RubiKon Adventures

Tales and travels of "GrizzLee", "Looksha Lori" & "Yukon Johann"

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day1 - Destination Nuxalk Nation: A Solo Adventure Ride to Bella Coola

 Day 1: Seattle to Lillooet Lake… The Hard Way 

“What avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?” ~Aldo Leopold

Video - Day 1: Seattle to Lillooet Lake.. The Hard Way

I left a little later than I wanted to this year. I said goodbye to my family around 10:00 a.m. as I left my home in Sammamish, Wa.

Leaving Home

From there, I took Washington state route 9 to Sumas, Wa where I would cross the border. This route would normally be quite fun and interesting for many folks. The sunshine, glimpses of the mountains and the secondary growth of trees are beautiful for sure and for many metropolitan loving folks, that can be a very exciting adventure in itself . But for me, it was all too familiar, as I have traveled it numerous times on my journeys to/from Canada. I see it more as a gateway to the real beauty that is only found north of the lower 48 states. However, there is one very scenic spot where one can see across a valley, past clear cuts at the start of the North Cascades foothills, where Mt Baker gives a peek-a-boo glance to passing travelers.

Mt Baker Teasing me with partial views

Mt Baker is a volcano that, from this road, provides a real tease like at a burlesque club, where you don’t get to see it all, and the mind is left to its own devices to fill in the blanks.  However, for me, crossing the border into Canada is always stress full experience and the views, no matter how interesting, are not enough to release the pressure I feel when I arrive at the border. The border guards in addition to the typical  “where are you from” and the “where are you going and for how long” questions,  always ask me “are you carrying a knife/bear spray/guns”.  It seems that whenever I mention that I have Bear Spray, I get pulled over and they do a full body cavity search where I spend the next hour re-packing my gear and it never seems to fit right. So this time, I lied and said no. After a few inquisitive questions as to where I plan to camp, I was set free and on my way to Mission B.C. The border guards even got a free geography lesson for me as I tried to explain where the Naxulk Nation was located. All I got was blank stares. I must admit, I felt a bit guilty and it bucks my normal persona. But, I had had too many bad experiences at the border and besides, I quite enjoyed stumping them without coming across as a smart ass. 

The plan was to ride the West Side road on Harrison Lake. Harrison Lake It is a real gem and can be pretty hairy on a fully loaded GS towards the north end of the lake. 
My Route for Day 1 (click to enlarge)
I arrived at the Sasquatch Inn, where there were numerous bikers and it appeared that a number of folks from a classic auto club were also there enjoying lunch and chewing “the fat”. I had a quick snack and took off up the road towards north.  It wasn’t long and the pavement gave way to gravel.

Harrison Lake and its emerald beauty
Soon, I was getting glimpses of the emerald colored lake. Although, no one could see it, I was wearing an ear to ear grin in my helmet. The next four days, I would see very little to no pavement. I was in heaven. Because I was covering ground that I rode last year, I was going a bit faster than last year, with less “scenic” stops. Besides, it was now pushing 3:30 pm and I needed to get to Lillooet lake before dark as I left home about 4 hours later than I should have. 
Beautiful Harrison Lake nestled in the mountain landscape like a childhood storybook scene

