Monday, March 13, 2017

Island Hopping: A Canoe Powered Mountain Bike Adventure

The original plan was a bikepacking trip with an alpine summit in the middle. When the weather looked grim, plans changed and what started as an alternate plan ended in one hell of a great trip. 

About the only element which carried over from our original alpine plan was the concept of the "alpine start" but in this case we weren't looking for firm snow, we were looking for weather windows with light winds and calm seas. Despite not testing the packablity of two bikes in a canoe we managed to tetris them and our gear into the boat with relative ease and paddled out of Swartz Bay a little before sunrise. 

From Swartz Bay we crossed over to Knapp Island, then across Shute Passage to Portland Island. We explored a few coves and islets around Portland Island but quickly pushed on across Swanson Channel to Pender Island before the forecast winds picked up. Once on Pender we set up camp at Beaumont Marine Park. 

Putting the wheels back on the bikes we set off to explore what Pender had to offer for single track. In addition to some steep hike-a-bike and relentlessly steep double track we found some really good views and very fun single track.

We decided to cheat at camping by jumping in the canoe for a short paddle across the harbour to Poets Cove Resort for an evening soak in the hot tub. I can happily report neither of us had any regrets, warm and stoked, we made the paddle back to camp. Plus we had the warming "Chinook" to look forward to as reported by a lady in the hot tub who also seemed concerned about drones.

We continued with the alpine start model, departing with headlamps we found ourselves across Plumber Sound and setting up camp at Narvaez Bay on Saturna Island before lunchtime. We were glad to have lots of time to ride, as we had spent a vast majority of our morning paddle staring up at Brown Ridge and the radio tower on Mount Warburton Pike, and were very keen to get up there on the bikes. 

The climb up Mount Warburton Pike wasn't nearly as soul shattering as the relentless double track climbing on Pender, but about halfway up we discovered the ridge we had admired from the water was now shroud in heavy fog. 

About halfway down what is essentially a goat trail, and I mean literally made by goats, we started to break out of the fog, catching fleeting views of the Gulf and San Juan Islands. We also started to get a greater sense of the magnitude and exposure of the ridge trail.

The following morning at Narvaez Bay we awoke to the sound of our 4:30am alarms and steady rain on our tarps. Without missing a beat we broke down camp and loaded the canoe for a final time. Paddling out of Narvaez in the rain and darkness we were soon greeted by the first of the daylight and easing rain. We made pretty good time as we paddled back from Saturna to Swartz Bay in a single push, only stopping periodically to stretch out the legs. Ironically we discovered our legs got way sorer kneeling in the canoe for hours than they did grinding away in the saddle for hours. 

Huge thanks to Travis for great company, the canoe and a backup plan that was likely better than the original. 

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