Solo Backdoor: AKA The 555 Ride
Sorry no photos...
First Time Solo:
Just weeks after Vancouver had record breaking amounts of rain, to the point where a house in North Vancouver slid 25m down towards the Seymour River, I left to ride solo to Squamish by way of the Coquitlam Watershed. I left home in East Vancouver at 5:00am and headed to the Port Coquitlam. I was cold and wet from the humidity by 5:40am and I stopped for a well-deserved coffee break. After warming up and trying to ignore my upset stomach from too much acidic coffee and without food as a buffer, I headed down Lougheed Hwy to Pinetree Way. Here, 22km from home, I took a left. I biked up Pinetree Way without a map and ended up biking too far up into a development. I thought that Pinetree Way just turned into Pipeline Rd but I was mistaken. I retraced my steps and realized that my route was further east. I biked across a city park to Pipeline Rd and followed it north along the west side of the Coquitlam River. At about 30km from home I came to a gate and guardhouse. I knew I would have to bushwhack past this, as to avoid getting caught, so I headed down to the river and crossed it into the woods. I followed the River upstream for about 500m and then crossed back at an old overgrown branch road. This brought me to the main Watershed road. I followed this road to the Coquitlam Dam and crossed over the dam, to the East side, on the road. There are some beautiful, old and strange buildings here that were made stranger by the silence and solitude. I was prepared, at anytime, to throw my bike and myself into the bushes to avoid being caught. I had at this point traveled through the Capilano Watershed three times and had been caught once so I knew it was a possibility. The road follows the east side of the Coquitlam Lake rolling up and down the way many lakeside roads do to accommodate the contours. I later found out about an archeological dig that happened in 1981 when the dam needed repairs and the lake level was lowered to facilitate this. See "Early Human Occupation in British Columbia" ed. by Roy L. Carlson, Chapter 16, "Coquitlam Lake: An Early Lithic Component in the Lower Mainland", by Milt Wright. Some stone aged tools were found at the delta of the first creek north of the dam on the east side of the lake (Blakeny Creek, ironically named after the GVRD’s chief forester). Apparently these tools do not match the Fraser Valley Stone aged tools that are found to the south. They have a more interior peoples tool style. All the tools at this site were made from Garibaldi igneous formation stones. This means that the stone these tools are made of may have taken a similar route as mine to arrive here. I found a great article, which I highly recommended, about the history of this watershed. Titled "WAKE UP VANCOUVER!" it was written in 1993 by Will Koop. I'm sure it can be found on line still. Koop writes, "Until road building began in 1972, other than it's southern most extremities, the Coquitlam was an untouched watershed. It's magnificent low elevation old-growth state was the last of its kind in existence in the Lower Mainland. In 1973 an area "(287 acres) in size, the largest on record in the three watersheds. The next year, 1974, cut block 3-3, (91 acres), was added on to it. And in relation to this area, northeastward up the Cedar Creek drainage, the GVWD clear-cut an additional (826.3 acres)." logging was sold as a solution to the rampant fires and pests. As Koop mentions the coast at this time was covered with continuous old growth forest that had not been affected by fire or pest as evidenced by the average age of these forests at hundreds of years. One other thing to mention about the watershed that is generally not known, the water outflow from the watershed is 94% controlled by BC Hydro, a private company. There is a huge tunnel that connects the southwest end of Coquitlam Lake to the north end of Buntzen Lake. This water is then used in a hydroelectric project between Buntzen Lake and Indian Arm. Only 6% (as of 1994) of the outflow is used as GVRD water supply. Ok back to the ride. At the end of the lake the road drops you down to the Coquitlam River at the head of Coquitlam Lake and you cross it on a bridge. The road then follows this river on it’s western side to a labeled branch road called Flyin Branch. I took this branch up towards the west and had to cross some major flood damage, right at the start, to the point where I wasn’t sure I would find the road again. Eventually the road becomes quite well maintained and brings you up to the top at Coquitlam-Hixon pass. There is a large fence across the road here. I seem to remember that is about 6m high. Just before I started climbing it I saw a dog run off into the woods. I couldn’t figure out what a black dog would be doing up here in February. I then realized that I was a bear cub. Still, this is a strange thing to encounter this high up in February. It was just before noon and 58km from home. This is a fast way to get access to Bonnycastle and Meslilloet without the need for boats. I believe the pass is at about 2,200 feet. And you can start from here up to Barnes Lake below Bonnycastle. Strap some skis on your top tube! The descent from here was upsetting for me as I was going to lose the 2,200 feet and the road was rough enough that I couldn’t really go that fast on a fully unsuspended bike. On the way down towards the Indian River I passed a point on the road that branches off towards Norton Lake, a point that had taken me a day and a half to reach on numerous other occasions. I was only seven hours in. I could easily make it to Norton Lake in a day and possible to Joseph Lake. You could conceivably climb Meslilloet completely self-propelled in a weekend. When I got to the bottom of the Hixon Branch road at the side of the Indian River I ate my lunch. I knew it was only 35km to Squamish but I was already getting tired. The road up to the 2,600 foot pass was a bit soft and took a bit out of me as I was already feeling tired, but soon I was riding on hard snow. The snow made the going easier but I was still at a very low elevation and I knew that it meant I would be walking soon. The snow became deeper and deeper and I struggled to keep pedaling until it was taking more out of me than it was worth. The cross ditches on this road were huge. I had driven down it from Squamish a couple of times before and the ditches were not there. I had to climb into them and then struggle out of them; they were at least six to ten feet deep each. The recent torrential rains of January and flooding did a real number on this road. The snow was up to my shins and I pushed my bike up through it towards the pass. As the snow got deeper and deeper the light was fading lower and lower. By the time I reached the pass the snow was above me knees and the moon was casting a beautiful white glow on this winter wonderland. It was four days before the full moon. I was way behind schedule by now and if not for the moon I would be in total darkness. This point is 85km from home. I tried to ride down the Stawamus road as soon as it steepened enough and was rewarded with numerous wipeouts. Great wipeouts that planted me face first in the snow; I was having a blast cushioned by the soft snow. Eventually I could ride longer and longer until I was riding on a thin crust of snow covering the road. The snow continued almost all the way to Squamish, much lower than on the other side of the pass. In total I walked my bike 8km through the snow but I was still able to call home from the Taco Bell at 8:30pm, 15.5hrs and 96km after I had left home. I ordered two full meals at Taco Bell. I usually would go to the Brew Pub but I never made it that far into town. The total trip if completed would be 160km with a 2,200 foot pass and a 2,600 foot pass touching down at sea level each time in between, also you gain and lose 1,000 feet between Squamish and Home. I had made the plan to call home when I got to Squamish for two reasons. So Nola knew that I had made it there OK, and in case of chickening out so I could get a ride. Nola and Cudrah (my dog) picked me up at 9:15 and I happily got a ride home with them.
Second Time Satanic