Morning came quietly; no rain, no storm. Lee stopped by to drop off my food bag. I dozed off again until the sun started to warm the tent surface and I was starting to get hungry. Extracted myself from the tent – and wow, look where we are!
The little bit of rain had turned to snow up high near where we had been yesterday. Lee also enjoyed the slow morning start and napped contently. We packed up and looked at the map. Yup, with weather so good, we both wanted to keep going towards Castle Pass and Fortress Ridge.
Our 3rd day route is highlighted in the map:
We oriented ourselves and headed off towards where we suspected the Manson Creek Trail/Route must be.
After some cross-country travel, we found small pieces of a good trail, along with evidence of long-ago travelers passing through. I wonder what the story was when this horse pulled out its horseshoe.
The trail goes up a broad valley and we sang a lot to alert whoever left these big prints a short while ago:
The trail goes up pretty steep – some serious pushing was had, but a few sections were delightfully rideable. If you are expecting long continuous single track riding in the Chilcotins, I don’t believe you’ll find much. But, if you’re willing to hike as necessary, you’ll have a great day out.
A lunch spot was found on the leeward side – which then turned into a nap spot. No bugs, just a bit of light breeze, and sunshine. The best place to hang out.
We saw such cool rock formations; the earth had turned at 90 degrees here. Though it had only been 3 hours since we started, we had seen much more than I typically experience in an entire day.
After a minute of pushing up the ridge in the picture above, we rode left along the slope. It was only a minute of riding, before I stopped to figure which way to go next.
The paper map stop showed that we need to head north-east, and I halted Lee’s progress up a ridge towards the south-east. Lee came back and quickly spotted the “Relay Creek Trail/Route” to go down the Paradise Creek drainage. I tried to follow the map, but quickly realized that Lee was on the right track. He’s got a good nose for trail alignment. Amazingly, much of the cross-country travel could be ridden through the light underbrush.
Where we came from:
Pushing along the slope, with the Little Paradise Ck. valley to our left:
But, it wasn’t that steep, actually:
Here’s Lee pushing to the saddle
At the saddle we were a bit confused. We thought that there’d be some sweet downhill trail, but there was not a hint of a trail. Map time, again. In front of us is Cardtable Mountain and to the right-ish is Castle Peak. How would be get to the latter with the big valley in between and no trail as far as we could ascertain?
Lee was a little less enthusiastic about more route finding and hike-a-bike than me, and we decided that we’d probably bail instead of heading up to Castle Peak Pass, next. Castle Pass is just to the left of that phenomenal basalt peak in the picture above. We’ve done and seen so much already that it didn’t really matter to me if we covered another valley&pass. Had I been by myself, I probably would have called it quits, too.
Eventually, we did meet up with a pretty decent trail and had some techy riding sessions in between hiking.
Once we were down at the intersection of the north and south fork Paradise Ck., we though that we had it made. But, some more route finding was required just a mile lower on Paradise Ck. trail. We weren’t the first ones who got a bit lost here:
Right after the course correction, the trail improved tremendously. Slow riding on twisty singletrack brought us down the valley.
The Paradise Ck. trail then continues though forest, swamp and steep meadows. At one point in the meadow I tried to put my foot down, but didn’t find anything except a big hole. I fell in slow motion with my bike landing on top of me. Lee pulled the bike off me, and then pulled me out of the ditch, too. It would have been quite a chore to get myself extracted from the hole in the meadow.
Eventually, the trail did come to an abandoned forest service road, but it was light and friendly and not creepy at all. We were riding at speeds that we had forgotten were possible.
A couple big creek crossings and we were on roads open to cars again.
I fixed a quick freeze dried meal, while Lee figured out what our evening plan would be. Without committing to riding back to Gold Bridge, we started off in that direction. The ride was fast and fun – some climbing was had, but it was mostly downhill and very smooth at that.
With the last few rays through an overcast sky we were back at Carpenter Lake, only about 7 miles from Gold Bridge. We cranked out the remaining bit of pleasant road, and made it to a warm shower and food at the Gold Dust motel.
What a big day this had been. Our little 3-day bikepack felt like we’ve been out for a week. My mind was full with impressions, I couldn’t have stored anymore if we had kept on riding for another day. The Chilcotins really impressed us.
I’ll sign off with a few pictures from the area, the Gold Dust Motel & owner Darlene