“Don’t Follow your Dreams Chase them
” - 13 days of biking in South-Western BCBy Fanny Paquette & Emily Slaco
When you have less sometimes you can live more. That was the motto we had for this trip best described by the quintessentially, overused mountain biker term ‘epic
’. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were departing on an almost 2 week bike adventure that definitely helped give us a different perspective on life.
Living in the Pemberton/Whistler area, we feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a healthy, active community filled with inspiring and passionate individuals. But as amazing as our community is, it’s still sometimes nice to get out and explore, outside the ‘bubble
’, and we wanted to do it under our own power. We had a plan (which is to say that we really had no plan
) to go on an adventure in our own beautiful backyard, where we would focus simply on enjoying the journey, living at a slower pace, and chasing a dream. Believing that simplicity is the key to life, we followed that idea and packed our regular day packs with nothing but tools, food and a single change of clothes and hit the road.
In the end, we biked for 13 days, crashing with friends along the way or stopping at bed and breakfasts for a short night's sleep. It’s amazing how good it feels to be self-sufficient, bike everywhere, be minimalist, connect with friends new and old and be grateful for all the little things in life.
Day 1 – Whistler to Squamish
|There is no beginning or ending in the journeyless journey to nowhere. You do not start from somewhere and you do not end at anywhere. You are where you are and you continue from there. - Bodhiharma|
We started our journey on a beautiful day in May, departing from the North end of Whistler we hit up Delineator, wound our way through the maze of trails around Alpine before climbing up the flank. Our excitement carried us through the initial awkwardness of riding with an overstuffed day pack and by the time we hit Pura Vida we had the hang of things, enjoying the cruise down the flowy trail (one of Fanny’s faves
). One last stop in Function Junction to meet up with some friends and have a quick bite to eat before we had to tackle the hard part of the day... the road. We started off along the Sea to Sky trail, a cruzy crushed gravel trail that will eventually link all the way from Horseshoe Bay to Lillooet. Cruising along the trail was a blast with great views and scenic stops along the way, but as the afternoon wore on we hit the highway to pin it down to Squamish. Nearing Bhrom Lake we couldn’t resist a quick side trip up Cat Lake to finish the day with some sweet singletrack, Cheshire Cat delivered and singletrack took us down into town. Our hosts for the evening were Pat, Jo and Dean who welcomed us with lots of laughs, a trip to the hospital (not for us!
), a bbq and some Tour de France heckling. Day 2 – Squamish to Vancouver
We woke up with the sun the next morning to meet up with a couple of local shredders, AJ and David who happily shared two of Squamish’s newer trails; Rupert & Man Boobs, with us. After trying to keep up with them for a few hours down the rocky, rooty, technical and amazingly fun trails we began the long pedal down to Vancouver, though it’s not all downhill, we can assure you! Timing is everything on trips like these, and as we ground our way along the Sea to Sky highway – five hours of riding pavement on fat tires – we had an unexpected surprise: a local trail builder, Dave, stopped and offered to shuttle us up to a brand new trail he had just finished building. Karma was on our side that day as we got an additional two hours of trail riding, down some spectacularly steep trails filled with scrumptiously smooth rock slabs and pristine nearly-virgin, loamy singletrack. Feeling very lucky, and re-energized from the bonus singletrack, we kept on grinding our way down to North Vancouver, along the unexpected Marine Drive detour, meeting up with our photographer friend Amy McDermid, we managed to finish our day late that night, exhausted, but oh so satisfied.
Fanny happy and high above Howe Sound ready to drop into pure awesome. Day 3 – Vancouver to Maple Ridge
|It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. - Thoreau|
After a bit of a slower start to the morning we got our day back on track and rode a sneaky local's mixture of Shore trails with our guide, Morgan Taylor. He also acted as our personal photographer for the day and generously shot photos along the way so that we could remember a few special moments from our trip. As much as we love mountain biking, sharing a passion with new people is always refreshing, and Morgan was so stoked about biking and our adventure that it gave us that extra push we needed to keep going on our eight hour ride. Later that afternoon we had gone from downtown busy Vancouver traffic to Maple Ridge and rolling farms, where people were scarce, but cows and goats were a normal part of the scenery.
Cruising through the lush jungle like rainforest of the North Shore. Photo by Morgan Taylor.
Singlefile switchback on the Shore. Photo by Morgan Taylor.
