2019/08/08->13 Loose Screw via Mud Lakes and Whipsaw

A quick outline of the trip to the Loose Screw event before it slips my mind, will update as video and pictures get organized.

Ready for six days on the “road”.

Thursday morning, early start, left the house around 5am, meet James and heading for Nanaimo ferry by 5:30. (Yes, made the the ferry this time.) 7:40 ferry, arrived in Pemberton around 11:30, had time to get groceries (steak) and gas before the noon meeting at “The Pony” with Scott and Dustin. Ran up the Hurley to Gold Bridge, got gas and had a rest break.

From there, we headed up towards Mud Lakes. This was “new turf” for me. OSM shows the 4th Lake as “Schwartz (Fish) Lake”. Between the 2nd and 3rd lakes the road shows a very distinct “dog leg” (Z bend). That was a non-trivial climb, and started to separate the bike/rider combinations. The DRZs (James and I) had no trouble. Dustin (1090) hit it with speed and did fine. Scott (V-Strom) had some trouble. Basically, there was a big central rut that I think you had to cross once or twice, and it was steep. Traction wasn’t all that bad… but would likely be a nightmare if wet. This may have been past where Scott had been in the past, as the road leading here was a little under water (6 inches or so). Which is probably unusual for August (been a wet summer).

One of the Mud Lakes, this was an option for a campsite
Oops, DRZ down. James showed me/us that the right line was up the rut, not the “step up” I chewed away at. Once the log was taken out of the rut, that line became simpler.
Same spot, but looking downhill. Dustin and Scott.

From there to the last lake was easy, and there’s another nice campsite there. But there was a nasty climb (another Z section on the track) up to the point at which the track to the west forked off (toward Poison Mountain). This is where we had the real trouble. James got most of the way up. I got hung up on a “step up”, and my bike was not running well at altitude (no bottom end). James passed me on a different line that required dodging some stuff the 4×4’s had thrown into the rut. Removing that made things easier. With a little experience, we learned that the bottom of the rut was pretty solid (bedrock?), and if you let the tire spin a little bit it would quickly work through the top to this solid surface and you could move up the hill… and hopefully get enough momentum to stop spinning and “just ride” up.

Being the bigger of the two experienced riders, I got to take the V-Strom up this troublesome section…. Which didn’t go so well. One of the first obstacles (on a long steep climb) was getting across a rut, and the exit was a narrow spot with a root on one side. I forgot the V-strom has minimal clearance and planted the rear brake linkage on the root… which broke the linkage. Fortunately we found all the parts and later managed to get a functional rear brake. But we still had a big heavy bike to get up the hill. Stopping the bike with no rear break is simple, it won’t roll backwards with the engine in first. But starting it required some help with a rear wheel “chock”. With much feathering of the clutch I managed to get it up the hill, but it was pretty apparent that the clutch was in bad shape (even before I started). With a pair of pliers we were able to loosen up the adjuster and get a little more slack, but it wasn’t a cure. The V-strom was not in a hurry to go anywhere.

So we stopped a short way up the trail and made camp.

Lousy HDR blend… trying to show the color in the sky, without leaving the bikes in the dark. Firepit was in the middle of the road.
Scott and James around the Thursday night fire.

With some thought and looking at contour lines, we decided we had gained most of our elevation. That meant we had the option of getting the V-Strom out via the Yalakom FSR, which should generally be downhill, and I remembered it being easier (less technical) than the mud-lakes “road”. [ That worked, but I’m not sure it was simpler than rewinding to Gold Bridge or Tyax would have been. It did get us to Lillooet, which is much bigger than Gold Bridge. ]

I should mention that James took the V-strom up the trail (after the clutch had cooled off), and Dustin brought him back on his 1090. Unfortunately, they came back with Dustin’s rear tire completely flat and the bead off the rim (a tubeless tire). So we had two “down” bikes that night.

After some messing around on Friday morning, trying to get the bead to seal, we put my spare 18″ tube into Dustin’s rear tire, and he rode that for the rest of the trip.

