British Columbia: No Country for Old Men

Text: Dusty Rhodes • Photography: Dusty Rhodes, Randy Zimmerman

Spring is the season of new growth, mating … and old men trying to stop the passage of time by planning an annual, mid-life-crisis, off-road motorcycle trip. It’s not as easy as an organized tour where all you have to do is follow the guy in front of you and try to not fall off the bike!

Four of us (Randy, Steve, Dan, and I) took this year’s trip in our own backyard, along the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, in the middle of British Columbia. The Chilcotin is known for its open rolling grasslands, aka cowboy country, while the Cariboo features lakes and hunting.

We laid out our route using the time-honored method of locating good restaurants and hot showers and then connected the dots by trails.

An old flat-bed trailer hitched to my Dodge Ram truck (Old Blue) towed our four dirt bikes (a KTM 450 EXC, two Honda CRF250Xs, and a Yamaha WR250F) from West Vancouver up the Sea-to-Sky Highway past Whistler to Lillooet. This paved route starts along a fjord-like inlet (Howe Sound) and presents a magnificent panorama of snow-capped mountains rising steeply on either side of the blue Pacific. Farther north, Duffy Lake Road resembles a Swiss Alps mountain pass. The summer temperature of Lillooet is often the highest in all of Canada, and today it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit with no humidity.

Lillooet was the starting location of miners making their way north to the Cariboo Gold Rush in the 1880s. One of our objectives was to locate and ride on a portion of that old trail.

As we travel on a single-lane, forest service road (FSR) up the west side canyon, the dirt winds its way to the top of the bank and leads us to a phenomenal view of the Fraser River Canyon. This no longer seems like the wet West Coast that I know so well but more like a backdrop to a John Wayne movie. I start calling my KTM “Trigger” and can already feel the saddle sores! The climate here is arid with triple digit temperatures. Scrub brush is interspersed with pine trees. Other than a young couple on an old Honda C90 mini bike, we don’t see any other travelers for the next two to three hours.

Before it reaches the high desert plains of Chilcotin, the pavement passes several canyons and valleys where ranches and farms appear in the far distance. Eat your heart out, Clint Eastwood. Half way between nowhere and nowhere else, we drop down a rough sandy one-lane 4x4 road to the Big Bar Ferry, which crosses the Fraser River. I cannot imagine many vehicles being capable of negotiating this passageway on the west side of the river, and we have to wait in line at the ferry—it’s loaded down with cowboys and horses.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2013 back issue.