Day 4 - Maple Ridge to Mission
|Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you. - John De Paola|
Some huge storms rolled in starting on Day 4, but it’s not really an adventure if there aren’t challenges. Going down the mountains as if we were riding down a waterfall was either going to cause a total emotional break down or a good laugh between us, luckily we kept our spirits high and giggled our way down the trails. Our guide for the morning of Day 4 was Craig. He works for Endless Biking and on a quick stop in at Endless the day before he was roped in to showing us the goods at the Woodlot. It was refreshing to get to know Craig – he lightened up our water logged spirits and got us excited about riding again. As one of the builders in the Woodlot area we learned a bit about the trails’ history and saw some of the crazy wood stunt lines out there. After two flat tires our ride with Craig came to an end and it was back to the asphalt to spin our way over and meet our afternoon guide, Ambrose at Mission’s Bear Mountain.
The sun started to peak out from behind the clouds as we arrived at Bear Mountain and Ambrose showed us some of the most lush, loamy, smooth single track we’d ever seen. Riding up Corduroy into Wasp then over and down Lorax left us with huge grins on our faces and the need to tell our legs to shut up as we headed back up for another lap, this time down a bit more technical trail called Bigguns. Before finishing off the day Ambrose led us over to Merv’s trail which proved to be the best way to end our day. Needless to say there was a lot of hooting and hollering as we flew through the spectacular lush emerald forests, making us feel as if we were in a fairy tale enchanted forest.Day 5 - Abbotsford
As word of our trip started to spread within the Sea to Sky Corridor, more friends wanted to join in the fun. Our friends Amy and Ryan decided to join us out in Abbotsford to check out Mt. Sumas. Our morning started off with a casual road ride over the bridge from downtown Mission into the rural countryside and paths around Abbotsford winding our way up to the top of Mt. Sumas trail area. Amy and Ryan met us in the parking lot and we all started the easy spin up the fire road to access Knob Gobbler, a good mixture of fun, flowy trail with bits of technical rock and roots mixed in to keep us on our toes. Next up was the famous Squidline trail, one of the newer trails in the area, this one was like being on a downhill pumptrack that never seemed to end. After such a great day Amy decided to join us on our road ride down to our B&B in the quaint little Clayburn Village. Just outside Abbotsford, tucked away at the bottom of Mt. Sumas, this village is a heritage site and a straight blast from the past. Built in 1905 the brick buildings are still standing including a church building, corner store, school house and of course our charming B&B.
Mt. Sumas is a 'must go' for anyone in the lower mainland. Photo by Amy McDermid.
Day 6 - Chilliwack
The princesses check into their palace for the night. Photo by Amy McDermid.
The stormy weather rolled back in for our 6th day, but we were lucky to have our spirits lifted when our friend Joanna showed up in the morning to join us for the day. Our tour continued, heading out to Chilliwack and meeting up with local Pinkbike staffer, Mike Levy. Mike was waiting for us in Chilliwack, probably hoping that we’d change our minds about riding that day due to the continued thunder and rain, but we would not be denied a day on the trails. After a little convincing, Mike took us on yet another incredible trail ride in the Mt. Vedder area. Climbing up steep fireroads we were passed by countless dirtbikes, though we didn’t see any other mountain bikers that day, the trails were all ours. A little rest stop at the top of ‘The Den’ before starting down yet another epic descent, with plenty of ‘wahoo’s!’ as we worked our way down the maze of trails; 2 Cents, Hidden Pleasures, Terd Ferg, Ditch Chicken, Electric Lettuce, and Femur, bringing us right back to the summer hot spot, Cultus Lake. The lake was deserted due to the rain and we had the whole place to ourselves, choosing to jump in the lake to clean the mud off. Sticking with the B&B trend we found a nice little spot tucked away in the depths of Chilliwack and spent the evening chatting with the other guests, visiting from the Netherlands.Day 7 - Agassiz
After six days of nonstop riding we desperately needed a day off, but even our rest day ended up consisting of 60km of pedalling around the beautiful Agassiz valley. We visited hazelnut and goat farms, took in some art galleries, and generally tried to relax a little. It was a much-needed break from the technical trail riding we had been doing for the past week.
Meeting some new friends on the Agassiz farm tour.
|I'm a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time. - Byron Katie|Day 8 - Agassiz Through to Harrison Hot Springs
The view over looking Harrison Lake
After a good night of sleep, we began the day we had dreaded from the beginning: Over 100km of logging roads and 2000+m of climbing. It was a long, hard day, but we were rewarded with views of a beautiful lake and the natural hot springs at Sloquet, not to mention amazing friends waiting for us with beer and camping gear. Having heard about these natural hot springs for years, but never having been able to visit them it was a surreal experience to be there and so good for a quick body recovery.Day 9 - Sloquet to Pemberton
After having conquered our hardest day yet we felt confident that this day would be a breeze. 100+ km along a relatively flat logging road, rejuvenated by the hot springs the night before, the day seemed to float by until we were cruising along the flats of Mt. Currie, town was so close we could taste it! That evening we traded in our mountain bikes for townie cruisers and enjoyed the Pemberton lifestyle, meeting up at the Pony for a refueling dinner.
