Cactus, Cattle and Cold Winds: Mountain Biking Dog Creek, BC

British Columbia is well-known for its forests, mountains and coastline, however, it also has extensive  grasslands and sage brush country that provides some fantastic mountain biking and bike packing. With plenty of cacti, cattle and  creek beds, these grasslands are your home for adventure by bike.

Dog Creek lies within the Fraser River Valley, approximately one hour south of William’s Lake. This area is characterized by rolling grass covered plateaus dotted with stunted, gnarly Douglas fir, juniper, sage brush and prickly pear cactus. The landscape is criss-crossed with steep walled gullies and dry creek beds. While portions of this area are owned by the Douglas Lake Cattle Ranch Company (owned by a US billionaire), it lies within the traditional territory of the Dog Creek/Canoe First Nation (Stswecem’c Xsat’tem ‘tn). Please respect their land by closing gates and heeding “no trespassing signs.”

Looking south towards the Fraser River Valley.

Some of the larger gullies have ATV tracks along the edges. This sage brush lined gully heads downslope to the Fraser River.

The larger gullies have small clearings that provide shelter from the wind and kindling for an evening fire. For an aromatic experience add a little fresh sage to your fire.

Looking west across the plateau.

The relentless wind, exposure to the cold and poor soils stunt the fir trees that dot the landscape.

Two firs fighting for survival. Even when half-dead, the one on the right provides perfect perches for raptors hunting field mice.

This young deer did not survive the winter or predators. The gullies are full of bone piles. A local rancher told me that many of these bones are from cattle that died years ago before they were routinely brought in for the winter. They used horses in those days, but now they use ATVs.

Prickly pear cacti cover the grasslands. I quickly learned that you should stick to the old roads and game/cattle trails. Once you go off trail you get into the cactus. I had to stop every one hundred meters or so to knock these sticky suckers off my tires. For longer trips, stick to well worn trails otherwise you will spend all your time fixing flats.

This spring has been cold, windy and wet. Every hour or so a cold wind would pick up, blowing a storm east across the plateau, then lightly rain on the upslope areas. The temperature dropped below zero at night: my winter sleeping bag was worth its weight!

Sunset over stormy mountains.

A lone horse greeted me on my return trip. These are not “petting farm” horses. They are wild and wary of dudes on bikes. Keep your distance.

For more information about mountain biking in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of British Columbia go to the Williams Lake Discovery Center Website. Next time you visit this community stop in at this unique visitor center and grab one of the many maps of the region. Also check out the fantastic all inclusive mountain bike tour of the south Chilcotin  offered by the Mountain Equipment CoOp. 

Mountain Biking North Nechako-Miworth

 

The iconic “cut banks” at the end of North Nechako road is your gateway to outdoor adventure. With miles of  roads and  trails, wildlife, scenic springs and ranches, and  a fascinating history, the North Nechako-Miworth area is an ideal Ride the Wild location!

You can start your adventure at two places;  the end of North Nechako road or from the McPhee/Chief Lake road junction. Once you pass the cut banks, North Nechako  becomes the Takla Forest Service Road, which heads north west, upslope, to McPhee  then north to Chief Lake road. A spur road runs south of Takla, just above the river, providing several access point to the Nechako river for the more adventurous (or those who like bush wacking).

Looking west down the cut banks

 

There is some great winter riding in this area.  Takla road is plowed up to the junction of the second access road on the left. Some  members of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation  live on-site at Clesbaoneecheck or Fort George Indian Reserve # 3. The Nechako river valley, as well as all of Prince George, lies within the traditional area of this First Nation. Please respect the land and those that live on it.

Some swans on Duck LAke

 

Local First Nations hunted for caribou, ducks and geese, as well as trapped and fished in this area. Indeed, as late as the 1900s there was a camp at Duck Lake where Lheidli T’enneh hunters lived. During the summer, Chief Louis also kept his horses here, so that they could graze on the grasses that covered the floodplain alongside of the river.

In the early 20th century,  settlers built a reaction ferry that could transport people across the river.  People could take the train from Prince George to Miworth (on the east side of the river) and for a few cents take  the ferry across. A reaction ferry consisted of two large connected pontoons that were attached to a cable system running from one side of the river to the other. The remains of this ferry can still be seen on the west shore of the big bend of the Nechako, opposite Wilkins Park.

