Fall; more than just pretty colours

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Fall colours along Gun Creek

Fall has got to be my favourite season… Don’t get me wrong summer is awesome, especially this past summer with lots of long hot days, perfect for full day adventures in the mountains and refreshing jumps into the lake. Winter’s not bad either, with white fluffy snow comes a whole new set of adventures. But fall is special, there’s something about the crisp fresh air, and there’s nothing nicer than a crisp sunny fall day outside.  The leaves change colours, spectacular golden yellows and reds, even the dying fireweed turns a dark burgundy covering the hillsides in blankets of deep reds.  But there’s a lot more to fall than just these gorgeous colours.  Fall is a great time for foraging!  After having spent a few years out here in the South Chilcotin Mountains, wandering through the woods seeing all sorts of weird looking flora & fungi, I decided to start learning more about what it all was.

Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Luckily for me, local resident & Tyax Adventures guide, Geoff Playfair was around to answer many of my questions and impart some of his vast knowledge to me.  I’ve picked Geoff’s brain about so many things these days he probably runs and hides every time he sees me.  Some of his wisdom I’ve picked up on is that there are tons of different types of fungi around, many of them edible, and some not as much.  When foraging for mushrooms bring a guide book, take notes & photos, and if you’re unsure bring your notes & photos to someone who’s got more experience than you.  The first mushroom I identified was in my front yard, a Shaggy Mane, according to Geoff’s identification of my photo, edible too if you get it while it’s young and before it turns to a black inky blob… hmmm.  Geoff’s been out hunting for field mushrooms at his wife’s request.  To help correctly identify these Geoff recommended taking a ‘spore print’, which I promptly googled and learned that it makes a really nice piece of art as well!

Another coveted mushroom, the morel, grew in abundance in the hills surrounding Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa and other parts of the South Chilcotin that were affected by the forest fires in 2009.  The year following a forest fire the disturbance usually causes morel mushrooms to sprout up, the summer of 2010 & 2011 the South Chilcotin saw morel mushrooms sprouting up everywhere, a chef’s dream!

Rosehips

A handful of colourful rosehips

Along with plenty of other mushrooms to search for a common sight along the trails and roadsides right now are Rosehips.  These are bright red & orange bulbs that grow after the petals of the rose have fallen off usually in September & October.  A great source of Vitamin C rosehips can help ward off the pesky fall cold by providing you with a huge boost of this essential nutrient.  Great for tea or making jelly & jam.

A real fall treat is the Harvest moon, this year we weren’t able to see it as clear due to some cloudy skies, but just seeing the brightness peak out behind the clouds was a gorgeous sight.  Marking the true start to fall, the Harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, this year falling on September 22nd.  Get ready for a fantastic fall seasons and don’t let shorter days or a little rain keep you from enjoying a fantastic fall!

*Be careful what you pick & eat, always use the guidance of someone knowledgeable & trusted.  We don’t recommend foraging without expert assistance*

Fly Down Trails in the South Chilcotin -by Geoff Playfair

Say South Chilcotins to most people and either they’ve never heard of it or they envision the high country: alpine meadows in bloom, single track disappearing over a ridge, rich colours of mineral-stained scree competing with the blues of lupines, purples of shrubby penstemon or pinks of moss campion. Bicycles are often involved.

All of that is here – this region is jewel known to relatively few but becoming recognized at the international level for its trails and scenery. But there is more, there are birds. This region also supports a rich avian diversity, from raptors to game birds, migratory waterfowl and songbirds, along with the resident species.

June into early July is prime time in the valley for birders, that strange breed that dons stranger plumage including wide brim hats, binoculars, cameras, note books, phones with bird apps and outer wear that looks rummaged from, well, a rummage sale.

OK, I’ll admit it here: I’m interested in birds. Maybe I’m not yet ready to admit to being a fully fledged “birder” and I certainly will never be an Ornithologist, but I can happily go for a walk and observe the birds I encounter, I do have a bird feeder (well, two), I own a variety of bird identification books and, yes, I have a bird app on my phone. Frankly, the bird app and mushroom app are about the only use I have for a cell phone in this valley, since the lack of cell service makes the cell phone useless as a communication tool.

