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

Exploring Northern BC by Bike

On the long weekend, I spent a couple of days exploring the back roads and trails in the Opatcho Lake area, just south of Prince George. In the early 1960s, a massive fire called the Tsus or Groveburn fire burned thousands of hectares in this area and Northeast to Tabor Mnt. Firefighting, salvage logging and reforestation efforts resulted in a patchwork of openings and roads. In recent years, local hiking, ATV and snowmobile clubs have maintained a network of awesome doubletrack trails and access roads.

While there was little snow on the main access road, Francis Lake was still frozen.

 

My plan was to ride the Francis Lake Trail for 8 km, then find a camp spot along the river, however, the snow was too deep and soft. In this case, I backtracked and rode Buckhorn road to Opatcho road, then up  to the lake.

St. Marys Lake.

I had the campsite at Opatcho Lake all to myself. However, because of a cold wind coming off of the lake, I built my camp a 100 meters away in the timber.

 

After cutting a good supply of firewood, I had a late lunch. There is no shortage of firewood in this area and a camp stove is not necessary–this is a great way to save weight when bike packing. A good handsaw is critical however.

If you ride south along Apatcho road, you can get some great views looking east  towards the Caribou Mnt. range.

That evening I watched the sunset.The temperature dropped rapidly and the overnight lows were around -4 c. The atmosphere was crystal clear and the stars, stunning! Sometime after midnight I was woken by coyote howls, followed by wolves. Great Horned and Screech owls also added to the night time symphony.

Given my research interests in Forest History I had to check out this old mill site were they processed much of the salvaged timber. Given that this site is covered with bits of metal and broken glass, my spidey senses warned me not to ride into into it: I should have listened, by the next morning I had a flat:(

Other than two trucks and an ATV that drove into the campsite, I did not see anyone else in the bush. This is typical of Northern BC. If you would like an opportunity to explore this part of the world check out UNBC’s Educational Adventure programs running this spring and summer: Educational Adventures

Interested in some northern BC adventure? Then book your flights, hotel and rental cars from FlighNetwork.com.

Go to http://www.flightnetwork.com/flights/ for more info.

Introduction to Ride the Wild

In this five-day tour you will ride some of the best downhill and x-country trails in the Prince George, Burns Lake and Smithers area. Full transportation including an on-mountain shuttle will be provided. Riders will also get the opportunity to browse local bike shops and ride with trail experts. Accommodations, breakfasts and lunches will be provided in each community and every evening you will get an opportunity to experience local food and culture. Additionally, there will be several evening seminars by guest speakers on a range of MTB and outdoor adventure related topics. You will be riding in Black and Grizzly bear country, therefore all participants are required to complete UNBC’s online Bear Awareness and Safety course (included ) before attending the tour.

Skill Level: This tour is for intermediate to expert riders only, 19 years of age or older.

Photo: Razorback Trail, Boer Mnt., Burns Lake, BC (Margus Rega 2014)