Tag Archives: BC

Nelson, British Columbia Mountain Bike Trails

Nelson, BC
More gnarly British Columbia riding…
Props to the guy (sorry I don’t remember your name if you are reading this) at the Gerick cycle shop. It was very nice to encounter someone so generally stoked about their local trails that they were willing to give me the inside info even before the store was open and they were trying to clean their own bike. He even took the time to let me in the shop and go to the register to sell me a map/guide book. This was a big deal to me because it got me on out on the trail earlier since I didn’t have to wait for them to open up.
Nelson is known for having challenging free ride stuff with big stunts, steeps and rock slabs. (Free ride means that there are manmade stunts and or natural obstacles that are meant to be ridden rather than avoided in addition to typical single track). I experienced a cross section of this with everything up to, but not including, big free ride stunts. I started out by climbing a logging road up and up. Along the way I encountered some other friendly riders near the top that had stopped to pick huckleberries. I stopped and ate a few handfuls. Yum. From here I finished the climb and searched for the route down. I decided to step it up and ride one of the signature trails, Paper Bag. Paper Bag is steep, meandering and littered with huge rock slabs. These slabs are crazy steep with wicked exposure at times. Sometimes you have to climb a short steep slab. The first photo shown below is one of the short steep climbs up a slab. I cleaned the next section shown second down also.

Nelson, BC Paperbag trail

Nelson, BC Paperbag trail

The red line shows the route I took

I felt good about this section since the route I took was the A-line and not a more simplified easy ride around option. The slab shown at the top may be short but its steep enough I had to drop in rather than nose in order to avoid catching a chain ring.

The signature feature is “the dirty crack”. Being out there by myself and not having armor and a full face helmet I thought better of riding this. A fall here would likely mean cartwheeling like a rag doll down the line at best, or the far more likely event of going off the edge and falling 10 -15 feet onto a hard rock.

The dirty crack, Nelson, BC Paperbag trail

Looking straight down at the dirty crack. The line is just to the left of the tree in the center.

Nelson, BC Paperbag trail, the dirty crackAgain notice the tree in the center of the photo, you have to ride behind it (to the left in this image) in order hit the dirty crack. The crack is really a steep slanting rock shelf that is only 24″ wide, has a ton of exposure and a ledge you have to ride off in the center. It would be cool to someday ride this thing.

After finishing Paper Bag I rode along the rail trail and onto a logging road. This took me into the Mountain Station area. There are a ton of trails packed into this little area. Most of them are solidly in the intermediate to expert category. I rode up a logging road, Espresso and a trail called Shasta. From here I accessed the top of the new and much acclaimed Eli trail. This is one of the newest trails in the system. It was faster and more flowing than most of the more freeride oriented trails in the area. I also rode some of the middle and bottom sections of Smiling Buddha. Smiling Buddha has lots of nice wooden stunts. The most memorable being a big ladder bridge that finishes with a teeter totter (which you can see in the video below). Smiling Buddha is a lot of fun because of these interesting features and because they are not too big to be tackled by a competent rider on a hard tail. Technically challenging enough to be a lot fun but not so huge that a full face helmet and armor are absolutely necessary. Here is a link taken from the Nelson cycling club page showing a video of someone else riding the Buddha: http://www.pinkbike.com/video/205544/

Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake, accessible after kilometer marker 16 from the Great Northern Rail Trail

Sharon rode the Great Northern Rail Trail, an incredibly scenic trail that goes from Nelson out past Cottonwood Lake in one direction and back to kilometer marker, 0 in the other direction.  She rode both ways, covering about 33 kilometers and singing loudly to herself to ward off any potential bears (there were signs about bear activity in the area).

Great Northern Rail Trail, Nelson, BC

One of the beautiful wooden trestles on the rail trail


Photo Review: British Columbia’s eastern National Parks

indian paintbrush at Emerald Lake

indian paintbrush at Emerald Lake


Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park


Wapta Falls at Yoho National Park

Wapta Falls at Yoho National Park


view from Skunk Cabbage Trail in Mount Revelstoke National Park

view from Skunk Cabbage Trail in Mount Revelstoke National Park


Cedar waxwings along the Skunk Cabbage Trail

Cedar waxwings along the Skunk Cabbage Trail


Meeting of the Waters, Glacier National Park

Meeting of the Waters, Glacier National Park


Beautiful flowers along the Meeting of the Waters trail

Beautiful flowers along the Meeting of the Waters trail

Fernie Part Two: Sharon’s Mountain Biking Review

This is Part Two, to read Jay’s post about the same trails, go HERE … ok, this is a longer than usual post, but there’s a great surprise ending if you can stick with it….

I had looked forward to mountain biking in Fernie, BC because I had seen an advertisement for a Women’s Only mountain biking clinic run by Sacred Rides on Fernie’s local trails.  The ad did not actually say that the trails were easy or great practice trails, but I was hoping that is what it implied.

