Monday, August 3, 2015

Walbran Cruise

TR2. ©Mark Karau
The forecast was for thundershowers so when Leif rolled up in a questionable state and only wearing his race kit, we knew we were on the right track for a Stuckylife Special.
“We’ll be driving for a while,” Andrew said, “you could have brought some casual clothes for the drive.” Leif seemed unfazed, but a little disgruntled; “I didn’t get the memo! I’ll be fine, I just need some food.”  The rest of us had lots of extra clothes that could be shared in a pinch, so after picking up Mark at his house we were on the way. We got Leif a breakfast of champions at McDonald’s in Mill bay (he’s contractually obligated because of Team Partyboy-Oakley-McDonald’s) and Cruised up to Honeymoon bay on Cowichan Lake.

The Gordon. ©Halldor Gunnarsson
The plan had been formulated the night before at Logan’s pub and it was a simple one: Drive to Honeymoon bay on Cowichan lake, get on the bikes, ride to the Gas station in Nitinat in a roundabout way and then back to Honeymoon Bay. I had ridden most of the roads with Ranger Clay last year. and what I hadn't, Mark had, so we knew what we were in for.
For this mission, Andrew and I were riding road bikes with fat tires and Leif and Mark were wisely on CX bikes.

We hit the gravel just out of Honeymoon bay and would remain on it for the rest of the ride. The logging roads in our neck of the woods are in great shape this summer so the Gordon was smooth and the going was good. Mark and Leif set a brisk pace out of the gate. 
©Mark Karau

©Mark Karau

The obligatory logging equipment shot. ©Halldor Gunnarsson
The first real climb of the day was up Tr2 and it was a brute. When we got to the top we were sitting at about 666m. The Tr2 used to connect Gordon Main and McClure Main but was taken out by a landslide some time ago.  However, if you’re on a bike, you can just hike across the gap. We got our first flat of the day just on the other side of the landslide and got to take a breather and look at the view. Then we descended on a sketchy overgrown doubletrack all the way down to the McClure main line. 

Tr2. ©Halldor Gunnarsson
Land slide on TR2. ©Mark Karau
At this point, Leif's breakfast and the beer carbs from the night before started to kick in. He promptly ramped up the pace to the outer edge of comfortable. We rode tempo past McClure Lake and towards Walbran main where we got the second flat of the day, again a nice break. Shortly after this point the views started opening up and we got glimpses of the Walbran valley. It’s a spectacular area, heavily scarred by logging but beautiful to behold nonetheless. 
©Halldor Gunnarsson

©Halldor Gunnarsson

©Halldor Gunnarsson
After climbing on the Walbran for a while and forcing Leif to stop a couple of times. We started a long descent into Nitinat. The rain had held off for the most part, but we got hit by a couple of minor showers on the way down. That descent is super fun and we soon realized how much climbing we'd been doing. It felt like we were descending for a good 20-30min. We made good time to the intersection of Carmanah and Rosander Mains so we decided to check out the Looper Creek Canyon. It’s a beautiful canyon with vertical walls of up to 50m and is a famous Canyoneering route. It's a must see if you're in the area, and we went to check it out and dip our toes in the water.

Climbing down to Looper Creek. ©Mark Karau

©Mark Karau

©Halldor Gunnarsson

©Halldor Gunnarsson

Climbing out. ©Mark Karau
After soaking the legs and climbing the slope back up from Looper creek we headed to Nitinat to see if the gas station was open. The skies opened just before Nitinat and we ended up sprinting for the safety and comfort of arguably one of the shittiest gas stations on Southern Vancouver Island. This gas station is sufficiently terrible and worth a visit for the overpriced coffee and the awesome lack of selection. Somehow it stays open though, a real rough in the diamond of the Carmanah Walbran area.
We fueled up on surprisingly decent coffee,  terrible pepperoni sticks and chips. Even though the cultural tour of Nitinat’s gas station was worthwhile, we were burning daylight so we got back on the bikes.

The Nitinat Main is the real grinder of this ride. It didn’t help that we got soaked as we were heading into it when we got caught in an impressive downpour. But regardless of that, the road is harsh. It’s a very gradual incline, a false flat a lot of the time. It’s socked in by trees on both sides and for some reason it just grinds you down mentally and physically. Leif kept on his driving off the front and Andrew, Mark and I rode more or less together, hugging whichever side of the road that had fewer potholes. We had to deal with a couple of flats but things went pretty smoothly even if it was mentally a difficult section. This was the only part of the ride when we had any traffic and that somehow adds to the droning monotony. We were all relieved when we got to the intersection of the South lake rd.

Fatigue was beginning to set in at this point but the South Lake road at least provided some views and was a much more pleasant ride than the Nitinat. Leif took his “off the front” group riding tactics to new heights and after our last flat and around 10k out from the pavement he took off altogether, getting that second wind big time and wanting to crush some souls. Us three stragglers rode in together, which made sense since we were running low on tubes, gas and will. Nevertheless the last climb was a pleasant one with nice even gradient and beautiful views. The descent was equally nice with fast and flowy turns that required little braking. Leif was waiting for us at the bottom and we cruised together into Honeymoon Bay after about 8hours on the road. A great day on the bike.

Distance: 130km
Elevation: 2000m
Flats: 6
Mechanicals: One lost chain ring bolt (NJS(no!)).
IG: @curbwzrd @darknorth @numberonephotog

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