So why is this area so special for birds? As with real estate, it’s all about location. The Bridge River valley is shadowed from rain by the Coast Mountains and butts up against the colourful Chilcotin Range, making it a transitional zone between the West Coast Temperate Rainforest and the Inland Grass and Douglas Fir biomes. Biodiversity is further enhanced by numerous waterways: the Bridge River, Cadwallader, Gun, and Tyaughton Creeks, along with a peppering of lakes, ponds and two huge reservoirs running west-east for almost 100 kms. Adding to this is the 40,000 hectare regrowth from the 2009 forest fire that burned east from Pearson’s Pond to Marshall Lake, along with a patchwork quilt formed by various aged logging cuts. Everything combines to create a rich biodiversity providing varied habitat to numerous species, including many birds.

In the last few days, without any actual effort on my part, I’ve seen the following birds:

Rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

Rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

Raptors, including Red Tailed and Sharp Shinned Hawks, Merlins, a Northern Harrier and, two nights ago, I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting.

While biking in the woods I saw a Sooty Grouse in all its mating splendor: bold red eyebrows, full tail fan that always makes me think of a rooster trying to imitate a turkey, hooting for a mate.

Yesterday, fishing on Mowson’s Pond, I saw a pair of Barrows Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers and of course, Loons.

The songbirds are in high season presently. The cacophony that greets me as I write this, sitting on the porch with my morning coffee is difficult to describe, let alone break down by individual voice. Various Warblers, including Yellow-Rumped Audubon, Townsend’s and Yellow Warblers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Robins, Western Tanagers, Cedar Waxwings, various Viroes, Finches and Flycatchers, Mountain Bluebirds, and Chipping Sparrows, all compete for airtime. Rufous Hummingbirds visit the flower boxes. Tree Swallows dart around the grassy openings and high above soar Vaux’s Swifts.

The forests generally, and the burn specifically, attract woodpeckers by the hundreds. Between yesterday and today I’ve seen Pileated, Hairy and Downy, as well as Northern Flickers and the colourful Red-Naped Sapsucker. No recent sighting of the American Three-Toed or Blackbacked.

Of course there are plenty of residents as well: chatty Juncos, Black Capped and Mountain Chickadees, voracious Siskins, Red-Breasted Nuthatches bulleting through the trees, Red-Winged Blackbirds at the ponds, the brilliant yellows, browns and white of the Evening Grosbeaks, Spotted Tohees, Golden Crowned Kinglets, noisy Ravens and the occasional Crows (I won’t get into whether they are American or Northwestern, you’ll have to decide) along with Whiskey Jacks and Clark’s Nutcrackers.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Again, this is just what I’ve seen around my property and near home in the last two days. If you go into the mountains you’ll shift habitats and likely see many more species.

For example, a fantastic spectacle occurs in late August when Rufous Hummingbirds invade the alpine meadows. Literally hundreds of hummingbirds can be seen all around you as they draw the last of the nectar from the meadow flowers, over a mile above sea level. Why the rush? At this elevation, frost is only days away and winter is rapidly approaching. The phenomenon lasts briefly and then they’re gone.

So, if you find bird watching relaxing, a trip to the Bridge River valley may be just the vacation you need. If your focus is a ride or a hike, you can increase your enjoyment by becoming more aware of your surroundings. Listen for the different songs you will hear as you pass under the trees. Look for and try to identify the various birds you see. Observing their colouring, behavior, feeding habits and surroundings will help in identification.

While you’re out there, you might see me. I’ll be the guy on a bike, packing binoculars along with my bike tools. And yes, you might see me off my bike, with binoculars in hand, trying to determine what type of warbler I’m looking at. When you start noticing the birds around you, it gives new meaning to “flying down the trail”.

A day in the life of a wrangler

Have you ever wondered what it is that a cowboy or cowgirl does with their day?  Ride around the range with their trusty steed, keeping an eye out for bandits and strays…  Well that’s not quite so far off, our crew of wranglers here at Tyax Adventures have just been out in the mountains (range) aboard their favourite horses (steeds).  They’ve been busy opening up our camps and keeping the wildlife (bandits) out of the cook-shacks.  Every once in a while they’ll run into a group of mountain bikers or hikers (strays) who hopefully haven’t lost their way.

