Mitch Forbes (left) and Thomas Schoen (centre) of First Journey Trails, Williams Lake Cycling Club president Shawn Lewis (third from right), Patrick Lucas, with Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program (second from right) and Tom Eustache, band councillor from Simpcw First Nation (North of Barriere) (right) hosted German journalists Julia Hofmann, (second from left) Daniel Schaefer and Paul Masukowitz for a tour of mountain biking trails and First Nations communities during the last two weeks of August. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

German journalists wowed by local mountain biking trails and First Nations communities

Stoked and blown away.

Those were some of the words three German journalists used after their first few days touring and riding mountain bike trails in and around the Cariboo Region.

Writers Daniel Schaeffer and Julia Hofmann, along with photographer Paul Masukowitz, were in the area the last two weeks of August due to an invitation from Thomas Schoen of First Journey Trails and Patrick Lucas with the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program.

During a luncheon at the Tourism Discovery Centre sponsored by the City of Williams Lake, Schoen told Black Press that the journalists had connected with him last year to do a story about his business as a mountain biker with a German background building trails in Canada.

“But once they heard that we do a lot of work with First Nations and work with the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program it shifted it more to that angle,” Schoen said. “We are hitting all the communities we are working with on their tour.”

Schoen was recently reported on by the Observer for a project he was working on with ?Esdilagh First Nation, where he helped build a trail behind the community as well as a pump track.

One of the highlights for the Germans was camping at Xat’sull Heritage Village.

“They met Xat’sull elder Ralph Phillips, and he was talking with them, it was just fantastic,” Schoen said.

Daniel Schaefer works as a mountain biking guide and as a teacher, unless he’s travelling to write articles.

“I’m pretty stoked about this trail network here,” Schaefer said.

“It seems like everywhere we see just a little bit of trails, but there are many here for people with different abilities..”

Julia Hofmann has been writing articles for Rocky Mountain Bikes for a year and half.

A mountain biker herself, she travels around writing stories about riding, areas and people, mostly for German magazines.

Hofmann has been struck by the people in the Cariboo.

“They are so nice and open-hearted — it’s so cool. The landscape is so different. It’s mystical.”

One evening they did a photo shoot from Highway 97 above the old Emporium Restaurant overlooking the Fraser River, which Hofmann said presented them with a “breathtaking” scene.

“You saw the Fraser River, the smoke coming up, and the lights, the burned trees, and the dust. The photos were unbelievable.”

She said the trails are totally different than the trails in Europe or other places she has been.

“You have everything,” Hofmann explained. “You have the flow, you have the corners, you have the berms, you have small jumps. They are built like when the river is looking for a way down.”

Agreeing Schaefer said the trails are one line instead of several which is good.

“It includes everything,” he added. It’s a bit of natural landscape mixed with some built structures.

“In Europe very often the trails will branch off to different lines and people are building jumps beside the original lines and no one knows where to go.”

Paul Masukowitz is an action sports photographer, and a rider as well.

“B.C. is definitely is a must-see place for someone who rides a bike,” Masukowitz said.

A highlight of the tour has been visiting the First Nations communities.

“What’s so great about this tour is that it’s not all about mountain biking,” he explained. “We do lots of that, but this trip is different because we are meeting First Nations people and learning about their everyday life and seeing what they are doing. It’s amazing.”

As a kid he grew up reading books about First Nations people in Canada and was inspired to visit some day.

“The way they described the landscapes and the way of living made me curious.”

Shooting in the smoke, which had drifted into the area due to wildfires in the province, eliminated sun spots and made it easier.

“It’s flat light and you don’t have these hot contrasts and it makes it easier to focus on the rider.”

There were many outstanding moments to photograph, Masukowitz said.

“For me it was really special to go dip netting on the Fraser River with a First Nations man, I don’t think very many people get the chance to do that.”

They also went with headlamps in the burnt areas and spent time with the Xat’sull trail-building crew.

“It was neat to meet the Xat’sull community and go riding with some First Nations kids,” Masukowitz said.

Schoen also brought the team to Chuchua, north of Barrier, where they met band councillor Tom Eustache who has developed mountain biking in his community.

“It’s going to be big in Europe because of it’s more of a human interest story. They will try and sell it to German National Geographic,” Schoen said.

Lucas said the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program has worked with 30 different communities across the province.

“I met Thomas Schoen when we were asked by the Soda Creek Band to help them develop a trail plan,” Lucas said.

“We just enjoyed working together so much that we’ve ended up working together all over the province.”

He has been giving trail-building workshops throughout B.C. this summer, visiting 12 communities.

“We are supported by the Red Cross and it’s part of the wildfire recovery effort,” Lucas said.

As a planner, he is always interested in the impact of community development.

“Trails are a really important part of building healthy, resilient, adaptive communities,”

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