Warner Lake, British Columbia: Photo-Essay

This past Labor Day weekend, myself and three other members of the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club travelled north of the border to the small town of Goldbridge, where we would board a float plane and journey deep into the BC backcountry for a 25 mile mountain bike ride. Rather than write a lengthy report on how it went, I'm going to let the photos tell the story. I'll supply the details when necessary.

Saturday, September 3
I picked up Ellen at 5 am and together we made the nearly 5hour drive north to Whistler, home of North America's best ski resort, Whistler-Blackcomb. Along the way, we stopped at Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls. The latter of which was a big, wet, disappointment.

Shannon Falls

Once at Whistler, we looked at the pouring rain slam against the windshield and realized that we would never live it down if we drove to Whistler and didn't ride due to a little (okay, a lot) of rain. So we geared up and took off down the highway to ride the cross-country trail known as "Kill Me Thrill Me". We would miss the trailhead while wincing from the raindrops tearing at our faces and decided it was probably best. We would just ride some less-technical trails.

Ellen wringing out her gloves

After a very soggy ride at Whistler, Ellen and I met up with Kevin and Ken who were putting their burlier bikes to use in Whistler's mountain bike stunt park. After a brief pasta dinner and some grocery shopping, we hit the road. The trip north included a 40 mile stint on a dirt road that switchbacked up and over a mountain. This road is open only to snowmobiles after November. Fortunately, my Honda Element made it up and over without a problem.

Climbing the road to Goldbridge

Once at camp, nearly 3 hours later, we promptly set up our tents in the dark while the skies opened and the rain came down. I dove into my tent and lied awake much of the night listening to the rain hammer down on my tent, wondering whether or not a trip of this magnitude could be enjoyable in a downpour.

Sunday, September 4th

I awoke at 5am to the incredible sound of a wolf howling across the valley. After nearly 15 minutes another wolf -- this one with a much higher pitch -- answered back. The two alternated calls for 5 to 10 minutes while I laid in my sleeping bag with an enormous grin on my face. I've dreamt of a moment like this since first reading Call of the Wild and White Fang in elementary school. Hearing wolves in the wild was one of the highlights of this trip. Scratch that -- one of the highlights in my life.

Despite being excited about hearing the wolves, I was almost just as excited to not hear something else. No rain. It was on...

Loading up the bikes and wheels

View from the backseat

I took a ton of photos from my window seat in the second row of the plane, but the tremendous morning glare rendered most of them rubbish. We departed Tyaughton Lake near Tyax Resort with a silky-smooth takeoff and flew 25 minutes to Warner Lake. Many other groups had tried to fly to Warner Lake earlier this year, but were forced to take a shorter route via Spruce Lake. We got lucky. Our pilot, Dale, flew past Spruce Lake and, decided to temp the weather gods and take us to Warner Lake. We were only the second group all season to get the green light to land at Warner Lake. More miles of singletrack would await!

The plane begins to leave us behind

And just like that... we're stranded

Our guide, Ian, quickly showed us how to use his satellite phone in case he should suffer a serious injuy. He informs us that the trail is very rocky, hilly, and technical for the first several miles. I slip on my neoprene gloves, consider the dusting of snow I'm standing in, and shoulder my Camelback. It's time to ride.

Ken enjoying some early singletrack

My bike on a rocky section of trail

Ellen keeping her eyes on the trail

Some views are too nice to ride past

Ken's chain broke... his wouldn't be the only one

Our guide, Ian, leads us into the meadows

Stopping for lunch amongst the birch

Ellen and I on a bridge over Gun Creek

Kevin cruising along the riverside

Ken rapidly approaching the end of the trail

Me finishing up the Gun Creek Trail and heading home

The ride was 25 miles in length and took 6 hours to complete including numerous photo stops and a couple brief breaks for mechanical problems and to snack. Although Ken broke his chain less than 3 miles into the ride, it was me who suffered the worst mechanical problem. Just 4 miles into the ride my chain snapped and sent the derailleur cage into the spokes of my rear wheel. The derailleur hanger was bent and, despite the advice given to me earlier in the week, I hadn't a spare with me. I fixed the chain and Ian was able to bend the derailleur back and adjust the cable tension to get me 4 or 5 good gears. I completed the next 21 miles with 1/4 of my normal drivetrain functioning, but I kept the problem in mind and made sure not to apply too much tension. Needless to say, there were quite a few hills later in the ride that would have been completely rideable with a functioning derailleur, that forced me to hike-a-bike.

As if a sign that I should perhaps start believing in a higher being, the hanger broke and the derailleur shattered into pieces just as I pedaled up to my tent. It held together as long as absolutely necessary and not a single pedal-stroke more.

It held long enough to get me home and not a second longer...

Saturday night, we treated our ride organizer, Kevin, to a buffet dinner inside the Tyax lodge and also enjoyed a half hour of relaxation inside the hot tub out by the lake. Despite a twelve-pack of beer in my cooler, none of us were long for this world that night and all quickly retreated to the warmth of our respective tents.

Monday, September 5th

Monday came and it was time to break camp and head home. The drive from the Tyax Resort's campground took nearly 8 hours, excluding a lengthy breakfast stop in Pemberton, BC. We avoided the lengthy lines at the main border crossing on I-5 by heading east a bit and crossing at Sumas. It was great to get back to the US, where even the expensive gasoline is considerably cheaper, but the memories of my first trip to British Columbia will live with me forever.

Thanks for reading.


Ellen said...

Awesome pics! You forgot one of my favorite parts of the story: the squirrels who were throwing pinecones at a rate of 1 a minute at the tents and cars of our campground neighbors. That was too funny!

Criscipline said...

Beautiful, Doug. Thank you so much for sharing. You lead a most fulfilling life in my opinion and I hope you agree. I'm so happy you heard the wolves.