Monday, January 25, 2016

Trip Report: Bikepacking Virgin Falls

There are many factors that come into play when planning the perfect riding route, but by far the most important factor is the unknown. Sure, well trod, classic routes can provide countless opportunities for good times on the bike but it’s the element of the unknown that really pushes a ride to the next level. It’s that pioneering, Lewis and Clark, new frontier, adventure shit. Shit that can only be achieved when stepping into the unknown. Shit like a winter bikepacking trip to Virgin Falls.

 I’d heard a few accounts of Virgin Falls, most second hand, so I started to search out a little more beta. I found some, but nothing of substance and I couldn’t find anyone who had made the trek within the last two years. The road sounded potentially rough but nothing unmanageable, it was also supposed to be one of the most scenic backroads in the area (This would later prove very accurate on both accounts).  Everyone I found who had been to the falls said it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls, period. The recipe for a perfect bikepacking mission was coming together and with just the right amount of the unknown. I also found tales of a cabin with a wood stove and being keen to get a bikepacking mission going early in the new year the jump to winter trip was logical.

The route begins in Ucluelet and quickly ventures off the pavement. The first of the gravel,West Main, passes around the west side of Kennedy Lake until it crosses over the Kennedy River.  After a turn at the junction onto Deer Bay Main (known locally as Virgin Falls Main) the route follows Tofino Inlet to the end where the road heads inland, towards our destination,Virgin Falls. 

The road literally is on the edge of Tofino Inlet, providing stunning ocean views.

Kennedy Lake bridge was well worth the short detour.   

The now derelict Kennedy Lake bridge was a focal point of the world famous Clayoquot Protests of the early nineties.  

When you are riding a loaded bike with sub-optimal gearing and things get steep, sometimes you just got to #pushwack 

Deer Bay Main is one of the most picturesque mainlines around.

We found that a washout had rendered the road "closed" less than 10km to the falls. Luckily bikes are a very versatile vehicle and we had no trouble getting by the washout with a little more #pushwacking. We found some sanction in the fact that our journey wouldn't be disturbed by any 4 x 4 traffic. 

After the washout the state of the road and bridges degraded some.

The falls certainly didn't disappoint, but my self-timer skills apparently did. 

We had found the falls but we still had to find the cabin

Despite terrible directions and inaccurate kilometer markers we found the cabin. It took us a few dead ends and some bonus climbing but we got there. Although some less than desirable guests before us had vandalized the cabin , leaving a nonoperational wood stove, garbage and a hole in the roof, it was a cabin none the less. Luckily someone had tarped the roof and with a little repair and clean-up on our end 'Chateau Virgin Falls' was open for business. After a sleepless night in fear of  hantavirus and the definitive "murder vibe" of the cabin we all agreed it really wasn't that bad. But I don't think any of us will be rushing back to spend the night in it unless it gets a serious face lift. 

Our vandal friends at least had good taste in cabin decor. 

Whiskey and bullshit around the fire.

With rain in the forecast and uncanny January sunshine on day one, nobody was complaining with the grey skies and brisk morning on day two.  

Matt preformed a sacrificial sidewall ritual on the way out. A $20 bill and some duct tape kept things rolling smoothly.

New views on the way out made for a decent out and back route.

Shelled and back in Ukee. Terry enjoying a cold one after two epic days of bikepacking.

Words and photos: Clay Webb
*** photos of Clay were taken by Matt Hornland on Clay's camera***
Riders: Clay Webb, Matt Hornland, Terry Mckall, Rob Parkin and Rory O'Connell

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