Not exactly.

It turns out that Fernie is a great place for a mountain bike clinic because there are a lots of local trails with a lot of different types of obstacles to practice on.  There are in fact ZERO trails that are marked as “easy” in the guidebook we picked up.  The starting point for Fernie is “intermediate”.  Reviewing the guide book was only one of the many factors that led me to be practically trembling with anxiety as Jay and I arrived at the bike park to set out on an afternoon ride.

It wasn’t until I could turn my anxiety into self-deprecating humor for strangers’ amusement that I was able to move past the fear and start pedaling.  In an odd coincidence, I struck up conversation with some other bicyclists at the park, only to find out they were there for a Sacred Rides bike clinic that weekend.  Since they were novice riders, also nervous about the trails that awaited them, I was able to relieve the aura of tension that surrounded us by cracking jokes at my own expense.

view near the beginning of the trail system

Still acting as my own personal confidence buster, we pedalled around misguidedly, unable to find the old cemetery which was supposed to mark the start of the trail system.  I took this as a bad sign.  After looping around a few more times, we eventually saw the gates, separating the living from the dead, or in this case, smooth asphalt from rocks, roots, steep ascents, and terrifying descents.

I stopped every few yards for the first couple kilometers of trail.  If it wasn’t a log across the trail, it was a steep stretch which I lacked any momentum to summit.  Also, having rained earlier in the day, the trail was muddy, with a thick dark brown surface that would eat your tire and throw off your balance.  One of the keys to mountain biking is to maintain momentum, momentum carries you through almost all challenges and most obstacles are infinitely more difficult with little to no momentum.  With a steady uphill grade and intermediate-level single track, I lacked opportunity to build the momentum I needed to stay on the bike.

view along the trail

As we were reaching a less technical section that I was actually able to ride, I noticed a few women from the Sacred Rides class ahead of me, stopped on the side of the trail.  I perform better in front of an audience of my peers and I challenged myself to pedal as far past them as possible.  It was my longest stretch yet and I was ridiculously proud of myself.  It made it less embarrassing to walk my bike the final few yards to the intersection with a gravel road where the rest of the Sacred Rides class was waiting.

I kept working at it that afternoon for over 3 hours.  Jay and I wound our way through several trails with names like Broken Derailleur and Deadfall, a few of which I was even able to ride in short chunks.  Without the motivation and inspiration of the Sacred Rides group ahead of us, I would not have kept going as long.  Being surrounded by people who bike with Jay, I sometimes forget that there are novice mountain bikers.  It was great to watch the new riders and to realize how far I have already come in my riding.

sharon biking in fernie

That's me having completed the ride - tired, muddy, sweaty, and very proud

By the end of the ride I was encouraged enough to try riding again the next morning.  For the second day of riding, I set off on the Continental Heritage Trail because I thought it might be easier.  It was, at first … sort of.  It was smooth enough that I could stop and start every minute or so, setting small goals to ride as far as I could see.  I was riding by myself, letting Jay take on the big trails that he described in this earlier post.  My goals for the day were to just keep trying for a couple of hours, riding as much of the trail as I could.  I had the guidebook with me and figured I would ride the Continental Heritage Trail as far as I could and then bail off onto either the powerline road or the Ridgeline Road.

Beautiful creek along the Continental Heritage Trail

Somehow I managed to get past all of the easy connector trails without realizing it and ended up pushing my bike up steeper and steeper pitches.  I knew that I had to be pretty close to the road, it was basically paralleling the trail to my right, further up the mountain.  But I wasn’t sure the best way to get there.  I came to a steep narrow unmarked trail and figured that even if I had to push the bike the whole way, it would be better than backtracking.  This decision led to at least 30 minutes of full body workout, pushing the bike up rooted and rocky social trail (unofficial trail).  At one point I actually had to completely lift the bike over a large obstacle and then scramble up after it using my hands and feet.  After that I left the bike lying on the hillside to scout out ahead of me and make sure I wasn’t backing myself into a corner I could not climb down from.  Reassured that this narrow social trail met up with a wider smoother actual trail up ahead, I went back to pushing.

Finally I spotted a line of sunlight on the mountainside above me, indicating a break in the trees which I hoped was the road.  I summoned the last of my energy, reassured by the thought that I would stop for a rest and a snack at the intersection.  Sure enough I came up and onto a level, wide gravel road.  I took a huge sigh of relief before I spotted it…  a black bear.  The bear was in the road about 3 car lengths away, it spotted me before I saw it and had frozen, staring at me trying to make out whether I was predator or prey.

