By Masa Takei
The South Chilcotin is veiny with pack trails worn down by gold miners hauling in supplies and hauling out their bounty. But in the Spruce Lake Protected Area, about 150 kilometres north of Whistler, the real gold in the hills these days is the trails themselves. The flowing world-class single-track yields epic days spent biking, hiking or horseback riding through God’s country: think alpine and sub-alpine meadows, copper-rich red rock slopes, glacial green lakes and sweeping vistas of mountains. So even if you like to earn your turns, a little boost from a float plane is welcome—especially if you’d like to get deep into the backcountry on a multi-day trip. Enter Tyax Adventures, Canada’s only float-plane supported mountain biking company. Founded by national veteran cross-country champion Dale Douglas, the company has a 1965 de Havilland Beaver to airlift 1,100 pounds of riders, gear and bikes up into pedalling nirvana.
Courtesy of Tyax Adventures
Tyax can pick you up from anywhere there’s water, including directly from Vancouver, Seattle or Tofino. However, the best bang for your time and money is meeting the plane on Whistler’s Green Lake, thus turning a four-and-a-half-hour drive along rough roads into a half-hour scenic flight over the spectacular Coast Range. Maybe you’ll detour off the flight path to check out a herd of mountain goats—little white puffballs on a mountain ridge. It’s a good prelude to the drama of skidding onto a glassy alpine lake and the realization that you’re about to cover somewhere around 80 kilometres of pure rolling bliss over the next three days. Bikes can be rented but most riders on this intermediate trip will want to bring their own.
Courtesy of Tyax Adventures
You’ll open your eyes to warm morning light diffusing through the white walls of your “safari-style” wall tent; having made it to Bear Paw camp yesterday afternoon, you can replay the previous day of creek-crossings, hill-climbing and general wonderment as you made your way through Big Creek Park, down through Graveyard Valley and up Elbow Pass to the headwaters of Tyaughton Creek. Here your camp host awaits with oatmeal and pancakes to fuel you for 27 kilometres and about 1,000 metres of elevation gain and loss through Deer Pass to a quintessential Chilcotin view spot, then through technical terrain. Push a rowboat into Spruce Lake and see if you can’t supplement dinner with a fresh trout or two.
Wake, ride, repeat. You’ll want to savour this cycle, as it’s your last on this trip. You’ll ride just shy of 28 kilometres today with another 1,000 metres of elevation gain (and then as much elevation drop) as your journey through Windy Pass takes you down into Eldorado Basin and the final descent along the fast, sandy track following Lick Creek. Depending on the time of year, you may get slowed down by photo-ops among the alpine wildflowers or within sight of wandering bears or deer. The final reward at the end of your journey at Tyaughton Lake is to make an entrance, salty from your miles in the saddle, through the lobby of Tyax Wilderness Resort. Trade your spurs for a civilized drink at the bar and a session in the spa. You’ve earned it.
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