RubiKon Adventures

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Part 1 - BC Cariboo Adventure Route: Riding Solo Thru the Gold Country

An All (mostly) Dirt Route from Clearwater BC to the Bowron Lakes Gold Country ...

Read Part 2 here

Trip Summary

High Level Route Description
Snohomish to Green Lake BC then over to Clearwater to Mahood Lake, to Canim Lake, to Elbow Lake, to Crooked Lake (and a hundred other lakes in between, not to mention all the rivers, streams and creeks), to Horsefly, to Likely, to Bowron Lakes, then back to Likely, to Quesnel Forks (Ghost Town), to Horsefly, to Williams Lake, to Gang Ranch, To Alkai Lake, Kelly, Lake, Pavillion, Lillooet, Texas Creek Road to Lytton and finally the Nicomen Road to Boston Bar and finally back home.

I covered a total of 1500 miles ... Over 1000 miles of dirt! Dirt is in every nook and cranny on the bike, luggage, camera... Heck, I've got dirt in parts of my body I didn't know could get dirt. I've met wild women (yes, a mountain guide living out in the bush by herself .. makes great pizza BTW), young hipsters in broken down cars, old farts in trucks, many natives, 7 bears, baby bob cats, 1 moose, 150 suicide squirrels and chipmunks, drank numerous beers of all kinds, ate candy bars, nuts, dehydrated food, bathed in a couple of rivers, survived a hail storm, met my friends (Alex and Jenny) coming back from the Yukon via moto bikes, passed two world famous bike travelers (Simon and Lisa .. on their way to Alaska on their new BMW GS's), etc.

I had to buy a new map... wore the other one out and/or used pages of it for butt wipe. The  "BC Back Roads Mapbook of Lies" ("Isn't there supposed to be road here?" is the question I find my self asking over and over again. ). Awe yes, that's all part of the adventure. U-Turns included in the total mileage count... Sigh?!

Mission to Hope via Harrison Mills

Lost in No Man's Land
Mtn Sheep at Spences Bridge.. note turbulent skies.
More Sheep

Arriving at Spences Bridge, I encounter a slight traffic jam. But all is cool as folks are slowing down and/or pulling over to view the mountain sheep on the side of the road.

Shortly thereafter I encountered a heavy dose of rain, complete with hail intermixed. No worries, as the temps quickly dropped to 70 deg within minutes. I was pretty miserable riding in 97 degree heat and the rain/hail mix felt wonderful.

Beyond Cache Creek and Clinton, I was passed by Lisa and Simon of 2RideTheWorld fame. And then soon after that I had a chance meetup with my good friends, Alex and Jenny. They were returning from a motorbike trip in the Yukon. It was a strange coincidence to meet all these familiar folks out in the middle of nowhere.

Camp at Green Lake
I continued on and camped at Green Lake Provincial Park (Sunset View Campground). It was virtually full. I hadn’t realized that this was BC Day weekend. The first Monday of August is known as British Columbia Day (BC Day) in the province of British Columbia. It is a holiday giving BC Canadians a chance to celebrate their achievements or relax with friends and family members.

Luckily, I got the last available spot. It was now hot and muggy around 8:00 in the evening. I was feeling a bit sluggish. I had some dinner and crawled into bed and read my book until my closed for the night.
One of many lakes I pass along the way to Clearwater B.C.

Countryside views like this were common up to Bridge Lake
The next morning, my real adventure began as I was to cover territory I had never seen. I was to head over to Little Fort and then to Clearwater, hoping to make it to Mahood Lake by Day’s end.  The Park Facilitator Operator came by to wish me safe travels and told me about a great little detour down to Little Fort. Eakins Creek Road was the original road that dropped down the pass to Little Fort. She said it was scenic and very doable on my bike. It also passed through a protected area following Eakins Creek (duh). So off I went, riding a dirt route out to Bridge Lake. I briefly touched pavement on Hwy 24 and then turned onto Eakin Creek road just shortly after Emar Lakes Provincial Park. It's a beautiful little dirt route to Little Fort. All big bike friendly and I didn’t see another soul out there.
Lunch and a much needed break at Coldscaur Lakes rec Area

