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

Tatlayoko Lake: A South Chilcotin Paradise

Grey craggy peaks, forest clad slopes and a crystal clear lake paved with cobblestones awaits you in the Chilcotin. If you’re a bikepacker or adventure rider who likes rustic rental cabins and old fashioned western hospitality, then Tatlayoko Lake should be your next weekend getaway.

This glacier-fed lake lies between the coast mountain’s “Niut Range” and the interior’s  “Potatoe Range,” three hours southwest of William’s Lake. Tatlayoko Valley is south facing  and covered with Douglas fir, pine, trembling aspen and grassy meadows filled with lazy cattle. This is a ranching community with approximately 75 mailboxes, but many go unused. The lake is also a hot windsurfing destination.

We rented a rustic loft from Audra Peterson, a local school teacher and former ecologist. Audra and her partner Don live off of home-grown veggies and wild game. They are healthy, wonderful people.

Every morning a friendly mountain horse and an intense sunrise to the west greeted us. Coffee and oatmeal never tasted so good.

Rustic outbuildings with snowshoes, antlers and skulls dotted the ranch. All the major apex predators such as black and grizzly bear as well as wolves inhabit this area. Old logging roads provide access to the slopes on both sides of the valley and lake. The lake is any easy seven kilometer ride from the cabin. If you continue riding south down Tatlayoko road you will find some great Forest Service Recreation sites as well as a community picnic area with outhouses, beach access and even a ball diamond (only used by deer at this point).

 

 

The north and east shores of the lake are perfect for exploration on a fatbike or any mountain bike with 3 inch or bigger tires. We found deer and bear tracks along the shore. The meadows and wetlands to the north of the lake are a critical Grizzly bear corridor.

Range fences seem to run forever down the valley.

The entire west side of the lake is a Nature Conservancy conservation zone that is jointly managed for ranching and biodiversity values.

I am definitely revisiting this area next summer for a 3 day bikepack traverse around the lake. I can’t wait to sleep on the beach! For more info about this area check out:

Tatlayoko Ranch Nature Conservancy

Camping and Recreation Sites

Audra’s Cabin Rental-Air B&B

War Falls to Carp Lake Provincial Park

This stunning waterfall is only a 2.5 hour drive northwest of Prince George. With roadside parking, a smooth 1 km single-track through a spruce and fir forest and accessible swimming, War Falls on the McLeod River may be the best waterfall in the region. If you add a 10 km ride to Carp Lake, you have a great summer day trip for the adventure mountain biker!

From Prince George, drive approximately 2 hours north on the Yellowhead Highway and follow the signs west into the First Nations community of McLeod Lake. Cross the bridge, drive past the large gas bar and continue west on Carp Lake road. For the first few km’s, the well-maintained gravel road runs through a logged area, then narrows and winds through the timber until the trail head at the 23 km mark. This narrow section is quite scenic.

Single-track trail heading down into the river valleyFirst set of falls

Second set of falls

The last set of falls can be observed from a small platform with access to a rocky beach

Looking downstream to the northeast

We met Luke and Nicole at the falls. They walked into the falls with their clothes and boots on and swam around for quite a while. We spent several hours swimming in the falls and exploring the riparian area, downstream. Carp Lake Provincial Park is an easy ride approximately 10 km west of the falls. War Lake is half-way between the falls and Carp Lake. It has a nice beach and camping area.

My typical speed on my Specialized Fatboy fatbike

Carp Lake is a wilderness lake, with only one access. There are campsites, up on a bench, along the eastern edge of the lake. Small trails descend 50 or so meters to docks along the lake. There are also campsites that you can boat to.

Chillin on the dockDwarf Blueberries alongside the road

Fore more information about War Falls and Carp Lake Provincial Park go to:

Carp Lake & War Falls

Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail Day Trip

No, the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail is not a slick, clayey brake clogging trail, but rather one that runs from the Fraser River, south of Prince George, to Bella Coola, west of the coast mountains. The grease is “Oolichan oil,” or the oil extracted by First Nations from a tiny ocean fish called the Oolichan (candle fish). This precious commodity was traded between coastal and interior First Nations via. an extensive trail network. Alexander Mackenzie utilized this trail (after being guided by local First Nations) on his famous expedition to the Pacific in the 1770s. Hence the trails secondary name: the Alexander Mackenzie Trail.

I accessed the trail at the 107 km on the Batnuni Forest Service Road. This single-track and ATV trail winds through some beautiful country and makes a fantastic day trip for the adventure rider.

This trail begins on a narrow bench of pine and spruce, paralleling the road,  then quickly descends into a lowland with a series of wetlands of varying size, just north of Cotsworth Lake. Almost immediately you have to cross a slow moving creek-so be prepared to get wet.

Creek crossing # 1.

After the first crossing, the trail runs along a small ridge that skirts most of the wetlands. The grass covered trail and white trembling aspens contrast sharply against the blue sky and grey waters.

Eventually, you have to cross another creek, this one was thigh deep and running a lot faster. Check out the video of my dangerous river crossing!

 Getting Wet

This unnamed lake has a great campsite.

 Unless you want to join Alice in Wonderland, I don’t recommend eating the Panther amanitas growing alongside the trail

Yarrow grows alongside the trail. At approximately 6 kms the trail crosses another channel between two wetlands, just south of the east end of Titetown Lake. While only two feet deep, this crossing is about 60 meters wide!

Scattered alongside of the trail are many trees with old blazes on them. Called Culturally Modified Trees (CMT) by Archaeologists, some of these trees were scarred by local First Nations (Nazko) to mark the location of a trail or to harvest cambium (inner bark), an important source of carbohydrates. Some are so old that they have completely healed over.

Time to dry out the shorts.

