The gist of the story in multimedias. All photos by Dave Smith."Does that look like the Shore to you, Matt?" "I don't think so, what on Earth did you put in that flask?"
“That’s gonna roast some brake pads on the way back down,” said Matt putting his bike on the ground, and looking out down at the valley below. We’d just spent the last 2 hours with our bikes on our backs, slogging up a steep ridgeline trail, wondering how a few chutes and corners we’d passed were going to work on the way back down. Dave dropped his camera pack with a dusty thud beside our bikes and looked out over the view and took in Bennett Lake in the distance, “Now do you see why we suffered all the way up here?” Oh, right. There was also a view; we sat down to catch our breath and absorb a view of the Yukon in its best Fall dress.
A few weeks earlier we had been sitting around North Vancouver in the summer heat; covered in dust, sipping some raddlers, and hacking down forest fire smoke. The consensus was unanimous: fall is the best season for riding. Spring is muddy, summer is too hot and dusty. We're lucky here on the Shore to be able to ride most of the winter, but it's cold and wet. Fall, though? Tacky moist dirt, cool evenings, gorgeous colors, and accessible alpine. But fall is fleeting, and it was still six weeks away. Did it have to be? The difference between being a landscape photographer and action sports photographer is whether or not you put action sports in your landscape photo.
Two weeks later there were three of us eating warm chocolate chip cookies on an Air North flight to Yukon. Matt Beer (good at bikes), Dave Smith (good at cameras), and myself (good at… using two words when one will do?) were greeted by crisp air on the tarmac. Local beta said we were landing right in the heart of fall, which arrives notably earlier up in northern latitudes; we'd figured instead of waiting for fall, we'd catch up with it.
Yukon is vast, but you don’t need to get far from the capital, largest city, and main airport in Whitehorse to see what the place is about. Less than three hours from touchdown, and tires were on singletrack. We’d swapped sunbaked dusty greens in BC for a vibrant color palette ripped from a Hallmark Halloween card.
Climbing past the grizzly bears, and we were into fun in no time. Alpine ridgeline ripping on Blown Away and Starbucks Revenge eventually dumped us into the steep, deep loam of Kid Vicious - a trail several years old that wouldn’t withstand three days of Sea to Sky Instagramming. Kid Vicious was so good, we forgot the photos. Thanks Contagious Mountain Bike Club, Paul Burbridge, and everyone else who’s volunteered on the trails on this side of Whitehorse!
We quickly settled into a routine. Late nights filled with beers, hot tubs, and northern lights at Boréale Explorers were conveniently followed by mornings well below freezing that imparted no sense of urgency. Yukon time. Communal breakfast at the lodge, a bit of computer time, and we’d work our way to the trails near Carcross or Whitehorse as things warmed up around lunchtime. Trails were widely varied, rocks, loam, jumps, flow, tech, and the berm Dave wouldn't shoot
. Three days deep, we’d confirmed two hypothesis; fall is best, and Yukon kicks serious ass for bikes. After a couple hours of hike a bike, don’t forget to have a wee nip and stop and appreciate the view. The snow line would rapidly descend in the wake of our flight home.
Catching the tail end of Tourist Season in Carcross meant the coffee shop was still open, but the town and trails were populated mostly by locals. The network in Carcoss has history much deeper than its mining ruins, and is changing lives. The Winter comes early and cold up North
Now it was back to reality; late summer in Metro Vancouver. Back to work, back to the grind, and back to… loading up the bikes, and heading north? As fall was coming south, we’d head up to meet it again. Next stop - Cadwallader Range, BC. Fuel up, air down, and with the right trucks its a quick trip over the Hurley to Bralorne
BC’s terrain is every bit as huge as Yukon if you know where to look, and are willing to get a couple pinstripes. The Sunshine Cabin and many of the trails are maintained by the Bridge River Valley Community Association, and the Bralorne Recreation Area - both awesome groups worth your support. Left by Cooper Quinn. Right, a sign that should be everywhere.These CMH HeliSkiing branded Volkls would end up being prophetic.Riding, shooting, and evening beers around the fire to keep warm. Fall. F-yeah.
The trails in the Cadwallader are different than their slightly-more-northern cousins in the Chilcotins; instead of all day epic slogs traversing mountain ranges, you can bang out shuttle laps off old forestry and mining roads on trails that bring back memories of the best parts of downhill mountain biking 15 years ago, with modern additions. The low usage means these trails are a time capsule, and despite the rugged fall line nature of some portions they’re in great shape.
After a great day of hike-a-bike, alpine riding, shuttle laps, all in low angle sun and bright colors, stoke levels were high. We woke up the next morning, and it was apparent we might have issues. A rethink was in order, so after standing around drinking coffee and discussing “options” for far too long, we retreated South over the (now much whiter) Hurley. The signs your bike trip may have turned into a ski trip......and this is your face when you realize you don't have skis.
BC’s south coast, and the North Shore, don’t really experience fall in the same way as other places. We’re a temperate rainforest primarily surrounded by conifers; we get summer and rain. So the three of us we rode bikes, and tried to formulate a plan. And came up with nothing."You're going riding with Matt and Dave again?" "No! We're going thinking!"We had to do a lot of thinking.
Several days were spent riding in the the name of trying to find ideas; should we try and chase aspen trees in Colorado? Larch in Washington? Argentinian fall was still months and thousands of dollars away. Nothing really seemed to fill the mission requirements. In one of these sessions, thinking away in the Green Room, it hit us.
Why on Earth were we travelling by plane and automobile, searching for the best dirt, the best colors, the best trails? Our backyard is the Shore. Fall isn’t the best; winter is. Rain, fog, dark greens, and all the ISOs. We didn’t need to go anywhere to find the best - it was all in our backyard the whole time. Maybe that’s why we’d latched on to fall - it was just one step closer to where we wanted to be from the summer dust. Home sweet dark and dank home
We may have become disenchanted during the hottest, driest bits; but is the Shore really the Shore if the roots aren’t greased daily by Mother Nature, and everything isn’t a deep shade of green?
We’d realized our central thesis was wrong; but that it wasn’t a reflection of the quality of fall riding, and definitely not Yukon. It's a result of the bar set by the Shore when it's at its deepest, darkest, and wettest.The Shore pours dark and Matt Beer gets after every IBU The smallest of things to love about home.But let's be honest, it wasn't exactly a waste of time. We’d explored some incredible new terrain, met a bunch of great people, and here we were. Back drinking beer after a ride in the same spot, except now we were wrapped in wool, and covered in mud. And loving every bit of it. Deep Cove, North Vancouver, British Columbia and home.
Thanks to Dustin Adams at We Are One and Jan Sallawitz at Evoc for helping us get there and back again. And thanks to Sylvain Turcotte and Anthony Delorenzo at Boreale Explorers for helping us in between the two. Also thanks to Contagious Mountain Bike Club
, a non-profit maintaining trails in Whitehorse, Bridge River Valley Community Association
, Bralorne Recreation Area
and North Shore Mountain Bike Association