September 2, 2001 Chilcotin High Route to Spruce Lake then back
For the first day of our ride click here.
I slept well that night; tired, sore and stuffed. Our accomodations - at Gun Creek Cabins - were not luxurious but they had everything I needed and beat a tent and a cold sleeping bag anytime. Despite the pitter patter of raindrops, I slept like a log woken up only by the sound of the alarm clock.
The weather did not look promising. A storm system was definitely blowing in and it made it very easy for us to decide to drive to the trailhead rather than making this day's ride a "true" circuit. All told, driving to the trailhead would cut out approximately 500m of climbing on about 10 km of road.
The map for today's ride is below. Our plan is to ride in a counter clockwise direction. Our start point is very close to the point on the map marked as Pearson's Pond. We drive on the forest service road up to the Taylor Creek trail then ascend Taylor Creek, drop down one pass and climb another pass (unmarked on the map - but known as Windy Pass then descend into Spruce Lake. The return leg is largely downhill and all the way down Gun Creek. Of course, these trails are in the middle of nowhere in the wild country of the Chilcotin Range.
I have to confess that this was one ride where I set out with completely the wrong attitude. One never likes to fail but if ever there was a day where I thought we didn't have the faintest chance of making our stated goal; this was it. For one, both Peter and I were tired. Mark was fresh, not having ridden the day before, but was inexperienced. We would be riding in alpine and there was one huge frigging mother of a storm system hugging the first ridgeline where we were headed.
Despite my misgivings, up we went. Our start point - km 0 - was at 1350 m elevation. The fierce winds from the frontal system which strafed out vehicle at out parking spot abated as we headed up into treed terrain and my mood and attitude improved. The climb was very steady - averaging 10 to 12 % and we made good headway; each finding our own pace.
There appears to be lots of iron in these mountains. I imagine there are lots of mineral caches up here. I know that we rode on a mix of mining and logging roads; the Chilcothins old riches came from mining; new riches come from logging. Tourism is still a fringe activity in this remote area and Peter is very much alone in this shot (with a stunning red range in the background) for that reason.
At the 1900 m mark - approximately 11km into our ride, there is a little cabin. We took a look in the well-lived in and cosy interior. To say that the cabin is rustic is to overstate its primitiveness. Nevertheless it must be a welcome sight to its users being the only shelter around for kilometres. There must be lots of ski-touring and backcountry activities in this area. I was initially amazed that the cabin wasn't completely unuseable in winter and didn't get totally buried until Peter reminded me that this area does not get as much snow as our local Vancouver Coast Mountains
This rest stop proved to be opportune as the next few km's were steeper, more exposed and quite gruelling. Mark seemed to be holding up well to the pace so both Peter and I stepped it up a notch climbing into the clouds and closer to Taylor Pass - our first major landmark.
I am not sure that these pictures can really convey a sense of how desolate and remote this trail is; I wonder what is was like for the miners that had to cut the first trails in to this range? I know they worked throughout the year - deep into winter.
I took this next series of shots from the top of Taylor Pass at a little over 2100 m and 13km into the ride. My natural riding pace was just a little faster than Peter's; which is why I have so many pictures of him. At this point, in between shivering and trying to keep warm, I was thinking that the views must be stunning if the effing clouds ever give us a break. In retrospect, you can now see that west - or to picture left - there are small patches of blue sky; while looking east down the valley of Taylor Creek the storm front still lingers in macabre wet glory.
Here are Peter and Mark coming into the picture. Cold as I was, I didn't want to wait around and we were off again without much of a wait
The descent into the Eldorado Basin between Taylor Pass and Windy Pass was FAST! Views were gorgeous and wild as only the Chilcothin can be and it was all I could do to concentrate on staying on the tight narrow twisty singletrack with these kinds of jawdropping vistas.
This is the picture of the trail at Taylor Pass where we are to descent into the basin then climb to cloud-shrouded Windy Pass - which I have marked for your amusement.
This is a picture at the base of the basin; at an elevation of 1850 m in the brief interlude between the climb up to Windy Pass.
This little slice of singletrack heaven hides the gruelling climb up to Windy Pass. The trail rapidly gets vertical and the wind picks up as we climb out of tree cover from 1850 m to the trips' high point at 2250m - covering the 400 m in about 2km. At this point we are in the semi-alpine zone and just about to hit alpine talus. I did not take too many pictures on this hike-a-bike section as it was rather difficult to concentrate; there were times when the gusts would bodily pick me up and push me up the hill.
I got to the top first to be greeted by a snow field. I took shelter behind a ridge line and was shortly joined by Peter. I was a little concerned about Mark as he was quite far behind; luckily this was the last severe climb and it was pretty much downhill all the way. Despite the blue sky, this area really lived up to its reputation as Windy Pass. It must have been blowing at least 3.5!!
Mark joined us and we took a quick lunch break and then we were off. Here is a picture of Peter in this rather esoteric moonscape.
The first bit of descending was rather alarming as we were buffeted by constant strong gusts throwing us off the singletrack and it was all I could do to keep rubber on dirt. Luckily we descend quickly into the welcome shelter of treeline where I get this rather astonishing shot of Peter and Mark riding on the ridgeline looking into the Tyaughton Creek Valley. Our goal; Spruce Lake is at 1500M so we have to lose 750M over 6.5km.
This singletrack is beyond description. I haven't ridden with Peter in a long time and I've forgotten how much fun it is to ride with him. We are well matched and chase each other down thin little gorgeous near-virgin (remember not many people get up here) singletrack that winds through cedar, pine and over brooks and streams and creeks all framed in mountains of mythical proportions. Life is way too good.
All good descents must come to an end though and finally we reach the junction where one turns to Spruce Lake or to Gun Creek. Here, framed by Mt Sheba - at an elevation of 1500 m we take our well-deserved rest break.
The rest of the ride was through the High Grasslands. We finished up at Gun Creek Ranches
The crossing point of Gun Creek
Sore but happy!