Bear, Beer and Bare in the BC Bush

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Trondomatic, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    In my first ride report, Hunt for the Sun, my newly licensed wife and I motorcycled and camped in the BC Gulf islands. It was a great way to introduce her to relaxed dirt road riding and we had a blast. But when we got home to Vancouver, BC (Canada, eh), I found myself with another week of holidays. What to do? How about some solo-camping? It had been years since I’d done that. Let’s do it!

    I had four or five days so the plan was to hit up the roughest roads I could find in Southwestern BC. I would have a bone-stock ’08 KLR without crash-bars so the roads couldn’t be too rough - just rough enough. And they were.

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    KEY:
    DAY 1 – Red
    DAY 2 – Blue
    DAY 3 – Green
    DAY 4 – Yellow
    #1
  2. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    A workmate and his buddy had invited me for an early morning ride to the Mt. Baker ski resort in Washington so I agreed to join them. It would get me on the road early and would position me well to begin my journey into the BC interior.

    The road was spectacular and there was no traffic – sweet!
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    Half-way up to the resort, my bud realized he had boned his timing and had to turn around. He had an appointment to go sailing so the three of us wished each other well and split up. I was alone - my trip had begun!
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    Almost at the ski resort, I spotted Mt. Shuksan.
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    And yeah, I got pretty excited.
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    Damn, this was a gorgeous place. Satisfied, I headed back down.
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    I crossed back into Canada, but whatever advantage I had gained by getting up early was lost as soon as I realized I had left my BC Backroad Mapbook at home. By the time I found a new book and ate lunch, it was well past noon and stinking hot.

    When I reached my trip’s first dirt road at the South end of Harrison Lake, I was soaked in sweat, and my jeans were chafing me awful. It was time to get macho. It was time to put on my cycling shorts. Despite appearances, they worked great under my riding pants. Just don’t walk into a biker bar in them. ☺
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    My trusty stock steed, she’s an ’08 KLR 650. Owned it only a few months, but I like…very much.
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    I had driven the Harrison Lake road a decade ago. I remember it being rough and a challenge for my old 4x4 pick-up and camper. The road seemed better now on a bike. I guess everything is better on a bike. Almost at the lake here.
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    Here’s looking up Harrison Lake.
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    The wildflowers were stunning.
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    I wasn’t sure where I was going to spend my first night until I spotted some lovely beaches on the lake below. Now the trick was to find an old road that would get me down there. I tried one road to Westwood Bay, but the road was pretty steep and loose. I would be able to get down, but I wasn’t so sure about the up part the next day. Maybe if I had a buddy along, I’d try it, but I had to remember that I was alone so I turned the risk aversion meter up a notch and let the gnarly road go - another day my friend.

    Not long after, I found another road heading down to the water – to Doctor’s Bay I think. It was steep and rough too, but looked doable. After a scouting mission, I went for it. The bike bucked and slid, but we made it to the lake without upset. My little trail finally ended by the water next to this dilapidated old house – the doctor’s? It was a little creepy, but I stuck my head inside anyways.
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    It was the bone yard of party supplies - full of ripped tarps, spent barbeques and soiled blankets. And yes, that is a toilet installed in front of the house. Located next to the lake, I doubt it was a healthy idea, but I was impressed that someone had actually piped water to it from a nearby stream. At one point in its life, it actually worked!

    So I decided to stay. Here’s where I made my camp. To my joy, I was utterly alone.
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    I was still hot so I went for a swim.
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    And then a motorboat came around the corner. Two similarly dressed dudes were looking intently in my direction as they slowly motored towards me. I carried on with my swim until they were almost upon me. And then one guy said to the other, “No, that’s not him.” And with that, they waved and took off. That was weird.

    Then I remembered seeing a truck on the road earlier in the day full of young men in red track suits. There’s a minimum-security corrections facility (Canadianese for prison) located further down the lake – those dudes must have been prisoners. And I guess someone escaped. The guys in the boat had seen my red shirt laying on the beach and thought I was the runner. Great – now I was sharing the woods with an escaped con!

