August 29, 2019.
It was 5:00am or so when I awoke after a shockingly chilly - yet pleasant - night’s sleep. I could see Monte @Blackdawg hanging out behind his truck, waiting for the sunrise from my tent door. Figuring I'd let him enjoy the peaceful solitude, I donned my clothes and made my way to a spot 50' or so away to capture the morning, the colors joyfully doubled by the surface of Wells Lake.
I'd later hear from Monte that I'd been ninja-like in my approach. As he told the story to Dan @drr and Mike @Digiratus, he described completely silent tent zippers, a soundless descent down my ladder, and stealthy steps to my chosen photo location. A few shutter clicks all that betrayed my presence. And then more ninjabilities back into the tent.
I just smiled - no ninja here, but I'm fine with an air of mysteriousness around my movements!
After the colors of the morning, it was a few more hours before the sun was up and we all climbed out of our tents to greet the day. Even the light breeze of the previous evening was gone - Wells Lake now a glassy surface to be enjoyed in the warming air.
Having gotten plenty of the lake the night before, you might expect that we were ready to get moving towards the remainder of the Whipsaw Trail - but, you'd be wrong! Rather, we'd decided that this morning - being Dan's last of the trip - was the perfect morning for us to do a group breakfast. We'd each brought something to contribute, and various folks got to cooking up the bacon, potatoes and eggs that we'd enjoy in our own little paradise, happy for the rare solitude that we'd found here.
It was after 11:00am when we finally pulled out of camp - me somehow in the lead again, and happy to be doing it since it got me out of the dust!
Near the lake, we found ourselves once again navigating the crossword-puzzle trail system, trying to stay on the main line. At any given time, I'd say we stood about a 50% chance of picking the right trail, what with the 3-5 options that were presented to us. Having come down from the high mountain ridges the previous afternoon, we once again found ourselves in a Lodgepole Pine forest, the midday sunlight filtering through the evergreen canopy.
Soon enough, we found ourselves stacked up in the road at small unnamed lake, where we also found the remains of an old pickup. Naturally, we had no idea what tragedy had befallen it so many years before, but we took solace in the fact that perhaps the owner - and definitely many compassionate offroaders since - had taken it out of its misery by shooting it in the head (engine block) as well as just about everywhere else.
We humans are nothing if not destructive.
From there, we carried on in our righty-tighty loop of the Whipsaw, the rough - but not all that difficult - trail mostly dusty except for a few small puddles of water. Unfortunately, the tight corners meant that as we came upon these little gems, our enjoyment of them was limited. And by enjoyment, I mean both speed and splash size.
It was as though our secret had gotten out - we've all become responsible, old, drivers... not wanting to get our trucks muddy.
A little over 30 minutes into the morning, we started to climb back up out of the valley in which we'd camped the night before. Here, the trail got steep - a combination of dirt, sand, and rocks - in spots, interesting to navigate. With inclines close to 35 degrees in some places, we picked our way up - careful to take lines that would afford us the most traction. It was great fun and we all enjoyed it immensely - if the grins on our faces were any indication.
Another half hour or so and we found ourselves at the site of a second pickup! Like the first, this one was trashed - both the the engine block and frame in multiple pieces - as though after flipping it over on it's roof, someone had decided - I think I'll just give this battery powered reciprocating saw a try, in about a dozen places. Classy.
We'd nearly reached the top of the next ridge by this point, and as we did the landscape changed once again. It's not what I would call the breathtaking glory of the high mountains of the Cascade Range, nor is it the spectacular red rock of Utah - but with the bright blue sky and white clouds, the greens and yellows of the hillsides around us really did seem to sing with joy.
We were lucky to be in such a beautiful place.
It was here that we stopped for a bit of an extended rest stop - having been notified that the red truck to the rear was going to hold back for a moment and take care of some things that needed taking care of. Just fine with us
Back on the road, it was now nearly 1:00pm and none of us were all that hungry - for obvious reasons given our earlier (or really, later) breakfast - so we pushed on. It seems we can never really make quick progress however - because even when we weren't stopping for photos, we were stopping...for what should be dinner, in the road. A standoff as it were.
Dinner eventually moved to the side and we continued on - crossing a newly constructed, highway-like logging road that had been plowed through the middle of our trail. It was surreal, really, to go from a road where sustaining 5mph would be out of the question to one where 50mph would be the norm - and back again some 50' later. But hey, progress, right?
The trail at this point was a bit of a sloppy mess, and was in fact a place that Monte and Mike remembered being one of the more difficult the last time they were here (several years prior). A big muddy drop into a hole, it was one of the few - ney, perhaps only - place I saw Dan get out of his truck to take a photo.
Nice to know that even Dan can succumb to "the 'gram" every now and then.
Through that section of trail, I I rounded a corner and knew it was time to play a bit of a joke on the rest of the guys. In front of me, a narrow, 40"-wide bridge stretched across a creek - clearly much too narrow for us to cross. As I called it out on the CB, I strategically parked my truck in the trail, obscuring the view of the water crossing just to the right of the bridge.
