it.

Criss Creek FSR turned into Sawmill, then Joe Ross (Bob Ross's brother, no doubt), then onto the 3300 mainline which was the true definition of a gravel superhighway.

Pulverized dust marked the surface and burst into vast clouds as redbike cruised at enjoyable speeds past scrubby trees. Every so often, I'd meet an empty log truck cruising in the other direction, and as usual, it was the routine of: Oh crap! Slow down, truck approaches, pull over, duck head, hold breath, truck passes (with its shower of pebbles and billowing dust), keep moving blind at 15km/h until the haze clears, then resume speed slowly as visibility improves. Again, I can't blame them in the least. They're making a living on roads I'm using for fun.

The logging road terminated at Chasm,

and I pounded the pavement to Clinton. I had time, so I quickly browsed through the flea market/antique/old crap store on the south end of town,

then it was on to the Clinton-Pavilion road which takes a person over the hill and through forests and rangeland.

It drops down another dusty hill into Pavilion, and I couldn't help but pass by their typical small church that it seems all First Nations settlements have at their core.

In some ways, this reminds me a lot of Mexico. The concept of colonization was rampant throughout the Americas when we (I'm part of it as a white Christian) crossed the water into the new frontier, bringing with us high technology, high language, and high religion. As much as I can appreciate the intent of spreading the "good news," it was done in ways that verged on evil in many cases. But, that's a rant for another day.

I turned westward towards Lillooet on pavement,

followed another normal routine of passing tourist traffic only to get stuck behind a behemoth RV just before the twisties.

After crossing the old bridge at the north end of town (not for cars, but it'll still support a motorcycle),

I made a quick stop for food and fuel and set of for the second half of my day. True to form, it was 3pm by the time I rolled out of town.

The mountains between Lillooet and Pemberton are laden with elevation changes and water, making it the perfect haven for dams and hydro-electric generation. The rest of my day was spent hopping from basin to basin:

Seton Lake (south/east end) (also makes a great bathtub):

Duffy Lake:

A quick stop in D'Arcy to fix a lighting issue:

By another one o' them churches, this one in poor repair:

And the High Line led me out of D'Arcy,

and along the powerline road high above Anderson Lake:

The High Line drops into Seton Portage, where the entire town seemed to be playing along the river while their mini-church looked on:

And these pipes gave me a clue of where I'd end my day.

Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:19 PM   #7
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Last time I was through this area, it'd been late in the day (last time was around 9pm. I was early at 6 this time 'round) and I'd set up camp at a picnic area right along the other end of Seton Lake.

The signage was the same this time around: "Absolutely No Overnight Camping," and I've become a bit more law-abiding since last time. Plus, it was only 6. There was still plenty of time for riding!

I tackled the other fun bit of road in this area:

which as the day wanes, becomes increasingly challenging. The road switches back and forth, and every westward swing of the path puts a person looking uphill directly into the sun. This is when it helps to know how to ride by feel. I don't, but I came out okay this time.

On the other end of this route, the mouths of those giant pipes can be found.

Carpenter Lake, which is basically a giant river basin that has been dammed, feeds two generating stations over 10km and 1000ft in elevation drop away. The only challenge: a mountain blocks the water's flow. The solution's easy really: drill a hole, and that's exactly what they did. Amazing to think that this was the most cost-effective way of creating electricity, but on the plus side, it's renewable and creates no emissions, so more of us can pollute the air with motorcycles instead.

There was a recreation site just below the Carpenter Lake dam, but although the facilities were nice, the wind was active. I opted to carry the 50-ish km up Carpenter Lake for greener pastures. Again, the low sun brought fatigue and difficulty in keeping a good pace, and finally I carried up a FSR in search of another site.

Nothin' up here but a good view.