We did try towing the V-Strom, but I was the volunteer to tow (partly because I knew I had a fresh engine/clutch at home waiting to be installed). But with my bike running badly (no low-end torque – carburation issue at altitude), there was no way I could tow a heavy bike up-hill without toasting my own clutch in very short order. [ At the end, when we were nearly out and the roads were good but steep, Dustin towed the V-strom with his 1090. ]

The configuration we ended up with was Dustin and I pulling a tow strap looped through the V-Strom crash bar, James riding, and Scott pushing. It got the job done.

“Cool shot” (must be, I’m in it!) from just off the Mud Lakes track, just before it meets the Yalakom FSR and the route to China Head. Photo by James White.
Gorgeous flowers in the creek bed at the 3 way China Head / Yalakom FSR / Mud Lakes track intersection.

The three way intersection where the route from Mud Lakes meets the Yalakom FSR and the route over China Head is pretty. That’s a beautiful grass meadow with wildflowers. I had hoped we’d be able to camp there, but we didn’t get that far.

At that intersection, Dustin and I took the opportunity to run up the China head track for a few minutes while Scott and James ran slowly down the Yalakom FSR toward Lillooet. That was a good ride. We were following the GPS track that Scott had worked out, and I’m not sure where he got it from, as it is significantly different (longer) from the route David Williams led us on back in 2016. Dustin and I got as far as the little landslide we rode in ’16. There is now a bypass for that. I was afraid we were going to get back and find Scott and James at the bottom of a hill waiting for us, so we didn’t go far (20 minutes)… but Scott and James were making good time, and it took us 40+ minutes of spirited riding to catch up… they did well on the small uphill sections and the track was generally down-hill.

Beaver (?) pond on the side of the Yalakom. I remember this from 2016 :)

To summarize, we got the V-Strom into Lillooet around 3pm. (Needs checking.) Beer and burgers in the pub. Scott making a number of inquiries. He eventually decided to ride the bike (slowly) to Kamloops where he was sure he could rent a truck to haul it to Vancouver, but might also be able to find a dealer with the parts to repair it. (And he’d get his event T-shirt :)

The rest of us headed toward Cache Creek/Clinton to rejoin our planned route at the Scottie Creek FSR. That turned out to be a very nice chunk of track, but one that required a GPS track or good set of directions as there were multiple places where the track split and it was not at all clear which way to go. Scott’s GPS track worked great.

Quick stop for a viewpoint before descending into a valley. This is probably the east end of the Scottie Creek track… just before it joined the bigger North/South FSR.

The planned track went farther than we had time for, so instead of going up Criss Creek FSR, we just ran south to the highway. We stopped for gas in Kamloops and rode on to the site of the event (a navigational challenge in itself).

Saturday morning started a bit earlier than expected. Apparently the organizers figured we would need most of the daylight available to run the routes they had laid out, so the riders meeting was 7 AM and we were all supposed to be on the trail by 8:30.

James and I had been planning to ride the B route (James would have done A if he had the other bike.) Dustin was advised to NOT take the 1090 on the B route.

The morning B route started with some intimidating bits, which we learned was done on purpose. Better to scare off the weak riders at the front than in the middle. I should have lots of video. IMHO the morning B route started out hard and got easier. Navigation was a bit complicated, and the various groups kept crossing paths. James ran off with what I think was a couple of C riders while I was looking around for the turn for the B track. He had no navigation, so I really didn’t want to leave him “in the woods”, but after 20+ minutes and a quick scout up the track that I thought he took, I figured I’d just look for him in the nearest pub [worked out fine]. From that point I was running solo, and the track was pretty open/fast. Passed a number of bikes… including some big ADV bikes on a downhill FSR.

Dustin apparently got bored with the C+ track and found James on the B track, and together they caught up to me at the pub.

Bikes outside the pub at the Falklands “rest stop”, between the AM and PM routes. I have lots of video, but no stills from the event.

The afternoon track wasn’t particularly hard. Navigation continued to be a bit of a challenge, with more than a few missed turns. It was lots of single track, but no more scary climbs or descents like the start of the morning. We did have to use the tow strap to pull Dustin’s 1090 out of one of the creek crossings, but other than that he did fine. I’m not saying he didn’t have a good number of “off’s” (he did)… but that’s part of taking the “accelerated learning” path… and he’s not the kind of guy to take any slow route.

