Carry on my wayward son..

I had literally not slept that deeply in months. I was dead to the world for a solid 10 hours and awoke warm, dry, and comfortable. After a quick breakfast and coffee I started my new found morning ritual of packing and strapping my haggard gear to my noble steed.

I couldn’t be more grateful Josef and Janna who before I left made sure to fill my pack with snacks, hot packs, and an extra vest to keep me warm. Without them I am honestly not sure I would have finished the trip. I no longer wanted to go home but yearned for the dusty trail.

I left my hosts around 9:30 with the goal to be in Horsefly to meet my uncle at 5:30. I planned on a short stint on the highway from 70 mile House to Lac la Hache, but other than that my journey would be off road. I turned off the main highway and entered what seemed to be a place lacking any sinister foreboding, Deadman’s Valley.

It turns out Deadman’s Valley was a truly gorgeous place. It is a rather unexpected gem amidst the arid Kamloops region and had lush, green cattle pastures along a lazy little river. (Deadman’s River, who would have thought?)  The coolest part of the valley were the hoodoo’s that littered the area. (See the featured image)

I exited the valley via the deactivated Brigade FSR and was headed towards Loon Lake. This was when everything decided to start getting damp. I can sum up the entire Brigade FSR with two words; puddles and mud. I eventually got to Loon Lake road and ended up meeting an older fellow, Mike, and his golden retriever riding a side-by-side. It looked like they had been in about 2-3 feet of mud. The poor pooch was so muddy I could barely confirm that he was indeed golden. It turns out Mike was also from Langley. He lives about 5 km away from me.

Carrying on, I run into my first mechanical. The one bolt I didn’t put a nylock or loctite on for mounting my LED’s loosened off. Kyle would have read me the riot act for letting this happen. Almost every trip him and I go on, something of mine falls apart. I suppose I will never learn. Since my tool bag is in the bottom of my saddle bags, and everything needed to be emptied out, I stopped for lunch. I ate a dehydrated Santa Fe style Chicken I got from a good friend Eric that I went to BCIT with. It’s two years expired.

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I fix the light, pack up and head on my merry way. About 10 km later I miss my turn off. Turn around, miss it again. 3rd times the bloody charm.  The FSR I turn onto is the Old Caribou Highway and it’s in rough shape. It’s super wet,muddy and slippery. Riding along, I see some crap on the side of the road and 3 HUGE ravens take off. I figure it’s garbage until I get a bit closer. Smellovision, my god this this reeeeeks. I thought at first was bovine but it’s actually a moose cow. Too bad old girl.

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I pass the moose and eventually get to 70 mile house around 12:30. So far I’ve done about 120 km off road. I jump on the highway and burn up to Lac la Hache. Bit of rain and wind but manageable, I’ve been through worse. I fuel up, touch base with my uncle via text and head up towards Spout Lake. I’m off road within 10 km. I was farting along, taking in the sights and came across a lady in an explorer towing a tree off the road. She has Alberta plates and claims that her parents had a cabin around here. I helped out getting the tree off the road and wrapping up the tow strap. I’m glad I didn’t have to try to pull it out of the way with my bike.

My next stop was at a lake, I don’t know the name anymore but I think it was Macintosh or Macintyre. I had stopped to repair my mirrors which needed tightening desperately. The paint in ball joint wore out causing them to flap around all over the place. I took the chance to grab some lake water to rinse off the lights which were completely covered in mud. It was surprisingly warm! I took my wet boots and socks off and put my feet in the water for a bit.

I got to Horsefly with time to spare, rolled in at 4:00. I parked outside the town’s general store and got a Pep n’ Ched, an orange tea (KTM of course), and chapstick. My lips are getting haggard. While I was waiting outside, a crazy old lady with a lassie dog came along. She asked if I had a band aide so I hooked her up. She tried to give me her dog but I convinced her that lassie would not enjoy riding on a bike. She told me that she only had lassie for 3 months and saved her from her previous owners who cut vocal chords, had her chained up outside without shelter, and regularly beat her. There is a special place in hell for people like that. Even though lassie wasn’t leashed or tied up, and the crazy lady kept saying “Run away lassie!”, I can tell she really loved that dog.

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My uncle eventually rolls up and we head out to his cabin. 40 km up to Quesnel lake and we get to Plato Island Resort. He has a nice little 25 ft trailer with a surrounding building that boasts a covered deck and patio. It’s right on the beach. We chatted about life and freedom and happiness. Get to sleep, warm and dry on a pull out couch in a heated trailer. Life is good.

