I wrote this out upon arrival home. It might ramble on, so you might want to get yourself a drink or something. I’m a high school teacher, I teach digital media, photography, visual arts, etc. I love my job, but by the time July rolls around, it is too hot in the building to teach, the kids are ready to strangle their teachers and vice-versa. Two months off at summer is one of the perks of the job, I won’t lie. Through the rest of the year here when it is raining non stop, I concoct travel plans to get me through the 8 hours of greyness that passes for daylight here in the Pacific Northwest. A guy does not want to squander the 10 weeks of relative heat and dryness that is July, August, and usually half of September. Here's a map of the Island if you are unfamiliar with it: Here's the pre-amble to me leaving the second week in July: On the Canada Day July 1st long weekend I rode up to Spences Bridge via the Duffy Lakes Road. It is *just* off the map above, to the north east: whereupon I went on some rides with some guys from Dual Sport BC who promptly handed me my ass on a platter. It was a chance to get to know my new to me wr250x (with R 18 and 21" wheels). Then back to the Vancouver to host my best friend and his partner before they headed off to southeast Asia for 8 months. After bidding adieu to our friends, my girlfriend Erica and I left on the bike from Vancouver to visit some friends on Pender Island for the weekend. I made sure I had a well packed kitchen: We took the ferry from Pender to Victoria. Erica and I parted ways. She had appointments in Vancouver and I figured that since I was on the island, I might as well take advantage of the fact that I had paid for the ferry and invested the time already, so I might as well go exploring and visit some family. I took the super long route from the ferry terminal at Schwartz bay to the ferry terminal in Nanaimo (to catch a boat to see my mom on Gabriola Island) via the west Coast of the island. I have the uncanny ability to make a 120 km trip 300km’s! I headed out of Victoria, through Sooke, and up the west coast to Port Renfrew before heading inland. This is looking west towards the Olympic peninsula over marine fog: and just leaving Port Renfrew: I took logging roads and investigated a route to Shawnigan Lake along the San Juan River. One of the highlights was coming around a corner to see a family of Roosevelt elk! They were not in the middle of the road, and not so close as to have me almost hit them. (I tend to travel pretty slow because of deer and the fact that the road had a pretty good layer of fresh gravel, making it pretty squirmy with me running 30 psi in the DeathWings.) There was one calf, a buck, and a doe. I guess they stay together as a family unit. I actually had a chance to capture some footage of them. I have never, ever, seen an elk on the island before. I felt fortunate. Bears? Yup, seen lots of them, and deer too. I feel fortunate to have even seen a cougar, but elk had eluded me to this point. I didn't want to freal them out to much, and after 20 seconds they jumped into the bush. Elk good. Deer bad. Anyway, Sooke through Duncan via Port Renfrew is a must ride road if you are visiting the island. I carried on from Duncan and made it to the ferry terminal in Nanaimo to see the boat had pulled out about 10 minutes before I got there. That's Protection Island directly ahead, looking west towards the Mainland. This meant waiting. I'd read my schedule wrong, but you can’t argue with a ship that has set sail. Living on an island means waiting for ferries, but my thoughts are that if the sailings are every hour, then it is no big deal, and is an exercise in patience. If the sailing wait is over two hours, we are talking about Buddha like patience to avoid blowing a fuse. On a motorcycle you are almost guaranteed to be first on, first off, and don’t need to pay for a reservation on coastal routes in BC. I waited in the afternoon sun, sweating in my gear ( I ride VAGATT: Various Assortment of Gear All The Time. I had decided to forego the Leatt Body protector and neck brace, along with Acerbis MX boots for a BMW Boulder 2 Jacket and Leather 8 hole boots, as I had planned on some hikes. Bohn under armour shorts and either knee or combined knee and shin pads [depending on which boots I am wearing] under Alpinestars Kevlar jeans on the bottom.) Gin and tonic with my mom down on the beach upon arrival there. Thanks Mom! This is sort of our spring/ summer ritual. She lives on the waterfront, so it was a great evening of relaxing on the back lawn looking out onto the mainland, or heading down to