Canadian wild camps and single tracks

I can still remember the feeling of flying down the dusty loose single track, the smell of sleeping under the stars and the fear of potentially getting eaten by a grizzly. I remember the noise of the campfire burning in front of the most stunning backdrop and the refreshing buzz of adrenaline from being out in the Canadian wilderness, surrounded by endless forest, mountaintops and potentially deadly wildlife. In May this year, I took a 24-hour break from civilisation and discovered the endless beauty of British Columbia thanks to a pickup, a sleeping mat, my bicycle and some good friends. A good reminder of what it feels like to be alive.

A 24-hour adventure

As soon as I heard the word “wild camp”, “best camp spot ever” and “shuttle laps” I was sold. The fact it was my friend Rob’s idea just made it even more exciting. His adventures always make me feel… how should I put it. Alive. They normally involve some kind of near death experience but always turn into an amazing story to tell and day to remember.

It was during a holiday in Canada in early May, that Rob invited my boyfriend and I to tag along on a wild camp and bike riding trip, and I just knew we had to make it. Somehow we managed to borrow enough camping gear to feel kind-of prepared, and ready to spend 24 hours in the wilderness.


Heading into the no signal zone

Holidaying in BC is amazing where ever you go, but it is so easy to get stuck in the Sea to Sky bubble. And whilst that place probably has more mind-blowing trails to ride than any other stretch of road in the world, it is always worth going slightly off the beaten track. To experience more than just the Disney Land-vibe of Whistler. I was reminded of this as we were diving up Highway 99, passed Pemberton and through the most amazing mountain passes, cascading rivers and random little settlements. It is a whole different world compared to the buzzing lights of Vancouver. A world sometimes completely without wi-fi and barley any phone signal.

We eventually hit the town of Lillooet and turned off the main road onto a gravel path, that got narrower and dustier the further we drove along. Soon the holes in road got so big that we had to abandon our little van and jump on the back of the 4x4. According to Rob the gravel drive would be “just a little bit off the main road, up past some houses and a little bit further along”, but after about forty-five minutes of bouncing around in the back of the 4x4, without any signs of getting closer to the top, I realised we were once again in for a Rob-kind-of-adventure.

The best camp spot ever

After more like an hour and a half on the dusty gravel road (car troubles included), the road suddenly ended and the most amazing landscape opened up. I hadn’t realised how high we’d climbed, and as I saw the river Fraser flowing along far down below us, I had to take a moment and just soak it all in. “To remember on those grey winter days”, I thought to myself.

Rob hadn’t been lying when he said: “best camp spot ever”. It was truly one of the most stunning places I had ever seen. Located on the edge of a cliff, high above the valley floor, surrounded by high mountains, and in the middle of absolute nowhere. So, as the sun started setting over the ridiculously beautiful backdrop, lightning up the sky into fifty shades of purple, I just stood there. Looking. Admiring. And soaking in ever little bit of magic that I could.

“Watch out for the grizzlies”

After rolling out our sleeping mats and bags, we sat down by the open fire, frying up sausages, eating pre-made potato salad and drinking beer. Some guys in the group turned on a speaker and started blasting out music - it couldn’t have felt more inappropriate so it didn’t take long before Rob, Joe and I started to protest until they turned it off again. I don’t know about you, but the quietness is loud enough in a place like that, and I wanted to enjoy every second of it.

Later on, as we were getting ready for bed Rob casually said, as he slid into his sleeping bag: “Well, at least we have the choice between jumping off a cliff or getting eaten alive, if the grizzlies find us”. I went from relaxed to on edge in about a millisecond – I had completely forgotten about the grizzlies. Obviously I knew that bears lived in the area, but I had gotten so used to the “friendly” Whistler black bears, that I’d forgotten about their more aggressive hunchback cousins. We’d obviously not left any food, or even toothpaste, anywhere near the camp, but still, I was certain they could smell my fear. “At least I brought earplugs so I don’t have to hear them coming”, he said before rolling over on to his side and falling fast asleep.


Never underestimate a Canadian single track

After a rather sleepless night, waiting for a furry encounter, and after a questionable breakfast - consisting of Nescafé and some half-made eggs mixed with yesterday’s sausages - I was keen to get riding. To my surprise the trail actually started about 5 meters from where we’d slept. The best camp spot ever, just got even better. All we had to do was change into riding gear, wipe the sleep from our eyes, decide who’d drive the first shuttle lap and set off down the loose, dusty single track.

I hadn’t actually expected that much of the riding. After all, it was one trail, in the middle of nowhere – how good could it be? Well, as it turns out, pretty darn amazing. As I was flowing down the mountainside, hopping off little well built kickers, riding down steep loose corners and flying through fields of wild flowers, I couldn’t help but let out squeaks of happiness. One thing’s for sure, never underestimate Canadian bike trails. To this day I still don’t know how it could have been so well maintained. 20 minutes of perfect flow and traction – the snow must have just melted away giving us perfect dirt – with fun features thrown in at the exact right moment. In the middle of absolute nowhere. Mind-blowing.

Home-time

We kept doing laps upon laps, until it was way past lunchtime, and we were covered head-to-toe in dust and couldn’t hold on any longer. With big smiles, scruffy hair and dirt in the strangest of places, we all sat off driving back down the stunning road to Squamish again.

As I watched the mountains, rivers and endless forests flow past me once more; I finally rested my head against the window and allowed the tiredness to hit me. Another “Rob trip” had come and gone that’d left me feeling happy, and alive. A reminder of why life is best experienced off the beaten track, with limited phone signal, a bike and some friends. And, as a bonus, we didn’t get eaten by grizzlies this time either.