Bikepacking the Lower Sunshine Coast

My sister in law and her boyfriend extended an invitation for my wife and me to join them in Lund for the May long weekend. I jumped at the opportunity to fit in a multi-day excursion on my Salsa Fargo, to leave the Wednesday before the weekend. After some quick notes on how to disassemble and reassemble my bike for packing with Meshkat at The Lions Cyclery, I boxed up my bike and prepared my gear the Tuesday night before. Jess dropped me off at the Greyhound station in Kelowna for the 8 am Wednesday bus and about five uneventful hours later I arrived in Vancouver. After a quick but strange cab ride to Mighty Riders, I unboxed, rebuilt and loaded up my bicycle. I took the seawall from the Olympic Village over to Stanley Park, then rode over the Lions Gate Bridge to Ambleside Park.

 

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The view at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver

 

From Ambleside, I rode Marine Drive to Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal with the local, lycra-clad, unsmiling roadies and waited 2 hours for the 7pm sailing.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Before arriving in Gibsons, I booked a room at the Cedars Inn Hotel and Convention Center. They let me take my bike into the room which was important to me. This is probably normal in the area because of the BC Bike Race passing through, and I’ll be using this hotel next time I am back with a bike.

 

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
It was also a working holiday.

 

The trail map for this route shows a gradual climb for about 13kms, then a mostly undulating profile to Sechelt. Nothing I hadn’t done before, and I planned to try to do the whole 120km to Skookumchuck in a day, falling back to staying in Sechelt if I wanted an easier day. I soon learned that I had underestimated the energy it would take to take my gear-laden Fargo where I had planned for this trip.

 

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
50 lbs total weight

 

I’m no stranger to technical singletrack, having grown up riding both Seymour and Fromme. Our gang of bike nerds made it a point to ride up everything we rode down, even riding up some of the trails that were usually ridden down. I guess that was over 20 years ago, so my legs, lungs, and heart had forgotten how to coordinate that task this time around.

Wharf Road at the start of this route ended as a washed out, rocky climb that wasn’t too bad, even with my loaded bags. Bug spray was crucial to keep the mosquitos at bay in the shady trail. The rocks soon turned into the peaty, loamy trails that I knew I had come for. Eagles chattered in the woods and the smell of pine and coast was everywhere. I was in heaven.

 

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
There was very little of this type of gentle trail on this route.

 

The trail continued climbing upwards and stayed technical with a good offering of roots and rocks to propel my heavy bike over. This combo was my downfall – attacking every small, technical ascent quickly sapped all of my energy, and I was only about 15km into the trail. Was it my heavy bike? Or my lack of recent technical climbing? I had been riding only for distance and long climbs, not sprinting or climbing technical trails. As the pep drained from my legs, I knew I had to come up with another plan.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
This was more usual – lots of small trails, mild technical uphill.

I navigated through the Sprockids bike park and noted how much fun it would be on the Fargo if my gear was 20 pounds lighter. With the profile information of Trailforks, and the quicker location refresh on my Garmin Dakota, I found the best route to the Largo FSR and bailed out earlier than I expected, my legs drained and my spirit low, almost defeated. The descent to Roberts Creek was fun though and the fast rumble of gravel under my tires brought me back to life. I stopped at the 101 Highway and considered riding it to Sechelt, but long weekend traffic always seems extra aggressive to me, especially on that stretch where cars tend to rush to catch the next ferry from Skookumchuck to Powell River. I decided to head back to Gibsons via Roberts Creek.

Roberts Creek itself is a tiny township with a grocery store, cafe, library, and bike shop. I stopped in at Elphinstone Cycles and chatted with the owner about his shop, my attempt at the trails above, some mutual friends and acquaintances, and where to find the best burritos locally. I borrowed a stand pump to add firmness to my 3″ tires and pointed my ride back to Gibsons to try the recommended burritos at Lunitas.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The last clearing before my bailout FSR

The ride along the lower road was quiet and undulating, offering gorgeous views of the ocean. As I neared Gibsons I thought about where I’d gone wrong with my planning and stopped feeling bad about it. This was all part of exploring after all! The next time I try this route I’ll ride the highway north, then hit the trails southbound, the same way the BC Bike Race passes through them. I’ll also try to have a lighter load on the bike.

Gibsons was sunny and cool, perfect for a margarita and a very delicious burrito at Lunitas.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
The view from Lunitas – really good burritos!

After a post-dinner nap in a waterfront park, I climbed the hill out of lower Gibsons to my hotel, where I slept and dreamt of future adventure.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y
An excellent place for a nap.

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