A Chilcoltin Hogyssey
with Kenny Smith
Rider: Kenny Smith, Fraser Newton, Chester Bush, Margus Riga
Photos: Margus Riga
Writer: Chester Bush
Editing & Direction: Matt Butterworth
Motion Graphics: Paul Harrison
Sound Design: Jo Osborne
“Buddy…” Kenny’s voice sputtered through the phone.
“What’s up Ken?” I asked. It was early spring 2018, six months before our trip.
“I got it,” he replied.
“I got the hog.”
“Mt. Matier, tomorrow.”
“Dude, I’m in Prince George. I’m working.”
“Just quit your job, get in your truck and start driving.”
“I can’t. I work for myself and drive a ‘99 Safari work van.” He knows that, I thought to myself.
“Buddy…” he replied, intuitively taking that as a definite no.
It’s never easy to turn down an invitation from Ken. Often, they were “The best days ever” but usually I had only a few days to commit. The next time he called, however, it would be different. The next time, I didn’t have or need an excuse.
“What’s up Ken?”
“I got the hog.”
I laugh out loud, “Nice, where?”, thinking he meant another weekend ski tour in the Sea to Sky.
“Seriously, this is the one,” he replied, surprised that I had laughed at his first statement.
Intrigued, I asked where again.
“Chilcotins, Something Lake to Chilko Lake to another lake, river crossing, something creek, super haney then back to Tyax. River crossings… we have to build a raft. Float plane, boat ride. This is the Hog, Chet, this is the one.”
It sounded intense and so ridiculous that if I said yes, it was too ridiculous to actually happen, so I wouldn’t have much to worry about.
“Sweet, I’m in.”
“It’s going to be hard,” Kenny said with a nervous chuckle. “Eight days out there Chet, you better start training.”
I took his advice, but looking back, what I should have done was sleep in my backyard, wake up in the morning, stuff my backpack, walk to the river, fall into it, then ride my bike to the nearest hill and take my bike up and down it all day hoping to step on a few wasp nests in order to get used to the feeling that would soon become so familiar.
Only a few weeks before the trip, the team assembled on a misty Vancouver day. We bought our stuff, had lunch and high fived. It was the last chance for anyone to bail before this once-ina-lifetime expedition. No one did, and so it was: we had our team. Kenny Smith was the head schemer and dreamer of the trip. His unwavering love of mountain biking had led him to this point. His days of jumping over trains and hugging massive cliffs were behind him. The hane train, however, was far from pulling over. Our next stop was deep in the mountains, charting a course on bikes that very few, if any, had ever done before.
Margus Riga, “The Chilcotin Bad Boy”, would be Kenny’s point man on this. No stranger to the back country, he was the experience guy. Riding all over the world capturing photos of the sport’s best athletes, Riga was Kenny’s go-to guy for the trip. His sheer strength is apparent whenever you’re skiing or riding with him. If you’re hiking, he’s ahead of you. If you’re climbing up a mountain with a bike, he’s also probably ahead of you, and if he’s not, it’s because his keen eye has taken him off the path to capture the moment—after he repacks up his camera gear he’ll pass you on the way to the top.
Fraser “Newton” Newton. “The mechanic”, “The doctor”. Whether it’s riding or fixing a bike, he is one of “those guys”. If it’s broken, he can fix it. If it’s rideable, he can ride it.
If it can’t be fixed, he can make something work to help you limp to wherever you’re going. His skills made him necessary, his attitude made him a necessity.
Myself: Chester Bush. “The Chet”. Kenny would let people know that I was going to be “the writer”. It wasn’t a casual weekend pedal in the Chilcotins so everyone needed a purpose. If that was mine, then I would try my best. My backcountry experience was limited, but I wasn’t known to quit, and Kenny must have had some confidence in me in order to invite me. Also, I think he and Margus knew I would make room in my pack so I could mule around spare parts and batteries for the bikes and cameras.
-The Hog would not have been possible without the support from our friends at Cycles Devinci. We used Canadian mountain bikes to complete the ultimate Canadian mountain bike adventure.-