BC Parks Draft Management Plan – Information

Hello friends,

All of us at Tyax Adventures pride ourselves in the services we offer you and the friendships we make along the way. We want you to come visit us and enjoy the South Chilcotin Mountains in the future. Unfortunately, your use of our services and your freedom to travel the park is at risk.

Why? Most of our business is conducted in the South Chilcotin Mountains and Big Creek Parks. A draft management plan for these parks has been presented by BC Parks for comment until the end of May. Simply put, if this plan is implemented as written, there will be drastic changes if you like to mountain bike or fly a float plane in the parks.

Here are a few details of the draft:
  • It segregates recreating by bicycle from other forms of recreation and imposes bicycle only restriction. For example; closing the Lick Creek Trail for the use of a commercial horse operator only,  It also suggests bicycling in the park be allowed only 3 days per week.
  • The draft plan proposes to limit Float plane access to the park to after 9:00 am – this would make landing at Warner Lake improbable. Flights could also be restricted to 2-3 days per week only.
  • Within the draft park plan, ensuring a healthy population of Mountain Goats, Big Horn Sheep and Grizzly Bear recovery is a primary objective and is a priority over recreation and tourism. Restrictions to recreation are suggested within the park to support animal populations, while hunting of Sheep and Goat will continue in the Park and hunting of Grizzly Bears will continue adjacent to the parks.
  • It is proposed that the popular campground at the north end of Spruce Lake is closed.
If the draft plan is implemented, there will certainly be a reduction of access for you, and a reduction of services available from us at Tyax Adventures. The restrictions will result in, at minimum; an increase in aircraft charter rates, or worse case; it no longer being viable for an airplane to be based in the area. The draft plan will have a devastating effect on the local tourism economy of the Bridge River Valley.
Float plane transportation and mountain biking have historically been under represented within the park system.  I believe that a management plan can be created where all recreationalists are treated fairly and that wildlife, tourism and recreation can flourish together in the park.  We plan to present an alternate plan to BC Parks soon and hope that you support it.

If you have any questions regarding this and would like to discuss, please fell free to email me at the address below.
Thank you.

Dale Douglas
President/Operations Manager

TYAX ADVENTURES

SLWA / Tyax Air Service Ltd.

Located at Tyax Resort and Spa

Goldbridge, BC

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a wonderful Easter weekend full of fun and adventure!  

Happy Easter from Tyax Adventures

 

 

A New Plan for the South Chilcotin Mountains Park

A draft management plan has been published for the South Chilcotin and Big Creek Parks. The draft includes restrictions to recreation and tourism, specifically to mountain biking and floatplanes. Do you like the option of flying into Spruce, Warner and Lorna Lakes? Would you like to continue to ride your bike on the trails within the Park?

You have until April 30th to let BC Parks know your thoughts – we hope you can spend a little bit of time to do so.

For more information about the new plan and to have your say visit:
http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/lillooet/lillooet_mp.html

Wildflowers in the Gun Meadows

 

Explore the South Chilcotin Wilderness on a Packhorse trip with Warren Menhinick

If you’ve been to the South Chilcotin area before chances are you’ve heard at least a mention about the history of the mining and pioneers in the area, but perhaps you don’t know how it has gone from a mining area to a wilderness lovers paradise.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s pioneers started migrating to the South Chilcotin and Bridge River Valley areas in search of mining and ranching opportunities.  These pioneers moved around the area on horseback with packhorses to help move all of their equipment and belongings around this vast wilderness.  As they explored the area by horseback they laid down some of the trail routes we still use today.  Guide outfitters started up to provide the miners with packhorses to move their supplies and equipment throughout the hills.  Through time the mining in the valley slowed down and focus turned to more recreational pursuits.  The Menhinick family originally moved to the Bridge River Valley to work in the Bralorne mines, when the mine shut down in the 70s Warren’s father Barry Menhinick purchased a ranch and his company, Spruce Lake Wilderness Adventures was the first commercial company to operate in what is now the South Chilcotin Mountain park.  media-horse2

