Showing posts with label cycling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cycling. Show all posts

May 20, 2013

The Highs and Lows of our Whistler Long Weekend

May 17 - 20

The dates above make it sound like we had a nice four day weekend in Whistler, but the truth is a different story.  Despite Andre getting home reasonably early (4pm-ish) on Friday, it was 6:30 by the time we had the bikes and canoe on the camper and were ready to roll.  We had to stop for air at the gas station, but there was a tanker truck blocking the air so we drove back home and used our own compressor to fill them.  I don't know why we didn't do this in the first place.  While I was in the basement getting away from the compressor noise I happened to notice a couple pairs of Andre's shoes nicely set aside - shoes it turns out he had set aside to bring but forgot to put in the camper.  So, fumble #1.

Once the tires were filled we were ready to head off, this time to a different gas station for diesel (but one that charges for air) - but the truck wouldn't start!!  It took about four tries before it finally turned over.  Fumble #2 - never leave on a road trip with an engine problem!!! We of all people should know this!!

After fuelling up, a quick stop at my brother's to pick something up, and a stop in Britannia Beach to make dinner it was well after 10pm by the time we rolled into Whistler and parked in our usual roadside, unrestricted time limit parking spot.  (Sorry, not telling - you'll have to find it yourself)

The next morning and for most of the day we had on / off showers, so just went on a walk to Rainbow Park after breakfast in the morning, then walked to the village and did some shopping.  I didn't expect we'd actually buy anything, but we actually spent a fair amount in the village.  I guess rainy days are good for business there.  Later in the day the sun came out and we took the bikes out for a spin, ending up in the village and actually basked in the last half hour of sunshine.

Sunday was a nice dry, though cloudy day which as the day before turned sunny late in the afternoon.  After sleeping in and a late breakfast we rode our bikes to Lost Lake and rode some of the single track, then rode north on the newly connected Sea to Sky trail to the Wedge bridge.  From there I rode the highway and Valley Trail back and Andre back tracked on the trail.  He only got back to the camper 5 minutes after me.  That guy is crazy.

After lunch and a hot shower we walked to Rainbow Park and lounged in what we hoped would be sun but was actually clouds and wind, then walked up to the village once again by which time, like the day before, the sun had come out.  We lounged in the Olympic Plaza 'till the sun went down, then walked back to the camper.

And then it was Monday - and everything went downhill from there....

We decided to drive some back roads to Lakeside Park on Alta Lake and the plan was to paddle the canoe from there to the end of the lake, then paddle the River of Golden Dreams to Green Lake where Andre would then rollerblade the Valley Trail back to the park to get the truck.  Well, that was our plan anyways.  The truck had different plans.  Just as we turned to head down the hill to the park on St. Anton's Way the truck just died. Quit. Engine off, all on it's own.  Andre pulled over on a gravel shoulder that happened to be conveniently right there, but no matter what, it wouldn't start again.  I called BCAA, we waited an hour for the driver to show up, then he and Andre spent an hour trying to hoist the thing from the back end, which is a bit weird and ended up not working.  Andre and I told him to pull it from the front end just as a Payless supervisor showed up to help out (not an easy tow, you can imagine), plus another tow truck & driver as well.  They got our truck mounted on the front in less than 10 minutes, and Andre and I were off with our driver to the Ford dealership in Squamish, thankfully on BCAA's dime.

Once in Squamish we were extremely fortunate that some employees were at the Ford dealership on this Victoria Day long weekend. Normally they would have been closed, but the Parts Supervisor decided to catch up on some work that day.  This was a lucky break for us as we were able to leave the truck in their secured lot, and he even had us put our bikes inside their building.  We had to unload our perishables from our fridge and freezer and load them into some small backpacks, filled a couple duffel bags with our clothing, and then the Parts guy was so nice to even drive us to the Greyhound bus depot!!  We got our tickets, then had a 2 hour wait before the bus showed up (half hour late), and then it was almost 2 hours to get to the depot in Vancouver thanks to bumper to bumper traffic going stop go for almost half the Sea to Sky highway.  Once in Vancouver I vetoe'd the bussing home idea and sprung for a cab, and a luxurious 15 minutes later we were at our doorstep.  Worth every penny.

Not exactly the most ideal last day of a long weekend, bit of a downer actually, but at least all the connections went off without a hitch, everyone we dealt with was extremely friendly, and best of all - the truck & camper didn't get away from the tow truck on the drive to Squamish! Phew.

