: Joe SchwartzPhotos
: Reuben Krabbe
|Odd people doing strange things|
...is how Dan Stefanson, Executive Director for Tourism Abbotsford, jokingly describes some of the people that approach him with ideas for boosting tourism in the region. Our eclectic group - Stephen Matthews, Sarah Leishman, Wade Simmons, photographer Reuben Krabbe, and myself - certainly has an odd element to it, and we are doing, in many “normal” people’s eyes, a strange thing.
A road trip to camp and ride bikes as fast and as far as we can on new trails in the Fraser Valley? We wouldn’t have it any other way.
| Joe, Sarah, Stephen, Wade|
| Wade, Sumas|
| Friends - Gather - Here|
We did not have to travel very far to get to our Fraser Valley destination. We are all pretty content/stuck in our own little bubbles of the North Shore and Whistler, feeling like it requires a plane ride to really travel to a new area. We were all brought back to reality on this adventure though. Sometimes just beyond your backyard is a whole new perspective, in our case it's just an afternoon drive.
| Sarah, Stephen|
We are midway through a tasty dinner at the Lakeside Beach Club in Cultus Lake that Dan and his colleague Allison have joined us for. We keenly listen as the two tourism advocates share their vision for the area, and we add our two cents when we can. It’s nice to hear the positivity in their voices when talking about the potential for mountain bike tourism growth. We wholeheartedly agree, in between scarfing down chicken wings and pitchers of beer.
| The Writer, Joe Schwartz|
The Fraser Valley marks the end of the 1375 kilometer journey of the mighty Fraser River. The “Valley”, as it is known in local parlance, is a series of wide floodplains containing some of the richest agricultural land in BC. The Valley eventually gives way to the bustling metropolis of Vancouver, and there the Fraser River empties out into the Pacific Ocean.
Traveling in the Fraser Valley, ones eyes are drawn not to the flat farm fields, but the forested walls bordering the expanse, and beyond these, glimpses of alpine peaks stretching into the distance. We have come here to explore the fringes of the Valley, the pockets of mountain bike trails that dot the length of this stretch of the Trans Canada highway. While it takes a bit of driving to check out each zone, we are consistently rewarded by extensive trail networks that could keep us busy for days.
| Joe, Wade|
Still under most riders’ radar, the Valley is home to a vibrant trail development scene. I say trail development rather than trail building because they are taking it many steps further than your average quasi-legal scraper-of-a-line-through-the-forest trail builders. The Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association (FVMBA), a non-profit, volunteer run organization, has been slowly and quietly developing a legitimate and well-supported multi-zone network of trails over the last several years, uniting communities like Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Maple Ridge.
| Stephen Matthews|
The FVMBA also unites the mountain bike community through awesome events like their Trailblazer Enduro
series, or the free-to-enter That's What She Said
all women's event, the latter taking place July 20th in Mission. These trail networks include great signage, established parking areas, and of course kilometers of ripping singletrack for all levels of rider. While the FVMBA-sanctioned trails could keep any rider happy for weeks, there is still more riding in the Fraser Valley for the adventurous type, high above the valley in the rarely travelled to alpine regions.
Even though there are vast physical differences from Vedder to Sumas, or Red to Bear, the sub-regions of the valley are united not only by a communal organization of trails, but by a shared vision of growth. Kevin Koopman is the president of the FVMBA, and offered to spend a day with us on Sumas showing our group the incredible trail link-ups on the mountain. Kevin is a visionary who has set his sights on sustainable trail development and community involvement. He along with other FVMBA members, land managers, and volunteers, has been tirelessly working to establish the most approachable and enjoyable trails around.
| Kevin Koopmans on Sumas|
| Kevin and Wade at the Koopman's abode|
Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford: Squidline is a one size fits all trail, for beginners and experts alike. As skeptics who have been told this before, we shrugged off the description and felt the need to make that call ourselves. Two minutes in, Kevin’s description was confirmed. The trail offered a low-grade, meandering descent that could be rolled slowly, but presented opportunities for advanced riding to shine. Squidline presents everything from natural doubles and hips, to blurred vision straight aways and chicane style corners.
| Stephen, Squidline|
| Bow hunter out in the rain looking for deer|
| Abandoned Cabin on Sumas, home to sketchy ladders and skinnies. Wade and Sarah aren't impressed|
Vedder near Cultus Lake: Mongoloyd is an advanced, hand built DH trail with large gaps and committing moves. The trail is built as a fast singletrack descent with multiple maneuvers and features that are not for the timid.
| Stephen, Mongoloyd|
| Wade, Mongoloyd|
| Joe, Mongoloyd|
| Sarah, Electric Lettuce|
Elk-Thurston, Southeast of Chilliwack: this trail is strenuous hike-a-bike on multi-use trail. It then offers amazing sub-alpine views of the Fraser Valley as the trail weaves through alpine meadows. Note this trail should be avoided on high traffic weekends, and hikers have the right of way!
Bear Mountain is Mission: The Lorax is an appropriately named trail beginning at the top of a new clear cut and almost instantly drops in to a thick wooded forest. It’s an amazing combination of properly built corners and natural terrain features that produces a very active and enjoyable trail experience.
| Schwartz drops into Lorax|
Red Mountain, also in Mission: Arduum is infamous throughout British Columbia for being the most intense and gnarly downhill course on the BC Cup Race circuit, this steep and technical descent offers white-knuckle rock faces, big stepdowns, fall line root chutes, and high speed gap jumps.
| Stephen Matthews, Arduum|
| Cultus Lake Vacationers|
We based out of the Cultus Lake Provincial Park campgrounds. Waking up to the smell of cooking bacon and the sound of wind rustling through the trees makes it easy to forget how close we are to the Trans Canada highway and multiple large cities.
We do not forget, though, how we're surrounded by seemingly unlimited singletrack. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and anticipating this we bring out the quivers. We have our big bikes, our all-mountain/mid-travel/down-country/enduro/whateverthelatestcatchphraseis bikes, and our 29ers for a little alpine riding. Excessive gluttony to be sure, but we are as caught up as the next person in the search for the perfect bike, or just filling our garages with toys.
With this many trails, mountains, types of bacon, beers, and bikes, we barely scrape the surface of the potential in the Fraser Valley. Someday soon, for us odd people who like doing strange things on bikes, it will be time to pack up the quiver and head on back to the valley. It’s just a short drive away.
Stay tuned for Part 2/3 next week as we explore more of the Fraser Valley.
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