Breathtaking scenery, camaraderie and a love of snowmobiling and the outdoors were commonplace Saturday for the Williams Lake Powder Kings Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail Ride.
Roughly 15 riders met early Saturday morning at the Anvil Pub in Horsefly before embarking on an 80-mile round trip ride to Likely, and back, led by guides Frank Wijma and Wayne Johnson.
Upon arriving in Likely at the Likely Lodge, guests were treated to a ‘burger-bar-style meal’ provided by Randy and Claudine Kadonaga.
“It turned out really great,” said Johnson who, at 73 years old, or “37 backwards,” as he calls it, still loves getting out for trail rides with friends to enjoy the outdoors.
“As it turned out we got a little extra snow there the night before, it started to turn cool, but we were fortunate to finish before it got really cold. Everybody had smiles … it was a good outdoor adventure, we had some great viewpoints, saw some wildlife including a bull moose and the Likely Pub was awesome when we got there — just great hosts.”
Johnson, a Horsefly resident and member of the Williams Lake Powder Kings Snowmobile Club, said he considers himself a bit of a ‘trail boss,’ and enjoys helping out where he can working to clean up and maintain the trails in his neck of the woods.
“I still get out and help where I can,” he said. “We’ve got a little paradise out here.”
In particular, the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail — a 463-kilometre-long trail from Clinton, 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House, Likely and Wells, has been a work in progress since 2003 when a 170-kilometre portion was legally established between 70 Mile House and Horsefly. It was the brainchild of Jack Barnett, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett’s late husband.
In 2009 and 2010 the District of 100 Mile House sourced funding to assess, clean up and maintain the 70 Mile House to Horsefly Route, which has been maintained since 2010. The remaining sections required for completion run from Clinton to 70 Mile House and from Horsefly to Wells.
The trailhead is located at 70 Mile House, approximately 42 kilometres south of 100 Mile House and 32 kilometres north of Clinton.
Wijma, meanwhile, who also lives in Horsefly and guided participants in the ride Saturday, holds a contract with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to keep the section of trail between Horsefly to 70 Mile maintained.
Wijma said he’s seen a steady increase in popularity over the years, even during the other seasons of the year.
“It’s a great trail that (Recreation Sites and Trails BC) has been putting funding toward to make an all-season trail from Clinton to Barkerville,” Wijma said. “Every year we go make sure we have a few social rides to ensure we introduce as many people as possible to it.”
The section the group rode Saturday, he said, is maintained due to his and Johnson’s handywork in the bush.
“I’m following in his [Johnson’s] footsteps,” Wijma said. “He keeps trails open from Crooked Lake to Big Lake — just everywhere. The main thing is each year we get blow down, the snow comes in, the willows grow over on the trails and, probably the more important thing we do is put up more and more signage along the way so people know where they are.”
Wijma said the trail is actually used more in the summertime due to more opportunities for recreational users than in the winter time.
“Jack [Barnett], when he spearheaded this trail more than 20 years ago, there was a lot more trail riding happening,” Wijma said. “What we’ve found is there are a lot more people who use quads in the summertime to use the trail and, as a result, we’ve had to reroute the trail in a few spots say where it would go through a frozen swamp in the winter.”
It truly is an accessible trail, Wijma said, and noted the idea initially was to give people in ATVs, people on horseback and dirtbikes an opportunity to use the trail.
“Over time they’ve tried to make an official, safe, groomed and signed trail that people are riding on and now supporting,” he said.
“We’re seeing a lot more people from around the province show an interest and show up.”
Of the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail, itself, Wijma said it’s beautiful country.
“There is a renewed interest in trail riding and people coming out with their families and I think that’s something the trail is good for,” he said.
“I raised my kids here in Horsefly and we spent a bunch of time exploring the area and it really exposes you to the wildlife here, as well as the forest, and the trail is always going through different places: freshly logged areas, regeneration areas with nice lime green pine trees and trails through mature forests.
“We love doing these rides in the winter time, especially when things are kind of quiet economically, for places like the Likely Lodge and the Anvil Pub.”
The Williams Lake Powder Kings, meanwhile, are hosting one more chance to take in the beauty of the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail on Feb. 23 from Horsefly to Moffat Hut for a campfire and hot dogs.