Another trip on small-ish bikes; WABDR and North West Passage, 2017

This is a trip summary of our August 2017 excursion from Victoria, to Nakusp – destination for the Horizon’s Unlimited Canwest gathering.

It seems like a while ago now, but it was a very severe fire season in British Columbia. We weren’t sure if we were going to go to Nakusp at all; our intention was to travel across B.C., on the Trans Canada Adventure Trail. The fire situation was so dire, and at some point on the trip, the province of BC banned travel on fire service roads.

Our plan “B” was not to repeat the WABDR, but to try to travel across Washington State on the North West Passage route. We had high hopes, and it was not as much dirt road riding as we had wanted, but it was still a great trip overall.

Day one of travel saw us travelling from Sidney, on the the trusty Washington State ferry to Anacortes. We arrived around 3:00, and rode to Rockport, along Highway 20. There was some sort of Christian gathering there, so I think the campsite was busier than normal. All fine, we stayed in the tent area, along the Skagit River.

Next day, we planned to continue riding to get to the start of the NWP, near Conconully. Unfortunately, Lars had a flat tire, which we discovered at the Gorge viewing area. Three hours later, with a used 21” front tube installed in the 18” rear tire, we were off.

This kind of put a bit of a kaibosh on the plans, but really we just had to roll with it. Yah. We got to Winthrop, and had lunch at Carlos’ Mexican restaurant. We ate here a few times over the trip. We decided to camp nearby at Pearrygin Lake state campground. Camped amongst the massive RV’S, kit complete with gravity chairs, carpets, portable bbq’s and music systems; other campers included eclipse viewing pot smokers. Something for everyone.

Got going the next morning, and rode to Twisp, hoping to get a fix for the tire. No luck, but that’s where we experienced the eclipse! At the Methow Motorsports parking lot. Unfortunately the shop was closed, so we just carried on.


We rode to Conconully on Highway 20, to the middle of Section 5 of the BDR. We wanted to avoid the road up to Ruby as it was a bit tough – we had ridden it last year. Didn’t really matter, at the diversion, I dropped my bike anyway… big rocks are always my weak point. Lars help me through this section (er, actually rode it for me, as I walked up) … We arrived in Conconully, and took a wee break at the campground.

One of our favourites routes is the the Loomis-Oroville Road. A fond memory from the previous year, and we were happy to be reacquainted with it. We nosed our way back, no GPS tracks or map, and made it to Oroville. Again as it was last year, it was very hot and dusty.

We stayed the night in Oroville, (just south of Osoyoos) and after some consideration, we have both decided that we like the little town. We checked into the Camaray Hotel, the Englishman with few teeth was very friendly and helpful. We had another Mexican meal, seafood enchiladas, and chicken burrito. So much food! Then a bit of grocery shopping and back to the hotel for an early night.

We still had Lars’ tire to deal with, so packed the bikes and got ready. Dilemma, continue to ride on a used, mis-matched inner tube? Or take the time out and get it fixed. Depending on where we could find tire relief, we would go to Osoyoos, or onwards to Nakusp.

After some calls, we found that Playmor Motorsports near Nelson BC, could put a new tire on with the proper sized tube.

So, on that decision, we rode from Oroville to Rossland, via a very indirect and circuitous route, on some truly amazing roads. Quiet, twisty, great temperatures, high passes and so very quiet! It was awesome! A tour of small Washington towns: Chesaw, Toroda, Orient; shared a turkey sandwich at Tugboat in Curlew. We travelled beside the Kettle River on and off; with Lars pointing at the NWP trail as we went. A stop at Snug Campground on Roosevelt Lake, for a cool refreshing dip. Parts of this ride were so very hot!

The GPS was a little finicky, wanting to send us along forest service roads to Northport. The heat, and fire hazard… following its advice would have been irresponsible. We stopped twice to confirm directions staying on the highway the entire time.  

We filled the tanks near the border at Northport, and crossed back into Canada around 3:30 or so. Border crossings have been easy and polite so far.

We opted to stay at the Prestige Hotel in Rossland. We did a bit of laundry, enjoyed the nice showers and a lovely dinner on the patio restaurant. Calamari and quattro stagioni pizza, shared. Beers too. 

Enough of the soft life, nice hotels, showers. On the bikes headed to Nakusp! We headed to the junction of highway 6, (not very pleasant highway riding) then to Playmor Motorsports to get the tire figured out. Just an inner tube change, the Trailwing tire on order didn’t make it over from Calgary. A relief, really to just have it dealt with. Not wondering if the inner tube-tire combo would fail, especially riding at highway speeds. We also had no spares left, so we picked up one of those also.

All good; on the road after 1:00, to Nakusp 5:00, after some very hot and very cool temps. We Rode along Slocan Lake, very beautiful, and loads of motorbikes! At camp and started to settle in.

This was our second CanWest Hubb event, and we enjoyed it probably a bit more this year. There were fewer big bikes, more smaller displacement bikes like ours. A different crowd and a nicer feel to this year’s event.

There were a few familiar faces, and some new ones too. Over the weekend we tried the Honda’s on demo, which helped me to decide on purchasing a used NC700 when I got back home.

On one of the days we rode down to New Denver, to see the Japanese internment museum. A sad period of Canadian history.

Sunday, we packed up and got going and decided to try and ride the dirt road parallel to the highway south to Rosebery; we did try, but it looked as though we would be travelling on FSR’s and with the fire situation, we were not interested in that. So back onto the highway and to Castlegar on the Crescent valley road; but it was soooo hot, and very little relief from the heat.

