RubiKon Adventures

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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 3 - Destination Nuxalk Nation: A Solo Adventure Ride to Bella Coola

Day 3: Big Bar Ferry and Beyond


As day 2 of my ride came to a close, the sky was getting angry and it looked like a storm was brewing. After being told adamantly by the locals that it was going to storm overnight and into the next morning, I decided to get motel in Lillooet. Now Lillooet, isn’t much of a town. Main street consists of a bar, a couple of hotels and a gas station. It is quite the location as is sits in one of the driest and hottest locations in all of BC. The clouds pass over the high mountains, dumping very little precipitation. The area is also unique from a native history perspective. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on the North American Continent. The confluence of the Fraser river and many major streams combined with the warm long growing season made it an ideal meeting place and residence for the indigenous people. In fact, in my visits there, I’ve encountered more 1st nations people than outsiders. In the summer months when I have passed through, it has always been hot.
My day started in a hotel in Lillooet to a nice partly overcast day. No rain. I wish I had gone with my original instincts and the weather report I had read prior to leaving my home in Washington state and camped out. Oh well, a good shower and a good meal were needed. After a good breakfast, I headed up the West Pavilion Road  hoping to cross the Fraser River at the Big Bar Ferry and then across the heart of the Chilcotin Plateau. As was to be normal for the entire trip, I had no planned destination and would camp wherever I saw fit.
Native Fish Camp

West Pavillion Road... Heavenly Ride

Fraser River canyon is beautiful

Moran Canyon... The most dramatic section of the Fraser River

The first sight I had was seeing a fishing camp along the Fraser. A narrow slot in the rapids of the Fraser are choice for native dip netting. The salmon were running and I was told that the bears were out in force. I would see 6 bears this day. The road quickly climbed up in elevation and soon I was high above the river valley. The photos look as if I was in a helicopter floating over the canyon. It was quite a sight. In fact the entire road to Big Bar Ferry was a sight to behold. It provided dramatic vistas at nearly every corner. During the course of my travel here, the road dipped in and out of the forest where I would intermittently see open range cattle, bears and Ptarmigan. Once I arrived at the road to drop down to the Big Bar Ferry, there was  dramatic shift in grade.
Remote desert in British Columbia?!?!

Unbelievable roads

Descending to the Big Bar Ferry


I feel like a modern day explorer

Surreal beauty and loneliness

The land tells a geological story

Basalt lava is exposed

Bassalt and sandstone

I believe one sign stated a 14% grade, but I swear it was much worse in many sports, perhaps up to 20% or more. As I descended into the river canyon, the trees gave way to sage brush and the road… ah yes, the road turned into a horrible mess. At times I was nearly axel deep in sand. Not just ordinary sand. This stuff  was like fine talcum powder. I nearly dumped my big GS a couple of times. I must have been a sight to see as I had my legs out like training wheels to keep the bike upright. Because the grade was steep, I could not alleviate the load off the front wheels. I would encounter vehicle tracks and they would pull me in every direction and I had to pay strict attention to keep upright. Thankfully this lasted only a couple of miles until I came to the loading ramp of the ferry. Man, I was dripping with sweat and the temperature must have gone up another 10 degrees. It is really different world in the deep canyon. Much more arid sage brush down there.

Waiting for the Ferry
Cool Ferry ride
The Big Bar Ferry is interesting in that is a “reaction” ferry, powered by water current. It is connected to a cable spanning the river and propelled by angling rudders to drive the ferry across. Once across, the road leads up to Big Bar Ranch and Jesmond. My destination was to go beyond there and out past Gang Ranch and head over to the Nemiah Valley.
Looking back at the escarpment I came down
After much anticipation of more sandy roads on the east side of the Fraser river, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of sand and the firmness of the road there. It also helped that the road wasn’t quite as steep. I was having fun again and versus the terrifying death grip I had on my handle bars on the other west side.

My route takes me up into the plateau and out of the sage into trees
It was here where a bear came sneaking up behind me
As I proceeded up the poison lake road, I came across more open range cattle and more bears. In one case, a bear had found a juice bottle and proceeded to run down the road in front of me, refusing the let the bottle go in his mouth. I guess that he finally had enough and needed more oxygen and released the bottle where he took an immediate left in front of me into the woods. About 200 yards later I stopped for a snack. While there, I heard some rustling in the bush behind me. I happen to turn around and see a bear (same bear?) staring intently at me. He/she stood up to get a better view and I reached for my camera. Unfortunately, the bear must have been startled by making eye contact with me and turned tail and ran, crashing through the brush. I could hear the bear crashing for 100 yards or more pounding the bush as it was to make it’s escape.
Approaching Churn Creek Provincial Park
Riding parallel to the Fraser River Canyon
Stunning views
The land gives hints about massive flooding
Crossing the Fraser River (looking north)
Looking south as I cross the Fraser

Water carve sandstone walls deep in the canyon

I almost camped here beside Churn Creek

From there I rode over toward Canoe Creek and encountered yet another bear. This time, I could see the bear in the distance ambling down the road long before it noticed me. I stopped to get my camera and proceeded slowly forward. The bear heard my engine and crossed the road to my right and paused briefly, looking at me. It then disappeared into the brush and all I could see was its haunches as it casually walked away from me. Soon after I was running parallel to the Fraser River near the Churn Creek Protected area. The area is a mix of dry arid canyon land that dips off the edge of the Chilcotin Plateau grasslands. It is a fantastically beautiful country with grand vistas, colored rock mixed with golden grasslands and green trees. I crossed a metal grate suspension bridge and then made my way up to Gang Ranch.  It was now late afternoon/early evening. I stopped in for a soda at the general store which also serves as a post office. I checked to see if there as camping and was told no. So off I went hoping to make it out to Fletcher Lake before it got too late in the evening. By this time, the sky was beginning to thicken with dark sinister clouds. Another storm was brewing.
Arrival at Gang Ranch
It is a beautiful ranch
Post office and General Store
Grasslands around the Gang Ranch
Arrival at Big Creek Junction
A pay phone out here? It works... I made a call home
View from my camp

Loons keep me company and other waterfowl sing while  I have dinner
I found my way over to Farewell Canyon Road and headed west. As I reached Big Creek I discovered a pay phone out in the middle of the sticks. Huh??? I stopped and called my son back in Sammamish, Wa. Surprisingly the phone worked. From there I rode past Rushes Lake and pulled into the Fletcher Lake Campground. This was great. I was at the tail end of the Labor Day holiday weekend and found that I had the camp ground all to myself. I needed no reservations and didn’t have to purchase a permit. Furthermore, I had fresh chopped firewood stacked underneath my picnic table. WOW, Pinch me, I was dreaming.  As the clouds formed the sun was setting and I enjoyed a fantasy sunset of orange, pink and golden yellows. As the last vestiges of light were fading, I felt a few rain drops. I had barely enough time to put my gear away in the tent and cover my bike before the sky opened up and I was greeted with thunder showers. I was pretty spent by this point and I faded off into the night with heavy rain drops pelting my tent with the occasional crack of thunder proceeded by a bright flash of lightening. As I closed my eyes, I wasn’t worried. No work, no schedule, no problems. This thunderstorm was the least of any problems I had back home.
One final look at the sun before it disappeared

My last sight of the lake before I turn in for the night.. Priceless!!

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