Day 1: Rustic Washington Okanogan Country
June gloom has been in full effect here in Western Washington State. In need of a motorcycle adventure and vitamin D, Beasley pup and I loaded up on the bike with some camping gear for a trip to find some sun.
The rain increased intensity as we climbed up the North Cascade Highway. The clouds were heavy and low. They began to weigh on me as though this trip may not find sun. Pacific Northwest June gloom plays funny tricks on your mind.
A quick stop in Newhalem, a Seattle City Light company town, offered the first photo opportunity. The old steam train once was the lifeblood for this remote town, without many services. For the next 60 miles, the wilderness and remoteness would increase as Beasley and I continue east.
After rounding a corner past the Diablo Lake lookout, the big guy upstairs decided to turn the faucet off. Ah, reprieve from the constant showers. The clouds still clung to the mountain tops and threatened to open up at any moment. The pavement dried just in time for a spirited ride dashing from mountain ridge to ridge.
Patches of blue sky opened up as we approached the town of Winthrop. Each patch likely would have raised my spirits miles ago on the western side of the mountains. Now, the serene farms and mountain landscapes had my attention. This is a beautiful area. Rivers rushing away from the steep hills, horses with young foals frolic in the fields and beautiful pavement slicing a path through it all. Can it get any better than this?
Lunch at Three Finger Jack’s in Winthrop is almost not worth mentioning. The meal wasn’t anything special. Belly full, we turn off Highway 20 for a more rustic route. All the shiny, heavy metal custom bikes parked at the saloons miss the true adventures that can be had in this area.
Head north at the main intersection in Winthrop. Eventually there will be a “Y” junction. Keep to the right to ride up Forest Service (FS) 37. The road starts as a narrow paved mountain road. It soon turns to gravel as the elevation really begins to climb.
We cross over a few creeks, wind up and around ridges and come to several spots that likely offer spectacular views. The dense clouds block most good photos. Riding through the Okanogan National Forest is quite an experience. Evidence of bears can be seen as scat on the road and scrape marks on the trees just a ways into the woods. Summiting 6,370-foot Baldy Pass, the views open up. Evidence of a massive fire recedes as the trees grow greener.
FS37 connects with FS42 and heads into the recreational community of Conconully. Conconully Lake and the vast network of OHV trails make this a nice little weekend destination area. I make a mental note of Conconully as a future overnight spot and continue on. As I hug the lake heading northeast, the road turns to a rather rough gravel road. With the narrowing lake just feet off the road and hills that climb abruptly from the opposite shore, it is an incredible place to just experience.
After the lake, we pass hundreds of cattle on the road. This is an open range area. Between the cattle and deer, this isn’t an area that riders should scream around the narrow corners. Eventually we come to a “T” intersection. We can continue the dirt adventure to Loomis or take the paved Fish Lake Road to US97. We turn right onto the paved road in order to hit Osoyoos, British Columbia before the sun sets.
The camp ground provided a comfortable enough place to pitch my tent. Paying $25 per night for a 10-square-foot plot of grass gets under my skin. Plan your camping trip to stop south of the Canadian border or else 20 or more miles north of Osoyoos, British Columbia.
Day 2: Canadian Okanagan Wine Country
The tent is pulled, packed and loaded. After a bit of chain maintenance, I straddle the bike and head into downtown Osoyoos to Jojo’s Cafe for my morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich. The eggs and back bacon hit the spot. The latte was thick, rich and frothy. The meal was definitely worth the $6 paid. A walk along the Osoyoos Lake beach allowed Beasley to stretch his legs and for me to finish my coffee. The sun was high in the nearly summer sky. The morning walkers were out with their dogs. Beasley had some pent up energy from being on the bike the day before. The beach was a fantastic way to get that energy out of him and get my body moving for the day.
At the crack of 10 a.m. we are back on the bike heading north on British Columbia Highway 97. We follow the road up to Okanagan Falls. This wasn’t my intended direction, but something keeps pulling me north. It must have my scenic route Spidey-sense.
We cross the Okanogan River and immediately turn left toward Okanagan Falls Provincial Park. Green Lake Road is paved, but fairly rough for those with limited or stiff suspension. It is sublime on the Suzuki V-Strom. It quickly rises up and away from the river. The transition to small tree-lined farm fields is almost so smooth that you don’t notice them between the curves on this two-lane road without stripping.
In just a few kilometers, we’re looking at a map in the small town of Willowbrook, BC. A local on a road bicycle approaches to ask if I’m lost. He introduces himself as Martyn Deeter and we chat about the area roads. I explain that I’m not lost, but also not looking to be found. He provides detailed directions to the ghost town of Fairview, BC. The town is at a “T” intersection with Fairview White Lake Road. He says that to the left is a nice road. Turning right is the “Devil’s Road” or something along those lines. Deeter says the road is dirt, rough and steep in spots. He suggested that I stay away from it. Sounds like the makings of the perfect road to me. We part ways, each of us on our preferred two-wheeled mode of transportation. He at 15kph and I at four times that speed and a huge smile under my helmet.
Fairview White Lake Road continues to bring smiles all the way to the “T” intersection at the Fairview ghost town. A rather informative interpretive sign tells of the town’s former glory. Farming and tourism brings cash to the area now. Fold rushes and those looking for fortunes built the town. Fairview busted and the people scattered. In its place is an empty field and apparently a grave site and a few other town remnants.
Heading west from Fairview on Old Fairview Road proves to be a smooth, enjoyable dirt road. Trails darting off both sides of the road had me wishing for my true dual sport bike. The road gradually climbed up the northern portion of Mount Kobau. There are a few steeper spots, but most certainly manageable and not the “Devil’s Road” as the friendly cyclist had called it. Everything depends on perspective.
In Cawston, BC, I begin my paved path home on westbound Provincial Highway 3, known locally as the Crowsnest Highway. The road climbs high and drops down over two major passes. The first is Sunday Summit at 4,280 feet and the second is Allison Pass at 4,473 feet. The mountains surround in all directions. In places, the Crowsnest Hwy clings to the mountain side with sweeping and hairpin turns that connect the mountain ridges.
The rugged terrain and enjoyable corners worked my throttle and thus drank my fuel. At one point I passed a gas station thinking another would be ahead in a few miles. Before long, I was getting very concerned with the fuel gauge that persistently clinked it’s “get fuel now” warning. Next came a sign, “Check fuel, no services next 60 KM.” Immediately after that was a sign for “Fuel, next exit.” I took that next exit and ended up on Provincial Highway 5 with no fuel to be found. I turn around several miles up the road to head back toward Hope, BC. My limited fuel had me hoping I could make it another 10 miles to the gas station. Pulling in the clutch and shutting off the engine got me to the station with the engine literally on its last lug.
Now on the Trans-Canada Highway west of hope, the terrain drifts away as we roll through the Fraser River Valley. The vast expanses of evergreen trees give way to suburban Abbotsford, BC — just outside of Vancouver, BC. From here it is just a short jaunt through town to the United State border.
Crossing into Sumas, Washington, I park the motorcycle outside Bob’s Burgers, sit down and order a prime rib to match the trip’s prime two days of riding through Okanagan (Okanogan in the USA) Country. It was a delectable meal to finish off two incredible days of riding. Yes, I even saved a bit of prime rib for my trooper of a riding companion. Beasley the motorcycle pup licked his chops in joy.
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