Warren grew up in these hills, exploring with his father and learning the secrets of these valleys and mountains.  His knowledge of the area is unsurpassed by most, and he knows every secret nook and cranny out there.  Here are Tyax Adventures we are so happy to have Warren guiding 2 of our Wilderness Packhorse trips this summer.  Each of these 7 day tours will start at our base of operations at Tyax Wilderness Resort & Spa.  This Resort is a hidden gem tucked away on the shores of Tyaughton Lake, it offers the perfect place to base before heading into the South Chilcotin Mountains on a packhorse adventure.  The first day on the trail you’ll head deep into the wilderness through wildflower filled alpine meadows to spectacular mountain-top ridges.  Warren will show you the best spots for seeing mountain goats and bighorn sheep.  Each day you’ll explore a new area, moving between our backcountry camps and setting up temporary spike camps as you move deeper into the wilderness.  Warren has some favourite spots he will show you along the way and you’ll be sure to spend a night a the spectacular Spruce Lake, a sapphire hued sub-alpine lake with a moutainous backdrop that’s every photographer’s dream.  Warren in the South Chilcotin Mountains

 

If you’ve ever had any interest in learning more about wrangling and packhorses, Warren is definitely the mountain man to ask.  Ask him about it during the trip and he’ll be sure to get you learning more about the horses and honing your wrangler skills.

Don’t miss out on this amazing Wilderness Packhorse Adventure in the South Chilcotin Mountains.  The first trip with Warren is full, the second trip starts July 28th, 2014 and ends August 3rd, 2014.  This trip is designed for those with some previous riding experience, if you haven’t been on a horse before but would like to join this trip then try taking a couple of horseback riding lessons now or get out on a few trail rides before this longer trip.  To book your space contact us directly at fun@tyaxadventures.com and we’ll be happy to help you set up your Wilderness Packhorse Adventure!

Waiting on Winter – Planning for the Backcountry

While the snow is taking it’s time to join us this winter there are plenty of thing to do to keep busy and help us prepare for a great backcountry ski season.  Due to the lack of skiing, I’ve had plenty of time to read up on all sorts of ski related things… trip planning info, conditions reports, gear reviews, general safety and so much more!

***The snow started falling as I was writing this!  Check out the photos of snow at Tyax Resort on our Facebook page.***

Safety should be a number one priority for anyone traveling in the backcountry, followed closely by fun.  At the beginning of the season it’s always a good idea to remind ourselves of our safety training.  Along with checking your safety gear, and practicing with it before going out,  A great little article by local ACMG ASG, Alex Wigley, about The Problem with Avalanche Rescuewith some important things to consider.

A little bit of trip planning is essential for any backcountry excursion, something that can be glossed over when one person in the group does the planning for the group. Know where you’re going, the terrain options, the conditions, what resources are available, are all key pieces of info in planning. As backcountry enthusiasts reading and understanding the information put out by the Canadian Avalanche Centre  is always a starting point. There is also some great reading on the Forecasters blog -which covers a variety of topics on a more in-depth scale, and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG),  Mountain Condition Reports (MCR).Eldorado Cabin view

With all the new technology these days having at least one method of communication is not only easily available it’s also quite a bit more affordable. Renting a Satellite phone is common these days, or purchasing a GPS tracking device with SOS messaging capabilities (Personal Locator Beacon) can be done under a couple hundred dollars.  SPOT and inReach both offer great products, each with their own pros and cons and worth the investment.  If you happen to be in an area with Cell phone reception knowing exactly where you can get reception is key, but relying on cell reception in the backcountry isn’t recommended as we all know that cell phone battery life is limited and reception can be intermittent.  Also being aware that electronic devices can affect your transceiver so keeping your electronics separated (20 cms at least) will help in minimizing this interference.

Our little cabin is a ski tourers’ paradise, tucked away in the South Chilcotin Mountains, it’s miles away from civilization.  Being in such a remote location this also requires guests to be totally self supported and prepared for all types of situations.  We ask that guests read the Cabin information provided thoroughly and come prepared to have an awesome backcountry trip.

So why not take some time now to read up… perhaps while doing some chair squats to keep those legs in ski-shape!

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all the best during the holiday season. May the new year bring health, happiness and lots of Adventure!

-From the whole Tyax Adventures crew.

Hope to see you next year!

Happy Holidays

 

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.