Heading farther north, the mountains get bigger

As I approached the northern end of the lake, the road conditions dramatically changed. The upper end of the West Side Road along Harrison Lake can get pretty rough. In fact, in some spots it is damn near a 4x4 trail. Although it was a bit hairy last year on the big GS, I felt confident that I would have no problems getting through the roughest sections. My troubles all began after a mild water crossing. The road got narrower and the loose rocks got bigger, many about the size of softballs, some even near the proportions of a petrified dinosaur egg I once saw. It all seemed pretty manageable at first, but then I met a local who was out camping and he warned me of the road conditions ahead for the next 7 Km’s. Like most Canadians, he expressed genuine concern for me and my safety. I told him that I was here last year and it wasn’t that big of deal. He told me that this year was different. He told me that he had trouble going through earlier in the year on his 250 cc bike. I am quite certain he was looking at me, my bike and all my gear while thinking all the time that I must be some kind of inexperienced nut. He stated that in a bit he would drive up behind me for 5 kms to help me in case I had in trouble. For that I was grateful and heartily thanked him. From there I encountered the first real challenge. The road not only angled up steeply, but it leaned downhill towards the lake as it angled up and, in many cases, has severe drop-offs to the lake below. All the while, the sand that normally held the rocks in place was washed away from the severe rains that happened a few days before, making traction a real chore. At times, my rear tire was spinning so much that I could smell the rubber. Dumping the bike along this stretch and falling off here could result in real injury. I was very concerned. 
A slide partially blocks the road

It wasn’t long before I encountered a fellow GS rider coming the opposite direction. We recognized each other. His name was Lucias(sp?) and we happened to meet up in the Yukon as I was heading south and he was heading north just a few weeks before. What a small world. We talked a bit out our experiences to Prudhoe Bay and how dirty our bikes got. In any event, he told me he had dumped his bike twice already and wondered how much further the rough stuff was. Likewise, I asked him how far I had to go. From my perspective, it wasn’t good. I had another 5 to 7 Kms of hell to ride through. Lucias was nearly finished with the bad stuff. We parted ways and then it wasn’t long before I dumped my bike. A first for me. I wasn’t too shocked. However, in the process, my foot temporarily got pinned between the bike and the ground. I lost my balance and fell, bruising my knee pretty good. Not damage to the bike. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of quad riders come by and they gave me a hand in lifting my loaded bike. 
O-boy.. What have I done here

At this point I was soaked with sweat and drops were running down my face and neck form within my helmet. I proceed  another couple of kilometers, passing a truck canopy that had come off a truck. It was lying in the middle of the road. From there I crossed several rocky ravines, including one that was pretty precarious with a rocky cliff dropping off several hundred feet above the lake. One fall here could result in real pain, maybe even death. In these areas, I moved my bike methodically and slow, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot. I wasn’t taking any chances. All seemed to be pretty good and the road appeared to be improving when I hit a small ravine and fell over on my bike for a second time. I took a pretty hard spill and really plowed my head into the rocks. Luckily, I had my helmet on. This time, I dented my pannier up pretty good. My engine guards got pretty beat up as well. I was alone for a bit and I tried to lift my bike, but the rocks were like marbles and I felt the bike sliding along its side. I couldn’t lift it. I began the process of dismantling the luggage to lighten the bike up, when a lone endure bike rider came up behind me. He gave me a hand and I thanked him before he went on his way. 

The Waterfall Signifies that the Worst Is Over
The end of Harrison Lake.. Whew, what a ride

My Route along Harrison Lake (Click to enlarge)
 From there I was thankful, as I was finally out of the worst of it. My body was soaked in sweat and my mood wasn’t all that great. It was beginning to turn dark and I still had a ways to go before I made cap at Lillooet Lake. As I pulled into the logging camp in Tipella, I was mildy amused by a log formation in the water. It seems that mother nature was against me. The log looked like a fist with it’s fingers curled in a fist, save for the middle finger. Yep, mother nature gave me the bird. 

Mother Nature Gives Me the Finger

From there I made time as fast as I could. I was in a deep fjord valley following the Lilloet River and darkness settled in pretty quickly. The temperature dropped and the sweat pouring off my body drenched my clothes. I began to shiver a bit. I arrived at camp around 9:30 in pitch black darkness. To make things worse, my batteries in my LED headlamp were nearly dead and I was forced to use the light form my cell phone to make my way around and setup my tent. I had a lonely dinner by the lake that night. The fog rolled in soon after and I soon found myself asleep. Man, what a day this was. I can only hope it gets better tomorrow.

Stay Tuned for Day 2.....

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