Roam Wild 2017 was XPED BC’s group trip in early October. This was an open invite to anyone with a reliable rig and family friendly attitude, to join along for a small excursion with us!. When I noticed several specific things occurring, I knew that this would be a successful journey together – and it was! First was the “oh crap” moment as we summited a peak in a howling storm, in the snow… and in the dark! Second was the “ahhhhhh” moment as we all sat around the crackling camp fire sharing adventure tales and enjoying good food. Lastly there was the “heck yeah!” moment as we bumped and flexed our way up the icy trail to reach our high-alpine lake destination on the last day.
It all started in Hope, BC where the group met and fueled up ourselves and our rigs. Some of us were already friends, and some strangers, but we all had one thing in common – the desire to seek out and explore the wild places!
Unfortunately the trip started with the wrong kind of “wild”… in the form of a highway closure on the Coquihalla. The highways guys had Highway #5 shut down due to a serious accident further along. The crowds were growing along the route and all over the remote exit interchange. With the growing crowds, the gong-show moments increased with drivers 4-5 vehicles wide making their way around the barriers and continuing up the closed highway… After waiting a bit, we had had enough – we turned around and got out of there.
With a change of plans, we left the crowds behind and made our way north on the old highway. The scenery changed from rugged west-coast jungle to rolling desert hills.
It was a bit of a downer to start the trip covering extra ground on the pavement, but the open vistas made up for it and the excitement of the group returned prior to stopping for dinner at The Packing House. We enjoyed farm-to-table food (which just tastes darn good) and live music from a local musician, all while enveloped in the heritage atmosphere of the place.
The group was comprised of four trucks: Andrew in his newly acquired ’99 4Runner, Dave in his lifted Chev S10 workhorse, Ryan in his slick new TRD 4Runner, and the XPED Endurance towing the Bushranger trailer. Several of the trucks had various passengers on board, some even switching rigs during the drive.
Soon after dinner we left pavement and finally began heading for the hills. Cornwall Hills to be exact! The road winds through some ranches and rustic cabins before climbing out of the desert and into the trees.
We stopped at a fallen tree on the road to buck up for firewood. Dave made quick work of the large pine with his trusty old power saw. I had not met Dave prior to today but he mentioned he had worked in the logging industry some years ago. This showed true as he skillfully knocked down the limbs and split up the trunk in even sizes, handling the saw as comfortably one would a toothbrush! Soon the sun set and we found ourselves still climbing. The road got narrower and steeper, but these are the roads we enjoy!
The group made a hasty stop to do a quick mechanical check on Andrew’s 4Runner as Dave noticed one of the rear wheels was coming loose! We quickly confirmed the wheel was tight and it was likely an illusion observed on the dark and bumpy roads. A quick tally was had to determine if we should camp in the trees at the rec site, but the group voted to continue to the top for the morning views. We continued climbing, and then this happened:
Snow! Well I guess were are in the mountains, and we are in Canada. The snow kept falling, and then it was blowing and swirling as we climbed higher, and then we couldn’t see anymore! We had reached the top at 2040m (6600 ft) in a full blown blizzard. The firetower lookout looked ghostly in the dark and any plans to camp inside were quickly abandoned…
At this point the snow had covered the trails and visibility was very low… We backtracked a few hundred metres to a side trail we found by walking around the area with flashlights. This trail led us to the north shoulder of the peak, somewhat in a gully, and mostly out of the wind blasts rocking the peak.
Here we were able to setup camp for the night. A quick fire was enjoyed, but mainly everyone climbed into their shelter to escape the remaining wind and cold. One tent blew over shortly after, which forced the occupants to scramble into their truck to sleep for the rest of the night. The Kakadu Bushranger, loaded with two adults, a teen, a toddler, and a baby, shook all night in the gusts, but kept us warm and dry. Everything had frosted over by morning as it dipped to -4 C. Here’s a shot of our frosty spot, taken from the heated interior of Ryan’s 4Runner.
Soon the clouds blew away and the sun came out, affording us the views we earned.
We decided to cook up breakfast as a group within the shelter of the firetower, which wasn’t nearly as ghostly looking in the morning! With all the stoves going, the interior warmed up quickly and we had a nice breakfast.
Before departing, we lined up for the obligatory group truck shot:
As we headed down, we took in all the visual delights that we missed on the night time ascent.
I got out to snap some photos on the final cross ditch before returning to the mainline forest road:
Dave went last, and decided to “send it” as the kids say these days. I was able to get this shot before jumping out of the way! This Dave guy has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve!
We stopped to stretch our legs, soak up the sunshine, and share more stories of the crazy camp out we had overnight.
The area was dotted with rustic farmhouses and old log buildings. I wished we had more time to spend exploring the other sights in valley.
Back on pavement we headed generally south-east toward our next area to explore and camp for the night. Since we rolled in late on the first night, we were committed to finding camp during daylight this time. Around 5pm, just short of our destination of Cabin Lake, we chose a clearing along the road and beside a small creek. This was at approximately 5000 ft elevation in a lush spruce forest, with plenty of room for everyone.
Dinner was cooked, food was shared, and the baby was passed around, held by just about everyone that evening! More stories of past adventures were told, and we all enjoyed being able to relax, compared to the evening prior.
Overnight temperatures only dipped slightly below zero, before warming up when the clouds rolled in. The morning brought us cloudy skies, mugs of java, and smiles all around after many had a better sleep. The morning’s objective was reaching Cabin Lake, 1800m (6000 ft). Only a few kilometres of rock and snow covered trail, with sporadic mini washouts and cross ditches, was in our way. The lake is normally accessed by quads and a few brave drivers in high-clearance 4×4’s each year.
Finally, we reached our destination unscathed! Cabin Lake, at the base of Stoyoma Mountain, in the northernmost corner of the Cascade Mountain Range (stretching from Northern California to BC).
Getting out of the trucks, we were met with high winds and temperatures still hovering around zero. It was a good thing we camped down low in the trees! Nevertheless, we explored around the rec site and took in the views.
It was lunch time on day 3, and most of the group sadly had to head toward home… The only real challenge now was making out way out a different route. Our maps were out of date, and we hadn’t been in the area for years. Here we stopped and got a nice look at the twin peaks of Stoyoma Mountain (2260m, 7400 ft), which stands above where we camped the night before.
We followed a new wide road through large clear cuts, prior to the road just ending in some trees. A closer look, however, revealed another quad-sized two-track route continued through the trees! We slowly took this route down over the loose boulders, breaking branches as we went. Dave proved he was just as handy with an axe, as he was with a chainsaw.
Well we made it down the tight trail without too many scratches on Ryan’s new 4Runner. This small trail brought us out to another mainline forest road and lead us back to the paved highway, and eventually civilization. Here we said our goodbyes and parted ways for the drive home.
During the trip, we had zero breakdowns, nobody got stuck, and I don’t think one argument was had between anyone. The trails and destinations were all new to most of the group, and overall everyone enjoyed themselves. Thanks to everyone who came out and to all that showed interest in coming but couldn’t make it.
We plan to do another group trip – a winter run – in December this year. Keep your eyes on our Facebook page for info! -JC.