Our usual multi-day parking spot in Whistler, next to a branch of the Valley Trail

 The Sea to Sky trail above Green Lake

 Canada Geese and goslings; Alta Lake at Rainbow Park

Not how you want your long weekend to end!

Post script: As it turns out, the problem with the truck was a faulty cam sensor, a part that had been out on recall.  We would have had plenty of advance warning that this sensor was failing as the Check Engine light would have alerted us, but the wiring harness for the Check Engine light was also not working.    


November 15, 2012

Weekend at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort

November 9 - 12

A few days after Grover passed away I booked a long weekend get-away for us at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort and Spa in Parksville, on the east side of Vancouver Island above a several kilometer-long stretch of perfect beach. This would be the first time in 19 years that we would leave home without having to have made arrangements for pet care.

We arrived at the resort around 8pm on Friday evening and settled in to one of their "deluxe" suites overlooking the ocean and Coast Mountains.  The resort had a special on for November, stay 3 nights for the price of 2, for their regular suites and for a $40 total up-charge we got a deluxe suite (king size bed and most importantly - a large jacuzzi tub).

The resort is very tastefully done with numerous log cabins in the woods on the property and three low buildings overlooking the beach made of a combination of logs and wood. The rooms and suites in these buildings are all done up to look like the inside of a cabin; very warm and comfortable with river rock gas fireplaces.

Apparently the Grotto Spa is ranked the #1 spa in Western Canada, but as anyone who knows Andre and myself will know, we are NOT spa people!  We didn't even pop into the spa building, nor did we take advantage of the pool, hot tub or sauna that were complimentary with our accommodations.  If we hadn't had a jacuzzi tub in our suite we probably would have taken a sauna in the very least, but that tub was worth every penny of the $40 up-charge!  Our bathtub at home is like a tiny little kleenex box, so I really appreciate a comfortable deep tub when I can get access to one.

On Saturday we went on a long beach walk along Rathtrevor Beach from below the resort all the way to the Englishman River estuary.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, blue skies and a great view to the Sunshine Coast and the various islands (Texada, Lasqueti, Thormanby, Ballenas).  An Arctic front had moved in, though, so it was very cold, 2 degrees at most in the shade but just barely nice and comfortable in the sun.  In the early afternoon we returned to the suite for lunch, then headed out on our bikes to ride the Top Bridge trail up the Englishman River.  At the metal suspension bridge we found not a single sign indicating trails or where even the bridge went, but fortunately a mtn. biker just happened to come by at that moment.  About in his late 50's, we asked him (Hugh) where the trails went and he told us to join him for a ride up the river to the hatchery.  What an amazing set of trails those are- just beautiful roller-coaster terrain along the river and in and out of the forest.  By 4pm we were at the hatchery and it was getting dark, but he got us on a short-cut gravel road that took us back to the metal bridge from where we took the roads back to the resort.

Sunday we weren't so fortunate with the weather, but Remembrance Day is always cold and damp.  We walked Qualicum Beach for a couple hours, in icy cold wind and fog, then bought a few grocery items at a natural food store before heading to the suite for lunch.  I was so thoroughly chilled that even a hot lunch had no effect, so I took a long soak in the jacuzzi.  After an hour I was nice and toasty, and ready for a bit more time outside.  We drove to Cameron Lake, past Coombs on Hwy 4 westbound, and walked the cabin access road on the far side of the lake.  We've walked and biked this small gravel road a number of times and always find it quite enchanting.  Other than the odd cabin owner, you see no one and there's just something very peaceful about the tiny cabins that dot the shoreline and the large lake.  We returned to the car at dark and enjoyed a quiet evening relaxing in the suite.

Monday morning we headed for another walk on the beach, south this time into Craig Bay.  We heard sea lions barking and I was sure that they were at the far end of the bay, but once we got there the 'lumps' I'd taken for sea lions were just large rocks in various shades of black and light tan - exactly sea lion colours.  We could still hear them barking, however, so they must have been one bay further south.  We walked through a little estuary, around a point in the bay, then back to the suite for lunch and check-out.  We had a couple hours before catching the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay, so we drove up to Englishman River Falls and walked the loop just as the sun was making an appearance once again.

