When a buddy calls you up and asks if you’d be keen to try and travel from Invermere to Golden, BC without touching pavement and then order sushi out of the back of a gas station, there really is only one correct answer… f#@k yeah!
The Bow Valley was completely socked-in the morning I zoomed up to D. Dub’s home, aka the J-Way Cafe. Starting the day with a good cup of coffee is essential for many and I am no exception. If that coffee happens to come from the J-Way Cafe, well it’s an absolute treat. We’re lucky enough to have a local coffee roaster in beautiful Banff, Alberta and D. Dub is lucky enough to have his own custom blend. After filling up on brew, we headed Southwest toward Vermilion Pass.
As we climbed up from the North side of the pass the clouds were low and thick, but as we touched the summit and started to descend, the clouds began to part revealing brilliant blue skies and the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Whymper and the surrounding mountains. The drive into Invermere was pretty standard as we drove our Tacomas South along highway 93. As always, I had the tunes cranked and a coffee on the go. Our first priority upon arriving in Invermere was to fuel up, both trucks and bodies. The bakery in Invermere is a cornucopia of freshly baked sweets, treats and breads. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw the Cookie Monster rocking in the fetal position in a corner with cream filling coming out of his nose.
Once stocked up on goodies we hit the road toward the tiny hamlet of Wilmer, BC and onto Westside Road. From there we tracked North, winding our way through the network of forest service roads (fsr) that are plentiful in the area. We passed the junction of Horse-Thief Creek Road, a plethora of small lakes and BC Rec-Sites and descended into a gully that made me think I was driving through a story book land. The road was tight and winding as we moved our Tacomas passed creeks, cows and cliff-bands. Tree cover so thick in spots that the sun would pierce through the gaps as if someone in the clouds was shooting beams of golden light from the sky. I couldn’t help but to laugh and say “pew-pew” as if I were a little kid shooting imaginary laser beams from my fingertips.
We emerged from the gully to find ourselves at the junction of West-Side fsr and the Bugaboo fsr. The Bugaboo fsr leads to… yep you guessed it, Bugaboo Provincial Park and the world famous Bugaboo Spire. This area has been visited by climbers since mountain legend Conrad Kain made the first assent in 1916. It’s a climber’s paradise and the birth place of heli-skiing. But we weren’t heading for the spire, we were aiming for the Driftwood. The Driftwood is a rarely used forest service road that runs from the Bugaboo fsr to the South-Fork of the Crestbrook fsr near Parson, BC. We came to an unmarked junction and got out to see if in fact we were at the Driftwood. The only indicator… a faded yellow sign directing drivers to a backcountry lodge and the faintest of faint letters written in black magic marker saying “The Driftwood.” I first heard about the driftwood several years ago while working at a backcountry lodge near Parson, BC. The Driftwood was a connector we used as staff to get from our lodge which was up the Vowell drainage over to a sister lodge near the Bugaboo Provincial Park. The road was exactly as I remembered it, narrow, winding and beautiful.
After popping off the Driftwood and onto the Crestbrook we made the 27km drive to Parson with ease. Once in Parson we paused for lunch on a heli-pad under a clear sunny sky. While eating lunch we noticed we were in the middle of a Planet Earth episode. A lone dragon fly had joined us for lunch. D. Dub and I had sandwiches, the dragon fly had a bumblebee. Delicious!
After lunch we crossed the Columbia River and started heading North toward Golden. There were several North-South routes to choose from, we chose the one we thought would take us closest to Golden. All of our maps, both paper and digital, indicated that a rather large drainage would stop passage into Golden just a few ilometres South of the town, but it made no difference to us. We wanted to see how far we could get, we wanted the road to end at our front bumpers, and end it did.
We exited our trucks and peered over the edge down to the creek below. Golden was just a few kilometres beyond the creek. We got close, super close, but not all the way. It’s funny how overlanding can bring complete satisfaction even when destination goals aren’t met. I guess it’s because overlanding isn’t totally about the destination, it’s about the journey, the experience as a whole, and the friends you share it with.
Oh yeah, gas station sushi. Golden has gas station sushi and it’s damn good. But if you’re in a hurry, be warned… The chef, well, let’s just say he moves at the speed of life, and life at gas station sushi moves slowly.
By Alex Bodogan