Day 10 - Pemberton to Seton Portage
They don't call it the HighLine for nothing, Fanny climbs high above Anderson Lake.
Leaving Pemberton was hard that day, being so close to home we’d be lying if we didn’t confess that we considered quitting then and there. According to friends, our last four days were going to be very long and hard, and we allowed ourselves to daydream about easier vacations to Vegas or a yoga retreat under a hot tropical sun. But we had come too far to go back, so we settled into the saddle and pedalled on over the High Line road. This dirt logging road isn’t traveled much except by the BC Hydro workers who use it to access the tiny town of Seton Portage where a hydroelectric dam sits. The sleepy little town of Seton Portage is located between two lakes, Anderson Lake to the South and Seton Lake to the North. Though the town only had about 250 people (and probably 300 bears
) we were greeted within about 5 minutes of our arrival by Jane, a local adventure woman who has lived in the area with her husband for the last 30 years. As she escorted us to our crash pad for the night we chatted about how thankful she was to have found this little gem. Not only did Jane play the role of the perfect hostess, within a few minutes of arriving she’d brought us up to date on all the small town gossip and told us where we could and shouldn’t go to get ourselves some food.
Our lake side crash pad in Seton Portage.
|SINCE EVERYTHING IS A REFLECTION OF OUR MINDS...Everything can be changed by our minds. - Buddha|Day 11 - Seton Portage to Lillooet
Hitching a ride on the 'bud car' traveling between Seton Portage and Lillooet. Historically passengers could travel by rail from Lillooet through to Pemberton and down to Vancouver.
As we waited at the very humble train station the next morning, we forgot we were on a mountain bike trip; we were soaking up the freedom and the simplicity of that self-supported town, amazed by the fact that all those people probably had no clue about how far our bikes had brought us, both physically and emotionally. It made us realize how lucky we were to be on this adventure. Lillooet was our destination that day, and it was hot and sunny by the time we got there. We met up with Adrian and Bruno and caught a ride to a trail called Della Creek. This incredible ride is one long, sandy downhill and almost 100% single track. We stayed up in the valley that night with a beautiful view of the town of Lillooet.
Enjoying the flow on Della Creek. Photo by Adrian Bostock
Duffy Lake is pure perfection.Day 12 - Lillooet to Pemberton
|Whatever is happening right now is absolutely perfect as it is. Every person, situation, incident, and desire contains this perfection. Every thought form that passes through your mind is needed as much as every grain of sand on the beach is required to make the beach whole and complete. - Unknown|
Almost at the end of our trip, we had heard so much about the ride from Lillooet to Pemberton, most of it sounded terrible. We set out to climb over the Duffy Lake road, one of the most scenic roads in British Columbia and also one of our most pleasant road rides. The Duffy Lake Road features endless views of the mountains and lakes we’d navigated during the past couple of weeks, and it was a great way to near the end of the trip and reminisce about all the memorable experiences we had collected during those long days in the saddle. Before descending down all the way into Pemberton we turned off the highway and put our fat tires to use. Rambling around old logging roads, going by feel, we found the entrance to a trail ridden years ago. X-Files is a fun fast and flowing descent, made a little bit more difficult with the weight of our backpacks and full road PSI in our tires...we enjoyed every minute of trail before ducking back onto the highway and spinning the final miles back into Pemberton. Timing was on our side and we rolled up to the Nimby after party to hang out with friends and cheer on the last of the riders crossing the finish line. Day 13 - Finale
One final day, encouraged by Jo, Dave, Christian and Toby who joined us for the final leg of the trip. Riding some Pemberton classics in the One Mile area we were able to convince the rest of the crew to brave the highway and ride over to one of our absolute favourites, PHD. After some complaints from the boys we finally made it to the trail and were rewarded with the steep and challenging rock slabs that make Pemberton so unique. Finishing the trail was somewhat surreal as we knew that the only part left was the pedal home. The last few road miles gave us the chance to go over all the ups and downs of the trip and to appreciate every day. We are so thankful to all the people that helped out along the way! The trip was more than we could have ever imagined. When the idea came up about riding our mountain bikes for a long distance like this we weren’t even sure if we could do it, but just the idea of chasing that dream made it all worthwhile.
Happy to be back in Whistler.
We are now gearing up and getting out the maps to plan our next trip. Nelson to Revelstoke is the mission, throw in a bike race smack in the middle of the trip and the goal of raising awareness and funds for World Bicycle Relief and we are looking forward to another unforgettable adventure! Follow our trips for more adventures
. Check out all the images from our adventure here.