Classic camping problems. I woke up in the middle of the night having to answer the call of nature. I looked at my watch, 2AM. As I wriggled out of my sleeping bag, and unzipped the door of my tent, an avalanche of frost made it’s way onto my neck and down my back. It was cold out there… and moist. Why are we doing this again? I wondered to myself as I slipped into my frozen shoes and stepped out into the night. That question was soon answered (after the call of nature) and I glanced up into the night sky. It was silent, cold, crisp and the moon was brighter than I’d seen it in weeks. The stars exploded into an uncountable mass and the only sounds I could hear were my breathing and the constant motion of the river. All this and we were only half a day’s ride from the city.
As has been the case with our group of friends lately, this plan to escape the city was hatched over a flurry of Instagram messages, organizing, collating, debating and proclaiming. The group numbers grew and shrank, but ultimately a group of five decided to head from Vancouver and into Golden Ears Provincial Park for a day of riding, a night of camping and whatever would ensue between the two activities. Myself (short, french and with a moustache), Geoff Campbell (the too-tall co-creator of Steel and Rubber), Kiefer Blackburn (Mechanic to the stars/professional wheelie coach), Erik Stuhlmacher (Beer Aficionado and Moonshine Smuggler) and lastly Jon Gatiss-Wild (loyal to the queen with voracious appetite for gummy-bears) met at the Port Moody skytrain station at the ripe hour of 9:30am (this allowed us to skip a lot of road riding out of the city and have a nice coffee before we set out).
From the station we hit the pavement, riding roads and gravel through towns and farmland. It quickly became clear that all of us may have been looking at different weather forecasts. After all expecting to be basking in the warm sun, we were quickly forced under a tree to unpack jackets and ponchos and have a Banana or two. The rain came in waves but luckily didn’t last all day. Regardless, we stopped off at Hopcott Premium Meats to grab extra snacks and hot coffees (well worth the stop on your way into the park – and those hand dryers take good care of wet socks).
The road through Golden Ears can see heavy traffic in the summer. We were lucky on this Sunday, although we did see a strange amount of Porsche Cayenne’s. They seemed equally surprised to see handful of plaid-clad people with fully loaded monstertruck-esque bikes in the rain. From the entrance of the park we rode on about 10km of smooth pavement before hitting the gravel and the real business of the ride. Immediately on the trail out of the parking lot, the onslaught of returning hikers didn’t hesitate to warn us about the mounds of snow we were sure to encounter along the way. We were hopeful they were just messing with us…
Creek crossings and lifting-bikes was the special of the day and too easily, we found the snow we were warned about at the 5km mark. We took a quick pit stop at a bridge to dry off, have beers and snacks before heading back onto the snow and to our riverside campsite. Not too far past the beach we were all happy to find a secluded beach, sand and stone and plenty of room for our hammocks and tents.
Once camp was set up the usual activities of coffee making, picture taking and beach riding took place. One new addition to the routine (aided no doubt by handful of coffees and a little bourbon) was to use Erik’s new titanium plate as an impromptu frisbee, the sound of it hitting the rocky beach was heard throughout the land. You’re welcome for the new marketing strategies Snow Peak.
Fulfilled with merriment of a good game of frisbee it was time for everyone to fire up the stoves and dig into whatever warm meals were stowed away in our bags. A healthy amount of avocado slices and hot sauce was passed around, along with a few swigs of moonshine. After the customary hour of hot-laps – which we seem to require in order to stay warm on these trips – we were able to tease quite a healthy fire out of the single dry log that Kiefer hauled all the way to the campsite. Soon after our mugs emptied of hot beverages and the fire died down and we were faced with the cold reality of crawling into our respective bivy-bags, hammocks and tents for a 5:30am wake up call. (HOT TIP: if you decide to for some reason, sleep next to a river in sub zero temperatures, pour some boiling water into a bottle and bring it into your sleeping bag to keep warm).
We woke up in the dark, tossed on as many layers as we could and were promptly fed a few spoonfuls of some sort of peanut-butter/porridge mix by Erik (thanks Erik). As we packed up, hilarity ensued as we realized most of our bikes were so frozen our brake and shifter cables wouldn’t work! After a hot cup of coffee (or two or three) we were back pushing our bikes up the snow, leaving the empty beach and the rush of the river behind us. The snow was firm and frozen, and the travel was fast. Up and over logs, more creeks, down some questionable trails and we were back on the road. A few of us were on a deadline to get back to the city, so there wasn’t too much talking as we kept up a blistering pace along the highway, en route to the nearest skytrain station.
I always feel lucky to be able to do these quick trips. It doesn’t take much, having some good gear helps but having like-minded friends, a lot of enthusiasm and a slightly high tolerance for things not going according to plan helps a lot more. Until next time.