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Totally unprepared am I

I woke up wanting to go home. I had barely slept that night. I was so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering and had to curl into a ball in order to get warm enough to fall asleep. I had only packed a 0 degree sleeping bag and it must have been about 4 or 5 degrees out. The thing with sleeping bag ratings is that they base them off what will keep you alive, not comfortable.

Getting out of my tent I noticed that everything I had was either damp or soaked through. So I rung out what I could and packed everything up. The guys I had camped next to were still out cold and I left without saying goodbye. Maybe they’ll think I was just a drunken illusion.

The plan for the day was to get to Kamloops for lunch at 12. I was meeting an old boss and mentor, Josef, from a summer job I had at TRIUMF a few years ago. I took a FSR between the Coquihalla and the Merritt -Princeton highway through the Kane Valley area. The sun made an appearance and it wasn’t too cold, I could feel the negativity from last night starting to fade away. It was a beautiful area that has lots of cross country skiing during the winter.

I traveled through without incident but found out that while riding semi-aggressively off-road, the 690’s fuel range is only about 165 km before the reserve light came on, what the hell KTM? As I was heading into Merritt I was flagged down by a French guy on a Yamaha R1. He had run out of fuel about 3 km away from the fuel station. I carry three 1L fuel bottles with me just in case and gave him one. He really wanted to pay me for it but I told him to just keep passing the karma along. He seemed satisfied with that. He was fairly worse for wear, having ridden in from Chilliwack that morning through torrential downpour. As we were refueling him, a newer F350 (diesel of course) pulled up about 5 car lengths behind us. Turns out he had run out of fuel too which if I remember correctly really sucks on a diesel as they need a fuel system bleed to get all the air out and get it running again. Unfortunately, spare diesel isn’t something I typically carry with me.

By the time I had Mr. French fueled up and stopped for my own refuel in Merritt it was about 11AM. Kamloops is about 100 km away so I knew that I wasn’t going to get a chance to take any back roads if I wanted to meet Josef in time. I opted to take the 5A which is a curvy, more scenic route than the Coquihalla. This road was so much fun I didn’t have any interest in stopping for photos and just enjoyed the high speed twisties. About 30 km away from Kamloops I hit the rain, or rather the rain smacked me. I got completely soaked through and was shivering so badly I could barely keep my bike on the road. By the time I got into Kamloops I was again wanting to go home.

I managed to meet up with Josef for 12 on the dot and we got caught up and had a great lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years but it didn’t seem as though we had missed a beat. He was able to tell that I was having a pretty tough time so far and kindly offered for me to crash at his place for the night, have a hot meal, and dry out my gear. It turns out that his place was near Savona, which was on my route and at this point I was not excited about spending another night in the cold and wet so I accepted his offer.

When I arrived at Josef’s place I was warmly greeted by him, his wife Janna, and their little dog Toby. They were super accommodating and I can’t thank them enough for getting my img_4234trip back on track. I realized how incredible unprepared I was for the weather and navigation, so we all spent the evening sorting out my GPS, the SPOT tracker (which
hadn’t been taking logs properly), and Josef even found me an old warm vest to wear under my jacket so I wouldn’t get hypothermia and die. They also had an orange cat that reminds me of my own, except that their cat isn’t a little shit.

I’m incredibly humbled at how my cockiness going into the trip almost cut it short. My big take away from this is to be more prepared for a long trip that you know is already going to be hard enough on its own.

I was given my own room with a super warm, comfy, and dry bed. I fell asleep almost instantly. Life is good.

I’m lost…

If you remember from one of my previous posts, Adventure is just bad planning, I figured that bad planning was what made a big adventure. I found out what else makes for a good adventure: ignorance, confidence, and brute force.

I left Boston Bar around 8:30. From there it was about 60 km to Gillis Lake, what should have been about an hour or so. I’ve done the route a few times before, like I’ve mentioned, so I turned up my mental radio, cranked the hooliganism, and brapped along like the seasoned Dakar rider I imagine myself to be.

I really like night riding. Kyle and I did this route in the dark a few years ago with me riding my old bike with poor lighting and it was still a great time. This time around with twelve Cree LED’s to supplement my stock headlight I was unstoppable. The cool thing about night riding is that the most dangerous hazards on the road are mitigated, logging trucks and other drivers. They are either at home sleeping or they also have their big lights on meaning we can see each other from around corners fairly easily. The other awesome thing about night riding is that it allows you to see the topography of the road better. Obstacles, big and small, will cast shadows allowing you to quickly and easily judge the severity of a obstacle based on the size of the shadow it throws. In the sunlight, everything tends to blend in making it hard to judge hole or bump size.

