This past week Scott and I loaded up our motorbikes to explore some places I’ve been meaning to visit not far from Vancouver. We both ride Honda dual sports, and mine was created from two different bikes – a 1985 XR600R (engine) and a 1985 XL600R (frame). It’s essentially a street legal dirtbike, kickstart-only, and no battery!
I think the bike is pretty rad, and I’ve recently had the seat redone a nice electric blue by my friend Randi Oh who owns the company Aro Upholstery. We also invested in oil-cloth saddle bags (among many other oil-cloth products from motorcycle jacket to fanny pack!) created by our friend Kassy Bailey, and her company Old Fashioned Standards. It’s been fun supporting friends and their amazing skills, including buddies who have helped us by welding custom bike racks, and random repairs.
We started the adventure by heading up past Pemberton on the Monday along the Sea-to-Sky Highway (post-Pemberton Music Festival!!) to the In-Shuck-ch Forest Service Road along Lillooet Lake. It was just so lovely to get past the chaos of the traffic and festival site into the beginning of the Highway 99. We decided to head down to Strawberry Point campsite, which is a short walk from the service road.
Lillooet Lake is a beautiful turquoise hue with white sand, and the sun was streaming down on us. We set up a prime spot near the water, and I attempted a chilly dip in the lake. The weather started to shift, and even though it was sunny, dark clouds were forming. Out of nowhere we could see it was raining on the lake, and a double rainbow landed right in the heart of it. Pretty magical.
To be safe, we had pitched an additional tarp over our tent (thanks to Scott’s insistence and interest in learning knots!), which was wise since the following day socked us in with rain. Instead of ripping along the Duffey Lake Road (#99) in the rain, we rested easy in our spot and miraculously built a raging fire by foraging dry driftwood tucked under the massive logs along the shore. We made the most of the day hiking around, and eventually the rain stopped.
The next morning, with all our gear now dry we headed back up the trail to our parked motorcycles. As we loaded them I realized that the neighbouring car had their window down… or I should say, had their window smashed in! I raced back down the trail to alert the two girls who owned the vehicle. It was pretty awful when they discovered that their car had been robbed, and just so disappointing. Whoever was so heartless to do this must have been pretty desperate…
The other minor downer was that the camp attendant left us a note asking us to pay double since we had two motorcycles, and they were charging for each individual vehicle. This was pretty odd since the fee is usually per tent / per site. I left them an extra wad of cash, but was not impressed especially since a van full of a dozen disrespectful campers, leaving clumps of toilet paper everywhere would be charged half our rate. Whatever!
We moved on, and embraced Joffre Lakes just a quick ride away. Joffre Lakes is a really accessible trail featuring three surreal turquoise lakes and a beautiful glacier! The sun was still low so the mist was lurking silently in the mountains, which made the scenery eerie and magical. We timed the hike right because by the time we headed back down, loads of tourists were beginning their ascent.
From there we got a taste of the Duffey Lake Road known for its windy traverses, and decided to pull in at one of the campsites called Gott Creek since it was totally empty and situated right next to gushing waters (that masked any highway noise). We set up our tarp again, but we were now clear of the rain. Eventually one other family of campers came by, and I swindled a handful of marshmallows from them to roast!
The following day we would finally get to utilize the dual sport aspect of our motorcycles once we got our fill of the Duffey and started heading north along the #40 Pioneer Road. The “highway” is primarily 4×4 with crazy pot holes, sheer drops down to Carpenter Lake below and the occasional logging truck blasting past you. I initially didn’t enjoy the ride, feeling freaked out by the exposure, the evidence of cliff slides, and the unpredictability of the road. I was also following Scott and kept finding myself drifting far behind him.
Suddenly, Scott stops up ahead and I realize there’s a momma black bear up on her hind legs, with two adorable little cubs scampering along the side of the road, trying to hop over one of the rare concrete highway barriers. She’s not charging us, but running away and eventually crosses the highway and the whole family scramble up a tree. I wish I had a camera, as it was so mesmerizing.