Looking down McPhee Road

 

One of the ranches on McPhee Road

 

Looking east towards the bench land above the Nechako river valley

 

Some fallow pasture

 

McPhee creek is a small fish-bearing stream that descends to the Nechako river.  Just upstream of the second bridge are a series of springs. The warmer spring water prevents the river from freezing over during the winter.

Winter on the McPhee

McPhee creek crossing # 2

 

This area is rich in diversity. Eagles, kingfishers, ducks, swans, herons, moose, deer, bear (grizzly and black) and wolves all  inhabit the river valley and rich riparian areas. There is some great eagle viewing in the cottonwood trees just before and after the cut banks.

A winter wolf kill

This campsite provides great access to the Nechako river. First Nations and other locals often fish the Stuart River sockeye run at this spot. You can get to this camp by taking the spur road that runs south of Takla road, across the creek, then down the second trail on your left. This steep, short trail ends right at the river. Use flies or lures, casting from shore into the deep pools: you may catch a resident rainbow trout.

Are you interested in kicking your outdoor adventure up, a few notches? Then check out the University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern BC Adventures. From ghost towns to grizzly bears, these educational adventures get you into some of the most inaccessible places in northwest BC.

Fatbiking Tabor Lake & George Mountain

If you want to avoid  crowds and a get a winter wilderness riding experience only 30 minutes from downtown Prince George, then load up your FATBIKE and head out to the snowmachine trails on the east side of Tabor Lake and George Mountain. These trails  provide access to the lakes, backcountry cabins, scenic views, tough climbs, thrilling descents and the spectacular Tabor Mt. Recreation Area. Pack your winter survival gear and let’s ride!

Tabor Lake Trails

The east side of Tabor Lake has some fantastic winter riding on packed snowmachine trails as well as easy access to a lakeside camping and picnic spot. Park at the junction of Giscome and Groveburn road and ride south for approx. 3.5 km, past the gravel pit and the Tabor Mt. Forest Service Rd. junction. Approx. 100 meters past Tabor Mt. Creek, turn west on the narrow trail heading into the bush. This trail descends for several kms through birch, aspen and spruce stands, narrowing as it gets closer to the lake.

This campsite and picnic area provides a great view of the west side of the lake as well as space for several tents. You can explore the lake shore looking for animals tracks or simply chill out with a hot cup of coffee.

Shear ice can only be ridden with studded fat tires. However, crusty textured ice with a few inches of snow or sticky hard packed snow can be easily ridden with standard tires.

Looking north down the lake

This Pine Marten was undoubtedly hunting Snowshoe Hares along the shoreline.

These trails are not only used by snowmachines, x-country skiers and fatbikers but also wolves and moose.A winter wolf kill?

The wildest snow pillow I have ever seen.

  George Mt. Trails

George Mt. lies just to the south of Tabor Mt., and is within the Tabor Mt. Recreation Area. This 1200 meter mountain has great southern and western views and can be accessed by a series of well-maintained ATV/snowmachine trails; thanks to the efforts of the PG Snowmobile Club. This club is located at the end of Scott Rd., just north of the big turn on Buckhorn Rd.

The PG Snowmobile Club parking area provides  access to the trail network to the east. Alternatively, you can access these trails at the end of Klein Rd., a right (south) turn just before the big bend on Scott Rd.

Your gateway to a fatbiking adventure! This trailhead connects to a whole series of trails that run in all directions. Be sure to use the Tabor Mt. Recreation Society  map or a handheld GPS device. To the south of the clubhouse is the Schlitt Trail, named after the Schlitt Brothers Mill which operated in this area during the 1960s,  which runs south then east to the summit. This mill survived the massive 1961 “Grove Burn” fire that started to the west on the Buckhorn Rd.   This fire destroyed 23,000 acres of timber including almost all of Tabor Mt. At the same time another large fire burned to the east destroying an additional 33,000 acres of timber. Needles to say it was hot and smokey summer. A gentle climb through some aspen, birch, fir  and lodgepole pine stands.The Dougherty Creek crossing on the “Dorothy Trail.”

Fatbiking snowmachine trails is great winter adventure. In early winter, be sure to ride at least 10 days after a bid dump of snow. This will ensure that the trail is well packed by snowmachines. In late winter and early spring, fatbike in the morning when the snowpack is frozen  or crusty: this will make for some fast riding! Be prepared for some pushing or “hike-a-bike” and always tell someone where you are going.