Setting up Bear Paw Camp

Brennan and Andrea setting up the tents at Bear Paw

 

 

The crew of Wranglers out here have been out in the mountains setting up our remotest camps.  These are the camps where the floatplane can’t access and it’s a long haul by foot or bike to pack in gear and food. This is where the beauty of a packhorse comes in handy, ride along the scenic trails to a truly remote spot and have all your camp gear follow along with you by true horse-power.

 

Wranglers at it clearing the trail

Wranglers working hard to clear a fallen tree off the trail so we can all enjoy the trail

Packing gear and supplies between camps also mean a wrangler’s got to be spry to hop on and off their horse to clear the trail of whatever is in the way.  Horses aren’t quite so spry, sometimes these great big strong animals can’t scramble across or under some of the big logs that hikers and bikers might be able to so the wranglers have got to hop off and do some work themselves.

 

The scenery in the mountains isn’t so bad, while packing gear a wrangler will get to see all sorts of amazing sights.  Being the first group across one of the remote mountain passes a certain year and not knowing what you’ll expect can be pretty exciting.  Getting to see all sorts of wildlife like Grizzly bears, wolves, marmots, black bears, bobcats, mountain goats and so much more!

Pack Train Crossing Manson Pass

First pack train of the year heading across Manson Pass towards Little Paradise

 

A day in the life of a wrangler consists of early mornings feeding horses, then feeding a group of hungry people, including themselves, before packing the horses and moving on to their next spot.  The days are long but the scenery and the true wilderness of the South Chilcotin Mountains keeps them at it.  Great company also helps and our crew are some of the nicest and truest outdoors-people around.

Random thoughts on a Rainy Day Ride, words & photos by Geoff Playfair

“Maybe the truest sign of human intelligence is not to learn how we can shoehorn nature into our own agenda, but to see how we can better find our own place in nature.”
David Suzuki

The steady drum of rain on the tent woke me before light. No cause for alarm – we had hours before we needed to break camp and ride 6 hours to the truck.

Waking again to dawn light and the same steady drum wasn’t encouraging.

After rolling around for a while, it was time to face the inevitable. Getting up and out of the tent, I trudged under the kitchen tarp, grabbed a pot and went down to the lake to get water for coffee and to try and gauge the weather.

We were at Lorna Lake, in the South Chilcotins, at tree line and ringed by 8500 ft peaks, so it was tough to say, but with stagnant air and steady rain, things seemed settled in. Between bands of cloud, fresh snow was visible on the upper slopes; any chances of trying a high pass route were out.

Lorna Lake by Geoff Playfair

Lorna Lake in all it’s glory… on a sunny day.

Back up the hill, with coffee brewing, the rest of the crew rolled out of bed. Quick discussion brought agreement that the Relay Pass route was the best option for the day – our lowest pass and easiest route, although the Relay side is notorious for mud and a place to avoid in the rain.

After a leisurely breakfast and as many rain delays as we could justify, by 11:30 the inevitable couldn’t be further postponed. With packs loaded, we hit the trail.

The good news of riding with clothing completely soaked through is that river crossings are simple affairs. Whereas the day before crossing Big Creek involved a slow process of removing footwear and rolling up shorts, today we simply arrived, shouldered bikes and jumped in. The water didn’t even feel cold today, which didn’t speak well to our core temperatures, though it was best not to stop and dwell on this, lest it drop further.

We made good time and topped out at Twin Lakes on the Relay/Big Crk divide before 2:00. The rain let up as we started the decent into the Relay drainage, still following the bear tracks left earlier that day along the trail.

We caught up to the bear in the lower meadows, a small grizzly, on its own, grazing on the spring shoots. When it finally alerted to us, it took off at a run into the nearby forest.

Big Creek Trail Crew by Geoff Playfair

Big Creek Trail Crew posing on a previous sunny day.