Unfortunately I'd completely forgotten to make ferry reservations for the holiday Monday, and when I did think of it late last week there were no reservations left.  We arrived at 3pm, hoping to make it on the 5pm sailing, but it was already full.  We were put on the 7pm sailing, but it was half an hour late, so we had many hours to while away at the ferry terminal, though we did go on a walk on the Harbourside path for an hour.

Tigh-Na-Mara buildings from the beach. As opposed to many resorts, these blend in with the surroundings. 

One of the low, log buildings of the resort overlooking the beach. Our suite was ground floor, behind the small bare tree at center. 

View from our suite

Video Tour of Our Suite (238D); Click 'Play' button at center screen

The Top Bridge crossing over the Englishman River

Storm clouds over Cameron Lake; the snow line was not more than a hundred meters above the lake

Cabin access road alongside Cameron Lake

Back to the beach, Monday morning

Some of the most impressive Arbutus trees I've ever seen line the beach along Craig Bay.  And I know my Arbutus trees, I grew up on Arbutus Road after all!  (Arbutus trees are Canada's only native broadleaved evergreen tree)

The forested point is Rathtrevor Provincial Park

Englishman River Falls

I love how the wide, braided falls get sucked down into this extremely narrow gorge; very cool


September 18, 2012

Sea to Sky Trail

September 15

Since our short ride on the Whistler - south section of the Sea to Sky trail a few weeks ago on our way home from a trip, we'd been meaning to head back for a day of riding on our new bikes.  Sure, it's not a technical trail by any means, but definitely a fun, scenic trail to check out for an  afternoon.

We started from the 2010 Athletes Village and rode to Brandywine Falls, the extent of the finished trail in this area.  From Brandywine Falls the trail is on the highway for 3 1/2 km's before heading back in to the forest at Pinecrest Estates. For more information and maps, visit the Sea to Sky trail website

Andre and I had been lead to believe the trail was complete for much farther along than Brandywine falls by some friends who'd recently rode it, and we didn't have the foresight to check for online info ahead of time.  As it turns out we had a fairly late start from home and were only riding by 1pm anyways, so it was a perfect mid-afternoon 'event'.

Suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River

View over Daisy Lake and Black tusk just to the right of Andre's head


August 28, 2012

Cactus Country

Churn Creek Protected Area and High Bar Road

August 25 - 28

We left at 6:30am on Saturday morning with our mountain bikes, off-road scooters (Honda Ruckus) and camping gear loaded in the truck. Our destination was Churn Creek Protected Area, dry grasslands and cactus country on the hot benchlands abutting the west side of Fraser River a couple hours northwest of Lillooet, BC, and directly below the Gang Ranch.

click map to enlarge

We've been here about a half dozen times since 1994, though Andre and his family did a bicycle trip through here about 30 years ago.  We've passed through the area on our bikes, in our old Landcruiser, the Westfalia Syncro van, and truck and camper.  In 2006 we came with our veggie-oil powered Syncro van to mountain bike the jeep tracks that cross through the Churn Creek grasslands and have been meaning to do a repeat of that trip since.  As we were returning from a multi-day hike a few weeks ago we were reminiscing about the Churn Creek trip and I suggested we get our sh** together and just do it.  It was Andre's idea to include our off-road Honda Ruckus scooters in the plan, and they turned out to be such an amazing way to take in that country.

Day 1:  Riding High Bar Road

From Pavillion (40 min. north of Lillooet) we turned off the highway and took the gravel road that goes over the mountain from Pavillion to Kelly Lake, about 35 min.  From Kelly Lake we took the Jesmond road to Jesmond, then turned down the Big Bar Ferry road and parked the truck.  At 1:30 we launched the scooters to ride down the Big Bar Road to absolutely epic High Bar Road - an obscure stretch of clay road that cuts along the dusty cliffs above the east side of the Fraser.  We have cycled this stretch of road four times and driven it twice, but taking it by scooter is truly the best way to experience it. (If you look on the map above, High Bar Road is located on the west side of Edge Hills Park.)

At the far end of High Bar Road we dropped down to a beach that is exposed when the Fraser River levels drop.  We camped here in 2001 so were looking forward to revisiting it, having a look at the petroglyphs and taking a quick dip in the shallow pond that's left behind when the river drops.  This is First Nations Land,  so if you go there be very respectful of their land.

