It’s rare to find an ideal window of weather for cycling when B.C. coast is involved. When the forecast opened up for the upcoming week I sprint up north without a set plan and hit a jackpot that I may never experience again.
On Monday, I caught the 10:50 ferry to Langdale under an overcast but otherwise agreeable weather. Roads were surprisingly busy until Sechelt. Porpoise Bay has been the usual first stop, but this time I decided to try a new spot and continued until Halfmoon Bay to spend the night at Homesite Creek Falls Rec Site. It had a 2km gravel access road and the sites turned out to be nice with a nearby freshwater pool.
Next day, I visited the IGA at Madeira Park for some cheese, avocado, and of course for a big jar of Nutella. Sat down at a nearby cafe to charge the phone and had some coffee and scone (neither was good). By the time I reached Egmont, the ferry had just left and had to sit and watch the lineup grew gradually for 2.5 hours until 16:30. After another hour and a half of crossing I continued on a quiet highway until Powell River. It was getting dark so I stopped at the municipal campground, which was very crowded but had showers and was close to town. I was still sipping beer and munching on some junk food at 10pm sitting on a skewed table.
By early morning I was on the road and by 10am reached Lund where Hwy 101 ends. It was teeming with people and parked cars along road just outside town. I’m assuming the convoy of parked cars is due to the Sunshine Coast Trail hikers, and maybe kayakers. After a brief look around, I headed straight to Nancy’s Bakery and had one of their legendary cinnamon buns. I recommend the one with blueberry…
I climbed back up to the highway and turned to a side road which led to Okeover Wharf, with a provincial park next to it. I watched a group of youth launching their kayaks on low tide and a Chinese family in gumboots motoring out in their aluminum boat. There were a few yachts with American flags.
Today was a short day, so I spent a lot of time on the beach watching the tide go up slowly and walking to the wharf to watch the boats come and go. The Chinese family arrived with what I assume to be a load of clam or oyster.
The campsite was on the cheap side ($18) compared to other places, and the reason was, there was no fresh water except through a squeaky hand pump which dispensed non-potable water.
After a fantastic climb next morning I was back in Powell River. “Base Camp” cafe had nice coffee and macaroons. The ferry to Comox departed at 11:50. Now on Vancouver Island, I stayed on 19A until Miracle Beach. The sign said that they were full, but apparently someone just cancelled so I had a site for the night. This was an expensive campground at $33 a night. But they had unlimited warm showers and the beach area was nice.
In the morning I decided to pack up and go to the beach and have breakfast there watching the sun rise. On the way to Campbell River the volume of traffic and people increased. I stopped briefly at Nesbitt Cafe and decided to go towards Gold River on Hwy 28. The road followed a series of large dam lakes and also passed through a part of the Strathcona Park. As I cycled on the scenery became increasingly pretty. After arriving at the Lady Falls rest area, I took the short walk to the falls with a few other people. There were no “no-camping” signs, so I decided to stay there for the night. Washed myself in the ice-cold creek and then set up my tent next to the parking area after everyone left.
Busy little rodents kept me awake most of the night. I spotted a few dancing at the dome of the tent fly. How do they come up there so easily?
The skies were dark in the morning and it was a bit chilly. I saw a lot of people who came to hike to Kings Peak, apparently one of the most popular hikes on the island. Around 9am I was in Gold River. Signs along the road led me to believe the town was teeming with activity. The visitor info center was closed, the restrooms locked and there was no clue as to when it would be open. I found the only cafe in town and went in. The owner lady was friendly and informed me that there were no grocery stores in town, but I could buy some crackers from next door store in half an hour or I could try the gas station for other options. My eyes were already on the delicious looking chocolate chip orange zest scones that she just baked. Some other people showed up and I tried to glean some info about Tahsis while sipping coffee. It was about 70km further on a gravel road and there was no other road or boat connecting it to elsewhere so I would have to cycle back. On the map, I stumbled upon another gravel road between Gold River and Woss; they said it’s in good condition.