For more info about the fantastic ATV/snowmachine trail networks throughout the Prince George area check out the PG ATV Club.

Summer is just around the corner, so start planning your adventure today. How about visiting  3 Incredible Rivers in Northern British Columbia. Whether you paddle, hike, swim, fish or picnic, you won’t be disappointed!

 

7 Favorite Forests and Trees

Trees and forests are iconic. From the Haida First Nations “Golden Spruce,” to the Druid’s “Sacred Oak” to 19th century Vancouver’s “Carey Fir,” trees have played a significant role in the material and cultural lives of people for millennia. As a former forestry consultant and all-around forest dweller, trees have played a significant role in my life standing as witness’s to my past, present and future. Think of a what a 300 year Douglas fir has seen, let alone a 1000 year old western red cedar? Enjoy some of my favorite trees. Perhaps you know where they are? These awesome organisms need no explanation.

If you would like to know how you can experience these trees yourself,  send me an email.

9 Bizarre, Creepy and Odd Things

When I explore BC’s backcountry, backroads and trails I typically encounter stunning forest-clad mountains, rivers, lakes and wildlife. Every now and then, however, I encounter the bizarre, unexplained, odd and even creepy. Check out these nine images and let me know what you think?

I found this demented frog doll on the Greenway trail one Spring. Can you imagine giving this to a child?

These guys thought driving to Goat Island on the Fraser river was a good idea.

I’m not sure what this is about, but apparently there are no moose down this road, west of Vivian Lake.

How did this abandoned van near McPhee road get flipped?

This roofless and doorless cabin is near UNBC.

This strange pipe is 20 km down the Bowron Forest Service Road. I wonder if there is a bunker down there?

An even bigger pipe near McPhee creek. This would make a great shelter!

What’s for dinner?

Smokey keeping the temperature low near Tatlayoko Lake, BC.

 

3 Tips for Warm and Safe Winter Riding

Northern winters are cold. Add two-wheeled adventure, wind chill and sweat and you have a bone chilling recipe.  I wear standard wool or synthetic base layers with a breathable shell (pants and coat), plus thin finger gloves underneath large insulated mitts. However, my feet still get cold even when wearing insulated winter boots.  I have discovered two simple remedies that has extended my riding time during -20 C winter days: insulated water bottles and neoprene socks. These two simple solutions will keep you rolling during cold winter rides.

 INSULATED WATER BOTTLES AND CAGES

Staying hydrated during winter riding not only helps with muscle performance, but also maintains your core temperature. Zefal’s Arctica insulated water bottles give you several hours of unfrozen water even at -20 C. Another option is to keep your water bottle in an insulated water bottle cage. Bar Mitt’s Winter Bot is a bottle cage within a 5 mm neoprene, zippered case. It too, keeps water unfrozen for several hours. Another way to extend your water life is to fill your bottle with HOT WATER. It’s free and actually works. It will also help to increase your core temperature.

NEOPRENE SOCKS

Neoprene socks act as vapor barriers preventing evaporation and cooling. I wear Mountain Equipment Co Op’s inexpensive, three millimeter sock over a merino wool wicking sock. A wicking layer is critical because you want to minimize the amount of sweat clinging to your feet. I can ride longer and more comfortably with neoprene socks.

ICE CLEATS

Freeze-thaw cycles are now a regular part of northern BC winters. Well used trails –especially those with a south aspect and open forest canopy—often ice over long before spring. Frozen lakes sometimes have shear ice or only a thin layer of uncohesive powder. These slippery situations can be avoided by wearing strap on cleats. I wear heel cleats on my cold winter boots and full-length cleats on my low cuts during warmer weather. Ice cleats allow you to get on and off of your bike without that annoying lateral slippage and they are essential for steep icy sections.

Devisys anti-slip Heelstops

COSCO full length rubber ice cleats

Neoprene socks and insulated water bottles will extend your winter rides. Ice cleats, will minimize dangerous slips on icy trails. However, acclimatization is also critical. Keep riding, even at -25 C. Wear lots of layers, and start peeling them off as your body temperature increases. Your body will eventually adapt and when it warms up, you will be riding with just a base layer, sweater and long tights!

