In part one, Scott and I began our Mad Maxian vision of ripping cross country on our dual sports down Washington, up Idaho and into the heart of hippie-dom in Nelson, BC. We continued to live a bikers’ dream since the road heading north to Kaslo was such a cruise of windy roads and epic scenery. It was actually our plan to rest easy and find a campspot early on, but then we got onto the 3A and it was incredible! We had it virtually to ourselves and it just kept going and going and twisting! The next minute we find ourselves in New Denver and now we really needed a campspot and some proper food.
While it wasn’t the most scenic campspot, we settled for the camping right in town and got to chat up quite a few people. The one gentleman was a former logger and had the inside scoop on all kinds of sweet dirtbike trails past Trout Lake and Beaton Lake. It was great chatting with him, and next year we will consider tracking down his recommendations which he attempted to draw in the dirt with a stick. I also loaded up on some passionfruit ice cream in town, so I was satisfied.
The next day we pretty much just did it again, this time riding the 3A east, except that we stopped off in the weird ghost town of Sandon with its vintage bus graveyard and heritage hydro power-plant in the middle of nowhere. Once in Kaslo, we treated ourselves to some pretty fine tacos at a Mexican joint, then managed to track down one of my favourite campspots at Fletcher Falls. It was a favourite because it was free, it involved a short hike, it was on the water, and the actual falls was so beautiful and surprising!
The weekend was upon us, which was a perfect time to get “off the grid.” We were being met by an old timer named Nil at a boat launch just north of Kaslo, who was taking us to his boat-access only home in Birchdale where he lived with his wife Sheila. The whole story of how they acquired the place was miraculous, and it really was an impressive layout with solar powered cabin and a mountain-fed water system. One of the smaller cabins was a make-shift Orthodox chapel, known as St. John in the Wilderness with the intention of becoming a sanctuary and centre for boat-builders.
Nil and Sheila are Orthodox and had just begun laying the foundation of a proper Byzantine chapel made entirely of local materials, including mica “glass” windows. Scott and I contributed some minor labour efforts by learning to use the digger and then transfer the gravel for the foundation. We also were shown some incredible natural wonders, my favourite being Fry Creek Canyon.
Fry Creek is near Johnstone’s Landing and had recently gone through a massive transformation due to a dramatic landslide. Once on the trail the power of the Creek to shape and carve out a path through the boulders and cliffs was awe-inspiring. The light was also golden and hazy from forest fires, so it truly was an incredible sight!
I was also grateful to be in Birchdale because instead of camping, we were offered one of the cabins and it so happened that a thunder and lightning storm was passing through. I have a serious dislike of being in a tent during a lightning storm. Growing up in Ontario I was witness to some awesome storms, and I remember looking out my bedroom window and seeing the entire night sky light up like a sheet of vibrant electric blue with sizzling snakes crackling overhead. We lived next to the Niagara Escarpment and the day after a storm many trees would have been toppled, including one that smoked the side of our house. That part didn’t phase me, as I felt safe in my home, but a childhood friend was struck and killed on a camping trip with his family (his sister had First Aid and could not resuscitate him), and then two of my brother’s rock-climbing friends were struck and killed in their tent. Super sad.
So, Birchdale was a safe haven and we enjoyed our two nights there with the intention of going back someday soon. Instead we decided to continue our journey and begin heading west as we had plans to visit friends who were new parents! The obvious route was the highway 3 west, but there was some trepidation because of the crazy fires. And, it got especially gnarly as we closed in on Rock Creek. Only two days earlier a fire, described as a tornado, had wiped out 30 homes and completely charred a 37 square foot area, and I can only imagine the poor animals. It truly was a scene from the apocalypse with blackened stumps everywhere that were still smoking and a dense reddish-gray sky. It was a depressing setting and I was grateful that the road had re-opened so we could get through.
As we continued on, I would notice more little pockets of smoke flaring up in the forest. And then we came towards Osoyoos, which was super bizarre. The summer tourists continued to frolic in the lake even though just kilometers away you could literally see the mountain on fire. The town was on evacuation alert, but we didn’t wait around. We filled up on gas, chatted up a firefighter from Quebec who went crazy over my bike (he had one similar back home), then kept moving. On the highway west there were these dudes in a sports car with the top down, blasting around with their phones in the air, filming the creepy scene. They totally reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson, going on some messed up ride from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. At least someone was enjoying the “spectacle.”
It was beginning to get dark, but my eagle eyes spotted a sign for camping in Keremeos at the Grist Mill and Gardens – a historic site. We were right beside the creek and the sound of the crickets at night was absolutely hypnotizing and mesmerizing. It was really nice to fall asleep with such a natural white noise, and be beside a water source!
The next day was relaxing as we stopped regularly, having a late lunch in Hope, then on to the highway 7 to visit our friends Aaron and Brittany, and their new little dude named Hendrik! We returned to Vancouver that evening, and it was actually super fun to rip along the highway 1 into the city at night since traffic was flowing so smoothly and the city lights looked impressive. Our plan was simply to do laundry, stock up on supplies, and then keep going. We survived the apocalypse and needed a little Sunshine Coast action to complete the summer roadtrip. Continued in Part Three…