I arrived at Clearwater and purchased a new BC Back Roads Mapbook of lies. My old one was dog eared, torn and missing pages. It also had many remarks and notes in it from my various travels up in central BC. My goal was to have a more up to date book with updated roads and such. My old one was already 15 years old and I had many profanities scribbled down within it's pages... mainly form my Chilcootin expeditions. The truth be known, it didn’t really help much. Some of the road data was inaccurate or didn’t show all the roads in I needed to make my way over to Bowron Lakes via all back roads, skirting the Cariboo Mountains.  
Scenic Mahood Lake and showers :-(
I took Camp Road 2 up towards Coldscaur Lakes. At some point the name of the road changed and numerous side roads began appearing. Many looked like major trunk lines. Many were not on the map, nor on my GPS (sigh?!). What I found was a couple of signs along the way, in the overgrown bush pointing the way to Mahood Lake. I was suspicious as it appeared to go a direction that was not in line with the map direction. I ended up crossing a few private farms, ranches and 1st Nations lands. Eventually the roads appeared on my GPS and seem to line up well when I got towards Mahood Lake.
Dream home at Canim Lake

I rode around Mahood Lake, hoping to maybe camp there for the night, but it began to shower, and I decided that I could just continue to Canim Lake and maybe find a cabin to hole up in. The good news was that the further I got away from the Cariboo Mountains, the better the weather got and soon, I found myself in glorious sunshine on the shores of Canim Lake. I ended up staying at the Canim Lake Resort Campground. They had hot showers, a hot tub and there was nice general store across the road to get some goodies… like beer. I actually split a six pack of “something” called beer (sorry, I am not familiar with Canadian brands) with my camp neighbors.  
Camp at Canim Lake Resort
The next morning I took off towards Horsefly. My destination for the day was to be Likely and maybe explore the Ghost town known as Quensel Forks.

So I took off heading up the Canim/Hendrix Lake Road. This road was actually marked pretty well on my GPS and I only had to stop a couple of times to verify that I was on route. Along the way I passed several little lakes, ponds and creeks. The sun was shining and all was good with the world.

Elbow Lake
Eventually I could see a sizable lake through the trees and my map say it was Bosk Lake. Bosk Lake looked very interesting. I was looking for a way to get to the shore and have a look. At the west end there was river and a rec site. There was a cardboard sign on the rec site sign that was written in marker stating that it was full. I pulled in anyway. Yes indeed. It was full. Wall-to-wall campers. I couldn’t get to the lake front without walking through peoples camps. At this point I was still ignorant to the fact that it was BC Days. After a quick look around, I took off and down the lonely road and only saw a pickup or two along the way. It was very lonely.

I came to several forks in the road, but the main trunk line road I was looking for was the Black Creek Road. Again I came upon a nice lake called Elbow Lake and ambled my way towards the shore via a rec site road. Once again, wall-to-wall people. DAMN!! This was more crowded than the campgrounds in the states. The rest of the shoreline on the lake was clear. It seems that all these lakes have a small rec site and no other access to the lake shore. All this country and no access?!?! Why?. No worries. I was on a mission. I began to worry now if I would be able to find a campsite at Likely.

McKinley Lake
I then proceeded to head out the McKinley Trail Road. And then BAM!!! The road was closed only a mile or so from it joining the Black Creek Road. The sign stated that the Bridge was out. I looked at my map and there appeared to be a faint road up to the Black Creek Rd on the McKinley Lake Road. So off I went, I soon discovered the supposed road was a quad/horse trail. I ran into a dead end at McKinley Lake. Again, it was multi-family affair at the tiny rec site. Hardly any room to turn my bike around. I asked the campers about options and they told me I had to go back quite a ways to Crooked Lake and then I could catch the Black Creek Road from there.  So off I went, backtracking several miles of dusty, gravel roads.
Crooked Lake
I soon realized what the orange signs I saw along the road and at each intersection meant now. They all said "McKinley Lake Detour"… So much for taking my time. I was now worried about arriving in Likely after dark. But it wasn’t a big deal. I found my way to Crooked Lake and was quite happy. It was a large lake that nestled up in foothills of the Cariboo mountians. I could see glaciers and snow off in the distance. It was a great place to have a late lunch. AND!! NO ONE was camped at the rec site. I had it all too myself. What? I was confused.
Crooked Lake Rec Site
After a lunch I headed towards Horsefly. I was curious as to what Horsefly was like. Having traveled hwy 97 in Canada numerous times, I’ve seen turnoffs for Horsefly near Williams Lake. The name sounds intriguing. But first I would have to get there. The route now dictated that I take Black Creek road to Horsefly. The road was wide and well graded. I was able to keep a steady 50 mph plus pace for most of it … albeit a bit dusty. I was hoping to see a town called Black Creek that was called out on my map and GPS. However, when I got to where the town was supposed to be there was a ranch called Black Creek … and nothing else.
Lots of these signs everywhere
I noted a consistent pattern regarding wilderness FS roads. My map and my GPS noted gaps in these areas whenever I saw a "Wilderness FS Road" sign. This made it tough to plan my route.
Quesnel Lake...  HUGE! 70 miles loooong.
From Black Creek, I made it to Horsefly, crossing the one lane bridge into town. I stopped at Fast Gas to fill up … My GS prefers premium fuel … you not find anything more than regular unleaded and diesel out in these parts. No worries. I’ve filled up before with regular. It all seems to run just fine in my big girl.