the beach to play with the dog. For the next two days I jogged, ate crepes (for lunch and dinner), and taught my mom how to use her new phone and computer, and played with the dog. We went through her box of old photos in the basement. Found these ones of my dad she probably would have thrown out On the back was written "after 8 hours on a bus. I found these two as well, the polar bear is from the Stanley Park Zoo, kinda sad really. This Polar bear is like "WTF? Put me back on my ice flow!" The second is of the Lion's Gate Bridge looking North. It looks exactly the same, just a bit more traffic now. I'll try and post a today shot. Both are over 60 years old now. The zoo has since been shut. The plan was to cull the photos and have her chronicle the keepers for posterity. I did turn one negative into a makeshift SealSaver, as my left fork leg was starting to leak, and in the process, lubricate my brake rotor. My mom was kinda wanting me to stay and leave the next morning. I finally capitulated, as usually mom knows best. Fine. We ate a great dinner and socialized with the neighbor, who is a fine arts sculptor who makes hand propelled bicycles and tricycles for paraplegics as a means of income, and in his limited sparetime, holds the worlds record for designing and building the world’s fastest Human Propelled Vehicle (HPV), the Varna Diablo. This thing hit a two way average of over 82 MPH. That’s with MAYBE ½ HP. Shows you what aerodynamics can accomplish. Anyway, I left the next morning and headed directly to Campbell River up the Old Island Highway, They only built a freeway 15 years ago connecting communities as large as 75,000, before which you had to take the mostly two lane Old Island Highway. It’s now a nice scenic route where you don’t have to woory to much about traffic, and you get a better look at the communities that the inland road bypasses. Campbell River which is pretty much exactly halfway up Vancouver Island on the East Coast. Almost all the population lives on the sheltered East Coast. It is drier and better suited top building communities. This island is HUGE. 460 km’s from tip to toe, with more than 85% living in the bottom half. It gets wetter and secluded past Campbell River. Up until Campbell River you feel like if something went wrong, it would be pretty easy to thumb a ride from someone, or walk into town if you needed to. I decided to purchase a 5 liter jerry can and fill it as cheap insurance in addition to the two 1 liter MSR fuel bottles I was carrying. I love the MSR International stove. It will burn white fuel, gasoline, Diesel, probably even vegetable oil if it is warm enough. This means fuel is available everywhere and you don’t have to carry a separate tank of stove fuel. Plus the fact that there is zero waste with them (no butane/propane containers), work in any temperature, and they use very little fuel. I was getting hungry, so made a last stop to buy some pita bread (travels better than a loaf) peanut butter, and Jam. (Strawberry, I only get strawberry when I am the only one eating it; everybody else eats raspberry) I headed out and up the lake chain that heads into Strathcona Provincial Park, stopping to make lunch at Echo Lake. I had my backroads gps files loaded on my Garmin, and on the way to where I planned to camp for the evening I checked out a bunch of lakes closer to Campbell River. The sites were pretty much empty, with a few locations where you could see people were set up for the summer. Some people set up in April, and you are pretty much free to camp anywhere on public (Crown) land. Because cell phones don't work, and you need to send someone up early to get a good site, the common protocol is to tell people to look for a pie plate with their name on it to locate you: I was somewhat surprised at this as it was a Friday, so I figured it would be busier. I still wanted to get away from as many partiers as I could, and to a site where I had stayed before. So on the way to Upper Campbell lake, I stopped at the following lakes. Unfortunately the east side of upper Campbell Lake is now gated off, as a different company owns the land and closed the 26km road to the public, along with all the campsites on that side of the lake. I could have skirted the gate, but the signs seemed pretty convincing that violators would be prosecuted (if they could catch meJ), but sometimes you just don’t feel like risking it. On the plus side, the road around the west side of the lake is so twisty, that it is not a bad alternative. Man, I love dual sports! Sure enough, the site I have stayed at in previous years near the Elk River had