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. 

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.

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

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