Back down that road after exploring a couple more sandy, forest-fire-affected spurs, and I hit the road for a little longer. In a shady patch where the sun was blocked by a mountain, I rested my eyes and my brain just a little. As I was thinking about how I could finally look around, a pair of antlers popped out of the bush and burst across the road. As I gratefully grabbed a handful of brakes (slowing the KLR about as much as wood blocks on greased steel), I noticed it was missing a front leg. For the age and size of that buck, he was doing awfully well as a tripod.

One more FSR, and finally, a site that worked for me:

I spent the evening chatting with a great couple from 100 Mile House (they were originally from Switzerland and Poland), and tucked in peacefully after a full day.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 08-19-2013, 12:52 PM   #8
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: San Diego, CA
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I'm in. I should be in that area next July. Can't wait.
"Can't never could."-Grandma Belle Marie Bullock-Shuflin
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:10 PM   #9
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Mornings, am I right?

Alright, so mornings really aren't terrible, especially when the rain, bugs, and wind stays far, far away. In reality there was nothing to complain about. The air was cool and got cooler as redbike carried me past Gold Bridge, up the hill, and into Bralorne. My destination was a little further: Pioneer Mine, an old townsite I'd heard of but had no idea what to expect. On the way, however, was Bradian:

This former home to many a gold-fevered bearded one has since been reduced to an eerie street of empty houses, one scorched from its footing, leaving a skeleton of porcelain-capped plumbing and concrete foundations succumbing to the never-ending gravitational push of soil and moisture. I don't think we realize how ever-changing our condition is, especially in established places. We see the old torn down and replaced with larger expanses of concrete and steel. Out in the woods, the old's still torn down eventually, but it happens a bit slower and concrete, steel, wood, and brick returns to the soil and is instead replaced with weeds, alders, and eventually pines, firs, and spruce. A never-ending cycle, it seems, keeping folks employed and nature reeling.

A few clicks up the road, Pioneer Mine emerged in the form of a crumpled mass of steel on the right and precarious ruins perched on the left.

Once, the townsite was booming and sprawling,

and after the straw into the ground stopped sucking out gold, it was lit up and left to rot.

I wouldn't drink the water. Mmmmmmm arsenic and cyanide.

There are more ruins up in the hills, but they basically amount to splintered timber and gnarled rusty steel. The only enduring forms are heavy in concrete or metal content, able to withstand fire and rot for a few decades longer.

Back to Bralorne, I checked out the museum. On a Saturday morning, I was the only soul in there, and I was treated to a lovely tour by a friendly resident of this still-colorful town. She'd bought two lots in the 70's for a song ($7000) and was now living up there after years in the Lower Mainland. She was full of stories and added an incredible amount to the experience.

I also learned of Bralorne's brush with Internet viral fame:

My tour guide went into a back room and returned with a manila envelope and slid the orignal out onto the counter. I'll be honest, I was pretty excited to see this bit of history that sparked the imagination and intrigue of so many hopeful would-be-time-travelers:

If you didn't take the time to read the article, basically this photo supposedly proves that time travel exists due to the hipster-looking chap that seems out of place amid the suits and ties of his associates. It's since been debunked, but not before a few million people viewed the photo online. There's even been a documentary done on the photo by an outfit from Russia!

After getting my fill of history, I grabbed a quick bite at the local pub and bid farewell to a place I find fascinating each time I roll through. Until next time, Bralorne!

My plans carried me back through Lillooet, and after a fuel stop and a nap on cigarette-butt-littered ground next to a humming bagged ice freezer, I was ready for the next step on the journey. It was 3pm.

Heading north from Lillooet normally means hopping the Fraser over the bridge (old or new, the Fraser's not picky) and routing either through Clinton or getting on the 97 north of Cache Creek. The fun way starts just north of town on West Pavilion road, a winding gravel highway of around 100 kilometres in length. There's a reaction ferry at the end which only runs at certain times of day, and I was hell-bent on making it there before the operator broke for supper at 4:45. Dry weather had left the well-used road talc-powdery and again redbike found a billowing cloud behind but clear road ahead.