Something about night riding and being a hooligan is that as soon as you pick up the front end of the bike, you go blind. Correction, you can see the tree tops and the roads corridor, but not the road itself. Its frightening as hell the first, second and third time you do it, but after that you know what you’re getting into and start doing it just for shits and giggles to keep you awake and on your toes. An old Baja 500 veteran when asked how he combats fatigue and drowsiness while he’s racing said “Drive faster. Drive faster than you ever have before and be scared. You can’t fall asleep if you’re afraid for your life.”

Around the 18 km mark (featured image) on the Uztlius (pronounced Useless) FSR I stopped for a water break and to grab a couple photos. When I stopped here I almost dropped my bike. About three of the rocks around me jumped out of the way and startled the shit out of me.

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These green bastards almost made me drop my bike for the first time! Why the hell they were sitting in the middle of the road is beyond me, it seems like a rather miserable place to be for a slimy hopper. Anyway being the kind character I am, I took it upon myself to heard them off the road and into the ditches. I can see it now, Mark Preddy, professional Frog Herder. Toad Wrangler perhaps, I don’t my know mammalia very well..

So after saving Kermit and Mr. Toad, I fired up my noise maker and carried on my merry way. Around the 35 km mark I reached a T in the road. I remembered that there were two major T’s that I have to pass to get to Gillis, right at the first, left at the second. Dewdney FSR goes right and Dean Fire FSR goes left. I didn’t remember which is the right name, but lets go right. Thanks memory. I went about two or three km along Dewdney. Shit. I didn’t recognize anything… (maybe that’s because its dark you knob)

I turned around and went up Dean Fire. Cue ignorance and confidence. I carried on that way for too long. About 10-20 km up Dean Fire I knew I had messed up, I should have been at Gillis by now and absolutely nothing is familiar. I admitted defeat and opened up my GPS.

My GPS system is a Nexus 7 tablet with the BackCountry Navigator app in a water proof case known as a Ziploc bag. The app depends on you pre-downloading maps so you can use it in an offline environment. You know like at 10 PM in the middle of the woods, in the pitch black, and in the rain. Did I mention it started to rain? Well it had, not much but enough to slightly, dampen, my spirits.. Sorry. Anyway for some reason the maps I downloaded weren’t showing up. Shit. I could still sort of see where I was when I zoomed way out from a previously cached overview map I had. I ended up having to use this in conjunction with a PDF version of a Backroads Mapbook

I realized that I was way off course but my latitude is approximately correct. I saw that there were some little spur roads that looked like I could make it through to the road Gillis is on, Murray Lake FSR. Cue brute force.

Damn it. I had put on about 25 km trying to follow little spur roads to the main road. The GPS does an automatic rotate that makes it hard to follow where exactly you are because your frame of reference is always changing. (I’m used to using paper maps) I was good and properly turned around and found myself at the end of a power line trail with no turn around and steep drop offs on either side. I dropped the bike for the first time trying to turn around here. Following some obscenities, arm flailing, and general brush and undergrowth vandalism I got the bike turned around and out of there. Remember when I mentioned it had started to rain, but not much? Well Mother Nature apparently had enough of me that night with my obscenities, arm flailing, and general brush and undergrowth vandalism so she opened the heavens and started trying to drown me. It was about 11:30 at this point.

I decided that Dean Fire is what screwed me over. I tried following my tracks back to the T but they are mostly washed away by this point. My goggles were all fogged up so I was stuck with just my glasses which don’t protect my face from the rain, which really hurts by the way. I had to do a bunch of extra back tracking and GPSing to eventually found my way back to Dewdney but I prevailed and found my way to Murray Lake FSR. This time I knew which way I was going. Left. Everything was familiar for a change!

It was about 12:30 when I finally rolled into Gillis. Only took 3 hours and 80 km extra than “planned”. The main campground was full and everyone was asleep. Sorry for waking everybody up. I went to the upper campground on the other side of the lake and there was a raging bonfire with a bunch of people partying around it! I pulled up, jumped off the bike, and ripped off my helmet as I walked over to their bonfire. Screw social niceties, I was freezing and needed this fire.

Turns out it was a stag party for some dude named Jay! They were all from Surrey and once they heard I was from Langley and that I road up from Langley on the back roads, I was adopted into the party. Beers were had, I met a guy named Steve, and got to eat some tortilla chips. I have no idea what happened to Jay, never met him. He must have partied to hard and passed out early.

I went back to my bike to setup my tent after promising to return shortly. I didn’t make it it back. I made the mistake of stretching out in my sleeping bag for a few moments as soon as I got into dry clothes and fell fast asleep.