We find ourselves in Gold Bridge, BC which was obviously a hotbed of off-roading adventure, since the infamous Hurley 4X4 road emerges into it. While it was tempting to take the plunge down it, we chose an old logging road leading us up to the idyllic Kingdom Lake. Scott got to see a huge stag on the way (he bolted immediately), and we blasted up this road which was technically more challenging than the highway 40 but seemed easier without the distracting cliff drops!
Kingdom Lake was wonderful! It felt disconnected from the world and respected by those who went there (no sign of garbage or debris). Our stay there was peaceful and mellow, whittling wood and reading good books – I’m reading The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Essentially it is Merton’s autobiography as he transitions from mainstream society and University antics, having also experienced a privileged life growing up in Europe and New York, into the world of Catholicism, silence, contemplation, and monasteries.
The most interesting part for both of us was our polar opposite experience riding back down the Forest Service road, and back to Lillooet along the same route we came. Scott and I were in great spirits, we had fun standing tall on our motorcycles for better vision and stability, and even though I was closer to the cliff drop and going a lot faster, I wasn’t remotely afraid. It was the most euphoric and exhilarating ride I’ve ever had! We planned to stop for photos whenever we liked, and simply enjoy the incredible scenery like the looming cliffs, and this one section of lush river, instead of being focused on “getting there.” What a difference our attitudes made in appreciating the ride. It was such a highlight.
We also stopped at a local hang-out I believe was called the Bearclaw cafe, which was serving freshly baked bannock with red currants and butter. The locals were all smiles and super friendly when we arrived, and it felt like a family picnic. After gassing up, we continued down the highway 12 with the thought of taking the little ferry from Lytton to the Stein Valley. Unfortunately, a crazy howling wind erupted making for a treacherous ride negotiating crosswinds. It was truly frightening.
Instead, we made the call to come back to the Stein Valley when we were more properly geared up to do a multi-day hike. Lytton turned out to be a nice surprise. There was a small farmers market in the works, with all of the tents secured by bags of sand considering the crazy wind. We went for another round of bannock which was even fluffier than the last batch, complimented with fresh apricot jam. Total heaven!
As we were chowing down on our treats, I look up when a big yellow truck parks in front of us and realize that one of my regular Carnegie patrons, the First Nations actor / poet / activist Stephen Lytton is right in front of me! He often jokes with me that he wants a double-ride on my motorbike so it was so bizarre to see him, Stephen Lytton in Lytton!
We had a good laugh, and Scott took our photo. Stephen is a really awesome person, overcoming adversity as an Aboriginal person with physical disabilities, living in the Downtown Eastside. Just last year he received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award – which was totally well-deserved! It’s a pleasure sharing lunch with him, and helping him download music and print his poetry at the library.
The young attendant at the Lytton Information kiosk encouraged us to try the Anderson Creek campspot off of highway 1, to get away from the wind and enjoy the view of the Fraser river. At first we were hesitant, as it appeared to be a grass parking-lot for RV’s to line-up, but the host gave us a great tip and the most secluded campspot in the trees. This was a relief since our first choice of campspots overlooked a mob of teenaged party jocks down on the sandy banks of the creek, blasting lame techno tunes and chugging booze. It reminded me of “field parties” in Ontario hosted by the rural hockey jocks, which I was never invited to, being not of the cheerleading variety of female species. Sigh.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful since the weather was overcast, and while we had considered driving up Harrison Lake along a rugged road to some campspots, it seemed best to head home. There was an unending stream of redneck trucks hauling boats and ATVs, charging that way for the weekend, and after experiencing the tranquility of Kingdom Lake it would simply be a let down.
Once back in Vancouver the sun returned in full force! We got cleaned up, aired out the tent, out for sushi, and watched a kids’ skateboard contest in the park. It was good to be back, and good to reflect on our mini adventure before heading out again. Vancouver Island is next!