Mission to Warner Pass – via Harrison Lake, Big Silver Creek, Nahatlatch River, Lytton, Lillooet, Shulaps Range, Tyaughton Lake, and Gun Creek.
On a late August afternoon, I rolled out my door into the summer heat. I loaded my bike onto a public bus, and took it to the farthest stop of Vancouver’s transit system – Mission, British Columbia. What started off feeling like a daily commute through the city was actually the beginning of a three week solo excursion following British Columbia’s biggest, highest, wildest mountain range.
When I first discovered cycle touring, some eight years ago, I recall reading a journal describing the ways to ride inland, out of the Lower Mainland. Highway 1 – A busy, windy highway with a reasonable shoulder. “The route of pure pleasure.”; Highway 5 – A huge climb while cars go by at mach speed; Highway 99, Sea to Sky Highway- Gorgeous views, constant climbing, terrible drivers, and rumble strips on the shoulder. “The scream and die highway”.
Well, I’d driven Highway 1 and could imagine all too well how horrible it would be to be blown off the road by speeding, exhaust spewing trucks and canyon winds, while my tires and face melted in the heat. After a few tours around the islands south and west of Vancouver, and an excellent trip to the Balkans, I mostly stopped cycle touring. Riding on busy or paved roads still fails to captivate me.
Meanwhile, a siren song floated down from unseen mountainscapes. I found my way into them on foot or touring skis. I learned to climb them. But, the draw has always been the mountains, the valleys, the folded and broken panoramas more than the summits. Bikepacking has again changed the way I look at a map. Armed with lightweight gear and a sturdy, if simplistic, mountain bike, the lines in the Backroads Mapbook created a continuous dirt route out of the urban sprawl of the Lower Mainland, along the edge of the Coast Mountains, through hundreds of kilometers of dramatic wildlands. It is never flat, and that’s the point.
Through my connections with the forest firefighters in Lillooet, I was able to deliver a box containing five days of food to Tyaughton Lake, two and a half days away, and leave it with the reception at Tyax Resort. This saved me a detour down to the poorly stocked store in Goldbridge. With a relatively light three-day load, I climbed from 230m above sea level, to about 2300m, crossing the Shulaps Range above the Yalakom River on a rough singletrack on my way to Tyaughton Lake. Unfortunately, this being outside of a protected area, dirt-bikes had found their way into the alpine and torn up what was meant to a smooth trail through expansive alpine meadows. My hiking to biking ratio was discouraging. The views were not.
The top of a pass at five in the afternoon, far from the nearest maintained road, is an odd place to end a blog post. But, if I can assign a moment to the transformation from a ride driven by curiosity for something days away, to a quiet reverence of the rhythms of the trail, this was it. I’m not the first person to have ridden a bicycle on any part of this route. But, the feeling of discovery was real, and I doubt anyone has pedaled from so far.
Stay tuned for Part 2. You can sign up to receive email notifications when new posts are published on the home page.
We’ve also recently made an Off Route Facebook page, where we’ll be posting more frequent updates of where we are and what we’re up to, as well as lots of extra photos. You can “like” our page if you’d like to follow the adventure more closely.