The out ride from here was uneventful, other than the soul-sucking mud which turned each pedal stroke into a strained effort. Only once did the wheels simply stop rolling. We then shouldered the now 50 lb bikes and stumbled along in our clown shoes that grew in size with each step as fresh mud stuck to the previous layers. 200 m later the surface turned to gravel and, after a de-glomming, bikes again rolled.

Arriving at the forest service road left us with 17 kms of soft, wet surface to grind along.  My mind drifted to pass the time.

“Why ride?” “Why not?” (Need to dig deeper here, still over an hour to go…) “What’s the best part of the ride? Is it pushing the limits, going the distance, riding extreme terrain? Is it more about the story after, or the here and now? Is it about overcoming nature, or experiencing it?” As the soft surface of the road released the tires for one more roll, I settled on a new perspective.

Since first pedaling a bike, I’ve always thought of them as freedom machines. As a kid, you couldn’t run faster or go farther than a person on a bike. It got you away from your parents and into a world where you were responsible for yourself. As I got older, the bike took me across town, then across countries. Technology eventual allowed us to take them further into the woods, travelling greater distances in a day than on foot.

The freedom to explore, to go longer and deeper into the wilderness, is the reason I choose a bicycle over walking. To travel under my own effort is why I choose a bicycle over a horse or an engine assisted vehicle, though I’m quick to admit those are sometimes needed to set up a ride.

But ultimately this freedom machine is just another tool, albeit our civilization’s most efficient transportation tool, with a relatively small footprint, both in trail and planetary impact.

The reason I ride isn’t to use a tool. The bike is simply the tool that enables the experience. It’s about getting away from a civilization that is obsessed with the latest toys (yes, I know, while riding my latest toy). Its an opportunity to stand in a field with a grizzly, see deer running on an open slope, trade mating calls with a confused grouse, and to forage off the land for at least some of my food.

Paradoxically, it’s about slowing down while speeding up, connecting with the surroundings while maintaining speed, being part of the environment while not throwing yourself fully at the mercy of it.

Referring to biomimicry, David Suzuki, using words far more eloquent than I can muster, mirrors my position in saying: “Maybe the truest sign of human intelligence is not to learn how we can shoehorn nature into our own agenda, but to see how we can better find our own place in nature.”

Riding isn’t about viewing the world as our playground, but about respecting the playground that is our world. It’s about seeing ourselves as a small cog in the larger drive train. Trading hubris for humility, comfort for adversity. Repositioning the ego to its rightful place.

Deep thoughts for a rainy ride or maybe mild, bonk-induced, ravings. No matter. As we sweep down the last hill, I’m forced into situational awareness by the rapidly approaching corners.

It’s 6:00 and, with bikes and bodies caked in mud, we arrive at the truck. Contrary to fears, the beer placed days earlier in the creek hadn’t washed away in the rising waters, so we wisely used it to wash away some of the weariness of the day as the truck bounces home.

-All words & photos by Geoff Playfair.

Spring Trail Updates 2013

We are well into another spring season out here and as the snow melts away to reveal our favourite trails it’s time to start checking up on what’s been hiding under the white blanket all winter.  Late Fall and early winter usually bring a few storms with heavy winds that tend to cause a great big mess on the trail for us to find come spring.  With a lower snowpack than usual and much less than last year the snow is clearing pretty quickly around here… that means an early start to the business of exploring the damage and starting the trail work.

Snow Pillow Data June 2013

The Snow Pillow Data taken from Green Mountain gives us a really great snapshot of how the snow melt is looking so far this year.  Although we’re not at the Minimum we are well below the Average, this pretty much just confirms what we were all thinking after a mediocre winter for snowfall.  Take a look at the Real time data online at the River Forescast Centre website.

The little trail elves have been busy already and most of the trails around Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa have been cleared out.  Our wrangler Brennan was busy clearing out the lower section of the North Cinnabar trail as well as the maze of trails behind the campground.  Horseback riders won’t have branches hitting them in the head on their rides with Brennan!  Brennan has also been busy putting together a great loop for our 3 hour Horseback Rides, this loop will show off some great view points of the entire Bridge River Valley.

