For those looking for a fitness challenge rewarded by a great view, some new destination trails have officially opened up in the south Cariboo.
Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation (SXFN), previously known as Dog Creek Indian Band and Canoe Creek Band, and First Journey Trails celebrated the grand opening of mountain biking and hiking trails on Aug. 27 at Big Bar Guest Ranch.
Located west of Highway 97 just north of Clinton, B.C., turning just north of the village of Clinton and following the signs to Big Bar Guest Ranch. The trails are up on the website Trailforks and can be started from the Jesmond Lookout Road or the guest ranch. There are a number of camping options available nearby, and camping and cabins are both available at Big Bar Guest Ranch.
The project took three years of construction due to last summer’s wildfires and heat dome coupled with the challenging rocky terrain of Jesmond Mountain and has been years in development.
The trail is aimed at drawing more people out to enjoy the area, including for stays at the Big Bar Guest Ranch, which SXFN now owns and operates through their economic development corporation.
The area has already become a major destination for gravel cycling, drawing cyclists looking for quiet dirt roads from across the globe thanks to a new gravel inn -Tutti Gravel Inn- in Clinton catering to this major trend in cycling.
First Journey Trails partnered with SXFN to complete two mountain bike trails: one downhill route called Lost Marbles, which is a 3.3 km-downhill black diamond-rated mountain bike trail, which leaves from near the top of the mountain, and one climbing trail for hiking and biking called Stairway to Heaven.
The climbing trail is 7.4 km long and rises gradually up through Interior Douglas-fir forest to connect to Jesmond Lookout Road, which people can then take to get to the very top of the mountain. To do the climb, reach the peak and then return via the downhill is a loop of just over 17 km and to return down via the climbing trail is just over 26 km.
“We’ve been talking trails for many, many years,” said Thomas Schoen, First Journey Trails CEO, of the project coming to fruition.
He thanked Dora Demers, who used to be the economic development officer for SXFN, for helping to get the project started, and Recreation Sites and Trails BC which assisted with the trail layout and signage. Schoen also thanked Mark Savard and Steve Law, both mountain bike leaders in the Cariboo, who had helped with their knowledge of the Jesmond Mountain area.
Schoen said his staff and the local trail builders who helped with the labour through the Indigenous Youth Mountain Biking Association had their work cut out for them in building the rugged trail up the rocky mountain slope.
“It’s bench cut kilometre after kilometre, it’s hard manual labour,” described Schoen of the difficulty of the project.
“Trails are an important part of our history and culture,” said Hank Adam, SXFN chief, who cut the ribbon. He recalled growing up covering the territory on horseback trails.
With few vehicles in the community in his youth, trails were important networks to connect to other communities for trade and to travel to culturally significant places, explained Adam, who said the top of Jesmond Mountain would have been a place where their people went to complete vision quests.
“Those are spiritual places for us,” he told the gathered crowd.
Adam also referenced the Supreme Court case that awarded the Tsilhqot’in Nation Aboriginal title over their area based partly on the inter-connectedness of the territory with trail networks.
About 45 people were at the trail ribbon cutting, more than half of whom were mountain bikers eager to give the trails a trial run and many elders, councillors and the chief of SXFN, were on hand to mark the occasion.
Clara Camille, an elder from SXFN said a prayer before the ribbon was cut and as riders began to ride up the new trail, they high-fived the chief and some of the elders and councillors, thanking them as they went.
The celebration also included a camping weekend at the Big Bar Guest Ranch, demo bikes, including e-bikes, by Rocky Mountain Bicycles, a barbeque hosted by the ranch and some live music by Fallsway of Williams Lake.