Heinz's Report - May 27, 2003

Elk Valley Summer Adventures

It�s been a while for me doing one of these reports as I have been recovering from a broken wing suffered, thankfully, at the end of the ski season. Spring has come to the Elk Valley and we�ve managed to get out on our new bikes a few times although staying upright has been a challenge for me. I will get better!

Since it is our first summer in Fernie for my wife and me and for our new Aussie friends, Dave and Anita, Steve our local guide has offered to take us on some the region�s better known activities such as hikes to the top of the mountains, biking trails, rafting and swimming diversions. After a couple of these trips already, a few members of our intrepid group of adventurers have coerced me to share these with the rest of the world. I offered to do the technical stuff using Craig�s software, but I won�t do all of the writing, nor will I be able to join them for all of the treks. Craig�s band of reporters appears to be growing!

We�ve decided to call it �Elk Valley Amazing Summer Adventures�, but my wife says it sounds kind of hokey. Also, I have to point out these trips are not the extreme single-track and highly technical scrambles that also abound here. This group is primarily 50s something, so these are highly accessible and well known. We just wanted to share our experiences with the rest of the world. So, here goes the first edition from Anita for the Wigwam Flats bike ride, suggested by Bernie and Steve. It occurred on May 24, 2003.

We have discovered that hikers and bikers fit into the same category as skiers. They are either notorious liars, extremely forgetful, or just delight in seeing you suffer. Bernie assured us, as did Steve, that the ride to Wigwam Flats was reasonably easy, and quite enjoyable about 4 hours round trip (in Australia, that means up AND back). We parked on the highway at Elko and headed off to our destination. Riding along the proper road was fine; we were feeling pretty good, despite failing miserably to stick to our decision not to drink anything alcoholic the night before. We rode out of town, over the bridge and there was the start of the climb. It was not a pretty sight. A steep, rock covered, nasty hill loomed before us, and we knew at this stage that Bernie and Steve had lied. This was going to be a repeat of some of the ski runs they took us on. They bike like they ski -no pain, no gain.

Well, it took us over 3 hours to get up to the top. And it was about 30 degrees. And there was no breeze. And we forgot the sunscreen. They also failed to mention that it was a little like a roller coaster most of the way up, lots of up and down. The downhill bits are great on the way up. Just when you think you are just about to expire and breathe your last breath on some rocky little path, climbing to somewhere, which at that moment can�t possibly be worth it, there's a downhill section. So you suck in some oxygen, try to stop hallucinating, and don't look ahead, because it's going to start going up again. After what seemed like 3 days of climbing, pushing the bike, avoiding rocks and gasping for air, and Steve's broken chain,(which was a total blessing, as it meant a reasonably long break while it got fixed ), we finally reached the top. The suggestors of the ride, also failed to mention that once on the top, there are no paths, so you bounce all over the place from one clump of bushes to another, over logs and fallen trees and into holes and back up little hills. In fact it�s not flat at all. Despite the name Wigwam Flats, its not. They lied. Again.

The only thing they told the truth about was the view from the top. And yes the place is awesome. A huge plateau, with magnificent mountains all around, and exceptional rock formations with boulders balancing precariously on tall pointy spires of rock. There are panoramic views of the Wigwam river winding its way along the valley floor. On the sides of the mountain there's been some big slides, taking out all vegetation, leaving long paths of grey rock which contrasted starkly with the sections of red rock, caused by the iron content reacting with the sunlight and depth of water that once covered it (according to Steve - but we don�t believe much of what he says anymore). Together with the blue sky, patches of white cloud and the green of the trees, it was a palette of colour. We had lunch and enjoyed the spectacular scenery that surrounded us.

However, we discovered that on the way back, those lovely downhill sections coming up, turn into ugly uphills going down, and hey, we're supposed to be going DOWN. But somehow we survived, and yes it�s absolutely worth it. The Elk Valley is truly majestic, and tomorrow, we're crazy enough to go and do it all again, this time up Castle Mountain, which Steve has assured us will be a nice combined bike and hike. 3 hour return trip. Yeah right. Of course we don't believe him one little bit. Heinz, who broke his shoulder skiing, couldn�t come on the Wigwam flats ride because his Physiotherapist threatened to kill him if he did. But we think he's just insane enough to come on this one.

Heinz - heinzr@far.redtree.com

The hoodoos above the Wigwam river below.

The Wigman winding down to join the Elk river at Elko.

The motley crew bringing you the Wonderful Adventures of the Elk Valley.

More of the spectacular scenery�once you get up to the so called Flats.

The view up the Columbia Valley. Snow covered Mount Fisher and The Steeples in the background.