    Right after the boat left, I could hear something moving noisily through the bush. Too noisy for a person – hmmmm. I had seen a lot of bear crap on the road so I knew they were around. Figuring it was a black bear, I did my usual bear routine. I called out to him, introduced myself, said I was a human (duh) and that I was staying the night. I then suggested that he keep moving on to the next bay so we could all get along. The unseen bear made grumpy puffing noises and then continued his crashing through the brush behind my tent. I gave him some more time before I walked back to my bike. I started it up, revved it, beeped the horn twice and shut it off. Just in case he was in the area, I wanted to encourage him to carry on. Either that or annoy him enough to go find that escaped con and eat him. ;)

    I made some dinner with fresh corn I had bought earlier. I was a truly a happy camper.
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    Nothing says you’re camping like having a fire. And nothing says “piss off, I don’t want to be eaten” like having a BIG fire.
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    As I sat there watching the mountains, the strangest thing happened. My mind ran out of things to think about and suddenly, my mind went silent. For a glorious moment or two, I just listened to the silence. No thoughts, no nothing. It was amazing. You have no idea how much your mind chatters along until it stops. It was just what this city boy needed – a break from the brain.

    I went to bed and slept deeply.

    Day 1 summary: About eight hours on the bike.
    434 km / 270 miles
    #2
  3. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    Here’s the beauty I woke up to. Sweet.
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    After some porridge and coffee, I was back on the road. I was a little nervous about getting up that steep loose driveway I came in on, but managed to blast up it without serious trouble. My improvised top box (a strapped on cooler) did fall off and get dragged behind me a little, but after some fancy rope work, it was good to go.

    I continued North along Harrison Lake. Near here, I rounded a corner to find a small black bear on the road. He was pretty young – maybe a year – so I didn’t know if he still had a mom in his life. Just in case, I stopped and let him run into the woods before proceeding. Sorry, no pics of the furry dude.
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    At the North end of Harrison Lake is a place called Tipella. It’s a massive logging camp. You can see the log booms at the end of the lake.
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    It’s a logging camp full of trucks, helicopters, and even its own quarry. They use this gravel to maintain the area’s network of logging roads. As a result, the dirt roads north of Tipella were amazing. Smooth, wide, and fast. Unfortunately, they were also very dusty when a truck roared past, but traffic was infrequent. This pic is for all the guys (and gals!) who grew up and loved Tonka toys.
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    With Harrison Lake behind me, I followed the Lillooet River to Lillooet Lake. Along the way, I found this old two-track road called, The Heritage Trail. I believe it was used by prospectors at the turn of the century to get to the Caribou gold fields further North. It ended at a river, but was fun while it lasted.
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    Suddenly, the little river next to me turned into Lillooet Lake. I was blown away by the glacier blue/green colour of the water.
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    I pulled into this free recreation site for a can of sardines. You can see the dust on the road from a passing truck.
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    While there, I went for a swim. Cold, but refreshing. To respect the ride report rulz, I have concealed my nakedness.
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    I continue on…
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    …and finally, after two hundred klicks (125 miles) of dirt and I was back on pavement. That’s the valley I rode up behind the bike.
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    Next stop, the little town of Pemberton where I devoured a steak sandwich and beer for lunch.
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    Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of my steak sandwich. I don’t know how you people do it, but I was totally self-conscious when I went to take a picture of the meal. I simply chickened out. I’ll doff my clothes in an instant at a clothing optional beach, but I’m too embarrassed to take a photo of my meal. I don’t know - sometimes, I can’t figure myself out.