I left the cafe heading towards Tahsis, but just I arrived on the junction, I felt my heart was not really into it. I despised the fact that I had to cycle back the same road here. The weather was also going to be very different and probably be a lot wetter once I reached on the west side of the mountains. So I steered towards the other gravel road heading to Woss. It was a Saturday, so I figured I would stay somewhere midway and reach Woss campground the next day when everybody left. After about 15km I reached Muchalat Lake. The sign on the camping area said there will be a Salmon Dinner this afternoon with donation and I was already hungry. I went in but could only find one site deep in the woods. Most sites seemed to be reserved in advance by people from town, despite the sign prohibiting doing so. After setting up my tent I walked around trying to get a feeling of the place. There was nothing to do other than sitting on the windy lake shore and I had some growing doubts on the promised salmon dinner plate. It was still noon so I decided to pack up and continue.
The road was relatively flat most of the way. The plan to stop midway went out the window as I got closer to Woss. Although there were a few adequate spots, I find it difficult to stop when the weather is good and the sun is out.
When I arrived at Woss Lake, as expected, it was packed. I wanted to at least take a look at the site that I stayed five years ago on the way to north, and to my surprise it was available. There was a family camping next to it and the guy said the party camping on that site left suddenly an hour ago.
Next morning, I went to the Woss general store and found it absolutely unchanged from five years ago, but I did buy a date square and a scone just for the memories. On the way to Hwy 19 I spotted an electric car charging station. So things did change a little but in Woss, too.
From here I decided to turn back south and was pleasantly surprised by how fast the ride went. By 1pm was in Sayward junction and stumbled upon two other cyclist traveling south. They were cooking lunch and I wanted to see the town, so I cycled in to see another site I had been five years ago.
I was back in the junction within an hour. The co-op store did not have much food, so I went back to the “grocery store” but couldn’t find anything other than cheese, english muffins and olive oil. Stopped by the “pizza-coffee-ice cream” place and had a slice of cheese pizza and two scoops of ice cream. By 3:30 I was back on the road. The couple I met had said they were aiming for Pye Lake but I overshot the entrance and ended up instead at Twin Lakes.
This was apparently a popular canoeing destination and there was even a nice portage trail between other lakes. A couple with a camper was the only occupants. I took a dip in the nearby creek before making dinner. Another couple emerged from the lake later with their canoe and took the trail down.
Next day was relatively fast down hill to Campbell River. After purchasing some fresh fruit and some staple foods from a big Thrifty Foods store, I gobbled up most of it in a nearby park. Back on the road, I met another cyclist named Rick who was about to catch the ferry to Quadra Island.
I chose Kitt Coleman Beach Provincial Park to camp. It’s a primitive small waterfront park with a couple of tent sites on the beach. It was sunny and windy. I made a small wind-breaker from drift woods and spent the time reading a book I borrowed from entrance. Late afternoon a lady showed up on the beach with two small girls. She put them on separate inflated duck floats and released. Soon, it became obvious that they weren’t going to make it back on their own. After a couple nervous moments, the lady did the right thing and jumped into the water with her clothes on to retrieve them before they were swept away with the wind.
In the morning there was a problem with the stove and I had to have a cold breakfast. By 9am I was back on 19A. Near Buckley, a construction on the road forced me to continue on Hwy 19 until Qualicum Beach, which was not a good experience. I kept looking for a decent place to stay for the night. Cedar Grove RV Park next to the river looked nice but was too expensive, “$33-$38” a night and Rathrover Park became the obvious choice. Stopped at a corner store to get a bag of chips and a can of juice before heading to the park entrance and was told by the attendant that all sites were booked, despite it being a Tuesday! I glanced at the Nanaimo-Horsehoe Bay ferry schedule: one at 18:15 and the next one at 20:30. It was 16:30 and 34km to go. There is 25km more after landing at Horseshoe Bay, so I gave all my energy to catch the earlier one and made it to the landing on time. It was 10pm when I finally reached home. It was one of the longest days I ever had (156km).
I have now concluded that the section between Nanaimo and Campbell River should be avoided. Between Campbell River and Woss, there are still nice places to ride and camp but I am not sure how long that will last.
Distance: 804 km
Duration: 9 days (Aug 12-20, 2019)
Cost: $350 ($164 food, $122 camping, $64 ferries)
Highlights: No rain, no flats, 156km day.