Avalon Wilderness Reserve | Bikepacking U24O

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure

For this year, the start of the fatbike bikepacking season was a trip to the Avalon Wilderness Reserve (AWR). I had wanted to do a U24O (Under 24 hour Overnighter) in this area for some time and this was the year.


The Avalon Wilderness Reserve is one of the oldest protected areas in the province and is comprised of 1,070 sqkm of barrens and forests. What makes this place prime fatbiking territory is the network of dirt roads and series of hydro dams and dykes. You actually need a permit to enter the AWR with ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles not being permitted.


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure

On this U24O my buddy Dean decided that he wanted to give this bikepacking thing a try. Dean and I have been fatbiking for years and regularly chatted about bikepacking . . . and this particular adventure into the AWR peeked his interest. So we picked a day, started planning and hoped for good weather.

We hit the road relatively early in the morning, in late June, for the two-hour drive to Horse Chops.  Along the way we encountered a number of our skinny tired cousins pounding the pavement.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure

We landed at the trail head around 11:00 with the promise of clear skies, warm temperatures and a slight breeze for the remainder of the day. However, the weather forecast was not as promising for the trip back with a chance of showers and heavy rain. By 11:30 we had the bikes loaded and ready for the trail.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

I had visited this area two years prior, in early spring, and the trail was more of a rough and muddy wide double track. Now the “trail” was upgraded to a well groomed gravel road which would certainly make some of the longer climbs more bearable. 

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua Republic of Newfoundland

However, I was certainly looking forward to a little more texture in the trail on the way to our final destination – Frank’s Pond.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Luckily the wide gravel road disappeared when we arrived at the hydro dam on Mount Carmel Pond.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The trail narrowed as it hugged the edge of the water and quickly morphed into a more appropriately textured double track - aka "old dirt road".


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

For the next several hours we peddled – navigating rocks, climbing loose hills, carefully fording large puddles (some well over crank deep) and tackling rocky descents. We stopped a few times to take in the amazing scenery and refuel. It was a beautiful day for a fatbike ride.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Our pre-ride estimate was a 30-35 km ride to the camp site. We had been told that the trail leading to Frank’s Pond was the first trail on the right off the main trail - and prior to the fork we would cross a bridge, ride past a look-out and ride through a deep section of water where a pond has taken over part of the road. At the four-hour mark we had crossed the bridge, but there was no sign of the lookout or deep water crossing. We soldiered on.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

We eventually hit a fork in the road, but as we didn't pass a look-out or ford a stream we continued on the main trail. Riding for another 30 minutes we stopped to get our bearings. Not having a GPS or map of the area, we were navigating by memory of verbal directions and what we remembered from Google Maps.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Getting one sketchy bar on his phone, Dean and I were able to determine that we should have turned at the fork we had just passed. Oh well . . . all part of the adventure.

We were riding for a little over five hours when we turned off the main trail and on to what we hoped was Frank’s Pond Road. This road was very similar in terrain to the main trail except it seemed to climb more . . . or we were getting tired. 

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The sacristy of trees gave amazing views and did little to cut down on the now gusting winds.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

One section of the trail was actually pretty neat as it hugged the shore of a medium sized lake with the water practically lapping at the bike’s tires.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The day was slowly dragging on and no Frank’s Pond, so we started working on a Plan B - searching for alternate campsite. Up to this point in time nothing looked overly promising as low rising scruffy brush or marsh skirted most of the trail. We were wondering if we would ever get to Frank’s Pond, when we crested a rise and saw a section of the trail that had been taken over by a pond. Our spirits renewed as we rode down the quick descent, splashed through the water and continued on the trail.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

We turned the cranks for the next hour while I tried to convince myself and Dean that Frank’s Pond was just around the next turn or up over the next rise. We were both getting tired, hungry and a little cranky and needed to set up camp soon.



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

We knew Frank’s Pond was a bust when we encountered a bottomless, black, muddy pit in the middle of the trail with no easy way around. Neither of us wanted to tackle that mess at this point in the ride. It was only after we got home that we discovered exactly how close we had been to our final destination.


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

As we turned the bikes around we remembered a small grassy clearing back near the last water crossing. This would hopefully be a Plan B as it appeared large enough to pitch the tents and had few rocks. When we arrived we discovered that the lack of trees provided no shelter from the heavy wind and that meant no fire.

As the sun started to dip into the horizon, Dean mentioned a trail that he saw a little ways back. It was nothing more than two tire prints in the brush, but within a few minutes it opened up into a level sheltered clearing.



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The area was actually quite large and was probably used by hunters or anglers. There was plenty of room to pitch the tents with a large rocked fire pit (with BBQ grates) and a small supply of wood. The trees sheltered the area from the wind with lots of additional fire wood in the deadfall at the end of a short path. And there was a good supply of water only a few minutes away. Almost 8 hours riding and we finally found camp!

We quickly set up the tents, gathered additional firewood, retrieved water at the stream, started a fire and got something to eat. 



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

I cooked up some spiced couscous while Dean made a version of pad thai. 


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

After we ate, it was time to kick back with a well appreciated adult beverage and recount the day’s events. The fire burned late into the night with several trips to the deadfall for additional fuel.  The heat from the fire was great for drying wet clothes . . . unfortunately my socks got a little to close to the flames and got extra crispy.  


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

After the long day on the bike and with a full stomach, the moment I hit the sleeping bag I was out like a light.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

We awoke the next morning to the cheep of some distant bird and the silence of non existent wind. A faint humming indicated that the black flies and mosquitoes were out looking for a meal. Crawling out of the tent I noticed the sky looked a little darker, especially to the direction we would be heading.



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and tea, we restocked the wood supply for the next camper, packed up the bikes and hit the trail. We really wanted to get back to the vehicles before the rain hit.


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The ride out was pretty much a reverse of the trek in, which gave us a whole new perspective on how big this land really is. Unfortunately,
every time we stopped the black flies and mosquitoes seemed to find us instantly.

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

The drizzle started at about the half way mark, making it a bit of a pain having to clean my glasses every couple of hundred feet. I gave up after a while settling with smudging the lenses clean with the back of my glove. 


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

As we got close to Mount Carmel Pond the drizzle updated to a steady rain.



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

While the remainder of the ride was not as technical, the hill climbs coupled with rain drenched gear made for an energy draining dash to the vehicles.


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

With the trail head coming into range, it seemed like the clouds opened and it started to pour. Picking up speed down the last long descent I could have sworn I saw rain drops bouncing off the gravel road.


Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

As we approached the vehicles there was a thankful reprieve in the rain.  We quickly unpacked the bikes, loaded up the gear and hit the road before the clouds opened up once more.



Avalon Wilderness Reserve Fatbike Republic bikepacking U24O Fat Bike Adventure Arkel Norco Ithaqua

While we didn't get to Frank's Pond and sorta got drenched on the way out . . . I wouldn't call this trip a bust.  We did get to see some amazing scenery, rode the fatties in some new terrain (65 km) and learned a few things for our next adventure.  So where will we head next?

RIDE FAT !





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