We got back to the truck at 7pm, loaded up the scooters and drove to Churn Creek where we set up camp in the same spot we'd camped at in 2006; a small beach area backed by a few trees at the foot of a steep, rough 4x4 road with a very sharp and rutted 180 degree turn.

Lots of wheels!  Scooters, bikes & truck at Kelly Lake

Andre having a quick stretch at Kelly Lake.  The trees in the area were burned in the 20,000 hectare Kelly Creek fire in 2009

View near base of Big Bar Road, just above High Bar Road

This is a closeup of a trashed car in the photo above this one - make, model and year anyone??

Fraser River at High Bar Road.  Click photo to enlarge. 

Fraser River from High Bar Road. Click photo to enlarge. 

Big Bar Ferry; this is a reaction ferry 

High Bar Road

Video:  High Bar Road by Scooter
2min. 30 seconds long - a bit shaky and crooked as Andre had to shoot it with his left hand; but some nice scenery.  Not the kind of country most people would associate with BC.

What? You don't think I should trade my scooter for this??

A refreshing oasis in the desert

Petroglyphs.  There is a really cool one of a snake that we couldn't find this time around. 

Cross-legged scootering made easy by Andre

Churn Creek; click photo to enlarge

Our truck and camp along the Fraser; Churn Creek outflow just right of center

This is the track at the level of the Fraser that we drove to get to our camping spot; note the deep sand. Driving the scooters through this was hilarious.

Camp under the trees; in '06 we were in the exact same spot.  We'd parked the Westy where we put our tent this time. 

Another angle; you can just see the Fraser as a thin blue line between the grass and the far shore

Day 2:  Exploring Churn Creek Protected Area by Scooter

We slept in a bit this morning, then got up to a nice warm morning, though slightly overcast.  After a leisurely breakfast we packed up our scooters and day packs for a full day of exploration and were ready to leave by noon.  Not the early start we're usually known for, but this was a vacation after all!

We began by driving down the Empire Valley Road to where the public vehicle access ends the Empire Ranch.  We checked out a couple points of interest on the side, most notable the main camping area within Churn Creek Protected Area at the calving barn. (The camp we had set up on the Fraser is technically just outside of the Protected Area.)  The barn itself is large, open and clean with a journal tucked inside a box for campers to log their stay.  We browsed through this, had a peek behind the barn (lots of small corrals for horses), and were on our way again.  We stopped again at Browns Lake, noting the ranch 'road' (two tire tracks) behind a gate that heads off through fields of clover to Koster Lake and beyond.

After a brief stop just before the ranch we headed back to Browns Lake, let ourselves through the gate (unauthorized motor vehicles verboten!!), briefly checked out the early 1900's homestead at the far end of the lake, then drove up the hill until we got to another lake set in a large grassy field.  By this time it was 3:00 and we were both hungry, so decided this made a pretty scenic spot to take a break for a bit.  Fourty-five minutes later we were back on the scooters heading along the two tire tracks in direction of Koster Lake; a lake we had mountain biked to via the Black Diamond mine road in '06.  In a large open meadow we spotted the two tire tracks coming down from that direction, meeting up with the main track we were on.

In the woods, just heading down to the lake, we came across two ranchers and eight dogs in a small pick-up driving back from setting fences. We had a great little chat with them for a good 20 minutes, then continued to Koster Lake.  This lake is pretty, and a fairly good size, but definitely not something you'd want to swim in. It's also dammed at one end by a small earthen dam.

For the way back we thought we'd try and connect through to the Iron Mtn. road, as this would be a considerable shortcut.  The ranchers had given us directions, but to non-locals directions on these two track roads that criss-cross the fields and forest seemingly willy-nilly like, and 'turn right here', then 'right here' then 'left here' gets a bit impractical when put to the actual test.  We did come across a blue BC Parks sign map like they said we would, but even though there was a 'you are here' marker on it, the track that we would need to follow quickly turned into a one-lane cow path.  Hmmmm.  You could get seriously twisted around in here.  So, nothing else to do but double back.  We ended up being happy we did, though, as the scenery was so nice and really, we weren't in any rush to get back.  Once we hit the Empire Valley Road again it felt like the smoothest of pavement in comparison to the bumpy tracks we'd been on, and it was a thrill just to open the scooters up a bit and enjoy the scenic ride; grasslands, canyons and the Fraser for as far as the eye can see.

 The sandy beach just north of our tent (30 steps away); though nice, we ended up preferring the larger, curved sandy bank directly south of our camp (20 steps!)