The local crew around Tyaughton Lake have been out clearing the top of the North Cinnabar trail as well as some of the trails winding their way through the forest above the Friberg Rec site area.  Watch for the TMC brand on the trails along with the corresponding trail name in a bright pink blaze.

The jolly giant, Mr. Geoff Playfair has been extra busy this season cleaning out logging debris off some of the trails he’s built above Gun Creek RoaGeoff Playfair & his trusty chainsawd.  Curious George, a surefire favourite of anyone who’s ridden it, was logged last summer and had quite a bit of debris remaining.  Geoff & Karen along with a couple friends cleared out most of the trail and it’s now ready to go.  Be careful of logging equipment in the area and there is some active logging happening so keep your eyes and ears open.

With the ice coming off Spruce Lake a full 2 weeks ahead of last year our crew of Geoff Playfair & Adrian Bostock were able to get into Spruce Lake and clear out the blowdown and deadfall from the Lake all the way along the Gun Creek trail to the end of Gun Creek Road.  Took them 2 days but it’s good to go and the Arrow Leaved Balsamroot is already starting to flower!  Should be an early season for wildflowers.

The Taylor basin is still full of snow and the High Trail up to the Molly Dog entrance is clear but farther than that the snow is still lingering.  Expecting that zone to be explorable by early July.

Watch for more updates on the Warner Lake trail status which we will be clearing out this week (June,10-13).  Lone Valley & Mud Lakes, Lorna Lake updates, Crystal Lake & Skycamp to come in the following weeks.

Email us if you’ve got news or updates or post straight on our Facebook page or comment on this blog.  Hope we’ll see you all on the trails soon!

‘Like’ us and WIN

We know you ‘like’ us but do you really LIKE us… if so we would love for you to share this with your friends and help us grow our Facebook followers.  The goal is to grow our ‘likes’ to 600 by next week!

If, wait actually I mean when,  Tyax Adventures gets over 600 ‘likes’ in the next week we will draw a winner from our entire group of followers, the old-loyalists and new alike.  Winner will receive a Tyax Adventures Prize Pack consisting of a $100 Gift CertificaFacebook Contest 2013te to be used towards any of our products & services as well as one of our brand new Tyax Adventures trucker hats!  The trucker hats are the first of their kind and will be coveted items for sure so don’t miss out.

Not only can you win by liking our page but you’ll also get info about our beautiful backyard; trail updates, local happenings and of course drool worthy photos to get you planning your next Adventure!

Good luck and get ‘liking’!

Hello world!

It’s been a busy winter here at Tyax Adventures and we’re counting down until opening day, May 15th!

Working on our new website has been a big project for us and we’re happy to have one place to showcase all of our awesome tours and services.  This is a great step for us in bringing together the ‘Tyax Air’ and ‘Spruce Lake Wilderness Adventures’ brands under our Tyax Adventures name.  We also hope it will help clear up any confusion and note that we are all one and the same now and offer one central place for all your Chilcotin Backcountry needs.

Other exciting things in the works are new Self Supported – Guided Adventures.  Watch for these lower price point backcountry adventures to be up on the website soon!  Other new packages and adventures being dreamed up right now are backcountry running camps, wilderness yoga retreats, a ladies only backcountry mountain bike camp and new Sky Camp adventure packages straight out of Whistler.

Bikers at Bear Paw by Margus Riga

The team has been busy enjoying the winter; Geoff has been keeping busy skiing and volunteering in Whistler making some trips to visit family along the way.  Jamie & Margaret have been loving life near the ocean and planning a trip to Europe before coming up to the Chilcotin for the summer.  Adrian & Emily traveled through the US for 2 months this fall, mountain biking everywhere along the way.  After a bit of early winter skiing they were back on their bikes and have been enjoying all the riding in the Sea to Sky corridor.  Brennan has been keeping busy all winter and is looking forward to spending another summer in the Chilcotins and more time out in the mountains.  Dale & family are always busy if they’re not biking, hiking or kite surfing they’re planning family adventures or working on new trips for Tyax Adventures.

We can’t wait for summer and hope we will see you up in paradise soon!