Passed a Triumph Tiger (older) and a Landcruiser along with some typical ranch vehicles. The road was a mix of hairpins and wide-open stretches but my average speed was not looking promising. There was also always the chance of meeting a beefy herd of residents around any corner.

Eventually the pines receded and were replaced with scrub, sage, and hoodoos. I was getting into Gang Ranch land.

After missing one turn, I found my way back on track and navigated the steep and dusty downhill to the ferry landing. It was 4:50. Damn.

Ah well, I needed to stop for supper anyway.

The ferry pilot (captain, helmsman? I don't know.) was kind enough to cut his supper short and was over in about 45 minutes after I'd finished my feast of canned tuna and pitas. As we noiselessly sailed across the Fraser guided by currents and cables, the operator told me of forest service campsites, shortcuts, and gas stops on the highway out to Bella Coola that he could guarantee because "these very two eyes" had seen them. He was an interesting character to say the least. If you're through there and have the opportunity to chat with him you'll understand.

By the time I was across, it was getting on 6pm. I had plans for another couple hours and got moving quick. The rangeland obliged with open roads,

and a bit o' dust.

But the views weren't terrible.

Eventually, I found myself at Brigham Creek recreation site that was littered with empty beer cartons throughout the tall grass. At first, I was sure it was going to be a mosquito haven, but as I hopped off the bike, I was surprisingly met with nothing. Fair enough. It was nearly 9 and I was beat.

I was babbled to sleep by a nearby brook and found sleep fitful, but at least it was dry.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:44 PM   #10
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Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Oviedo, España
Oddometer: 5,261
This is great read, thanks for sharing and keep it coming.
Dreaming of Dakar
Everyone has a max speed, 90% of that max speed is much safer and easier, and if that 90% speed isn't fast enough at Dakar, you enter the snowball. - neduro
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:57 PM   #11
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Location: SW Florida
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great RR, I have not read one from yet from your area your in.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:08 PM   #12
Hamon OP
I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
Day 5: Why I should own a SPOT locator

It was Sunday morning and as I rose the sun was just peeking over scrubby trees on the hillside around my meadow-like campsite. I'd been in the woods for a few days, so the camera battery was getting spotty and a hearty breakfast sounded like an awfully good idea. The tent disappeared quickly into my cavernous yellow drybag and soon enough, the all-too-familiar crunch of gravel told me I was back at it.

From Brigham Creek, it's a northeast trajectory to Williams Lake and redbike hurtled down a wonderfully groomed gravel superhighway to connect me with Highway 97. This bit o' slab is not the most enjoyable, but a necessary evil if I was to accomplish all I needed to that day.

I rolled through town, found that Denny's was the happenin' place. I found a table with an outlet and set up camp: phone and camera charging, journal out, and a Lumberjack Slam ordered. I'd never had a Lumberjack Slam before, but it's an atrocious amount of food. Basically, think of a healthy-sized breakfast, then add two thick buttermilk pancakes (with blueberries, of course) on the side for kicks. Little did I know that this would be the only meal I'd eat for the next 13 hours. But that story's later.

Northward and onward to Quesnel, I topped up with fuel, fumbling my cash and my words as my head was in another place entirely. My plan was to head east to Barkerville, then find a route north to Highway 16 and Purden Lake Provincial Park, where I was meeting up with a good friend who was on the tail end of her own trip into the Klondike. I nursed the old goat to Barkerville, conserving fuel due to ignorance on whether Wells would have a gas station (they do), and rolled into the first legitimate tourist trap of the trip: Barkerville.

I always cringe when I hear the word "tourist," envisioning cargo-shorts-clad, camera-toting, floppy-hat-wearing city dwellers who think seeing a deer is a miracle and that stepping out of one's car is a surefire way to get mauled by a bear. I'm starting to realize, however, that if we're out of our homes to see something different, we're all tourists, and I'm slowly coming to terms with that fact.

