Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The first faltering steps of summer

Summer has been sighted in Vancouver, though it's done a good job of hiding again just when you thought you'd caught it. I'm sure we're at the start of something good now.

Since Skaha I spent a few days over in Comox with Marc and Nikki where we did lots of biking, been to the Chilcotins with Jacek, and decided to buy a flat to live in. In Comox I explored my newly invented genre of mountain biking: technically-cross-country. You need to be specific about these things after all, and downhill, cross-country, freeride etc just don't seem to describe the way I express myself through the interpretation of landscape using a bicycle. Reading that back to myself, I think I've been watching too many arty bike videos. Anyway, for anyone interested (surely someone must be interested) technically-cross-country credentials are available for riding a log way, with less suspension, clipped in, without armour... but making sure to interpret the landscape (in the style of an arty bike video). You heard it here first.

A technically-cross-country interpretation of a rock.

When I got back from Comox, Jacek and I had planned to go up to the Chilcotins to get some big rides in. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and things were looking grim oop north. We delayed for a day and then went anyway. When we got to Tyax we were told that the campsite had been closed as it was over-run with angry grizzly bears. This seemed like a good reason to close the camp site, and the bonus was we got a room in the fancy bear-free lodge for a rather good price. We also got to drink beer, play pool, and have breakfast cooked for us... you can't argue with that. The first day we spent exploring some trails near the lodge that Cliff from IAG drew us a dubious map of. We found some great stuff, only got lost a couple of times... and avoided the bears. A good day. After that warm up we kept our fingers crossed for clear weather and a big ride up to Spruce Lake, then towards Warner Lake as far as we could go. Things started off in typical Chilcotins style: beautiful.

We got up to Spruce Lake without a hitch, then took a trail around the lake which turned out be mostly ankle deep water, followed by a descent down a small stream. Moistened, we carried on up the Gun Creek trail towards Hummingbird Lake. The trail had suffered from fallen trees though the winter and there was some interesting clambering over things and paddling through creeks to be done. We made it to Hummingbird Lake, ate lunch, and felt generally happy with the world.
The descent back down to the car was as excellent as ever, whizzing through the alpine flowers, distracted by mountain views, and making imaginative loud noises to let the bears know we were on our way. We didn't see any bears (phew), though I did have a big deer run alongside me for a few hundred meters, looking over at me as if to say "is that as fast as you can go?".

That night we camped (in the car as we were scared of the bears) next to Carpenter lake in a really nice campsite provided for free - thanks BC Hydro. The weather looked dubious in the morning so we went into Gold Bridge (population 47), got toast in the Cafe and phoned Frank to ask if we could buy some petrol. Frank came out with his big dog and sold me petrol so we could drive back over the Hurley River road to Pemberton. Once in Pemberton we found a big pointy stone had stuck into one of the car tires and the tire repair place was shut. The hardware shop was open, so I got my first experience of plugging a tire myself. Amazingly this worked, and proved to be a useful new skill the following day. Rolling again, we got sorted out to ride some Pemberton trails when we bumped into Robbie and Naheed who we rode with a week or so ago. Jacek and I rode up the Happy Trail (which still made me happy), and then failed to find the trail we were looking for, so rode "Hawaii" instead which turned out to be great. Lucky that. We called back to Robbie's place where they gave us some firewood (thanks!) to take to the Owl Creek campsite where we were going to stay. We also got locals info on a recently rebuilt trail called Resurrection opposite the camp site. The evening was spent watching the Rocky Mountaineer train go by, making toast on the campfire and resting weary legs for the next ride.

We managed to find Resurrection, which was a classic steep, twisty, Pemberton trail after a long logging-road climb. We even bumped into the trail builder who was out with his shovel. There were even a couple of opportunities for a little technically-cross-country riding in places. All in all, a great trip. More photos are here and here.

And finally, something completely different. This morning Paul and I went skiing. Yes, really. The snow hasn't all gone on the North Shore yet and it even looked like winter up there due to a (temporary, I hope) failure in the summer which put a big cloud on the mountains. Not the best skiing ever, and rather wet... but a fun way to build yourself up to breakfast. Tonight we going biking on the same mountain, just a bit lower down.

Summer on the North Shore

Dubious skiing conditions, excellently skied by Paul