If you ride a dual-sport motorcycle, never trust a person who rides a quad to inform you on road conditions. For one, quads have four wheels and balance. Motorcycles have two wheels and are only slightly better than a unicycle.
From Fort St. James, Dave and I wanted to take the 90-ish km (55 m) ‘shortcut’ from Smithers to Terrace over Telkwa Pass. Dave is forever scouting out ‘roads’ on Google Earth and in map books that should have their own category on a map legend labeled, “squirrel trail.” We left our camp that morning and followed a perfectly good logging road for about 25 km (16 m) before coming to a stop. Dave got off his bike and walked toward a sign that read, “trail,” then looked over at me and dared to let a mischievous grin spread across his face while giving me a thumbs up. This was where the true Telkwa Pass started. It was pretty good for several kilometres. When it started to get steep and rocky I persevered until about halfway down a slope on the trail where I came to a grinding halt unable to stand the teeth-cracking vibrations my bike was offering up while it bucked and heaved over toaster-size rocks. I was determined to ride the whole pass as we’d read online a blog entry from a guy who’d recently been over the pass saying there was only a short 5 km (3 m) section where the trail got rocky. What was this guy riding? A quad. I had to give up on this section and when Dave crashed my bike for the first time ever while surf-riding it down the shifting rocks on the slope I hated to think how I’d have faired.
While walking the trail, I picked gorgeously ripe salmon berries and presented them to Dave when he walked past me to retrieve his bike. With the taste of the fresh mountain fruit still on my tongue, I hopped back on my bike and rode on, loving the scenery. Suddenly I had to dodge a couple piles of giant steaming shit. The flies buzzed off in several directions when my motorcycle found a dry line through the poo and just as I was thinking how fresh is this a stench like rotting fish and wet dog assaulted my nose. With a hand steady like Parkinson’s I bleeped my pathetic horn, which sounded like a hummingbird fart and fingered my intercom telling Dave to hurry and catch up because I could almost feel the bear breathing down my neck.
And of course this was when the road got difficult again. There’re few things more sphincter-clenching than knowing a bear is nearby and you can only ride your bike about 5 km (3 m) per hour because the road surface is so technical. I filmed Dave coming down a steep section with my camera in one hand and had the bear spray cocked and loaded in the other. We never saw that stinking furry beast but concocted a verbal Far Side-esque cartoon at one point where a bunch of bears hang out at the bottom of these steep, rocky sections lazing around with their big bear arms folded behind their heads waiting for adventure motorcyclists to eat it on the descent. The caption would read: “Why work for it? Let them come to us.”
The reward for this tough riding was of course the scenery. We came out of the bush to find the shores of a lake, which made a good spot for lunch. In the distance we could hear an engine approaching and soon a couple emerged on a quad. They were from Smithers and sadly I didn’t catch their names as they helped us out down the road as well. They were also the folks who said the road was easy from here on when in fact it became the toughest section on the Pass. Over the years, the mountains above released tons and tons of scree into the lake below. At some point a bulldozer had come along and done what it could to make a throughway along the lake’s shoreline. Four-by-four drivers who don’t mind a little of nature’s pin stripping on the paint job and a few flat tires would be able to get through. Quads have no problem. Again we find ourselves to be the only people on two wheels taking our bikes through places they shouldn’t be.
I started out after our lunch at the lake encouraged by the couple from Smithers’ words but soon found myself flinging rocks out my back tire trying to ascend yet another steep section on loose rock. My 19-inch front tire loves to burrow itself like an ostrich in situations like this making it almost impossible to keep on course. When Dave came up to help he just dug a deeper and deeper hole trying to force my bike out with speed. He rocked it back and I hurriedly shoved large rocks into the hole. When Dave throttled the bike to punch it through, the rocks came flying out at the speed of bullets and I dove toward the ditch for shelter. Along with the small front tire, the G650GS is underpowered for its weight, so trying to hammer it through stuff like this is like putting a bison on the racetrack. For the areas where we could get some speed, we were dodging overgrown branches reaching into the trails, bitch-slapping us as we revved by.
It took us over two hours to get the bikes 10 km (6 m). It was a hot day and we were getting exhausted. Just when we’d decided I’d have to hike while Dave would leapfrog the bikes until we could get onto a better section in the road, we heard an engine again as the couple from Smithers pulled up. As we’d only made it so far since they’d last seen us, they asked if they could help. Dave had just done one bike ferry with mine and was hiking back for his not looking forward to the slog in the heat. He asked if he could hitchhike back to his bike on their quad and rode away smiling and waving. Alone now in the alder at the bottom of a huge scree avalanche slope, I made some noise for the bears with my farting hummingbird horn and snapped off a few photos. Dave was back within 15 minutes and we both gazed on happily at the road heading up the valley ahead. We could tell it would be much easier and the logging truck parked a few metres from us facing our direction was proof. If it had made it this far from the other direction we’d get out no problem.
We rode out on the dirt road for about 30 km (19 m) before finding a pleasant home for the night by a river. The Smithers couple had kindly given Dave half a bottle of wine, which we drank heartily until it overtook us with sleepiness and we passed out in the tent not only while it was still light out but before the sun had even stopped shining into the forest.
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