Float Planes, Bikes, and Bears

Scott’s video of the trip will put a smile on your face. Check out his other videos here.

I have been wanting to write about our summer trip to the South Chilcotin Park for quite a while now. But a busy schedule, lots of other rides, and generally just too much fun have gotten in my way. In light of a rough week for our country, I’ve been able to find the time this week to slow down, reflect, and focus on all of the good things in the world: namely, the outdoors.

So with that, let me tell you about a magical time and a magical place…

It was March and we had only been dating for a few months and planning a vacation in the summer seemed a bit premature… but the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. He called me from South Africa and we restated the facts: float plane access, mountain bike hut trip, deep in BC. Ok, we’re in. I had just gotten my first mountain bike and I was loving going up and down mountains in a whole new way – and I had some work to do before August.

One day in late April we were pushing up a steep ridge line, clearing fallen trees as the route had just been cleared of snow after the winter. It was in that moment that I realized that this was the warmer-weather yin to my skiing yang. And I haven’t been able to put my bike away since.

I have always loved adventure – and over the past year I’ve been challenging myself to say ‘yes’ far more often than I don’t. That’s how we ended up riding our bikes from Seattle to Vancouver, BC where we traded road bikes for mountain bikes and a well-packed car and carried on north for the week.

Loading up on the dock. Four bikes and five people got into that little plane!

Loading up on the dock. Four bikes and five people got into that little plane!

As we flew out over the South Chilcotin Park in the 1960’s era de Havilland Beaver, I couldn’t help but think about The Hatchet… but we were assured by our pilot that this was the ‘best plane ever made’ so I swallowed that fear and enjoyed the views. We landed on Lorna Lake and, after a brief all-direction scatter for our first backcountry bathroom stop, we headed off up and over Lorna Pass to drop gear at Bear Paw Camp.

Open scree slopes felt like carving through fresh pow.

Open scree slopes felt like carving through fresh pow.

Mandatory carry. Photo: Scott Heinz.

Mandatory carry. Photo: Scott Heinz.

The days’ riding would wrap up early enough for us to enjoy some beers (placed in the creek to chill by Jan, aka God, early in the morning), play some cards, and soak in the utter remoteness and comfort of the camp. I have been in more isolated places than this where you don’t see another soul for days and trails are difficult to identify at best. But I hadn’t experienced a place that combines the feeling and reality of remoteness with the relative comforts of a canvas tent, flannel sleeping bags, and a home cooked meal each night.

Views for days as we cruised through open meadows.

Views for days as we cruised through open meadows.

The climb up to Deer Pass came with some mandatory pushing. Even the stronger riders in the group would need to push some of the steep, sluffy sections.

The climb up to Deer Pass came with some mandatory pushing. Even the stronger riders in the group would need to push some of the steep, sluffy sections.

Being in a beautiful place without any access to cell service or wifi is an increasingly rare gift these days and it was truly that: a chance to be totally removed from the realities of the world outside of the mountains, the potential for bear encounters, and the countless miles of epic riding ahead of us. This was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait for the next adventure with this seriously good team! Our routes were amazing, each day better than the last but unique and amazing in their own way.

Nap time after a big climb.

Nap time after a big climb.

Our itinerary seemed to be the perfect combination of covering ground, getting good climbing in with great descents, and still with plenty of time to relax at the end of the day.

Day 1:
From plane, Lorna Pass to Tyaughton Creek Trail to Bear Paw Camp.
From Bear Paw… Manson Creek to Little Paradise and Relay Col.

Day 2:
From Bear Paw through Elbow Pass to Big Creek, up Graveyard Creek to Elbow Pass and back to Bear Paw.

Day 3:
From Bear Paw big climb up Deer Pass to Gun Creek and down to Spruce Camp.

Day 4:
From Spruce Camp up High Trail to Windy Pass, Lick Creek trail to Tyax Lodge.

We kicked off the MTB portion of the week by hitting Whistler. While most of this day was terrifying for me (after all we took a 20 minute gondola and a chair lift up before starting the descent), the views were stunning… and most of the group got through the day without any tears.

We kicked off the MTB portion of the week by hitting Whistler. While most of this day was terrifying for me (after all we took a 20 minute gondola and a chair lift up before starting the descent), the views were stunning… and most of the group got through the day without any tears.