space. I had wanted to explore some lakes inside the Strathcona Park boundary that were accessed from via fire roads, so left all my panniers and Seal bag on the bike in case I wanted to camp at these lakes. I didn’t want to get there and wish I had brought my stuff. It was getting on 4 in the afternoon, so I hopped onto Hwy. 28 and headed west. My gps showed a road that paralled the highway and was accessible about half way between the turn off to Hwy. 28 and Gold River. I found the access point and discovered that the road was decommissioned, in fact it had overgrown with alder trees, and worse yet, the bridge that crossed the river (which also runs parallel to the hwy) was nowhere to be seen! Just the concrete pilings with some weeds growing on top. D’oh! How was I going to access this lake that I had set my sites on? I kept on zooming in on the Garmin and noticed that there were some very small trails that led to the same lake if one went through Gold River, and accessed the trail from a logging road, to come into the lake from the east instead of the south. I headed into town and out again on a logging road Main, passing viewpoint after viewpoint, after beautiful lake. Not wanting to leave a stone unturned, I stopped and took photos and explored. This is the view along the Main leading to this, the spur road that would hopefully lead to Kunlin Lake: It was a partly overgrown rocky de activated dirt road: It felt good to be on an actual trail, but I was also aware that I was alone and leaving the security of a road that although sparsely travelled, afforded me the luxury of pushing my bike back into town if I had to. I had to trust the bike and myself. The trail cuntinued up, until it plateaued and started to roll.. I came to a “T” in the road and headed right. I passed a sign that said I had now entered Strathcona Provincial Park, and a km down the road the lake came into view! I followed the shore and came across this: There were no paddles, but there is something nice about a boat just left out for anyone to use. I continued up the lake to the river that fed it, past a MONSTER sinkhole. Otherwise it was a pretty picturesque ride. Slow is good. I crossed the bridge over the river. I don’t think there are many more years left in it: I went down to the beach and actually felt like I was nowhere. Really away from anything, actually. It was quiet with the wind rustling the alders. This was the only time I turned off the bike. I tend to leave the bike running if I am away from it for less than 2 minutes. My previous bike had a weak charging system, and I did not want to have a flat (albeit new 2 months ago) battery. I skirted around the north side of the lake, thinking it would connect and circumnavigate the lake, which I think it did, but the trail was rougher, and I felt I was far enough out for the day. It was getting around 5:30 and I wanted to play it safe. I headed back out the way I came in, happy with the progress I had made for the day, thankful when my wheels hit the Main logging road, and also enjoying the ride out on the rocky spur road. I stopped in Gold River at the provincial liquor store. The lady working there was in a great mood, positively beaming. Her friend who dropped into her life every 10 years or so had contacted her and they were having a girls night decorating her house for her daughters birthday party the next day. She was happy. I was happy because they had a cooler that they stored beer in for an additional charge. I’ll explain something to those of you unfamiliar with BC. It means Bring Cash. Along with some Scandinavian countries, BC has some of the most heavily taxed booze in the world, and arcane liquor laws. Booze is cheapest at a provincial liquor store, but they are few and far between, open not the greatest hours, and in 99% of them the beer is warm. Except this one. Hallelujah. Who cares if it cost $10 for a 6 pack of Rainier. Strangely enough, in BC beer and wine is taxed out the wazoo, but if you buy all the ingredients to make it yourself, it is considered a foodstuff, and therefore not taxed at all. Long live the homebrew! The last time I was in Gold river was in 1994. Gold River still looked pretty nice. Lawns were cut, people were milling about, and it wasn’t as if there were cars on blocks in the front yard of places. Actually, it looked pretty good. I talked to the staff at the one gas station in town. One of the girls working there had just graduated the year before. There were 200 students ion her high school. Most had left in the senior grades and moved the 100 km’s to Campbell River for a better course