Monday, September 7, 2009

Pemberton Back Woods Camping

I hadn't planned on bow hunting this year. But I had the Honda CRF 230 and I just so wanted to ride it in the back roads and trails. The weather forecast was rain but that didn't deter me. The deer come out in the rain and the truth is I wanted to ride the motorbike in the backroads and trails.
There was a time when I just went camping. A weekend was a time to fill the trunk of the car with camp gear and food and spend the weekend hanging out at a camp ground. The experience was camping and getting away from the city.
Later camping got appended to canoeing, fishing and bicycling. Then there were the long distance road trips when I'd camp a couple of nights and then stay in a city hotel for the restaurant meal and the luxury of in room hot showers. Later camping got appended to hunting. Now when I went camping I had a 4x4 truck, bow and arrows, rod and reel and an off road motorcycle. It's an elaborate expedition, these weekends.
The truck was so loaded down it was a wonder where a moose or deer would fit if I actually shot something, not that that mattered. A destination is oftent just an excuse to get away.
I had to figure how I was going to get the motorbike onto the back of the truck alone. I had a 1 food wide ramp I'd used to get the scooter on with the help of another person. Now I naturally just tried to ride the motorbike up the ramp. It would have worked if I hadn't chickened out at the last moment, hanging with the motorbike half on the truck and half on the ramp, me holding onto the brake for dear life, while I dismountdd and crabbed my way around so Icould pull it the rest of the way up with brute force. I got it secured with tie downs and thankfully the back gate closed. That had been another unknown.
The Sea to Sky highway ride to Pemberton was great with the road renovations. I couldn't have blinked before I was in Squamish where I stopped for groceries. At the Lordco I found a second ramp as I'd concluded I had no way of getting the bike off the back of truck since I couldn't trust myself to back down the narrow track, having hardly made it up going forward. This second track would allow me to walk the bike on and off and would be a godsend getting the motorbike home.
I've been coming to Pemberton for nearly 25 years. I love the town for all its changes. I used to stay at the bar in the rain. It only seemed like there were hunters and farmers and local renegades then. The big event of the year, and still is, was the rodeo. My friend Wayne Andrews was the world champion Indian broncho rider. He has a place out on the Mount Currie reserve where he raises horses and has medicine sweat lodgges. We used to try to figure out which bones he hadn't broken broncho riding. His laughter was infectious.
The potatoes have always been the best in the world with a medicine all their own. Magic mushrooms grew in the hills, but that dark force twin never compared to the holy spuds of Pemberton Valley.
Over the years trail riding, mountain biking, climbing and hiking, bed and breakfast hot tubbing have become popular. The Pemberton Lodge is a world class resort with pool and hot tub. Folk music has taken off in the cafes too. Mostly I prefer Pemberton to Whistler. In Pemberton no one notices my worn Levis aren't this year's 'designer jeans'.
In Pemberton a stop at the Spud Valley Sporting Goods Ltd is mandatory. I've got camp utensils, fishing lures and a rifle there over the years. This time they had a great sale on the Daffo thermolite lined waterproof hiking boots and a self inflating air mattress. The guys who live in and love Pemberton are always a source of the latest information.
After Pemberton I drove north through one of heaven's most beautiful valleys. There's horses and cattle, green fields for ever and mountains to either side. The Gold Bridge Meager Creek turn off leads to the Lillouette River Forest Service Road. The Mountain Wilderness School once there has now become a wilderness lodge. Fortunately the fires hadn't affected this area.
I drove the 36 km logging road to the Lillouette River Recreation site a mile or two this side of the Meager Creek Hotspring Turn off. Meager Creek Hotsprings were another 7 km, about 45 km total from the highway turn off. Cars drive it now but it was once only fit for 4x4 trucks. I've seen bear and deer along this road and once raced a young moose for a bout a mile before he turned off into the woods.
There are dozens of camp sites at the Recreation Area, a few outhouses scattered about,each site with a log picnic table and brazier for fires.
There was a lull in the rain so I put up the tent quickly. Then I tied lines to the trees for the tarp over the picnic table. That done I threw the bedding in the tent and set about getting the bike off the back. Using the extra ramp (they come in twos for quads but can be bought separately as I had done,), I got the bike off really easily. Then it was just a matter of putting on helmut and rocket armoured jacket. Off I rode. What a gas! The Honda CRF 230 was a blast on the logging roads. The suspension was better than the trucks. I was cruising along at 60 k and really enjoying the ride. Even though the rain had made the road clay wet in places the nobby tires really dug in. Too much fun!
At camp I cooked up some soup on the single burner propane stove then climbed into my sleeping bag to read Soldiers in the Mist by Garry Douglas. This is an amazing fictional historical account of the British in the Crimean War where nearly 20,000 British, Russia and French died in one battle on the Inkerman Heights. I learned that the Charge of the Light Brigade was not capitalism at it's finest. Leadership 'commissions' were bought at the time.
The rain poured. I was thankful for my down filled sleeping bag. Night was chilly.
In the morning, I got up though at dawn expecting to get out bow hunting while the deer were still returning home. The rain and dark are really good for hunting.
They're also good for hot coffee. I bring my own stove top expresso maker. I thought I'd warm the honda up while I had breakfast but it wouldn't turn over. I tried everything I could think of running the battery down, so I had to charge it with my truck and tried everything else I could think of twice. I even took out the spark plug, dried itand dried all the connections I could find but the engine just wouldn't turn over. Then I thought I'd try jump starting it. This was an exercise in futility without a hill. It was a whole lot of morning exercise though.
Eventually the whole thing lead me back to the coffee pot and my book. The bavarian smokies were there too. Yoghurt and chocolate.
I hadn't really want to go bow hunting. It's a lot of work compared to reading out of the rain eating smokies and drinking pots of coffee. Then I just had to crawl back into bed for a rest.
After a delightful nap I decided to take the truck up to Meager Creek Hotsprings. Another really good idea.
Luxury in a wild outdoor setting. The hotsprings were glorious. Not the nudist hippies of yesteryear but families of kids instead, it was still outdoor hotsprings at their finest.
Thoroughly exhausted by the tough hotspring outing I returned to camp for another nap. What a good idea!
With the motorbike not working and the torrential rains continuing I decided to try getting the bike back on the truck with the extra ramp to run up beside it. Sure enough it worked just fine. In the past, it had always taken two to get the scooter onto the truck so I was really pleased with my self sufficiency.
Between downpours I decided since the motorbike was loaded already I'd break down camp and go home to indoor heating, my own bed, and hot water showers. Because of all the construction signs still, the night drive back to Vancouver was a bit more challenging in the dark.
It was great though to be able to pop up to Pemberton, camp a night , go to a hot springs and be back the next day. The new Sea to Sky highway is amazing. It would make day trips to Whistler and Pemberton from Vancouver sweet.

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