We did complete the B route, and were back in camp around 5. A quick run to get beer and gas took longer than expected, and Dustin and I were a bit late for the dinner.

Sunday morning brought some rain, and James and I were a bit late in getting packed up (including trying to pack under the tents for the dinner, but they got packed before I was finished). Russ Paton was still there and interested in talking about routes. We knew we wanted to head for Princeton and ride the Whipsaw trail [great plan], but had no real idea how we wanted to get there. Russ volunteered to lead us that way, and we gladly followed. That worked out well and we all got to find some new turf. I really am jealous of the guys that have so much crown land to ride through. The weather was definitely “off”, and Russ offered us the chance to follow him back to the Silver Lake Camp and spend a night under a roof. We gladly took him up on that. I hate to think what Monday would have been like if we hadn’t had a chance to dry out. MUCH THANKS RUSS!

Monday came after the first real sleep of the trip. After some discussion with Russ about directions (which I promptly botched) and other chin-wagging, we were off for Princeton. Looking at the map, I’m kicking myself. We probably would have saved some distance and lost zero time by riding the planned gravel track instead of slabbing it like cagers to Princeton. We did touch on several bits of the KVR, but had been advised that it was a “less interesting” part of the KVR, so we followed the FSR for much of the distance. Supplies in Princeton, and we were off for the Whipsaw.

It seems to me like both ends of the Whipsaw have been “improved” with new FSR work :(. Navigation from the south is pretty simple, just follow the main Whipsaw until you get to the campsite with the corral, stable, and small bunkhouse(?). That should between km 18 and 20. My odometer read 80 at the far end of the trail, which suggests that the current whipsaw trail is about 50km long.

The ride along the whipsaw was awesome. I was less taken with the flora than I was last time. I remember things being greener, and the alpine flora being more vibrant, but that might have just been me being “over awed” on the first experience. Certainly the little lake where we camped in 2017 was much greener, and less travelled than this time.

Last time on the whipsaw we had some slower bikes, and on day two an injured rider, so my memories include heat, chaffing boots (too much walking), dehydration, and some worry about the route as we didn’t have a GPX track. This time it was just James (faster than me) and I. I’m guessing we might have spent 4 hours actually riding, and it was fun riding. I did have a little trouble with the same long hill that I/we had trouble with in ’17 … but that was largely because the carb didn’t like the altitude and would “flame out” at RPMs under about 3000.

The covered shelter at Wells Lake. This would have been greatly appreciated the day before.
Lots of logos on the wall … this was my favourite.

Russ had pointed out that we could take an FSR (Lodestone) directly toward Boston Bar instead of riding back into Tulameen / Coalmont. (There might even be another exit from Wells Lake?)

Monday ended with us camped on the gravel bed of the Tulameen river (very near where the Lodestone FSR joins the Tulameen FSR). We did have a short walk at the Tulameen Falls Rec site to see the falls. We did not walk far enough, which is a pity as a Google search suggests the falls and the pool at the bottom would have been nice to see. It was a pretty stunning campspot, and there was also a site hacked out of the trees there which would have been very sheltered if needed.

Unfortunately, I felt some strange “rattling” in my handlebars as we were returning to the campsite. A quick inspection showed that the front wheel bearings had way too much play, and were undoubtedly failing.

Tuesday morning I pulled the front wheel off, and the cover off the right side bearing. I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, but the ball bearings were all in their cages, so there wasn’t much to look at. I poured gear oil (what we use on the chains) over it and put it all back together.

We basically bee-line’d it home after that. Another 20km down the Tulameen FSR to the Coquihalla, and slabbed it to the ferry from there. The previous plan had been to run through to Boston Bar, and then over the Harrison East route to Harrison Hot Springs, and then to Tsawwassen.

We did keep the speeds down to try to help the bearing … about 90 km/h on the Coq and 85 on the other highways. I can’t say I was happy riding a front wheel I expected to fail… but I was happy when I realized that the sudden burning smell was the brake linings on the 18 wheeler that pulled in front of us at one point.

Home, only a little worse for the wear
Ready for some well deserved TLC.