My Strathcona Park hiking/cycling week

I spent 6 days in British Colombia’s 1st Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, my first time to the main part of the attraction.

Cycled first to Buttle Lake Campground.  Fantastic.  I highly recommend it for car camping.

Next day I cycled towards Gold River to try the Kings Peak hike.

It didn’t go so well.  But the cycling was excellent.

From there I headed for Flower Ridge – 2 days, 1 night.  Much better.

As Strathcona has no electricity and no mobile phone service, I relied on solar power.

My best hike was Bedwell Lakes trail.

I do recommend Strathcona for one and all.  In fact, I want to return for some longer hikes after August 1st when there will be less snow and easier navigation up high.

Strathcona Provincial Park (1911) contains the highest peaks of the Vancouver Island Ranges. Some notable mountains located within the park boundaries include:

  • Golden Hinde (2198 m)
  • Elkhorn Mountain (2166 m)
  • Mount Colonel Foster (2129 m)
  • Mount Albert Edward (2093 m)

Exploring Strathcona Park is the best guidebook. It’s not inexpensive, but worth it. Great maps. Colour photos. Comprehensive coverage.

Author Phil Stone is truly an expert.

I’ll be carrying a dead tree copy on my bike.

And I plan to be spending quite a bit of time in Strathcona over coming years working towards establishing a possible coast-to-coast Vancouver Island route.

Detailed map.


Running Parksville B.C. trails

I’ve been in and around Parksville nearly 3 months now during COVID-19.

The Pacific N.W. truly is fantastic for walking, running and cycling year round.

Mostly I cycle.  But running I find to be better, more demanding exercise.

Here’s a tour of some of my favourite trails.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.  (2min 35sec)

Cycling Nanaimo Lakes, Cowichan, Port Renfrew, Shawnigan, …

My 4th bikepacking trip of COVID-19 was longest yet. And best yet.  Departed May 26th.

Campgrounds still closed.  That meant I had to tent on crown land.

A big loop, Nanaimo return. Well over 500km with side trips.

6 days, 5 nights.

Dad dropped me in Nanaimo, a great place for cyclists.

I toured Colliery Dam Park for the first time.  Lovely day, this was the busiest park I’d seen so far during COVID-19.

Click PLAY or watch dogs swimming on YouTube.

Fun, hilly bike paths take you all over Nanaimo.

It’s easy to connect to Nanaimo Lakes road, a great ride with little traffic, other than cyclists.

For the second time I tried to get through Nanaimo Lakes to Cowichan by remote, private logging roads. I made it further this time, but still didn’t get through.

Folks living at Second Lake scowled when I got to the second closed vehicle gate.  They were about as happy to see me as this mama with only 1 chick remaining.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Happily, I knew of a lovely remote creek campsite nearby I’d used before.

Turning back next morning, I headed to Cowichan via the normal route: Nanaimo River Road, Highway #1 to the lovely Cowichan Valley Trail which starts close to Duncan.

I always try to avoid traffic, but it’s inevitable here to share the road with logging and gravel trucks.

I was tired this day by the time I finally set up camp.  105km on mixed trails and roads.

By all the bones strewn nearby, I assume this is a popular area with hunters during season.

A perfect cycling road is Cowichan to Port Renfrew: paved 2 lane, no traffic.

There are a couple of campsites en route. And the Harris Creek Sitka Spruce. For some reason in the late 1800s, loggers spared this one tree.

Port Renfrew, like Bamfield,  has a large First Nations population most cautious when it comes to communicable disease.

I felt quite unwelcome on arrival.  Everyone there told me to return after June 7th when it planned to open.

I was keen to do some hiking on famed Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

The signs still said CLOSED, though most Provincial Parks trails were already open.

Checking it out, the biggest mistake of my trip was rolling downhill from the highway to the Parkinson Creek Trailhead.  It’s a long, long descent.  I ended up pushing my bike uphill on the return.

I’d never seen so much bear scat at any one place, one time.  Seems without humans this season, bears have taken over the coast.

Al saw several near here in 2018.

Carrying on down the highway, I finally got a flat tire. My first of 2020.

BUT was quite pleased with myself that I seemed to repair it efficiently.

Since I’d taken the gear off the bike to fix the flat, I decided to camp in the trees right there.

Surf was up next morning. So there were plenty of young people on the highway with boards and surf kayaks.  The beaches seemed to be still officially closed, but it was not being enforced.

I stopped often on this highway as there are many highlights between Renfrew and Sooke.

After finally reaching a Tim Hortons, I continued up the Galloping Goose to impressive Sooke Potholes, my first visit.

I camped at the end of the trail at Leechtown.

