Riding the Unknown in the Chilliwack River Valley

“On June 20th I rode a fat bike. I knew my actions would be harmful and offensive to some of my friends and loved ones but I did it anyway. I told myself I was just going to do it once, just to try it. It felt good at the time but left me feeling dirty… and secretly wanting to do it again.” – Tara Friesen


Is this a figment of your imagination or am I about to ride a fat bike?

It was about this time last year while I was winding down my ST6 training that I started thinking more and more about distance or adventure riding. Riding that didn’t necessarily include purpose built mountain bike trails. Maybe all the lonely training miles I was putting in really were driving me crazy. Regardless I began planning and researching various exploration routes.

During the spring of 2015 I find I’m not the only Fraser Valley local interested in this kind of distance or adventure (as I like to call it) riding. Trevor of Noble Wheels pulled off an amazing 118km day including riding in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission. Some of his routes peaked my curiosity so I tried riding from our home in Abbotsford to Vedder mountain in Chilliwack. It turns out its a pretty nice ride!

Next up I wanted to connect the Vedder trails to the Tamihi trails via the Trans Canada Trail. While looking at a map I could see another, potentially more interesting route called Windy Knob. Oh and look, there are moto trails way up there! It was time to map the route out, see what the distance/elevation gain is and make a plan.

Our loop

This is the route I had initially mapped out. We mainly stuck to it but added in the hike to the Windy Knob Lookout.

This area is remote enough and it would be a big enough day that I didn’t want to go it alone. Turns out it took zero convincing to get my friend Tara to join me. (By the way, its worth noting that her husband who is quite adventurous thought my idea was kind of far fetched and did not jump to join us – where’s the trust man?)

Tara wasted no time and had the day of adventure marked on her calendar within 2 weeks of my mention of it suggesting we make this a fat bike excursion. Of course I was on board. Completing an unknown outing on a fat bike sounded just silly enough to be awesome!

Enough with all this talk! From now it will mostly be images from our amazing adventure on fat bikes. I hope you enjoy them enough to send me a note asking to join the next one.


8am at Ground Zero, aka the Vedder Bridge and Tara is ready to start the day!

The first part of the tour de unknown was to head through Cultus Lake and start up Windy Knob. This would be a long a grueling climb of 1700m in about 20km but we knew that, were prepared and stopped often to check out the scenery!


First stop on Windy Knob West. WKW is essentially an old FSR. The going was dry and loose – perfect for fat biking!


The only time we were able to see the Valley views is if we stopped and turned around. Seemed like a good enough excuse for a break!

Once we hit the Liumchen Lake turn off we took one look at the pitch and the roughness of the road/trail and stashed our bikes to make the high point on foot. At this point of the trip we have seen no one. Not one human.


Stashing our bikes, we made the rest of the way to the Windy Knob Lookout on foot.

And thank goodness we did – it was Grouse Grind steep!


This picture doesn’t do the pitch of the trail justice. It was almost straight up! (yeah yeah, I know I should only be using landscape photos in blogs…sorry Tyler)


The hike up had surprisingly steep and tight switchbacks with multiple trees down. I was very happy with our decision to hike this out and back section without our bikes.


The top! Or what we thought was the top. Turns out we were actually still about 1/2hr from the top. That’s unknown recon missions for ya!


Even though it wasn’t, it still felt like the top. It seemed like we could reach up and touch the low lying clouds. Alpine Wildflowers out in spring? This year they sure are.


A panorama from the top of Windy Knob.


Valley views on the way back down.

Windy Knob Trail photo

On the hike down from Windy Knob we could see where we came from – far! At this point we were about 5 hrs into our adventure.

Hiking down from Windy Knob was the only time all day long that we saw other humans. A family of 4 hiking the same trail as us, 1 ATV and 2 dirt bikes.

Back down at the Windy Knob West FSR we were ready to get back on the bikes and head to our first taste of unknown singletrack!


WKW is rated as an easy moto trail. It is essentially a FSR. The trails we were heading to now are rated a double red or extreme. Should be interesting!

We descended some fast, chunky gravel made fun by the fat bikes and soon hit our first taste of singletrack, Buffalo Jump. This trail is rated extreme for motorized use and for good reason. There are some chunky bits with exposure that wouldn’t be as easy to navigate as it was for us on mountain bikes.

Buffalo Jump

We weren’t sure how easy or hard it would be to find out way up/out here so we were super prepared with GPS, maps and km markers. The trails were all well signed though.

Heading into Buffalo Jump the trail was pretty overgrown with small Alders. It was very obvious that very few people make it out here. Heck, we may have been the first to navigate this area on mountain bikes – you never know.


Starting into Buffalo Jump – at this point we had no idea what a special place this is.

It wasn’t too long before the trail opened up in to this amazing Valley. We initially named it Valley of the Gods but have since changed the name to Valley of the Bears. For good reason. Many good reasons actually.


The views right from the saddle were just amazing. Pictures don’t even begin to capture how special this place is.


The pictures are pretty nice but just don’t capture the “awesome” the way being somewhere in person does. And we were using our phones. And we are not professionals.


It’s hard to look where you’re going with scenery like this.

We climbed gently for a few kms stopping often to just marvel at our surrounds. Progress was not fast.


Just after this photo was taken I ran into a bear on the trail. He/she was small and ran away quickly while I yelled at it to go home. It honestly wanted nothing to do with us and I still feel guilty with having spoken to it that way even if it was the right thing to do.

From here on out the trail showed signs of bear about every 50 feet or less. Hence the name Valley of the Bears.


A hard to see bear print. One of many signs that we weren’t alone.


Once at the end of the Valley the thick brush came back. No this picture doesn’t do the thickness justice (that’s what she said… had to) and yes, that black pile behind me is yet another pile of bear crap.

After several hours of climbing (yes climbing) and exploring and taking pictures and warning bears of our presence…we finally started our descent! What goes up 2150m must go down.

The descent out of Buffalo Jump was technical in spots and really fun. When it’s too fun to stop and take photos you know it’s a good time!

Soon we hit the Atheist Ridge trail where we kept going down, down, down on a singletrack trail with fun, flowy and technical bits all thrown into one super fun time! Needless to say, there are limited pictures of this trail. We were way too eager and having way too much fun!


The start of Atheist Ridge trail.


There are great ribbons of dirt to be had in them mountains.


Considering the obvious low use of these more remote trails there were very few trees down or other obstacles.

Way too soon we were done with the singletrack trails and landed on the road that would take us to the Tamihi Staging Area. Once we hit the road I knew we had to make a left, but the trail had a natural mini dirt wall ride taking us to the right. In my tired state I just followed it and Tara followed me and we rode down the road until a very large wash stopped us. Which in hind site, thank goodness that the road was washed out! Who knows how far we would have gone in the wrong direction. Exhausted decision making is tricky business.


The view from the other side


And on the way down to Tamihi.

Turns out fat bikes hum along at a nice clip on the road.


The long road home. It wasn’t actually long, for some reason it just felt right to say that.


And its a wrap! Back at Ground Zero exactly to the minute 9 hrs, 50km, and 2150m elevation gain later.

One doesn’t always know how a recon adventure will turn out when following an old wives tale and a red squiggle on a map. But we were lucky and treated to a day we won’t forget. Thank you for trusting in my adventure Tara!

We are so fortunate to live in such an amazing place with such amazing adventures to be had…even if we sometimes use fat bikes to do them.