I stopped at Clarks General Store and got some snacks and asked about the route over to Likely. I was told it was all good roads and I should have no problem. So off I went. Before heading out, the heat was getting to me. It was 90+ degrees out and I was a bit tired. So I took a brief catnap along the Horsefly River. 
Remnants of the Polley Mine Disaster

From there I took the Mitchell Bay Road and ended up riding parallel to the Horsefly River toward Quesnel Lake. I got to the Ditch Road and crossed the area washed out from Polley Mine incident.
Remediation efforts appear to be going well.
The Polley Mine disaster involved the breach of a tailings pond (4 square kms) that released years of slurry into Quesnel Lake in 2014. Hazeltine Creek, which is normally only an arms width in flow was devastated in the area I rode through. Recent water testing show that the elevated levels of selenium, arsenic have subsided and the water is now safe for drinking again.
This picture is for Lori. She loves Moose.
What a scenic place to live. Quesnel Lake in the background
I arrived in Likely late in the day. I was thoroughly impressed with Likely and the setting of the community. It is situated on the waterfront of the Quesnel River. The outflow of Quesnel Lake, which is the largest Lake in the Cariboo region. It has two arms that go back into the Cariboo mountains nearly 70 miles. Fortunately the general store was still open. I grabbed a couple of beers and a snack. I enjoyed the waterfront park immensely, soaking up the rays of the sun and enjoying the sculpture of the metal man.
Iron Man in Likely

Likely Lodge and Restaurant
Main street in Likely is actually more of a river way
A couple of six packs and this is what I look like the next day
I'm 6'3".. Iron Man is at least 7'3"
One lane bridge crossing into Likely
View of the Quesnel River from the Bridge
Camp at Cedar Point Park
I spent a very quiet and relaxing night in Cedar Point park, 6km outside of Likely, along Quesnel Lake. I drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the quiet and cool dusk.

Dinner and beer

Stop sign in the Quesnel River?!?!
Morning in Likely
The next morning I went back to Likely to fuel up, grab a cinnamon roll and then proceeded out to Quesnel Forks for breakfast.

Quesnel forks is a neat little ghost town. It was a gold rush town formed in 1860.  It is undergoing a bit of restoration by the locals. For the most part, it was abandoned some years later as gold was discovered up near Barkerville and a wagon road was built that bypassed Quesnel forks, but a group of Chines miners and merchants continued to live there for some time. The town was completely abandoned in the 1950s.

I was the only one there and wandered the town site inspecting the buildings and reading all the historical plaques. I made a note to return to this place. Also, because of the confluence of the Quesnel and Cariboo rivers, it is a natural take out place for people floating the river.   Another bucket list item for me.

Add water and I may have taken a bath here

Typical Home

Lots of shoes... This may have been a secondary general store

Hornets in the outhouse. YIKES!!
From Quesnel Forks I headed east on Keithley road and eventually crossed the Cariboo River. I could tell that I was following the the Cariboo Lake/River according to my map. However, there was no access and the best I could do was get the occasional glimpse of the lake.

At some point, the FS road I was on veered away from the western portion of Cariboo Provincial park and I came across another “Wilderness Road” sign. Of course the GPS and map had a blank spot in this area (sigh?!). I must say, however, that the road was in fantastic shape and a real joy to ride. I crossed numerous creeks and rivers on wooden one-lane bridges. The forest closed in and I felt like I was really getting closer to true wilderness.

