One Day Expedition: Indian Arm


Photos: Kevin Miklossy & Bart Stockdill

The text message comes in, “Looks like Indian River blockade is passable on a quad or dirt bike, didn’t go any further on account of being alone and sunset.”  The blockade in question is a 15-plus foot high cement barrier intended to keep all users off the Indian
River Forest Service Road
.  This spring that barrier to public lands had been all but impassable to hikers, mountain bikers, as well as motorized recreation.

In part “the wall” is in place to protect Roosevelt Elk reintroduced to the area in 2006, for the benefit of a few lucky hunters who win the a Elk hunting license lottery annually.  There is a need for protection, as the species was “shot out” around 1900 through hunting.  Still, the annual spring re-engineering and reinforcement of the barrier is likely as much a blocker to conservation enforcement as it is to the public’s access to the area.  Even in 2012 there were rumours on local hunting forums of elk being taken illegally.  With water access only at the distal end of the FSR from Squamish, enforcement and patrol can only be limited. Some estimates for the cost of each deactivation run up to 1-million tax payers dollars, all while ignoring Conservation Officer and RCMP requests for access to the area.

That’s the back story though, and what we have here is a challenge, and one that never goes unmet by outdoor enthusiasts in BC.  A couple cement blocks moved by 4x4s, a foot trail established by hikers, expanded into a path by mountain bikers and dirt bikers, then pushed a little further by quad access.  There is an uncomfortable co-dependence between all factions for entry to this recreational area despite the government’s best efforts.  Everyone here are rebels in their own small way, wanting to explore and revel in the views offered by these public lands.

Kevin is on the 990 Adventure Dakar, Bart and I on our respective 690 Enduro Rs for what could be called “not a big bike friendly outing”.  The blockade has a bike wide trail human-eroded into the wall to circumvent the stack of massive interlocked cement blocks; a million dollars worth of barrier laid low by folks who likely came in with a pickaxes, shovels, winches and feet.  That’s the first barrier though, what follows is a more natural numerology of adventure; 2 bridges out, 10 washouts, countless cutouts and one section of road freshly excavated and impassable save for a deep ditch. From the water access end of the FSR, there is an excavator, but it’s unclear if the machine is here to improve the road or to further degrade access.

This is a “where there is a will, there is a way” outing and area though.  Every season, with every storm and rainfall, the road’s complexion and challenges change – occasionally radically. A recent storm has added water to creek crossings, sand to stretches of road, washed away the fill of topsoil between baby’s heads boulders, and bolsters the slides with new material.  The slow degradation to nature takes road closer to trail, and naturally limits access to enthusiasts in a way no government can hope to accomplish.  This “road” will never be the same ride twice.

We aren’t the only users here.  A three generations of a mountain biking family are riding from a water drop off, through to Squamish and then on to Porteau Cove Provincial Park to the south on Highway 99.  They are relieved to hear the government barrier is passable, “That could have ended things poorly.”

Imagine having overcome these obstacles on a mountain bike towing a trailer, only to be turned back by a 15-foot face of cement wall.  There are other dirt bikers, two very intrepid 4x4s, and as we reach the water access end of the road a plethora of fishermen.  Should an incident occur in the area, on crown land, one can only speculate as to the liability the BC government is exposing itself to by blocking land access.

As a “One Day Expedition” the ride borders on the intrepid, including a couple hours of trail building to ensure access for the public, and those of us on bigger bikes or recovering from an injury.  The payoff is traveling a stretch of British Columbia that few ever will, and reveling in the sights and sense of uncertainty that provides.

Important Note: The conditions on this road are very changeable.  If you do attempt this with a “big bike” we’d recommend full knobbies and some good drop bars.  Also, this is a “team effort” road, bring friends.

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