We did stop at a lookout over Slocan lake, which was stunning!

Slocan Lake

We got to Rossland around 3:30, stayed in the Prestige Hotel again. Off the next morning, across the border again, heading back towards home via the NWP.

We gassed up at the cardlock at Northport, then left the main road ascending into the hills. The air was definitely smokey, not crisp and clear; but the landscape was amazing. There was a bit of traffic, although dirt roads, it was still residential property. Much of these areas are cattle grazing properties, countless times we interrupted the cows  convalescing by the roadside.

Stopped for a break at after a while, near the top of one of the passes; took a few pics – and marvelled at the road and experience. The silence up there, is so very special. After the ticks of the engines as they cool slow, all we could hear was quiet. 

We rode a bit further and took a lunch break at Summit Lake, where none of the campsites were level. The roadway down was narrow and steep too. Pretty sure this would not be the spots for RV’s and gravity chairs.

Carrying on from Summit Lake, there was a massive burn area which was pretty surreal. Lars went ahead, and I stayed back to avoid the dust. It was very awesome riding, almost spooky, with the terrain as it was.

NWP burn area

I caught up to Lars, and we continued on the dirt roads. At one point along a stream/river, Lars startled an eagle that was in the bush. It was a golden eagle, and started to fly, just a few feet infront of me, and a few behind Lars; slowly gathering height. That was truly amazing.

The night’s accommodation was camping at Curlew Lake State Park. Curiously, the grassy areas of state parks in Washington get more than their fair share of watering. At Pearrygin and Curlew, the sprinklers were going full tilt. Everywhere. I took the initiative to turn off one or two nearby, to make to-ing and fro-ing to the toilet blocks a little easier. In any case, it was a lovely night at Curlew, quiet, with few people at the campsite. We got going the next morning as usual, waiting for the tent to dry up a bit, packing up etc and off we went. Headed back to the main highway, and on the NWP to Lost Lake. Again it was pretty amazing riding. Very quiet and remote, a little bumpy in spots, but nothing too challenging, rutted or rocky. We took a break at Lost Lake campground, sat in the shade and cooled down at the water pumps. Shortly after Lost Lake, we were back on pavement, on our way to Oroville once more.

We gassed up, got some food and beer, at the Pioneer grocery store. It was about 100 degrees fahrenheit in the sun. Wickedly hot.

We took the highway, as much as we could vs. the Loomis-Oroville road to Conconully. It was later in the day, and we were pretty baked. To note, Tonasket, is a much bigger town the Oroville. Next time we could get supplies there, might be more direct. We were trying to maintain 60mph, but probably doing a bit less – we got off the highway, and then road smaller country roads, and then the dirt roads again, to Conconully. We came through Fish Lake road, to Sinlahekin Reserve.

Campsite 21, for two nights please, thank you very much.

We had dinner at the Sit’n’Bull restaurant, a bit of a regrettable decision. We both had turkey burgers, but we figured out halfway through, that they were pretty much raw. Oooh no. Cook and waitress were very apologetic. I wasn’t great the next day, a bit of the runs, and feeling blah for most of the morning. We went out for a short ride, up towards Lone Frank Pass, but I wasn’t good for much. It was a nice ride, minorly rutted and bumpy, but I felt much better after that.

I chatted with the Park Warden, and he mentioned that there’s an ATV culture in the Okanogan region, that doesn’t exist in the neighbouring counties in Winthrop and Twisp. They take the right to ride the ATV’s on the roads seriously, and there are lots of trails in the area too. Could be cool for another time.

So, home was becoming our focus, in as much we would be happy to stay out longer. We took the main roads, no more dirt today, connecting up with Highway 20 again. Those amazing passes again! Diablo-w-me-away dam, spectacular! Before that, we stopped at Winthrop for another awesome meal at Carlos’ Mexican restaurant. Shared enchiladas and taco soup. A bit hot for a hot day, but whatever! We walked around a bit, got gas, and then got on the bikes again. At the restaurant, we used the wifi – looking for accoms. Being Thursday we thought we’d be OK finding accommodation along highway 20, in Rockport, or Marblemount. After going back and forth on the highway between the two, accommodations under a roof was going to be very expensive. We ended up camping at Glacier Peak Cabins, RV and Tenting, Marblemount. For $20, it was just fine. We camped out in the field, the only tent, quiet enough, but super cool and dewey in the night and morning. Was a nice sleep though!

Waited long enough to dry out the tent, fly and groundsheet, and packed up. Rode the short bit left, to Anacortes, 2:50 ferry, at the terminal an hour earlier. We killed a bit of time eating lunch at the harbour, where there are awesome tables and chairs to enjoy the comings and goings of boaty people. The ferry is easy, as they let motorbikes park front and centre. First on, first off, first through immigrations and customs. We were home around 6:00.

  • 2000 km trip –
  • Donna’s odometer 21,980 – 24,061 = 2081
  • Lars’ odometer 19,032 – 21,125 = 2093


We didn’t ride as much of the North West Passage as we would have liked, but we certainly enjoyed the sections we did ride. It isn’t as scenic – with majestic mountain views and vistas as the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route, but it’s delightful and enjoyable in its own right. Props to the folks who provide both resources to riders like us!

Some pics of the trip here:

Skagit River
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