It’s a warm Sunday as we arrive at Travis Friesen and Michelle Irvine’s house in Granger, load our bikes into the back of their jeep and prepare for the journey to Montana Mountain in Carcross.
The world-class mountain biking trails on Montana Mountain are internationally famous, with riders flocking to Carcross to try their hand at riding them.
How to survive and experience world-famous mountain biking trails on Montana Mountain in Carcross
After a beautiful drive to Carcross, we arrive at the base of the mountain, the meeting point for the rest of the giant group of about 15, as several more show up and we slowly prepare to shuttle* up the mountain. The jeep ride is comfy, with four of us and our bikes; meanwhile, the other shuttle has an impressive number of riders and bikes, packing in 8 people and their bikes. As we shuttle, it’s remarkable that no one falls out of the truck on the dusty, rocky road.
We arrive, with all riders and mountain bikes in tow, at the top of McDonald Creek Trail, and everyone unloads their bikes to prepare for the descent. It feels a bit terrifying and I wonder how I even got invited to join this impressive group of riders, so I decide to hang back.
The leaders head off down the trail, leaving space between each other, and straight away I am shaken by the immediate, steep descent on dusty, loose dirt. It has been three weeks since I’ve ridden a mountain bike and I find myself thinking, Maybe I’m not quite prepared for this.
However, I pull myself together and start the descent. The trails are long, winding down with little wooden bridge crossings (and with rocks). My arms barely keep up with the jolting sensations. As I catch up to the others, the group immediately goes again and I wonder, with the “bingo-wing” (arm workout, if my arms will survive the continued descent. Michelle, like a champion, who previously (last year) was the last one, hangs back to make sure I don’t kill myself.
The descent continues and the group stops a couple more times … waiting for the slowest mountain biker ever to catch up. Eventually, the main group leaves the four of us—yes, I am literally that slow that people couldn’t wait—and we continue down the McDonald Creek Trail, which feels like it is taking eternity to finish. The concentration required and the body commitment to keep on point, as exhaustion is slowly setting in … mountain biking still isn’t fun yet; it’s mostly terrifying and requires a lot of skill that my body has zero muscle memory for.
I start to waver as I reach a rather-large tree root on the trail; and, for a moment, my concentration is elsewhere and my front tire dips down. Then, like a slow-motion slapstick comedy, I fall head first off of Grasshopper and down the hill into some juniper bushes. Surprisingly, I have only a few cuts, scrapes and bruises … and I smell wonderful. As I get back on my bike, I decide it is time to munch on some snacks to boost my energy level.
Eventually, we arrive at the White Pass & Yukon Railway tracks that run alongside Bennett Lake. Here, the full group was already eating lunch and observing the beauty of the White Pass Mountains as a backdrop to Lake Bennett.
It was an incredible day to enjoy the Yukon landscape, even if this was the first time I got to appreciate it since starting to ride (looking down in perpetual fear distracts you from looking around).
Now it was time to ride to Carcross. Travis describes the trail to Michelle and I, “There are some ups and downs, but it’s a really good cross-country biking trail.” We begin the ascent on Wayne’s World trail. Then more ascent—some down, then ascending again. Most of the time I’m walking up the ascents (this trail seemed to be mostly ascending) and my legs and body just can’t do it any longer, but we keep pushing on.
“We’re about halfway,” Travis says. Michelle and I groan in disbelief, thinking we are almost finished. We are “done” and ready to sit down and drink a beer in Carcross. It’s difficult to appreciate the beauty of nature and the blossoming flowers of purple, yellow and pink when your body is ready to lie down. One last section and we make it to Carcross where Michelle and I high-five each other over our success at surviving two and a half hours of riding.
The trails at Montana are definitely categorized differently than those in Whitehorse … the “blue” (intermediate) Carcross trails were much tougher. However, we survived and were able to enjoy the beautiful day as we sat at the Bistro on Bennett, inhaling a burger and a beer in the warm sun. I’m thankful for friends who have the patience for a slow beginner to join in on these adventures.
For more details on mountain biking in Carcross, check out http://destinationcarcross.ca/. To find fellow riders or get answers to questions, check out the CMBC Yukon Facebook group or contact them for more information.
*Shuttle—to leave a vehicle at the base and drive up with bikes and people. After riding down the mountain, you take the base vehicle up to the top to collect the shuttle vehicles. It means not having to ride up the mountain to come down.