"a colossal amount of mail"
synonyms: huge, massive, enormous, gigantic, giant, mammoth, vast, immense, monumental, prodigious, mountainous, titanic, towering, king-size(d); More
The word(s) above remain as a fraction of the description for the natural beauty that I experienced this past autumn weekend in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning backcountry.
Over the years I’ve wheeled with a lot of different people, in a lot of different locations, in a lot of different vehicles (lol). Adventure can be had at any time with any of the above, but the more I venture out the more I realize that having the right people with a positive attitude, is the true key to success. The first weekend of October for the past 5 years has been a representation of these sentiments. What started out as “your average” wheeling trip, has now become the staff by which my year is measured. Why this weekend in particular? For myself, this weekend is such a priority because of the combination of autumn colors, cooler temperatures, always tacky terrain, and endless laughter that comes with the social aspect of such an outing. This trip once marked a casual venture, but now acts as a placeholder for myself and my fellow explorers.
This year shaped up a little different as my usual go-to buddies were dropping out due to other commitments. My father had also been bugging me to take him out wheeling again, as we really hadn't got out too much together since our last epic run to NorCal/Moab last spring. I was feeling the pressure as the departure date dawned upon us and I had yet to make any plans for the upcoming weekend’s trip. I had no route, a very small number of confirmed companions, and with my recent promotion at work it was looking like I too, would succumb to the pressures of tight deadlines and responsibility. I tried to keep my attitude positive though, despite the snow looming on the horizon for the weekend's forecast. Tuesday night I sat down at my desk and starting compiling GPX tracks to create a route which would take us overland through the Castle area of Alberta, bear west into B.C. and arrive in the Fernie area. As the week endured, It was looking like my boss would lend a hand and allow me to escape cell phone reception for the weekend – after all I had already informed him that this was the yearly trip that I would not miss, as it would simply be irresponsible. The weather was still calling for cold and snow which was disappointing, but I kept throwing bait out there to see who would want to join in the adventure regardless. The commitment level was growing and I was up to 4 confirmed trucks by Wednesday night. Shortly after, over my nightly cup of tea, I pulled out my Backroads Mapbook and started thinking how I had recently seen some pretty interesting images in an area West of Banff National Park, which reminded me of the terrain North of Kootenay Lake which I had explored a little in the summer during my honeymoon. A couple clicks later and I was scoping the Doppler for the promise of clearer skies in the new proposed direction. I few text messages, PM’s on the local forums, and a phone call to each confirmed traveller, and the original idea was scrapped. We were heading West come Friday afternoon.
Friday arrived and now with 7 trucks confirmed, we were the perfect sized group to remain flexible in our plans yet still large enough for some team spirit and camaraderie. I was late to the meeting location, as usual, and rolled into the Calgary Olympic park McDonalds half an hour behind schedule to see the rest of the group waiting patiently. After my apologies we hit the highway towards our staging area for the night. About 30 minutes into the drive heading towards Canmore, a wall of black clouds embraced our convoy and propelled rain and lightning bolts in our path. Considering the time of year, this is quite unusual and my last minute switcheroo was looking to be a bust. We continued with positive chatter on the radios but there was no doubt we were all thinking about how wet and brutal this night could have become.
We rolled into camp around 11pm in a small clearing next to a gorgeous mountain lake. It was raining lightly but nothing near as bad as the drive out. A fire was quickly ignited and a combination or fire warmth and Jamaican rum seemed to lift everyone’s spirits. Despite the rain and the trip looking like it could be a very wet, smiles were abundant and good cheer spread around the campfire. In my mind I decided that even if it did rain all weekend, I was going to have fun and enjoy the fresh air at our disposal. I often hope that I could do something to control the unforseen, but learning to make the best of all situations is a skill I'm still honing to this day. We awoke at approx. 9am after tucking in around 4:30am (lol…). It was early and we were tired, but we needed to head back into town to meet up with the final member of our crew who could not come out the night before. Good thing for us, he was also running late due to construction on the Trans Canada and we arrived in Radium around 11am to grab a coffee and discuss what lay ahead. With a late start we were back on gravel heading West towards our destination. The ground was damp but the clouds were slowly breaking. The air was crisp from the previous night’s rain and the colors on the trees were showing in full.
We made several stops to take in the scenery and around every corner we were met with a new surprise and a view dramatically better than the last. The epic scenery in conjunction with the warmth of the sun seemed to lift our spirits as we progressed – the silence on the radios was replaced with livery and laughter.
After driving for several dozen kilometers someone realized that we had burnt all of our fire wood the previous evening. We stopped near a clearing where some road maintenance had once taken place and began working together to stockpile the vehicles for the upcoming night. We new it would get colder as our intended route increased quickly in elevation.
We eventually branched off the main road and started to gain altitude. The road was wet and windy but in surprisingly good shape. I was in the lead and decided this would be a good time to test out the new Fox's at a higher velocity. Doug screamed to life and the trees began to blur as we approached speeds in excess of 100 km/hr. My good friend Craig usually takes shotgun when my wife can't make the trip and this time was no exception. We giggled like little boys as we rallied through the woods. We rounded a corner at full speed and the rear end let loose. Up ahead was a large puddle across the road but my current rate of speed was to much to try and avoid it, so I pushed forward hopeing to hydroplane across the puddle. The maneuver was executed without issue other than a temporary loss of sight through the windshield. Shortly after our nerves caught up with us and we slowed down to cruising speed once again. We pulled over and waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Nathan arrived moments later, apparently indulging in the fun as well. A crackle on the radio and Nathan says "Addison, where did your license plate go?". Clearly the hydroplane had been too much for the plate bolts and the hydro power of the water evacuating had caused my plate to blow off the bumper. After backtracking we found the plate in the road near the large puddle and my gimmicky license plate cover 10 feet in the ditch. A couple zip-ties and a few laughs later and we were back on the road.
We rounded a ben further up the road and the scenery turned from excellent to stunning. There in front of us were some of the largest peaks I can ever imagine seeing, with a field of glacial ice capped above. The cameras and poser shots came out in full.
After indulging the scenery we pursued our destination yet again. The road started to get rougher and rougher in combination with an increased inclination. I dropped the truck into 4-Lo and began climbing the steep goat trail. Around the next bend was the first real obstacle of the trip, with a daunting cliff drop to remind us of the potential consequences of our favourite hobby.
Stay tuned for Part 2!