For more info on winter fatbiking check out my post Winter Fatbike Fun at Outbound.com. Also, join my Facebook page Fatbike Freaks and get the latest info about fatbikes, gear and winter riding. 

7 Reasons to Winter Ride

Cold, blue-steel skies. The rhythmic sound of the drive train.  The soft crunch of tires on -20 Celsius snow.  Winter fatbiking can be an intense visual and tactile experience. More than that, you can access places that you just can’t get to during the summer and fall. Frozen lakes, wetlands and shorelines are just some of the cool features of winter riding in northern British Columbia. Get your boots and gloves on and lets ride.

Riding the perimeter of a frozen lake is a fantastic way of seeing something familiar but from a different perspective. Shoreline vegetation is dormant, naked and brittle brown. The deep is covered by a crunchy blanket of white. The lake seems less mysterious and more one dimensional. If you pick a remote lake, you will see no one: it can be quite eerie.

Animals are much easier to locate and track in the winter. Moose, red fox, coyotes, wolves and other species stand out against the frozen landscape. These bizarre tracks crossed the lake for a hundred meters then disappeared into an alder-choked wetland.

Forests look different in the winter. This stand of snow-pressed balsam fir and spruce collapsed over the trail taunting me to, “run the gauntlet.” I made it through unscathed. Mature conifers regularly fall down across the trail. No one, as far as I know, has ever been crushed on these trails.

Snow covered single track becomes smooth and flowy, once the roots, rocks and depressions are covered and packed down. There is very little snow this year, and these trails still rattle your cage.

Winter riding takes more effort and calories, especially on a fatbike with five inch tires. My legs burned during my first winter.

Winter is a relief from the always present bruin. If you live in grizzly and black bear country, you get to put away your bear spray after November. Oh yeah, the bugs are gone as well.

Building a fire, making hot coffee and starring at the embers is a great reward on a cold day. Humans have been doing this for millennia. The communal fire is where stories were told, wisdom shared and identity created: fire is primal. Take some time from your hectic, high-tech life to do this.

Winter riding can be intensely cold but also visually stunning. Frozen fingers and toes are offset by access to new areas, sights, sounds and  experiences. In the next couple of month looks for posts on how to stay warm while winter riding as well as essential gear for Riding the Wild!

Tsus Lakes Day Trip

The Tsus Lakes are a tiny lake chain in the heart of the northern Caribou mountains. Nestled between Spring mountain’s three peaks and an unnamed pyramid-shaped mountain to the south, this  valley has some fantastic views and is  an  easy 25 km ride from the parking area.  The Tsus Lakes are perfect for the adventure mountain biker or bikepacker.

The Tsus Lakes valley is west of the Bowron river and only 62 km east of Prince George. Turn on the Cutoff Road Forest Service Road on the south side of the highway just before the Bowron River bridge. You can either park by the highway pullout or a few kilometers down the road at the Coalmine Forest Service Road junction.

Matt and I picked a cool and sunny fall day to explore this area. The Coalmine FSR runs east towards the Bowron river, then south. The first dozen kilometers are characterized by a rolling plateau through stands of young lodgepole pine, aspen and some spruce. We found some cool sand dunes on the east side of the road, not far from where we parked. Matt was thrilled to ride his brand new fatbike on these dunes. A lone wolf liked the dunes as well!

An interesting mountain peak in the Bowron river valley.

Looking west towards Spring mountain. There is a great campsite at this un-named lake.Some snow-capped mountains off in the distance. The access road to the Tsus Lakes valley is a deactivated road that branches off of the Coalmine FSR. This is a rarely used road that narrows to ATV width. All the culverts and bridges have been removed which  makes for some fun stream crossings.

A narrow track winds through the trees down to the campsite on northern most lake. There are some great views of the tree clad mountains to the west. It is unusual to see un-logged terrain anywhere in the Prince George region. There is a great campsite beside the lake as well.

As you ride west along the lake chain, you begin to gain elevation. The toe slope on the east side has transitional welt-belt ecosystems with mature western red cedar,  hemlock and a thick moss-covered forest floor.

As you approach the last lake,  the trail becomes crowded with alder saplings. Be sure to wear eye and hand protection.

The sun was behind us on the ride home. I’m always smiling when riding.

