Our friends Steve and Darcy took us on a drive and mountain bike ride from Ashcroft to Spences Bridge. We took turns with one driving and two riding, switching every 5-10km along the 35 km route (I rode about half, happy to drive, take pictures, and explore). The route starts at the junction of the the Highland Valley Road (to Logan Lake Road) and the Kirkland Ranch Road, 5.5km from Ashcroft.
The first 10km of the road is a good gravel road servicing a few homes in the community of Basque:
- Basque once had vineyards (link to articles).
- Basque Siding was also the site for the Last Spike for the Northern Great Railway in 1915.
- The Basque Ranch is one of the oldest ranches in BC, going back to the opening of the Cariboo Wagon Road.
- At the south end of Basque is a pumping station which sends water up tot he Highland Valley mines.
Beyond Basque the road becomes narrow (one vehicle at a time) and rough. Careful and slow driving is required. For mountain bikers, the road goes up and down with some longer climbs and descents along the route. We saw no other vehicles along the route and no people, but there were some isolated homes and ranches on the Indian Reserves (Munroe, Spatsum, Toketic, and Pemynoos) along the way. The road bypasses these homes/ranches, but goes through the abandoned Village of Pokeist (see the previous article) with its scenic church.
We passed old fences, fenced graveyards, abandoned vehicles, some cattleguards, gates, and some minor sideroads, but on the whole the area is dry and sees little activity. The hillsides are covered in sagebrush, grasses, and ponderosa pines. In some of the larger gullies were small creeks and these narrow oases had a variety of trees and shrubs. We found a pocket of saskatoons in fruit and stopped for a snack. Few flowers do well exposed to the dry, hot summer conditions, but we spotted sagebrush mariposa lily and milkweed in bloom.
Along the route, we spotted stellar jays, the usual crows and magpies, feral horses, and a clutch of young chukar. Steve and Darcy have previously seen bighorn sheep along the route.
At the Spences Bridge end of the road, we rode above a working ranch before we came down to Highway 8, the end of our 35km ride/relay. We chose to drive through Merritt back to Kamloops to complete a large scenic loop. On the way back, we scouted sections of the Merritt Subdivision track (from Merritt to Spences Bridge) for a future exploratory ride.