    I did manage to sneak this photo while no one was looking. Sad, I know, but you get the idea. Beer and the open road equals happiness. Not in a drunk driving way, but in a…ah never mind. Either ya get it, or ya don’t.
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    I left town after filling my gut and headed North. This area is known as Pemberton meadows. Lush farm country – very nice.
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    And then I turned off the highway for the Hurley Pass road. This is a notorious truck-busting pass that is only open in the summer. Just past here, the road turns to dirt…
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    …and begins the climb. Looking up the Hurley Pass Road.
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    Looking behind.
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    Again, the wildflowers were stunning.
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    I was obviously having a shitty time.
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    This really is paradise for dual-sporters. Rough dirt roads, little traffic and a new vista to behold behind every corner. I had to be careful not to get too distracted. Not good on a bike.
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    Believe it or not, this is a moose. I had the camera on the wrong setting, but trust me, this is a big animal!
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    The day was getting long and I had to find a place to camp so I pulled in here to look at my maps. There was a lake ahead that looked promising.
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    But first, a little more of this…
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    …before I found this. A recreation site on Gwyneth Lake. I found it just as the sun was setting behind the mountains. I had to take these pics before setting up camp.
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    I set up camp…
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    …and then watched the moon come up. Holy cow, this place was beautiful.
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    Unlike the previous night I had a couple of neighbours this time. But because they had dogs, I actually didn’t mind. It gave me a piece of mind because I figured bears wouldn’t come around. I love bears, but I also like to sleep peacefully. This was the only dude I heard all night. And yes, I slept peacefully.
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    DAY 2 Summary
    About 8 hours on the bike
    221km / 137 miles
    #3
  4. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    The day began with coffee, a smile and the ADV salute.
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    And then I heard this commotion coming from nearby. Pots were being pounded, people were shouting and dogs were barking. Must be a bear. Minutes later, a lady from next door showed up to warn me there was a brown bear heading my way. Brown bear? I didn’t know there were browns here. My only experience had been with black bears and they were generally timid. I say generally because the day before, I saw a newspaper headline about a bear that had attacked a lady in a Vancouver suburb. She had survived, but had her scalp nearly ripped off. Yuk.

    I could see my neighbors looking at something in the woods.
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    Then I heard movement nearby. Suddenly, this fellow appeared.
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    Nice shorts, eh?
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    He was heading to the water next to my campsite and eating berries along the way. He was in no hurry and didn’t give a crap about us humans. As I was taking pictures, I realized that my hands were shaking. And then it occurred to me that I was utterly exposed here. I’ve got no car to jump into and no tree I can climb. Gulp!
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    I hoped that the bear would get to the water, turn left and carry on. But he turned right instead – right for my camp. I had to do something. I took one more picture (I’m such an idiot) and then started beating a pot.
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    Nothing. The bear kept coming. I shouted and beeped my KLR’s pathetic horn. Again, nothing. He kept coming. Finally I said, bugger this, and fired up the bike. If the bear didn’t leave now, I was going to hop on the KLR and get the heck out of Dodge. But the KLR’s thumpy exhaust prevailed! The bear reared up and spun away. He shuffled along for 20 meters/yards and stopped. Then he started eating again. Damn! I should have bought Supertrapps.

    My neighbours showed up to see if I was okay. They told me their other neighbours had been charged by the same bear – even though they had dogs. This bear wasn’t scared of anything.

    I was packing up anyway, but Browny had inspired me to pick up the pace. Just as I finished packing, he started my way again. I started the bike, waved FAK YOU to the bear and took off. I love bears, but not enough to feed them my head!

    It wasn’t until I got to the main road that I relaxed. Holy crap, nothing like big teeth and claws to get the heart going. Luckily, the stunning views of Outlaw Lake calmed my soul and once again I was on my merry way.
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    I descended out of the mountains into Gold Bridge, a quiet little town. At this tourist information house, I learned that only about 200 people lived in the area full-time.
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    I drove around and saw this. Love it!
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    I wanted to pick up some beer, but the store was closed for lunch. I decided to explore nearby Gun Lake. It’s full of cottages, but I found a public boat ramp where I jumped into the lake for a refreshing dip.
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    I had always seen the Gun Lake airstrip on flying maps so decided to find it. I did and discovered the soft sand was tough to turn around in. Oops! Oh well, the bike was tired anyways. Nothing was hurt or broken so I carried on.
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    I found this pass to take me over to Carpenter Lake.
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    And here is Carpenter Lake. Honestly, does the coat liner in my rear pocket make my bum look big?
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    Carpenter Lake goes on for miles and the road alternates from dirt to pavement. Stunning views everywhere.
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    At the end of Carpenter Lake is a dam.
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    I stopped on the other side for lunch. And for all you who think my shorts are fruity:
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    The road continued and I was forever stopping for photos.
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    I finally got to the Fraser River. I stopped in the town of Lillooet, bought beer, groceries and gas, and carried on.