With picturesque lakes, forest-clad slopes and snow-covered mountain peaks, the Tsus Lakes area is fantastic for day-tripping  or overnight bike camping. Be sure to use Google Earth for route planning and carry a SPOT GPS Device when riding.
If your interested in some stellar riding in the Rocky Mountains then go to Three Must Explore Mountain Towns on Flightnetwork.com’s travel blog.
You can learn about blogging or publishing your adventures, at UNBC’s upcoming Outdoor Adventure Writing and Blogging Workshop at our Prince George campus. Taught by veteran adventurer Vivien Lougheed, this class and field-based workshop will help you take transform your outdoor experiences and photos into a compelling written narrative.

Three Days Riding in the Rockies

This October I took a road trip to Canmore, Alberta to participate in the first ever “Bike Pack Summit,” a conference that focused on adventuring riding or mountain bike touring (multi-day trips on a mtb). I drove and rode some of the most spectacular scenery that western Canada has to offer including Mcbride, BC,  Jasper National Park, the Columbia ice fields, Banff National Park and Canmore. Join me while we Ride the Wild!

A beam of light passes over my bike during an early morning sunrise stop at McBride’s Beanery 2 Bistro.

During World War 2, this glacier was only a few hundred meters from the parking area on Highway 93 South.

Crushed by a glacier and beaten down by the wind, these moraines consist of hard packed, frozen sand and gravel.  You can easily ride along the wind packed peaks.

Looking at the terminal moraine. The glacier is just beyond this point.

In Canmore, bike shops serve coffee (sell the farm honey were moving to Canmore). Meet Adam Zeddy a mountain bike and coffee sales guy at Bicycle Cafe CanmoreHe served me an awesome double Americano that was smooth, full bodied and had a caramel finish. Needles to say, I had coffee there every day!

The Canmore Bikepack Summit was hosted by Rebound Cycle. We gathered in a big tent beside the bike shop for talks and refreshments, each day.

This gathering of adventure nuts, long distance racers, back country riders and expedition junkies was colegial, informative and fun. We had sessions about bike break downs, nutrition, long distance routes, gear,  riding with kids and the always contentious issue of trail access. The group rides…well check out the photos they tell it all.

The view from Rebound Cycle.

Crossing the Bow River while riding the Legacy Trail.

A Group ride traffic jam.

When I smile like this I’m really happy!

The Three Sisters mountains and a Fatbike.

I pushed my bike up this section for approx. 1 km before realizing that I was on the wrong trail. Needless to say, I never caught up with the group ride.

I thought this washout would be a great shortcut back to the valley bottom.

Between a rock and a great place!

If your interested in learning more about multi-day mountain bike trips into the backcountry then attend next years Canmore Bikepack Summit. Go to their Facebook page for more info.

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley also has some great trails to explore. Browse Four to Explore Trails in the Okanagan on Flightnetwork.com’s travel blog and plan your next adventure to this hot and dry part of the province.

 

16 Favorite Photos from Riding the Wild in Northern BC

Winter is right around the corner and now I am preparing for a several  winter  Ride the Wild adventures. Here are some of my favorite  photos from this last year. Enjoy!

The Fraser River at low water
These guys should have been riding fatbikes instead of a fatcat SUV!

The Buckhorn area, southeast of Prince George, has some great views of the Caribou Mountain Range to the east.

Need I say more?

The Bear Lake area, north or Prince George, has some great sand riding. This area was the northern shoreline of a glacial lake that once covered the central interior following the big  melt during the late Pleistocene.

Jasper National Park has tonnes of trails and great views.

Did I say Northern BC? Sorry, this kitsch shot is from Audra Petersen’s rental cabin in the Tatlayoko Valley, southwest of Williams Lake.

Tatlayoko Lake

Light at the end of the tunnel

 The slopes east and west of Okanagan Lake, in  Kelowna, provide some fantastic and interesting views.

The Chub Lake area, just south of Prince George, has some great country riding through pastures and aspen stands. You may even run into other kinds of riders.

The Beatton River Valley, east of Fort St. John, has some big visuals if your willing to push your bike up a %45 slope for a kilometer or more.

My  bike was impounded recently and I was charged with “having too much fun” at Heart Lake Provincial Park in the heart of the Rockies.

A “green-dot” Sunset over Charlie Lake