selection, while she had stayed in town to graduate with 12(!) other students. “ I like it here” she said “I plan on staying” I thought that was an interesting thing to hear. Gold River, like many other industry towns, was built by the mill, for the mill. There were now 1200 or so people in town, logging had made a slow comeback, but not the mills. I guess it’s cheaper to just move the logs to a central location, or export them raw. There were still the jobs that catered to the toursists and sport fishermen who came through town on their way to the west coast, but they don’t pay much, so young people leave. The shopping plaza looked pretty much the same. The Super Valu grocery store was still there, charging $3.00 a pound for Granny Smith’s (the price you pay in the middle of nowhere, but I bought some to go in my Bob’s redmill cereal anyway.) It was sort of like stepping back in time, as I hadn’t seen a Fields store in years, once a mainstay of small towns and villages. I headed back to the site at the top of Upper Campbell Lake that would be home for the next three nights. Camping in shared accommodations is always an interesting thing, since nobody owns the land, they can’t tell you not to stay there, but at the same time, you don’t want to situate yourself amongst a bunch of partiers who are going to think it’s funny to drive over your tent in the middle of the night in their jacked up pick up, or start shooting shotguns to see if they can fall a tree (true story) at three in the morning. I had camped here before and there was enough critical mass of conscientious types here that it drove away partiers. (unless they were totally oblivious.) The median age of the site was about about 70, so I figured I was safe. I had originally planned on parking and camping where I had in years past, near the boatramp, but a French couple who were doing a whirlwind trip (all of Vancouver Island, then driving to Alaska, then across Canada to Quebec in the next 3 weeks) had taken my spot, so I moved down the beach 50 meters. This was for the better, as I parked the bike and introduced my self to my neighbours. They were awesome. They invited me over to join them around their fire they had going in an old washing machine tub that had a smokestack built into it (because of a current open fire ban). I excused myself, set up my tent: cracked a beer, made a dinner on the MSR of basmati and vacuum packed Palak Paneer, washed my dishes, got out of my hot gear, and went and socialized with the neighbours. Turns out Louie was first generation Canadian Hungarian aged 80, and went every second day to recently forested cutlots to chainsaw scrap logs into 18” lengths to bring back to chop into firewood. He looked at my bike. “Nice bike” he said, “I had a BMV 250 when I was younger. 250 is all a fellow needs! You heard of them?” It wasn’t until later that I figured out that he was talking about a BMW, but because of the lack of “W” in Hungarian, we miscommunicated. Louie was all about family. In fact, about two hours before I showed up his son and daughter and two grandkids had just left. I think I filled the spot left by them. He had served in the Hungarian army, and came to Canada just after the revolution. He was so proud to have built his own home, never had a mortgage. “What are you doing here without your wife?” he asked. “Girlfriend” I replied. “I was married and had kids by the time I was your age! I was getting desperate, and then I met Marie Ann.” At 80 years old you can get away with saying pretty much anything you want. It was fascinating to get his view of politics and life in general. Louie is the epitomy of the family man. He was also able to fill me in on a lot of history regarding mills on the island. Seems like everytown had a mill or two, or three. Starting in the 70’s they began to shut down. Towns like Chemainus and Port Alberni fell into disrepair. Strangely enough, they also informed me that the previous evening had been the windiest, stormiest evening in the three weeks that they had been there of otherwise calm weather. I guess it was smarter not to have ridden up the night before I headed to bed with a firm idea of where I wanted to go the next day. I had seen a lake on the map that was about 1000 ft higher in elevation than Kunlin lake, and much larger. I also wanted to check out a town at the end of the road on the West Coast I had not been able to get to in the past because the road would have shaken my fillings out in my Datsun the last time I was there, or filled my camper with dust and shaken it to bits. Oh, and check out a series of caves on the way there.