    I passed Seton Lake…
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    …and then headed down the Duffy Lake road to find my trip’s final campsite.
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    I made camp at the Cottonwood Recreation site.
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    I made a fire and got kinda drunk. Not supposed to do that alone, are ya? Oh well - I was happy.
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    DAY 3 Summary
    About 7 hours on the bike
    393km / 244 miles
    #4
  5. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    I woke early. I was a little hung over, but feeling good. There was no sunshine in the valley, but the mountains were already starting to glow.
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    I eased into the day the best way I know how: strong coffee and a creek.
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    I knew the weather was going to crap out so I hit the road while the going was good. There was a little construction on the Duffy Lake road.
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    The Duffy Lake road is one of the nicest dual-sport paved roads in BC. There are a few patches and bumps in the asphalt, but the KLR ate them up easily.
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    I got to Duffy Lake and saw grey clouds looming ahead. Oh dear.
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    Near Joffre Lake, the rain began. I pulled in here and got geared up.
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    From here, I continued into heavy rain past Pemberton, Whistler and on to the Sea to Sky highway back to Vancouver. At one point, driving rain came through my open helmet vent (doh!) and ran down my head and collar like a magnificent waterfall. Simultaneously, rain breached my riding pants and entered the dry zone through the crotch. Water hit my groin and in an instant, my cycling shorts’ fat pad filled up like a diaper. Groan…

    I had had an amazing trip, but with my head and crotch soaked, I was kinda glad to be heading home. Miles of rain later, I pulled into my parking garage. It had been four days of dirt, bears and sun. I had a blast and look forward to more adventures in the future.
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    DAY 4 Summary
    4 hours on the bike
    237km/ 514 miles

    Trip total: 827km / 514 miles
    #5
  6. Maddaddy

    Maddaddy Greg

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,779
    Location:
    NA
    Nice balance of pictures and text.:thumb

    I love that area. West Harrison kicks my butt.
    #6
  7. Drowsy Dave

    Drowsy Dave Square Peg, No Hole

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,284
    Location:
    Middle seat on the Astral Plane.
    Wow!! You don't even know how jealous I am. Looks like you had a blast.

    As kids, we used to have a lot of fun chasing black bear while banging on pots and pans.

    Browns skeer me. :huh

    Thanks for posting.
    #7
  8. noahr

    noahr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    366
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Perfect trip! I've got a 1200GSA without knobbies, just the standard Metzeler
    Tourance's. Do ya think the Harrison road to Lillooet is doable with these?
    #8
  9. idea man

    idea man Plate Spinner

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,513
    Location:
    101 and 246, CA
    Very good report. Good pics and a good story. I miss that part of the country.
    Sorry about the bike shorts. I wear them too but have yet to get them soaked. Can't wait for that.
    #9
  10. Uncledeadly

    Uncledeadly Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2006
    Oddometer:
    169
    Location:
    BC, Canada

    No Prob, Noah!!
    I've taken my 1100GS through a couple of times with Tourances and Anakees. Works fine. Go for it!!!!
    Let me know when you're going. I might be into it!:evil
    #10
  11. 2LBOX

    2LBOX Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    93
    Location:
    ocean shores, WA
    Great post. My wife found it first and called me at the station tonight and said I had to see it. Love the pics. We spend a fair amount of time on Baker. Wife really wants to take a trp into Canada soon. Sweet! Thanks for sharing your trip.
    #11
  12. Shaggie

    Shaggie Unseen University

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,765
    Location:
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    #12
  13. Backcountryboy

    Backcountryboy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2005
    Oddometer:
    215
    Location:
    Vancouver BC
    Great trip report, nice photos. Did the West Harrison to Whistler, up to Gold Bridge through to Seton Portage and back to Whistler ride last month and had a great 3 days doing it. Your photos brought it all back. I hope you keep riding and writing!
    #13
  14. Trondomatic

    Trondomatic To infinity and beyond...