 Breakfast in the shade

 Driving south on the Empire Valley Road

 Endless grasslands; looking north. Gang Ranch lands to the left in the distance

 The main camping area in Churn Creek Protected Area at the calving barn

Browns Lake

 Early 1900's cabin at Browns Lake

Lunch overlooking an unnamed lake (one park map we saw indicated this might be called BC Lake, though that may refer to another lake altogether. Hard to make heads or tails of the contour-less park map.  We referred to the lake as "Cow Lake")

 Koster Lake

 Zipping along these tire tracks over the golden grasslands is quite something for those of us used to steep mountains and rainforest

 Sunset over Browns Lake

Took these photos of the the interesting river bank on our drive back to camp from the Empire Valley Rd. 

Day 3:  Cycling the Iron Mtn. Road; Searching for the Grasslands and Churn Flats

After two days of sitting on our butts it was time to get on the bikes!  We could have easily ridden the 5km to the Iron Mtn. road, but taking the truck would allow us to go that much further in with the bikes.  We parked about 1km up (so saving ourselves a 12 km round trip) and rode up the mountain until we got to a green gate in a fence, with a man-gate next to it.  This was where we'd gone through in '06 and followed tire tracks down to the grasslands to an area called Churn Flats - vast grasslands overlooking Churn creek canyon, quite spectacular and unique.  You really get the sense of riding in the middle of nowhere.

Well, this is where the area being protected is a bit of a double edged sword.  I guess the last time we went was recent enough to whenever the last vehicles had driven down there; since then pretty much all signs of tire tracks have disappeared.  You could just ride right over the open country, but you could easily get lost in this terrain and not find your way back, and last time we noted cactus growing everywhere except for in the two tire tracks.  I took a nasty fall sideways and wasn't wearing my cycling gloves and had both palms of my hands covered in cactus spines.  Not the kind of thing you want ending up in your tires.

So, we decided to keep riding up the Iron Mtn. road.  And up, and up and up.  And more up.  And some more!  Finally we crested, after just over 1,000 meters of climbing.  We followed a fence line along, and then began going downhill.  I wasn't too keen on loosing all our elevation, so we only dropped about 150 meters and stopped for a late lunch.  It did seem like the track we were on would go down to Churn Flats, though.  Maybe a "sneaky" back way in?  Will have to check it out with the scooters next time.  We had a great ride back; sure it wasn't single track but that "road" gets pretty churned up and at times you're riding a ridge a couple feet above the tire tracks that have dug in to the mud when its wet.

In the evening we took our scooters for a quick ride up to the Gang Ranch, then down to the bridge for some photo op's.

Yes, I'm back in the saddle again after my little accident

Andre and his new Ghost bike

Riding through the access gate to the grasslands plateau

Aaargh - enough of this vegan BS!

Gang Ranch post office at far left, cook house at far right

The Gang Ranch bridge over the Fraser River

Golden hues at sundown

Day 4:  Heading Home, Sea to Sky Trail in Whistler

We had originally planned to stop near Duffey Lake and take our scooters up the Hurley Silver Mine road and hike the alpine ridges for a few hours on our way home.  We had a few hours up there in September 2005 (some nice photos here) but have been meaning to head back ever since.  So to allow enough time, we got up at 5:45, packed up and departed Churn Creek, stopping briefly at Kelly Lake for breakfast (cherries, blueberries, strawberries), then in Lillooet at the German bakery (okay, not vegan but you can't pass this place up).

Sadly, the mountains around Duffey Lake were heavily fogged in, there were on-off showers, and it was cold!  And to top it off, the bridge over Cayoosh creek to access the Hurley Silver Mine road has been removed and replaced with a narrow pedestrian (snowmobile?) bridge.  Well, that would be easy enough to get the scooters over, but the road itself was completely grown in!!  Oh, we were disappointed, that's for sure.  So we opted to take our bikes riding along the Sea to Sky trail in Whistler.  We'd heard about the trail and have some friends who've ridden it and were curious to check it out.  We only had a couple hours, but had a lot of fun on the trail, despite the downpour we rode through on the way back.

Video:  Negotiating a tight turn leaving our camp on the Fraser
So, I'm probably just a tad red-necky posting this, but I have to balance out all that vegan, outdoorsy crap with something!

Bridge on the Sea to Sky trail near Whistler

The End