It only worked for about 15 seconds, but they were a fun 15 seconds... for me.
I proceeded slowly through the opaque, muddy water - sure that with such an elaborate structure, it must be reasonably deep. Yeah, nope. Here you can see Mike - the last one through - has managed to cross the creek without getting is front tires wet at all. At least, not beyond the depth of the tread.
We had a good laugh at the entire situation and then continued on to the second place on the trail that those who had come before recalled a bit of trouble. Wet, muddy, too-slippery-for-traction trouble. Yep, more fun!
It turns out, we were at a spot in the trail where a spring kept the trail wet, and spinning tires on a clay-rich wet road kept the trail dug out and flexy. A spot where every last one of us would three-wheel it as we attempted to make it through.
Dan and I got through just fine - our lockers and flexy suspension making this section much less difficult than it was for Monte, who's completely unlocked and who's rear suspension has the flexibility of a stale saltine cracker. In the end, it was just too much to ask of his truck and after several attempts - and frankly, near success - he went ahead and accepted a small tug from Dan.
Then it was Mike's turn. And it was as though he'd personally designed the trail - picking a line that resulted in the shortest three-wheeling of us all. Kudos bud.
The rest of the trail was reasonably straight forward at this point, and as we arrived at Lodestone Lake - the only spot on the entire trail that we'd see any other vehicles - we figured this was a great time to eat lunch and let Echo (Dan's new puppy) stretch her legs a bit. So we parked in the shade and plonked down our chairs to take a load off - you know, because we hadn't been sitting much in the last few days!
Eventually, it was time to go - the trail from here becoming a series of logging/whatever Canadian Forest Service roads are called, taking us down through a series of clear cuts towards Coalmont, BC.
We played musical trucks through this section - swapping positions as the lead truck would take a wrong turn when trying to decipher the correct trail on the GPS - our speed now much quicker than it'd been the previous couple of days. We probably even averaged low double-digits, once you take into account photography!
At Coalmont, the trail transitioned once again - our destination now Princeton, the town from which we'd departed some 48 hours before (or 2.5 days, according to Monte). We were on an old railroad bed, where we continued to make good time. Not only that, but we encountered a couple of old trestles and tunnels, each of them bringing out the kids in us. Because, boys and trains.
After the second tunnel, we were spit out just on the outskirts of Princeton and knew we were getting close to done. What we didn't know was that the remainder of the track we had was washed out by a landslide - approximately 2 years ago by the looks of it - and we'd be forced to turn around, Mike perched precariously on a berm overlooking the slide.
A quick look at our maps and it was clear that if we backtracked a little way, we'd find ourselves with easy access to town - so that's what we did. It turns out, our adventure wasn't over - a few locals asking us if we'd seen the car stuck in the river.
We hadn't, and as such, we couldn't help but slow down as we saw quite the sight. Silly Ford Escape. Fake it till you make it; or not.
And with that, we were done with the Whipsaw. Pulling over on the side of the road as it turned to pavement, we all aired up - Monte, Mike and I planning to head north east, Dan turning his truck towards home in the south west. All of us happy to have spent the last few days together, wishing that Dan could stick around for a couple more.
I took a moment to capture our wheels - everyone sporting their own color and style.
With our final good-byes and safe-travels, we headed north. First on a bit of pavement, it wasn't long before we found ourselves on dirt again, our destination an east-to-west track that had been put together that we would join near Whitehead Reservoir, and which would terminate in Boston Bar, BC.
As it was already getting late - after 7:00pm by the time we were on dirt - we decided to start looking for a camp site prior to arriving at Whitehead Lake, where we'd transition from moving north to a westerly route. This turned out to be a bit of an adventure, the trail we were on becoming narrower and narrower - the track clearly only traveled by ATVs, and even at that, very lightly traveled.
Luckily for us, a 1st gen Tacoma isn't all that much wider than an ATV, and after skirting a few very tight spots, we found the road beginning to widen again - apparently the middle section seeing less travel than the two ends. Amazingly, we hadn't really found a single good camping spot on over 10 miles of trails, and just as the sun was setting - at 7:42pm - we pulled into what turned out to be a great camp spot on Whitehead Lake.
The site was sheltered, had nice views of the lake, and had a pile of firewood that only the largest of fires would even make a dent in. So we set about setting about, taking plenty of breaks to capture the colors playing across the sky as the sun kissed the day goodbye.
Through the evening we did our best to burn the wood so graciously left by the sites previous occupants. We probably went through the equivalent of three - or even four - bundles of wood. But, by the time we were ready to call it a night, having exhausted the conversations of trucks, suspension, and future trips - the pile of wood seemed just as large as it had been before we started.
The temperature cooling, and the stars covered by thin, high clouds, we called it a night - each of us retreating into our tents where we knew we'd get a good night rest - the chances of a sunrise in the morning as close to nil as possible, the mountain to our east blocking any need to get up early to see the horizon.
Looking forward to tomorrow, I had no idea what was in store. If I had, I'd have wished it would never come... but that's another story.