As regular readers know, we’ve been in bear country for weeks and the only bears I have seen have been from the safety of the car.  I have read countless guides on how to handle a bear encounter and they are universally NOT reassuring.  The one that stayed with me was the comedian, Mike Birbiglia’s account of what he was instructed to do: Announce yourself to the bear, let him know that you see him.  Of course at that point the bear is supposed to turn and run.  If this is not what happens, the guidelines get very confusing, alternating between “play dead” (which seems pretty ridiculous after having just announced yourself) and “go on the offensive”, either spraying the bear with bear spray (which I didn’t have) or entering into a physical altercation with the bear (which I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t win).

So I announced myself, “Hello Bear!  I’m Sharon, and I see you.”  The bear processed that for a second and then must have checked his own human encounter guidebook and thought “oh!  she announced herself, I’m supposed to turn and run now”.  He took off up the mountain in the opposite direction, and I yelled after him, “Thank you!”.  I also got right back on my bike with a surprising amount of renewed energy, and pedaled away to relative safety.

Part of Mike Birbiglia’s sketch about bear encounters … skip to the end if you just want to see the part I referenced.

Fernie, BC, Canada – A world class location for mountain biking

Sharon and I got to ride in Fernie, British Columbia for two days. Name a city, and catalog its nearby riding, chances are very good Fernie has more riding and that is much closer to town. Seriously, the only setback mountain biking in Fernie seems to have suffered is a good ski season. I was fortunate enough to sample two of the six or so nearby riding areas. The first, Ridgemont area, was ridden with Sharon. A serious shout out to Sharon here, as this was very likely the most epic mountain bike ride she has even taken. It included a good variety of terrain over a sizable distance. I will let Sharon tell her own story.

Day two, Sharon and I went to different areas. I went to Castle Mountain. I rode up a trail called Roots Extension. What an accurate name!  My tires and occasionally feet were on roots more frequently than they were on dirt. This trail climbed up to the base of the mountain where the real suffering started. From here I crossed the river road and picked up the Hyper Extension Trail. About two thirds of the way up I encountered the first other rider of the day. He said somthing like ” oh wow most folks go up the other way eh, bet that was a heck of a climb”. I replied somewhat (ok, very)  out of breath having climbed over 1500 feet in a little less than two miles, ” sure is”. So apparently its a lot better to climb the other trail up called Hyper Ventilation. In any event, this did take me up to a red picnic bench at one of the most scenic overlooks I have ever been to.

view from the overlook on Castle Mountain

This trail of course led to a  long downhill. The downhill starts off with a steep grade straight down the mountain, steep enough that I was glad to have lowered my saddle. This continues for a ways and makes a few off camber turns with a good deal of exposure. My brakes took some punishment, at one point along here the front brake rotor brushed some very green grass and it sizzled and the grass wilted. I saw that as a good excuse to stop for a minute and collect myself. From here the trail opens up some and you start to pick up speed. Then it flattens out a little and gets on an old road. The road then starts to point downward and you really pick up speed. This is one of the fastest sections I have ever ridden. My 44×11 top gear was rendered useless. Every time you hit another dip or roller you start to feel like a run away truck. This descent is well worth the agony of the climb. Then the trail plunges violently down another steep pitch back into a dark and dense stand of moss covered cedar. Soon after it flattens out and mellows out and dumps you out on a paved road.  I took the paved road for a short stretch before getting on a gravel path leading back to town.

21st Week in Review: Canada, eh!

a breathtaking view near our campsite in the Flathead National Forest last week

Jay and I mused last night about how there is food in our cooler that has gone from Canada to the U.S. to Canada again.  It really hasn’t been that long since we were visiting friends in Ontario.  This week we crossed into British Columbia from Montana, enjoying lots of amazing bike trails along the route.  Now we are in Pincher Creek, Alberta volunteering all week through the Muskoka Foundation teaching photography to youth at the Napi Friendship Center (an organization serving the Piikani First Nation).

who knew, the world's largest truck resides in Sparwood, British Columbia

Hours volunteered: 14 hours (combined) or even more if you count all the prep and planning we’ve been doing for the photography workshop with the kids at the Napi Friendship Association in Pincher Creek

States & Provinces: 1 State, 2 Provinces

Montana: Missoula, Whitefish; British Columbia: Fernie; Alberta: Crowsnest Pass, Beaver Mines, Pincher Creek

Budget:  Not sure, but probably slightly over — we have been keeping costs down with more camping and cooking, but gas and most everything else is more expensive in Canada

People Visited: Doug and Karen Manzer

Nights under the stars: 7: Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, off Coal Creek Road in Fernie, Beaver Mines Recreation Area

Best meal: sushi rolls and veggie tempura at Yamagoya Sushi in Fernie, BC

Best beer: Cold Smoke Scotch Ale at Kettlehouse Brewery in Missoula, MT and the stout at the Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish, M

Love these plants! Don't they look like troll dolls?