A ghost town now, it boomed when gold was discovered 1864,

My maps said I could continue to Shawnigan on logging roads, yet I couldn’t seem to find a way through past Kapoor. Everything was fenced off protecting the Victoria drinking water supply.

No worries. I backtracked on the excellent Galloping Goose towards Victoria, cutting inland to the fantastic Sooke Wilderness Trail.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Sooke Hills is one of the best sections of  Canada’s Great Trail. It connects back up to Cowichan, the western terminus. Very scenic.

My first bear of the trip.

My first rain of the trip.

Happily you can get out of the rain in the Pacific N.W. by setting up your tent under big trees.

It was a nice night. Stag Chili for dinner.

I’m still gleefully carrying a lot of weight on the bike. Volume and weight are SO much less an issue for cycling than they are for hiking.

Awoke early feeling great. Decided to make it home same day, no matter what.

It was a long but relaxed day. Quite a few highway miles getting back towards Nanaimo.

WHAT!? … A second flat rear tire. This time my repair did not go quite so well.

Delayed about an hour with that, Dad drove out to pick me up at the Nanaimo airport in the early evening.

Mission accomplished. 

related – the best cycling trip to-and-from Victoria would be the Cowichan Valley 8 Bikepacking Route

Contagion (2011 film)

Contagion is a 2011 American thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Its ensemble cast includes Matt Damon, Laurence FishburneGwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, …

Jude Law is the conspiracy theorist flogging a fake cure.

… The film has received renewed popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many parallels between the fictitious MEV-1 and COVID-19. 

But MEV-1 is much more severe. More like the 1918 Flu.

In a flashback, a bulldozer razes palm trees while clearing a rainforest in China that disturbs the natural habitat of some bats. One bat finds shelter in a pig farm and drops an infected piece of banana, which is eaten by a pig. The pig is slaughtered and prepared by a chef in a Macau casino, who transmits the virus to Beth (Paltrow) in a handshake.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

An Arabian Journey by Levison Wood

I wasn’t much impressed with an earlier book – Walking the Himalayas.

But Arabian Journey was fascinating from start to finish.  I listened to the audio version with the author reading.

He started September 2017 in Northern Syria during the final days of ISIS.

He then moved through the Middle East for six months, often without a plan or visa for the next stop. He slept on the rocks of the empty quarter and in 5 star hotels.  He had guides. And hitchhiked through war zones.

… Wood will share tales from his most recent journeys across some of the most perilous danger zones on earth.

With behind-the-scenes moments from his travels over the Caucasus mountains and his circumnavigation of the Arabian Peninsula, Levison will challenge the myths and stereotypes that plague these ancient lands.

Levison’s fascinating and humorous anecdotes reveal the real life stories of the ordinary people he met who call these places home: from Palestinian fighters to Iraqi snipers; refugees to Bedouin nomads.

If you want to know what it’s like to be ambushed by ISIS, have tea with Hezbollah and cross pirate-infested waters in a wooden dhow …

Click PLAY or watch a trailer for the theatre show on YouTube.

There’s also a documentary TV series called Arabia with Levison Wood.

Blood Road – a cycling documentary

Rebecca Rusch and Huyen Nguyen were first to pedal the entire length of the 1,800 km (1,200 mi) Ho Chi Minh Trail through VietnamLaos and Cambodia.

Blood Road, according to director Nicholas Schrunk, “set out to document an epic cycling expedition as well as Rebecca’s personal journey to visit the crash site [of her father], but we ended up uncovering something much deeper.

It’s a story about the scars, both physical and emotional, that war leaves on families, countries, and cultures, and how they still exist today.

Rebecca Rusch and Huyen Nguyen

Click PLAY or watch a trailer on YouTube.

Superb cinematography. Incredible drone footage.

I was reminded just how stupid and futile was the Vietnam War and all wars. What a waste.

Watch it FREE on Red Bull. (90min)

I learned of Rebecca Rusch from an excellent and inspiring interview on the Adventure Podcast.

What a badass. Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame. Mountain Biker of the Year, Endurance LIVE Awards. Adventure Sport Magazine “Queen of Pain” (2004)

Rebecca says she was never much of cyclist. Climbing was her thing. But she won a lot of races due to grit, determination and pain tolerance.

Says her toughest adventure was her first Iditarod Trail endurance bike race in winter.

Cycling Nanaimo, Cowichan, Bamfield, Alberni – days 1/2

Five days, 4 nights. No flat tires. No disasters!

Days 1/2 | 3/4/5

This map gives you a general idea of what I ended up doing.

