Our route for the day is highlighted below – we rode all of 17 miles in 12 hours. Elevation gain was just under 3000 ft. These are statistics that don’t matter here. Experiences and enjoying ourselves did – as well as crossing creeks, staying safe, and figuring out which way to go along the secondary trails and routes.
The day started overcast and cool and would stay that way. We arose around 8 am, and after breakfast I was the first to get going, which was a first. The trail kept going up pretty steep in places, so we had a good morning hike-a-bike.
A little higher up on Relay Creek trail the flowers were unbelievable.
We rode up along the right side of the valley and the trail wound in and out of meadows and forest. I was full of energy and rode some semi-technical sections, though lots of pushing was had of course.
The valley floor is beautiful and quickly leads to the Graveyard Cabin. It’s open to the public, but in severe need of a good clean-up inside. Lee said that he felt as if he were in a movie set.
Following the Best of Chilcotin’s bikepacking route, we crossed the Graveyard Creek. Water level was ok, maybe a foot high. Big Creek, which is just 1/2 mile up, turned out to be too much for us. After a lenghty deliberation and scouting out a reasonably safe passage 1/4 mile upstream, we decided to go a different route. The weather looked ominous, and not knowing the conditions up ahead left us worrying that we might get into some trouble. This being the most remote place that we both had been to, we mulled it over over lunch and in Lee’s case, a nap.
The map showed us several options if we went up the Graveyard Creek drainage. Along the way, we could see that Big Creek pretended to be the mighty Colorado River carving valleys in its path.
The Graveyard Creek trail was surprisingly twisty; a good complement to the rolling valley floors.
Soon, the trees gave part to vast views of the Graveyard Creek drainage. The creek crossing here was easy.
We were now making up our route as we went, consulting the map, GPS, and taking our chances at each fork in the trail. With each fork, the trail became thinner.
A small monument has been erected at the southern end of the valley explaining the origin of the Graveyard Valley (click picture to read the text).
We swapped GPS units for a while, as I was feeling really lost looking at a map, while Lee was just happy looking at a big map instead of the computer screen. While the Backroads GPS map was pretty good on the major trails, it did have no authority on the secondary trails and ‘routes’, even though those are shown on the map. Lee has a lot more intuition for where the trail might be than me. We followed the Tyoax Creek Route branching off to the left at this next valley.
At this point, the GPS track said to go up this side drainage.
And boy, did we try and scramble. It was very tough and Lee finally gave up (a first, as far as I know) and said that we just might have to give up the progress that we’ve made up to this point and find some other way – or possibly turn around completely. We looked at the bigger Tyaox drainage in front of us, and though there was snow up-valley, it looked like we could just keep going for a bit more. So, we went a bit more. And a bit more. Nothing was stopping us – oddly. The valley became broader the higher we went, instead of turning into a narrow chute.
In between the chunks of super-sharp rocks were some interesting limestones.
The weather was also better here than farther west where we come from the Big Creek non-crossing. Time for a break out of the wind.
The Tyoax valley floor became pretty swampy, and with that, my feet were soaked wet and getting colder quickly. I was worried and grumpy. Lee was taking his sweet time fiddling with water.
I finally had the grand idea that putting on all my warm clothes might actually help with my cold feet. So right at the top of the windy, gullyless Tyoax pass, I stopped to put on long pants, rain jacket and hat. While doing that right at the top wasn’t really clever, it certainly gave meenough time to look at the amazing scene before me.
Lee is the little red dot in the sea of green in the above picture. While he was waiting patiently for me to get myself down, he was observing a grizzly with her cubs maybe a 1/4 mile down. As I approached Lee, the bear finally noticed us and stood up on its hind legs. Plumb and cute, it turned away from us and the cubs followed like bouncy balls. She stopped and looked at us again. We waved our arms and yelled.
We didn’t see any other way than to follow the bear down-valley, making lots of noise as we dragged our bikes down many ditches and through shrubs. How many ditties and bear songs can you come up with when needed? The answer: endlessly many. Lee’s brakes were howling like an injured steam locomotive, which also helped to convince us that we were making enough noise for the bear to notice us.
Near the bottom of the valley, we went past this big hole:
Lee said: “I always wondered what a bear den looks like, and I think I’ve just seen one.” With those words, he took his camera out of the bag, steadied his bike against his hips, and finally snapped the picture. To me, this seemed like an eternity. The bear could basically have been watching us from just 10 ft. away. But, I live to tell the tale. Soon, our route intersected with the Little Paradise Creek trail. Ominous clouds were brewing to the west and a few rain drops fell. We looked at the map, and just behind us was a small bluff with a suggested campsite. It was still light out, so we had plenty of time to get settled and calm down.
The last weather forecast that we had seen was for rain on Thursday – that’s tomorrow. I wasn’t sure that I’d believe a 3-day weather forecast, but it was on Lee’s mind. After a good meal, we found a decent place to hang our food high in a tree, and went into my tent. I put in my earplugs and heard a few gusts of wind and a few rain drops. I slept really well. In the middle of the night, however, I had to leave my cocoon unfortunately, and with my shoes being wet and gross, walked barefoot across the frozen grass. The night was cold.
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