It began to get really rocky and at one point I passed Maeford Lake. Unfortunately, I could only get glimpses of the lake. As it was nestled in a cirque. The only access I could find was a road that was gated shut. My GPS indicated some kind of structure there.
Chocolate Moose Cafe... Really?! Out here in the middle of the wilderness?
Not too far beyond that the road gained some altitude and I the trees gave way to rocky outcroppings. I popped out at Cameron Ridge. Before I knew it, I was upon a place called the Chocolate Moose Café. The sign stated Pizza and Beer. It also said they were open. I had to check this place out.

Wood fired Hot tub in paradise. Yes..
The menu

Sure enough, there was a restaurant and a couple of gals baking. I couldn’t believe it. I ordered a pizza and a beer. I could see into the heart of the Cariboo Mountains from there. It was stupendous.

Pizza, beer and cheesecake... Am I dreaming?

The views from the patio
Aside from the restaurant, they had cabins for rent as well as a wood fired hot tub. The owner (Chris Franke) also guides people into the back country via horseback (Mountain Spirit Outfitters Inc.). In the winter months she lives in Likely. What a grand place to live your life.

The Cariboo Mountains... Heaven

I stayed and rested for over an hour, just soaking up the views. Another gent showed up, looking to take a shower and have a meal. Turns out he was a prospector and we chatted a bit about mining in this country.

The views form Cameron ridge were spectacular to say the least. I could only imagine that the views across the valley towards the Cariboo mountains would offer opportunities for some great wildlife viewing.  
BTW: Showers cost $5. I had bathed in the Quesnel River the night before, so I was good :-)

Falls on the way to Ghost Lake
After enjoying the company and the pizza from Cameron Ridge. It was time to head out to my next destination, Ghost Lake. Ghost Lake is located at the edge of the Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park. Along the way to Ghost Lake, the road got very interesting. I found myself dodging bear scat like a tank driving through a mine field. The bush closed in around me and I saw 2 big black bears ambling down the road at two different times. 

More falls

There are 2 spectacular falls to see at Ghost Lake. As the Matthew River exits this spectacular narrow valley, there is a bridge where the road winds its way up towards Ghost Lake. From this vantage, there are some pretty awesome views looking down the cascading falls into the valley below.

Following the road higher up and I arrived at a campground(?). There were only 2 camp slots and it was infested with BUGS!!!  I quickly took off my riding boots and put my trail runners on and pulled a  mosquito net over my head as I headed down a trail to Ghost Lake.  
Ghost Falls... WOW!

Once at the edge of the lake I was a bit disappointed as the cove I was in, didn’t allow for any views up the lake. I found myself winding around trying to get better views. In doing so, I found myself at the top of Ghost Falls. WOW!!! Still no views up the lake, but the falls made a thundering sound, vibrating the ground. I now had to gain a better vantage point. I climbed up and around in the bush, only to discover that I was back at the parking lot/campground. I found a little trail that led to a nice vista of the falls. Still no views up the lake. It looks like I will have to come back with a canoe or kayak to get up to the other end. I did notice an abundance of blueberries. It became clear to me why I was seeing so much bear scat. This was not an area to have a surprise run in with a bear. I purposely made lots of noise as I made my way back to my bike.
Looking back into one the valleys of Cariboo mtns
Roadside views were so cool and scenic

Baby Bobcats
I made my way to Barkerville. Along the way, dark clouds quickly formed and it began raining profusely. This is a common occurrence in this area as it is an inland rain forest. I attempted to head over to Bowron Lakes, but the road was like grease with the calcium chloride on the road in the rain. So I turned around and decided to head over to Quesnel for the night and clean up. I did see a mother bobcat herding her 3 babies through the woods near the town of Wells. It was pretty neat as I have never baby kits before. They wanted to investigate the man on the motorcycle, but mom made sure they stayed away and swayed them to follow her into the woods.

The adventure isn't over... see Part 2 and the conclusion here


  1. I'm a Williams Lake resident and this area is one of our playgrounds. After you passed Maeford lake you would have crossed a small bridge and then climbed a bit of a hill and to your left would be Grizzly lake and a little ways up from that around the 42-45 km mark on the road the start to the Cameron Ridge trail takes off to the right. There is a quad/motorcycle trail that is ribboned that takes you to the top of the ridge around 6500' with tremendous views of the very end of the north arm of Quesnel lake and massive glaciated mountains across the lake and up the Mitchel and Penfold valleys, just a note though this area can hold snow into late June through mid July so if you ever decide to check it out pick your date for later July or August.

  2. Thanks for the info. You are fortunate to have this in your backyard. I can only imagine how beautiful those views would be. I would love to see the north end of quesnel lake. Much appreciate the info.