Dad dropped me near the Nanaimo airport April 16th.  A trip both ethical and legal on Vancouver Island during COVID-19. That’s my story, I’m sticking with it.

Plan was to start on paved Nanaimo Lakes road. Then find my way via gravel logging roads to Carmanah and/or Bamfield. I was playing it by ear.

I’d camp on Crown Land.

New to me was the excellent Parkway Trail close to Nanaimo. What a great cycling town.

LOTS of vehicles on Nanaimo Lakes road. Most had driven out for mountain biking on trails like this. There’s very little development.

In fact, Nanaimo Lakes road is a spur of the Trans Canada / Great Trail.

About 5pm I came to a locked gate close to First Lake. And the start of gravel.

The campsites at First Lake had been closed due to COVID-19 so I found this lovely spot right on the river. No people for miles.

Surprisingly, I don’t often make campfires. But I do love them.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Next morning the logging gate was open. Looked like a go.

BUT about 3km further along a flagman turned me back. With apologies. They were using the BIG off road trucks today. No other traffic allowed.

So I headed back towards the Nanaimo airport on another quiet paved highway called Nanaimo River road. Also excellent for cycling.

From there I took to the main highway down to Ladysmith Tim Hortons. And on to the Cowichan Valley trail which I’d taken last summer.

The most conspicuous vegetation in April is western skunk cabbage. Rockin’ Ronnie explained that it’s one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter or early spring because it creates it’s own heat.

Lucky me. Another Tim Hortons. This time in Cowichan.

I planned next day to cycle along Cowichan Lake.

And hid myself away for the night.

Days 1/2 | 3/4/5

Cycling Nanaimo, Cowichan, Bamfield, Alberni – days 3/4/5

Days 1/2 | 3/4/5

It rained most of the night. A beautiful calm morning on Cowichan Lake.

Only my second time visiting the town, I do like it.

From here I had to decide whether to ride the north or south side of the big lake. Google Maps recommended south side, perhaps because a short section is paved.

Unfortunately there is little development and few lake vistas from the south.

The most interesting spot was Heather Campsite (closed) which has all kinds of swings and ladders for campers.  Looks fun for kids.

I had the Backroads Mapbook, and Google maps … and several choices of logging roads heading towards Bamfield.

I ended up taking the main road, perhaps longer but in better condition than the rest.

I pedalled steadily for hours seeing almost no development. No people. Perhaps one motor vehicle an hour.

Canada is vast and empty for the most part.

I took few photos as the views did not vary much. Pristine rivers and creeks were the highlight.

Around 6pm I had a surprisingly difficult time finding a good place to camp. Here’s where I ended up.

It was good, but visible from a spur logging road. Normally I want to be invisible from any road.

During the night no vehicles passed.

I was on the road early next morning.

Down a ways, breakfast instant coffee and peanut butter toast.

Again, there was not much of interest to report en route to Bamfield. Here are a couple of highlights.

Hub cap forest

I’d passed through Bamfield quite a few times over the years as it’s a West Coast Trail trailhead. And a popular tourist destination.

With a population of less than 200 — and no tourists — it looked a ghost town.

I had planned to hike muddy Cape Beale and Keeha Beach Trails — but they were VERY closed.

The local Huu-ay-aht First Nation definitely do NOT want visitors right now. They’d declared a COVID-19 state of emergency with regulations more strict than the B.C. government.

The history of First Nations in North America is a history of genocide by introduced diseases.

I did not stay long.

That’s too bad as I had planned to hike … then take the ferry back to Port Alberni. But it only runs 3 times a week during the winter.

During my many hours cycling this trip I was surprised to see very little animal life. In fact, this bear was the highlight. And it was in a Bamfield back yard.

SO … I rode back in the direction I’d come, already having picked a lovely riverside campsite.

Click PLAY or watch me setting up camp on YouTube.

The grocery store in Bamfield was open. I had treated myself to a can of chili for dinner.

Perfect weather. A lovely location. No biting insects. This is dream camping.

Next morning I had about 60km left to Port Alberni

… but on this infamous road.

I don’t really mind hills. But these are HUGE. And LONG. And UNRELENTING.  I wouldn’t ride it again.

After pushing my bike up a hill for about 25 minutes a forestry worker offered me a lift. Yes, he was a cyclist. And he knew it might take me another hour of pushing to get to the top.

On the other side were big hills. But not as big. And the scenery is better than the interior.

Happily, I rolled down hill past China Creek without incident.

Once back to Port Alberni I enjoyed Tim Hortons coffee. Then gave my Dad a call to come pick me up.

Here’s a general overview of the 5 day trip.

Days 1/2 | 3/4/5