Gisborne Lake | U24O Bikepacking Adventure


Sometimes bikepacking trips can be planned down to the smallest detail and others sorta happen.  My overnight trip to Gisborne Lake this past summer was a bit of both.

I had been planning a couple of overnighters for the summer, but for one reason or another they did not happen.  As the summer flew along I made up my mind that I had to get away.

I narrowed down my possible options and needed some intel on the locations so I could maximize my solo adventure.  I reached out to my buddy Jim who has more bikepacking/backpacking experience and traveled the areas I was thinking on exploring.

I told Jim what I was planning and he shared that he just postponed an overnighter he had planned for Gisborne Lake due to a lightening storm.  I thought to myself "Hmmm . . Gisborne Lake had a nice ring to it".  Jim explained that its about a 3 hour ride on an atv trail to a large lake with a sandy shore and it's in the Bay du Nord Wilderness Reserve.

He said there were good spots to throw a tent and a good portion of the trail was on eskers.  I didn't know what as esker was . . . but I was sold.  A half dozen facebook messages back and forth and we had a plan for a U24O (under 24 hour overnighter).

Not being a seasoned bikepacker with tried-n-true system in place, I thought and rethought my gear selection and placement.  After several attempts I finally got my Arkel Seatpacker stuffed appropriately, gear strapped to the Seatpacker and more gear strapped to the bar. I was ready to roll.


I left the house around noon to meet up with Jim at "The Moose" around 2:00.  From there it was about another two hours to the turnoff to Grand le Pierre and the trailhead for Gisborne Lake.


While working out the driving kinks and gearing up the bikes, a pickup truck pulled in.  It was an older gentleman and his wife from a nearby community curious about what we were doing. 


We showed him our bikes (Sasquatch 6.1 and Mukluk X7) and explained we have them loaded down with camping gear and heading to Gisborne for an overnight camping trip.  He provided some trail info and some other local lore before we hit the trails.


As the trail was mostly used by ATVs I was expecting it to be a rutted tangle, but it wasn't.  It was a nice wide double track with a few descents, a few climbs, some dirt and a lot of bedrock.  





There was a particularly nasty 200 ft descent full of fist sized rocks that loved to roll.  Navigating this was a little tricky so we walked the bike to the bottom.


After a short rest we hit the eskers ... which is a long ridge of gravel and sand that was deposited by glaciers.  This was the fastest and most fun portion of the ride as the smooth compact dirt surface meandered through the barrens in the general direction of the large lake.




The eskers slowly morphed into a trail peppered with rocks (fist sized and larger).  It was like navigating a tight radius obstacle course for several kilometers.  Breaking this up were several wet sections including a shallow river that connected two small ponds.  Yup ... wet feet.



For the final few kilometers our destination was clearly in sight and the well packed peat moss trail ending at our destination.  The view was absolutely amazing with the crystal clear water slowly lapping up on the sandy shores that seemed to go on forever.  Jim pointed to the other side of the 10km wide lake and said we were headed over there.


For the next 5km or so we rode the shore of the lake which was comprised of smooth as silk sand intermixed with short sections of cobblestone and short jaunts inland.  Every now and then we would come across a small cabin tucked into the woods, obviously built by people who clearly love the great outdoors.


We arrived at our destination about three hours after leaving the vehicles ... a level section of shore located in front of a wilderness cabin.  The ground was covered in crowberry bushes which according to Jim make a very comfortable (soft) base for a tent.  After driving for four hours and riding for three a nap sounded pretty good.


30 minutes later we had the bikes unloaded, tents pitched and a second wind.  It wasn't really time to eat so we headed out along the shore exploring the 16km long lake.  


As we rounded a point of land we discovered what appeared to be a rocky isthmus/peninsula heading out into the middle of the lake.  It didn't take long to decide which direction we were heading next.


For about 20 minutes we headed toward the center of the lake riding over small dry patches that alternated with short sections of water (6"-8" deep) and never looked back.  When we eventually stopped and turned around . . . the shoreline was almost out of sight.  Besides in the dead of winter when would you be able to ride your fattie to the center of a lake.  After taking a few pics we decided to head back to camp.




My plan for cooking noodles was to gather up some felled branches and make a fire pit using rocks.  There was no shortage of fuel, but rocks were nowhere to be found on the sugary sand beach.  Luckily Jim's backpacking stove had plenty gas to boil water.  Note to self: have a backup cooking plan for next trip.

We spent the next hour or so watching the sun set and telling stories.  As the warm breeze was blowing off the crystal clear lake we noticed rain clouds heading in our direction.


Luckily we escaped getting wet as the rain started pelting off the tents just after we climbed in.  As I got comfortable in my sleeping bag the sky started flashing with unexpected lightening.  It made it easy to see where my tent was leaking.  Note to self: get a better tent.


I woke up a little after sunrise and stuck my wet feet outside the tent.  There was nothing stirring from Jim's tent so I grabbed my fishing pole and did a little fishing along the shore enjoying the quiet morning.  Not having much luck I returned to the campsite and where Jim had broken out his Tenkara fishing rod and was trying his luck with the trout.




As the weather began to turn we started to break camp and grab a bite of breakfast . . . oatmeal and black tea.  The gear left outside the night before never really had the chance to fully dry, but we packed up anyway as we wanted to get going before it started to rain again.



The trip back out was pretty much a repeat of the way in with the addition of a little extra mud and wet trees.  The fog/mist hit before the rain and that reduced our visibility and had me cleaning my riding glasses way to often.




Getting back to the vehicles the U24O was successfully completed.  We got out into the wilderness, had a super ride, told some lies and had an amazing time overall.  Who says you can't have a great overnight bikecamping trip in under 24 hours?  I'm definitely going to squeeze a few more into next season.

Ride Fat !

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