Along with my resentment towards tourists is my vehement avoidance of tourist traps like Barkerville, where families are funnelled in, wallets picked clean, and shoved out the other end of a ratcheting gate with a whitewashed sense of "history," "culture," or some sort of "adventure." But I too realize that there's value in this. Barkerville, for example, would not exist if not for the tourists, and I'd already seen (or not seen) too many mining towns that had just sunk back into the forest, only to be forgotten in mere decades. The preservation of historic sites like Barkerville is incredibly important in my personal opinion, and I'm glad to spend the $13-odd dollars to understand a bit more about this province I call home.

Plus, I dig this kind of stuff:

So slap my ass with Banana Boat SPF50 and call me a damned tourist, 'cause you are too.

On a side note, a wee tidbit about Barkerville for those that aren't aware of why it exists at all, this river:

was the site of a giant gold rush in the mid 1800s that led thousands of people, pans, and pick-axes to set up camp along its shores in the hope of finding a retirement fund. Millions of dollars of gold were hauled from the blue clay several metres down, and legends were made nearly daily of the big strikes. The town's population declined as gold became more scarce, but resurged every so often when new technologies made smaller amounts of gold easier to harvest.

I'm sure it was the site of more than one broken dream and broken heart, and the stories seem to ooze from the hills that contain hundreds of crumpled huts if you're willing to search a bit.

It was getting near 3pm, though, and my feet were getting itchy. I grabbed a few sweets from the confectionary (candied ginger, my favorite!), shouldered my way through the glassy-eyed throng led by paid actors, and headed back into Wells.

My backroads atlas showed a Bowron River FSR carving a tidy line north to Highway 16. I asked the gas station attendant in Wells about this road, and the response was exactly what I was hoping for: "Well, it's pretty rough, muddy, and rutted for about 20km, but it gets better after that. I was through there in my 4x4 last year. Watch out for the bog and the 300 yard bypass through the woods around it. Oh, and you'll get to a dead end on the main road blocked by a gate and a residence. Just before it, there's a small fork up on the right hand side that bypasses the property and gets you onto Crazy Creek road. You'll know you're on it if you start heading up a hill."

Confirmation. Excellent.

Redbike took me past the canoers' paradise of Bowron Lakes,

and onward down a well-established gravel highway.

I found the dead-end and the fork as mentioned and began to gain confidence in my new friend's information. Then the road turned rutted, and I was once again happy to find exactly what was predicted:

It was slow going: a lot of 1st and 2nd gear, popping through ruts and trying not to dab too many times. It wasn't really that challenging a road, but the flatness and low elevation had caused a lot of water damage, exacerbated by quads and bogger-clad offroaders. 15km of this and I was into the woods once more on a two-track dirt road. A face-slapper was approaching on the right, so I went for a quick bypass into the middle grassy strip -

and found myself flat on my face, unable to roll over.

This ain't good.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:39 PM   #13
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I just like riding
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: BC, Canada
Oddometer: 289
I took a second to compose myself before checking to see if everything was working. Arms: check. Neck: check. Ribs: fine. Legs: left one's good, right one's stuck under a motorcycle.

Well there's yer problem.

I awkwardly twisted myself around to assess the situation, only mildly considering what my gameplan would be if a grizzly bear happened upon this very convenient afternoon snack. My foot was stuck under the bike and I wasn't able to maneuver the rest of myself into a lifting position. Thankfully, I could still reach my boot, so I scrabbled at laces until they came free and triumphantly slipped my stocking foot out.

As I rose away from the bike, I quickly understood what had happened. What had been a compact dirt road had developed a thin layer of greasy slime on the top that butters up tires better than the finest lard. My front had slid, then caught on the grassy strip (who'd've thunk that one would gain traction from grass) and highsided me back into the right-hand track.

I picked the bike up, got my boot back on, and found a spot to lean the bike while I assessed the situation. The crash had ripped a side case off, mashed my handguard and dislodged my front brake lever. The handguard and brake lever went back with relative ease, and I soon was able to cobble a quick fix together on the side case:

It's not much, but it'll do.