You can ride the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease trail aprroximately 20 km to Kluskoil Lake, and farther,  or take the ATV track the ascends onto a ridge that runs along the east side of Titetown Lake. This part of the trail affords some great views of the lake and the Nechako plateau as well as the tiny community that lives nearby.

Titetown Lake community.

An ever present reminder that bikes will outlive cars!

The Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail is a smooth relaxing ride through some beautiful wetland and lake country only a couple hours south of Prince George. It has numerous campsites, good access and is rarely used. For more info about this trail go to..

Grease Trail

Alexander Mackenzie Trail

Grizzly Bear (Red) Mnt. Weekend

Well known for its Grizzly bears and caribou, Grizzly Bear  or Red Mnt. towers over the historic community of Penny, a couple hours east of Prince George. To the west, of this peak is a fully stocked public cabin primarily used by backcountry skiers. The 12 km ride into this cabin is ideal for the self-sufficient adventure mountain biker who is willing to gravel grind up some tough trails. This cabin provides great access into the McGregor Mnts. alpine tundra and views of extensive subalpine parkland.

First opened in 1916, the Penny post office serviced the community that developed alongside the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Today, mail is delivered to the 10 or so people that live in this community via the CN Railway Company.
The route (ignore my detour to the west of the main trail).

This ATV width trail begins just few hundred meters north of the post office and winds through a rolling bench for several kms then descends into Red Mnt. Creek. This area is the northern tip of BC’s Temperate Inland Rainforest and is dominated by large, old western red cedars. Riding through these towering cedars is like riding through the columns in a  medieval cathedral.

This cabin was closed for the season.

Time to load up on the carbs.

Like the trail itself, the railing of the Red Mnt. Creek bridge appears to go on forever.

Eventually the trail leaves the rolling toe slope and switchbacks steeply upslope for several kms. There are some good  viewpoints of the Fraser River and the McGregor Mnts. to the south.Where’s the trail?

Be prepared to push your bike uphill from the 10.5 km marker to the cabin at 12 km. This section is the steepest part of the ride and my legs simply couldn’t do it, but maybe yours could.
At 3200 feet elevation, you  get great views of the subalpine parkland to the north.
At 5000 feet you begin to descend into a depression where the cabin is located.

After 6 hours and 19 minutes I finally arrived at the cabin!

So why did I haul my camp stove and pot uphill for 6 hours? This cabin is fully stocked with everything you need to spend the night (except your food and clothes).

A killer view from the dillapitated outhouse. Please note that there was no toilet paper!

The trail through towering cedars, views,  access to subalpine parkland and the “all inclusive” cabin makes this grueling 12 km ride worthwhile. While I didn’t see any grizzly bear, I did see a white wolf on the ride down: perhaps a good sign for my next adventure? For more information about this trail and the public cabin check out:

Prince George Backcountry Recreation Society

For a detailed trail guide you can purchase Rob Bryce’s book “Hiking North Central BC,” available at a bookstore near you:

Order Here

Goat-River Gong Show & McBride Mnt. Madness

McBride Mnt., located approximately 2.5 hrs east of Prince George, is a tough climb but has some interesting alpine areas to explore as well as fantastic views of the Rocky Mnts. and Robson Valley. On the drive we decided to drop in at the Goat River historic trail for a bit of a warm up.

Dave and I geared up on a cool and cloudy Saturday afternoon

The Goat River Trail was first used by First Nations as a route between the Upper Fraser River and the Bowron Lakes area. CPR surveyors and miners kept this trail open during the mid to late-1800s. We accessed the trail at the parking lot adjacent to the outlet of the Milk River. However, it became clear that this trail was not MTB friendly.

The junction of the Milk and Goat River

Quartz CreekDave crushin it through dense thimbleberry, alder and cow parsnip

The trail was characterized by muddy, brush-covered single-track with large smooth slippery boulders and skinny’s over marshy, mucky sections. Dave bailed and later told me that he had bruised ribs from a soccer game:/ We pushed our bikes most of the time. After a couple of kms we decided to take a quick picture at the Goat River and head back. Note to self: this is a hiking trail only! Off to McBride Mnt.

While one could ride the full 12 km road to the start of the alpine, we decided to park at the 6 km cabin where we would spend the night.

The road up McBride Mnt. is hard packed sand and gravel, with many sections of loose gravels and stones with exposed angular bed rock. It is also steep, running minimum 7% and some times up to 15% slope.

Typical steep switch back

The views improve as you ascend the mountain

It was raining in the Robson Valley as we road out of the subalpine

At 12 km, we began a tough 2 km push into the alpine. The summit of McBride Mnt. was in the clouds.

Looking west at an alpine ridge

Made it to the rebuilt fire lookout

The weather began to turn as we reached the fire lookout. The temperature dropped to about 5 degrees C  and the wind picked up. We decided to head back to the cabin. It snowed in the alpine later that weekend. Needless to say the 8 km downhill ride was fast and bumpy-my hands were aching by the time we reached the cabin.

This is one of the best, easily accessed campsites that I have every been to. Check out the views…

Looking south into the Rockies

Sweet and spicy peanut sauce on rice noodles with pepperoni. A bikepacking standard for me.

Getting out of the rain

While Dave and I were setting up camp, two guys rolled in on road bikes. Meet John and Brad: two Californians who came to BC to ride all of its toughest mountain peaks (25 I think). They are part of a cycling community called Pjammcycling. They had no idea that the road up McBride Mnt. was unpaved-but they road it anyways. We had a chat, shared some dinner  and wished them well. These guys are hard core!

McBride Mnt. is a tough ride, but provides awesome access to the alpine and great camping. For more info check out:

McBride Peak Info

Pjammacycling