BC’s Backroads: Rural Destinations Gain the Edge

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One of the key focuses of the wordily titled document Gaining the Edge: A Five-year Strategy for Tourism in British Columbia 2012 – 2016 from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation is the promotion of BC’s rural areas. At the moment I couldn’t agree more. Taking a new adventure convert out for a spin we’ve found a sand practice area, none of our group of four knew existed. While the new adventurist is seeing BC with an entirely novel sense of freedom, we’ve been reminded just how diverse our province is.

I’ve been away quite a bit, riding the west coast of North America and consulting out of country. After riding the smorgasbord OHV areas in parks like Death Valley, Anza-Borrego and Joshua Tree, it’s easy to return to BC and see our options here as limited. You’re hard pressed to find a dirt route through the Rockies, because our parks systems have played out differently than the US.

Then you stumble across this; it’s not a long stretch of sand, but the river’s beach has engulfed a vestigial side road, making the area properly deep and soft. You can try to protect nature from the roads, but you can’t always protect the roads from nature. The sand is a gentle reminder that geological time includes the present (to steal a quote); likely run-off will swell the river and engulf the area later this spring. Confronted with a limited time offer we take advantage of the playground provided for some grin inducing fun.

Gaining the Edge has so much right, despite being a grindingly jingoistic read. BC is a Jackson Pollock canvas of rural destinations and routes. Just when you think you’ve got it pegged, you roll around the corner and are confronted with another level of fabulous or challenge. The document’s emphasis on marketing the tourism uses “of provincial infrastructure and Crown assets, consistent with the focus on key products such as touring and outdoor adventure/eco-tourism” doesn’t need to look any further than Dual Sport and Adventure Riders for proponents. Or, a ready made market, without the onus of developing improved air travel or other infrastructure within BC.

That BC’s rural destinations are a sticks throw from its metropolitan centres is no small face either. We are, for the day’s adventure, a maximum of 80km out from Squamish, BC and all the full list of services and accommodations the town offers. Head to Powell River, and the trails start mere kilometers out of town – out the hotel’s front door as it were.

This is the story of a majority of BC, to stray off the beaten track, you hardly need to stray at all. The number of forest service, logging and mining roads available is a staggering positive in positioning the province as an adventure and dual-sport destination. Work your way through the Chilcotin and Cariboo, and those who like a hot tub at the end of a long day’s ride will find a broad selection of Lodges that add amenities and dining to the wilderness. For those who camp, the options are nearly unlimited.

All BC really needs to do is remember to remain multi-use friendly in terms of our back roads and trails, and inviting to those motorcycle travelers from other jurisdictions. That includes applying common sense when it comes to motorized trail access and our provincial laws so as not to dissuade travelers from other jurisdictions. While Gaining the Edge cites implementing “an action plan for developing and maintaining a sustainable network of recreation trails throughout British Columbia.” The “Trails Strategy for British Columbia” reasonably recognizes that there must be “opportunities for all trail users within the system, but not that every trail will be available or appropriate for every user’.

We return to the main road, then ride a spur road up High Falls Creek (known locally as Reefer Ridge). On the way up we slide to the right edge of the road, slow to pass a couple hiking. From one hiker there is a bit of a glare, from the other a small appreciative wave. Here, as across so much of the province, the use of hiking and riding coincide, but clearly do not conflict. We crawl by keeping the dust and noise to a minimum before getting underway again — it’s easy good etiquette that one hopes collectively will have a wider effect.

Unfortunately, the Trails Strategy’s language periodically falls prey to the “us versus them” status quo of motorized versus non-motorized trail use, but it’s a very real issue in BC. There are extremes at either pole forgetting the kindergarten rules of sharing, leaving the diverse multi-use majority with the most to lose. Hopefully, “Gaining the Edge” and the “Trails Strategy for British Columbia” will moderate that effect by formalizing the gains of shared use offers; from economic though to reducing poaching and dumping by ensuring public use of the back woods.

In the late afternoon sun, the view from the lookout surveys the mountains, the web work of forest service, mining and logging roads, trails and the river below. Comments from our new adventurist reflect my own views, leaving the pavement behind makes “the world fresh and new”. Sharing what our province has to offer with new adventure riders or the world only enriches the experience. I’m happy to be back in BC, and this year we hope to ride and share more of what our province has to offer with you, OWD’s readers.

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