-Part one of a two part series on the flagship group event for Expedition BC – Roam Wild.
Once again, a group of Expedition BC regulars met up for a seven-day outing to seek the wild on some beautiful roads and trails in the Southwestern corner of British Columbia. In late July we came together, some from the coast and some the interior, to meet at the Blue Moose Cafe in the little town of Hope – a convenient place to begin any adventure as highways 1, 3, 5, and 7 all converge on the outskirts of town.
This year’s lineup was similar to last year’s Roam Wild group trip:
As pictured from rear to front…
– JC & Fam: Toyota Sequoia towing Kakadu Bushranger trailer;
– Jeff & Fam: Dodge Power Wagon towing Kakadu Bushranger trailer;
– Danny: Jeep JK;
– Ryan: Toyota 4Runner;
– Curt & Terri + 3X pups: Toyota FZJ80 towing a modified Warthog trailer;
– Cam: Lexus GX470.
(Andrew and Brian would join us partway through the week in Andrew’s Toyota 4Runner as well)
Starting off the trip in periodic light rain showers we convoyed north up Highway 1 to the Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park – a return visit for a few of us, but completely new experience for most of the group. It was a short hike down to the main feature – the historic Alexandra Bridge itself.
The park surrounds a portion of the old Cariboo Wagon Road, an engineering feat in the 1860’s essentially created to get miners north to the Cariboo gold fields. Here the route crossed the Fraser River on the original Alexdria Bridge, built in 1861, then destroyed in 1894 during a large flood. The bridge was rebuilt on the original footings in 1926 and saw automobile traffic until 1964 when it was decommissioned and somewhat preserved for historical benefit.
Back in the vehicles we made a short hop north to the old Hell’s Gate tunnel, another quick stop at a point of interest – this time completely unmarked and hidden from the thousands of cars zooming by 100m away. We didn’t venture too far in, just far enough to escape the rain, but it was another interesting part of the local history to check out.
The group posing for a group shot while having a snack.
It’s always nice to take it easy on the first day of a long trip, I find it helps to get the group settled into travel mode. More time in camp allows for extra camaraderie to start things off right.
Continuing along with pavement miles, we fueled up in Lytton and finally hit dirt in the Botanie Valley. We stopped at one rec site, only to find a lack of level spots and an abundance of bugs. Backtracking a few clicks to a clearing in a recently burned area, we found the opposite! There was plenty of level ground and a warm breeze to rid the mosquitoes, a perfect place to circle the wagons and set up for the night.
With lack of fire bans this summer, we were able to enjoy a proper campfire for night one, and enjoy the stars before turning in.
Sunshine was on order for the morning, and everyone was eager to get into 4-lo and enjoy some trails. I enjoyed a tour of camp checking out the rigs before getting going.
After breakfast we got the tires dirty and started climbing, and what a climb it was gaining approximately 5000 ft in just a few kilometers.
It was a tight trail with plenty of pin striping and burnt trees down across the path. Much of the pin striping was the worst kind – sharp and dry pointed twigs, rather than leafy greens. With a group effort, many of the downed trees were cleared quickly.
There were a few switch backs where the views opened up to the valley and rivers below. It was clear that no trucks had been on the trail lately due to all the fallen trees – it began to slow progress.
Mrs. XpedBC was behind the wheel most of the time while I was working the camera and radio.
One of the stops revealed evidence of other critters using the trail.
Reminiscent of videos from the Alexander Mackenzie Trail in central BC, forward progress was being majorly hampered by blowdowns, some larger than others, giving our smaller trail chainsaws a challenge. It was hot, sweaty and buggy work, but everyone pitched in in the name of progress. At one point we rigged up a winch to a snatch block and tree strap to suck one of the larger logs into the ditch.
By the time I had re-wound the winch line, others had rolled up the straps and re-packed the shackles – it was a hard working and thoughtful group and we put forward a pretty decent effort at making the top of the trail. After the small victory of clearing the largest section of trees yet, we turned a corner and our hearts sank – tree after large tree was down across the road.
Curt came up with the genius idea to launch his drone and scout the next few kilometres of trail from above. What we discovered was the harsh reality that we wouldn’t be continuing – there were simply too many trees down. At the 1500m mark (5000 ft) we headed back down and made the most of the view points and wildflowers we experienced.
Saw these scruffy bighorn sheep on the way down.
Once back in town we fueled up and made a dash for the Lillooet area, before topping up again and heading into the hills to look for a spot to spend night. There were several great riverside camping spots available, but with a group of seven rigs (three with trailers), it was difficult finding something suitable. Eventually we decided on a spot with plenty of room and scenery, but lacking the riverside component. Night #2 was spent at a place dubbed “Gravel Pit Camp”.
In the morning we met up with Andrew and Brian at a pre-determined spot along the highway, enjoyed a creek-side BBQ in the shade, and once again hit the dirt.
Day #3’s goal was to climb up an overgrown and rough mining track, we endured some fairly serious pin striping along the way.
Not only did I lose some paint sparkle off the Sequoia driving through the overgrown alder, I also lost some (okay… most) of my dignity when the Sequoia, at the front of the pack, failed to conquer a tire-lifting washout on the skinny trail. Out came the shovels and teamwork and within less than two minutes of shoveling, I was able to pick a new more moderate line and made it through.
The rest of the trucks followed suit without any drama – even the bone stock and street tire equipped ’99 4Runner thanks to it’s factory rear locker!
Shortly after, we broke out of the trees and entered into the final climb to the pass.
Everyone made the pass at 2160m / 7100 feet where we had a break and took in the views.
For night three we returned to Gravel Pit Camp for a well deserved rest. There aren’t many pictures from the drive back to camp as we were dealing with what turned out to be a “false labour” scare, possibly due to the bumpy roads (not an old wives tale!). After that passed, the group enjoyed a leisurely dinner and another night around the fire. Several of us stayed up late chatting around the glowing coals – usually some of the most enjoyable moments of any excursion.
-Note: Our baby boy was born healthy over a month later!
Part II – Stay tuned for part two where the group heads north to explore some more abandoned roads in the beautiful BC backcountry!