 

Let the adventure begin!

I left Langley September 1st around 4 PM. My plan for that night was to get to Gillis Lake which is just south of Merritt. I wanted to take the back roads to Harrison Hot Springs, take a series of FSR’s to Boston Bar then take another series of FSR’s over to Gillis Lake. Harrison to Boston Bar is about 125 km and Boston Bar to Gillis is about 60 km. I’ve already done this route a few times over the past couple years, both on a bike and in a jeep so I’m quite confident in getting there trouble free.

Driving to Harrison was fairly uneventful, but I felt like I was racing several opponents. First was the weather. Dark, sinister clouds seemed to always be looming just above me and I had to continuously outrun them if I wanted to stay dry. Second was the traffic, back roads traffic gets aggressive during rush hour! Turns out there are a lot of people trying to avoid back ups on Number 1. My third and final opponent was myself; I felt like I was already behind before I started. I guess that came from all the trouble I had with my old bike which ended up delaying the trip.

I stopped at the gas station in Harrison to fuel up both myself and the bike. I got some cheap coffee and ate my dinner (day old sushi out of a ziplock baggie). While I was devouring my gourmet meal, a few people swing by and say hi. First were a couple getting a head start on the long weekend with their UTV and ATV. The guy commented that he wishes he had the simplicity of packing light like me (I guess he hadn’t seen my previous post on packing). My other visitor was an older guy in a van who wanted to know how far he had to go up on the FSR to find a clear cut that was a few years old. It was a strangely specific question so I probed a bit. Turns out he’s a career mushroom picker and some of the best shrooms can be found near old pine wood piles. Who would have thought?

I left Harrison heading for Boston Bar around 5:30. I got a few good photos along the way, best being the image above between the 20-30 km mark. The rest of the trek was fairly uneventful and I found myself on the Nahatlatch river just before dark.

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I bomb down the FSR headed into Boston Bar and almost run into some deer who were conveniently located in the middle of the road. They were nice enough to pose for a terrible photo. Shortly after this they climbed straight up the slope on the left. I have no idea how they manage to be so agile. I can barely coordinate two legs let alone four.

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Just as it officially gets dark, I come over a crest in the road and get a distant view of the bustling metropolis that is Boston Bar.

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I rode down into Boston Bar with high spirits and enthusiasm. So far the weather has cooperated, I haven’t fallen, I’ve made great time, and I haven’t got lost. Unfortunately for me, all of that was about to change…

Home and dry-ish

Well I’m not dead. The elements didn’t get me, nor did the animals, nor did my own foolishness. Although they did all try few times, especially my own foolishness.

Expect updates and photos over the next couple weeks. For now, I’m going to kick back, order some pizza, and binge watch some X-Files. Notice something missing? Past Mark drank all of future Mark’s beer. Dick.

It’s 1000 km to Prince George, I’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of beef jerky, it’s getting dark, and I’m wearing tinted goggles.

Hit it.

I’m aiming for Gillis tonight which following my route is about 250 km, 175 km of that off-road. I’ve been trying to be optimistic about the weather but it looks like there is no way around it, I’m going to be getting a bit damp. I also took a look at the weather a couple days from now and it looks like I’ll be riding through a couple thunderstorms as well.

For some reason trench foot, pneumonia, and hypothermia are all at the front of my mind. That bear attack is starting to look like the easy way out.

Wish me luck.

If you wish to travel far and fast, pack light.

It would be nice to not be forced into packing light though. The Great Basin bag is 60L, my tacti-cool Condor Assault pack is 22L, and I’m also dragging along two 20L dry bags and one 10L dry bag. All said and done, a fair a bit of free volume but it disappears quick when bike equipment has to be squeezed in there too. Spare tubes, full and comprehensive tool kit, and an extra 3L of fuel canisters really put a dent in the Great Basins capacity.

In a later entry I’ll put together a list of the gear I’m taking along, but for now you can rest assured that there is a proverbial shit-tonne of it.

The one thing I would really like to bring along is a hammock or a camp chair but I’ve just run out of space. I think that in the future I’ll need to invest in some small panniers to complement the rest of my luggage. Looks like I’ll be sitting on the ground like a peasant this trip..

An overlying problem is that my tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad take up the majority of the space. All of these items were bought with the intent to use while car camping. None are the “space saving models” or lightweight. Replacing these will be a future research and investment project.

I dragged all my baggage down into my parking garage and started loading up. I want to leave tonight. I’m getting excited. This looks awesome.

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