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Near Merritt, BC Canada
    Thanks everyone :shog - I appreciate your sweet feedback.

    Noahr - uncledeadly is right - you should be fine with the GS on the Harrison Road. The smaller steep roads down to the lake could be a challenge without knobs so bring a buddy to help push you back up...:D

    And Shaggie, my first name is Trond (old Norwegian name), hence my silly board name.
    #14
  15. btretired

    btretired anal retentive

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,031
    Location:
    On Top of the World, Tehachapi, CA
    Great Report!!:clap
    I rode up in that area in "02" on my retirement run.. My Uncle is part owner of a campground in Lilooet.. http://www.frasercove.com/ :deal
    Everyone there calls him "Gator" as he is origionally from FL. All you Canucks should go by and see him.

    Beautiful country up there, I want to take my wife next time..
    #15
  16. Ardyjay

    Ardyjay Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    313
    Location:
    G.I. BC
    Hi from Gabriola Island, Trond. Great trip report. My buddy and I did virtually the same trip this summer. Harrison-Pemberton-Hurley-Gold Bridge and Carpenter Lake to Lillooet.
    I loved the west Harrison road-next year we'll camp instead of going straight through to Pemberton in a day. Glad you took the pics to remind me, as we didn't!!
    I especially like the section of road on the Bridge River, after the dam at Carpenter lake, going toward the pass to Lillooet. Those switchbacks at Moha and how it transistions into the dry interior climate so quickly, and the Horseshoe Wash canyon at the top is amazing. I took a video of riding that section. If I can figure how to post it, I will. Beautiful country.
    #16
  17. rudi

    rudi Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    35
    Location:
    Gabriola Island B.C.
    Great report. When Ardyjay and I rode along Harrison lake we had to traverse about 2k of tough stuff, steep with lots of loose boulders and gravel and then down the other side followed by another steep loose section and then a third.
    You didn't mention that. So I'm wondering if we took a wrong turn and there is a way around the bad bits. I,m thinking a GS and road tyres would be interesting.
    #17
  18. Little Bear

    Little Bear Just a guy, ya know?

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    98
    Location:
    Greater Toronto Area, A Place That Sucks To Ride
    Nice Report and great pics. I'm planning a mega trip out that part of the world next summer and it's nice to see that there is such a large variety of roads to pick from. I like to snoop not just eat miles from A to B.


    "Nothing. The bear kept coming. I shouted and beeped my KLR’s pathetic horn. Again, nothing. He kept coming. Finally I said, bugger this, and fired up the bike. If the bear didn’t leave now, I was going to hop on the KLR and get the heck out of Dodge. But the KLR’s thumpy exhaust prevailed! The bear reared up and spun away. He shuffled along for 20 meters/yards and stopped. Then he started eating again. Damn! I should have bought Supertrapps.

    My neighbours showed up to see if I was okay. They told me their other neighbours had been charged by the same bear – even though they had dogs. This bear wasn’t scared of anything.

    I was packing up anyway, but Browny had inspired me to pick up the pace. Just as I finished packing, he started my way again. I started the bike, waved FAK YOU to the bear and took off. I love bears, but not enough to feed them my head!

    It wasn’t until I got to the main road that I relaxed. Holy crap, nothing like big teeth and claws to get the heart going. Luckily, the stunning views of Outlaw Lake calmed my soul and once again I was on my merry way."

    For your bear run in, it is always better to be on the side of caution. When I'm out in bear country, I carry a can of Bear Repellant. It about the size of a very small fire extinguisher and works like pepper spray but with a much greater range. It won't do any harm to the bear, but it sure will drive them off and make them not want to have anything to do with people in the future. That is of course unless they like terribly hot food.
    #18
  19. DominicDomingo

    DominicDomingo axe me anything

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,193
    Location:
    Van City
    Ride RR man, makes me want to move back home... The only thing I don't miss about riding in BC is rain... and logging trucks.
    #19