I then took a moment to have a little monologue. Now that I think of it, it wasn't that little, seeing as I yelled it into the woods.

"Damn, Travis, you sure know how to take stupid risks. Here you are, 60km away from any sort of people and you nearly wrecked yourself. Seriously, buddy. What would you have done if that crash had broken your leg, or worse yet, both? Was this risk worth it? Really?"

It got a bit more garbled and profane after this, but you get the picture. My confidence was wrecked. My nerves shot, and my will depleted. I pulled out the map book to see what lay ahead and realized I was within 3km of another road that could spell the end of the rough section that was forecast. I gingerly found my way back into the saddle, pressed the starter until the carb cleared itself, and slowly made my way through greasy slime made hundreds of times worse by my own lack of confidence.

Only a few minutes later, and I emerged from my slick hell onto gravel. Real, God-honest gravel. I hopped off the bike and mustered the biggest "YYYYEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!" I could possibly find into the immediate woods. It was partially for the moose, but mainly for me. I felt like a king! I'd made it! The other side!

The map showed this road carrying straight north to Highway 16, which seemed to be around 80km away. Back on redbike and tearing the gravel, my beaming heart soon demolished when I came across this:

and this:

I was done. Just. Done. This perfectly good bridge had been dug out on both sides, and although quadders had put logs across the 5-foot-deep trenches, I knew I'd found my dead end. I was in no state to tackle round logs with a 500lb bike, with no spotter, no contacts, and nobody who really knew where I was. It was the end of the road. It was also about 5:30 and I was expected at Purden somewhere around 6 or 7.


What was once panic and energy slowly transformed into a sober understanding of my fate. Every rut I'd just fallen into from Wells would need to be forged through again. The 80 bleak kilometers to Quesnel bombed down, the 120 bleaker kilometers to Prince George pounded out, and the 50-odd kilometers to Purden tacked on to an already long ride.

I knew that I had to do it, but I also knew that I had to do it safely. In front of my GPS, I placed this note:

(Slow down, Take it easy, Bad shit happens fast.)

And crunched my way back up the once-promising gravel and back into the slime. Luckily, this time I cleared it just fine.

I ripped back onto the gravel from Bowron Lake, stopped for gas (and to relay my tale to the gas attendant) in Wells, then tucked my head down as I headed west towards Quesnel under a low sun bearing down. For the next few hundred clicks, I was crazed. Fuel consumption, tire consumption, oil consumption be damned. I was hell-bent on getting to Purden at a reasonable hour.

This was one of two stops: a pee break and a quick rest to jam some gatorade, almonds, and jerky down my gullet, then it was straight to PG for a fuel-up, before setting my sights east for Purden.

Luckily, when you are dumb enough to travel this late in the day, you're rewarded with some pretty epic sunsets behind you:

A few clicks more and I was at the park. I rolled through the sites in the dark, trying to pick out a black Jetta, and when Kat's car was finally in sight, I rolled in, shut off the bike, and pulled off the helmet with the biggest, tiredest grin I'd ever constructed. What a day.

There was warm dinner and cold beer waiting for me (I'm pretty sure that's what Heaven is like), and my tent somehow got set up. A campfire crackled as we caught up on life, and droopy eyelids slammed shut with a vengeance soon after.

Being a tourist is hard work.
Two wheels and half a brain. <- BC to ON and back: KLR650 <- Inuvik 09: KLR650 and DRZ chronicle <- 3 months of moto fantasticity
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:22 PM   #14
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Joined: Aug 2011
Location: Pacific NW
Oddometer: 356
Thank you for the great trip and great pic’s! Enjoyed it all. Would love to come up your way and ride some of that beautiful country!
The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:06 PM   #15
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Joined: Oct 2010
Location: So Cal
Oddometer: 166

Epic report!
2007 Suzuki DR650
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