Day 3 – Little Qualicum to Denman Island (49 km)
What goes up must come down
Spinnin’ wheel(s), got to go round
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles, it’s a cryin’ sin
Ride a painted bicycle, let the spinnin’ wheel(s) spin
You got no money, you got no home
Spinnin’ wheel(s), all alone
Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you, you never learn
Ride a painted bicycle, let the spinnin’ wheel(s) turn
Did you find the directing sign
On the straight and narrow highway????
The Bicycle Banditos were once again up early and with some trepidation were looking forward to their longest ride of the trip to date. Even with the aforementioned shortcut (see Part 2) the expected mileage was anticipated to be in the 50 km range. Additionally the BBs were entertaining the option of ending the day with some wild camping. The Captain had done some dubious research and located a possible wild camping spot near Fanny Bay at an abandoned road side rest stop. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Bad. After retrieving our “bear bags” out of the trees and another hearty breakfast, for DD which consisted of a tortilla coated liberally with peanut butter, nutella and rolled around a banana, we hit the road. Wait hold it right there. We did not in fact “hit the road”. You might better say that the road hit us, as within 2 minutes a steepish climb turned our enthusiastic group into unhappy hike-a-bikers. Okay we’ll get over it, but no sooner said than done and another hike-a-bike was required just to get out of the damn park and onto the main shortcut road. End of the Bad for now.
The Good. How quickly things can change. Once out of the park and onto some silky smooth country back roads the ride took a downward turn. In this case downward was a good thing. For the next 10 km we followed a mostly downhill grade through some gloriously traffic free country roads that had DD whooping with delight. I’m not really sure if whooping is an apt description of the noises emanating from DD but I think you get the idea. After turning north on the old island highway our stress free ride continued as the road basically ran flat along the shoreline for the next 35 km. Although the weather was warming to the upper 20s range, the ocean breeze kept the heat mostly in check. Our first pit stop for a snack was alongside a creek in Rosewall Creek Provincial Park and a second pit stop for supplies at Bowser. All in all a pretty decent morning ride – The Good.
The Bad # 2. By noon we had arrived at Buckley Bay. So this is where the grand plan for some wild camping went off the rails. The Captain was once again sent off on his own, up a seriously steep gravel road mind you, to find the wild camping site. A wild goose chase minus the goose. On to plan B. Plan B being a seriously steep ride (or hike-a-bike as the case may be) up a paved road to the Rest Area and another potential wild camping site. The rest area was quite pleasant however No Camping signs were posted liberally around the area and honestly it seemed far too busy a place to consider setting up camp. Two strikes and we were almost out; however we did enjoy a lunch break with spectacular views of the ocean to the east. Time for Plan C.
The Good # 2. While having lunch we had a great view of Denman Island. There was a ferry to the Island. There was a Provincial Park on the Island. None of us had ever been to Denman so why not make Denman Island Plan C. A quick call to the Provincial Park on the Island settled the matter as there was an overflow camping area if all the sites were taken.
So off we go hitting speeds of 60+ kph on that sweet downhill arriving at the terminal just in time to catch the 1:00 pm sailing. There would only be another 4 – 5 km to the Park once we were back on shore, so things were working out just fine, until?…
The Ugly! Now you would have thought that DD and CC would have remembered, after all we lived on the coast for 20+ years, that pretty much after disembarking from a ferry there would probably be a hill. Maybe big, maybe small?? This was brought home to us when a fellow cyclist casually inquired as to our intentions in regard to the “hill” once back on shore. “Oh we’ll be riding up” the BBs optimistically replied, in unison I might add. Sad to say, but the optimism only lasted the 100 yards or so until we actually got to the base of the hill. Can you say hike-a-bike? I thought so and so did DD, LL and RR. No problem though, as we hadn’t had a hike-a-bike for 4 – 5 hours and stretching the legs is good for you. Once we remustered at the top we were down to 4 km and back on the bikes. Then???
The REAL Ugly. Within minutes we encountered the “Hill from Hell”. A half kilometer 13 percent grade with a switchback at the bottom. It became quite obvious within the first 2 minutes that none of us were going to ride this beast and our sunny positive outlook was quickly clouded over with despair. Now no hike-a-bike is ever a lot of fun but this one looked to be brutal without even the cool ocean breeze to temper the way. So to their credit DD and LL conjured up a miracle of sorts and before you could say “I’ve got sores on my saddle sores” the Denman Island Bus rolled up behind us and offered a lift to the top. Needless to say DD and LL had their bikes and butts on the bus regardless the cost, which they both opined later as the best 2 bucks they’d ever spent. The dumbass boys however wanting to prove their manliness opted to stay the course and limped their way to the top.
The last few kilometers to the Park were easy riding and we arrived around 2. After a short wait for the Park Ranger we were fortunate to get an open site for the night. We had decided to spend the next day on the Island as a rest day and the Ranger advised we would have our site for the next night as well. So after what was our longest day on the road we relaxed on the shore for a bit, cooked up some grub and waited not so patiently for bedtime (8 o’clock) to roll around.
Day 4 – Rest Day??
No rest for the wicked is a saying the Captain often utters. Mostly this is to let others know he is not happy having work to do. As he considers himself a “good boy” he shouldn’t have work to do. On this occasion the lot of us must have misbehaved given the events that transpired. Shortly after breakfast and before our hoped for morning naps we were advised by the Ranger that there had been a “scheduling” snafu and our site had been booked out to other campers. Not only was our site booked but all the sites in the park were booked. We did have the option of moving into the overflow site however we would have to wait until 5 o’clock to set up there. In the interim we would be required to move our stuff off the site onto the beach. And wait, as none of us had any burning desire to pack up and head back on the road with no plan of action so we planned on inaction.
Now waiting around all day was probably no big deal, however by early afternoon the weather forecast had rain arriving by late afternoon. This would have been our first rain and we weren’t looking forward to setting up camp and dining in the rain. Once again Lady Luck was on our side and around 6 o’clock a group of campers decided to leave a day early an bequeathed us their site. A mad scramble ensued and we managed to get camp set up just as the rain began and enjoyed our first in-tent dinner.
Our plan for the next day was to do another short ride to Qualicum Bay. The day after that we were going for broke and would attempt a 70 km trek.
Go to the following link for LL’s YouTube video of this section of the trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZutBk0QwoBo
Day 5 – Denman Island to Qualicum Beach (25 km)
Day 5 wasn’t really much of an adventure to write home about. By now we were such highly conditioned bikepackers, that a 25 km run barely produced a sweat. In addition, the campground we spent the night at was crowded, somewhat dirty and poorly run. No I won’t name the place but you’ll know it if you ever camp there. The positives were that It was in a beautiful location right along the ocean and the rhythmic surf was a great background for relaxation had it not been for the constant fog horn like trumpeting during the night. Now fog horns can be tolerated if you like that kind of sound, but alas the fog horn we were subjected to overnight unfortunately emanated from a tent about 100 feet from ours. Say no more.