Exploring Vancouver Island

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by AdventureDude, Nov 13, 2018.

  1. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    I had planned a big trip through Oregon, Nevada and Utah in the spring which was postponed to fall, so after spending several days scouting and sweeping rides for the Touratech Rally West, as well as several local spring rides, I felt it was time for a multi-day getaway. Where to go? Then inspiration struck, Vancouver Island had been on my radar for a while and it was so close, why not? I had never traveled the island before, so it seemed like a logical choice. A seven day window opened up in July, so with minimal planning (which is not my usual MO) I hit the road and spent five days on a wonderful recon of the island. I would camp the entire trip so I reserved campsites along the way since it was peak summer season.

    Prep
    I had reviewed a post on ADVRider called Vancouver Island Starter, which contained some highlights for the first timer as well as a site called Vancouver Island Grand Loop with substantial gravel tracks. I ended up with a mix of gravel and pavement that would take me to some of the highlights of the island. I think I did well, since as I traveled, locals asked me if I had been here or there, and when I said yes, they approved of my choices. Off we go.

    My tracks
    VI_tracks_2018.png
    #1
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  2. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 1
    Home to Sequim, WA 193 miles
    I left my home near the small town of Orting, WA about 11:30. Rode through Yelm, Tenino, Littlerock. Then followed Delphi Rd. to 101. It was 90-92 F mostly until hitting Hood Canal where it cooled somewhat. I followed US101 until just before Quilcene. Then I took a series of NF gravel roads to Sequim, arrriving at my mother-in-law's house about 4:30. We went out to dinner at our favorite Chinese place. It was still pretty warm, but not uncomfortably so. Then it was back home for a shower, a little TV and bed. I took no photos since it was pretty much a transit day.

    Day 2
    Sequim, Wa to Lake Cowichan, BC 196 miles including ferry ride

    I got an early start, as I got up at 6:00, and was out of the house by 6:20. I arrived at the ferry dock in Port Angeles by 6:35. I parked in the motorcycles only spot and went in to get my reserved ticket. Another adv rider showed up who was on his way to Alaska by way of VI. We chatted a bit and waited to load at 8:00. We were the last ones to load, and they placed us on the starboard wall, where we placed some chocks beneath our skid plates and tied ropes to our bikes to keep them steady. It seemed like a mickey mouse setup, but it must work, which it did. The ferry departed at 8:20 for the 90 minute sailing to Victoria. It was very chilly out on the deck, but it was refreshing, so I enjoyed sitting on a bench as we made our way out into the straights. I found a spot inside at about the half way point and relaxed a bit.

    Soon I saw the outline of Victoria and its many tall buildings. I made my way below to untie my bike and ready for debarking. Debarking and customs took a while, but it was smooth and soon I was out in the traffic of Victoria. I routed my GPS to Island BMW to check it out. The GPS location wasn’t exactly accurate, but I found it. Took a look around, pretty professional looking setup. It was time to make my way to my track for the day, which took a little doing. After a few wrong turns, I finally found my way to the track, which followed back roads that alternated between farmland and views of the coast. Very similar to the rural roads we follow in western Washington. I made my way to Sooke, and once past Sooke, highway 14, the west coast road, turned unto a highlight of the day. Lots of views of the coast with some spectacular views from high bluffs. It was a winding two lane road, with little traffic.

    I passed Shirley Delicious, a recommended restaurant because I wanted to get to Port Renfrow before stopping for a lunch break. I finally stopped at a little mini-mart for a granola bar and juice. Rejuvenated, I was ready for my final 39 mile offroad push to Lake Cowichan, my destination for the day. I followed Gordon River Rd. north, which turned to potholed, rocky, and sometimes loose gravel. It was a decent road, but it has had some hard use with little maintenance. After a few miles, the road opened up to a nicely maintained, wide gravel freeway. I blasted along and soon came to Honeymoon Bay, and some paving work, which held me up a bit. It was pretty hot by this time, mid to high 80s, but I was well hydrated and comfortable. I was ready for some food though. I passed Gordon Bay Provincial Park, my home for the night, to head into Lake Cowichan for some dinner. I decided on Jake’s on the Lake, a recommended establishment. It was located right on the lake, which added some nice ambiance. I had a baked chicken wrap with a small salad. Perfect! After a satisfying dinner, it was time to head for the campground. I was pleasantly surprised, a very well maintained and appointed park. I found my reserved spot and got camp set up in no time. After some down time reviewing my maps to prepare for the following day, it was time for a shower, which was practically next door, and a little walk around the park. Beautiful swimming spot at Gordon Bay! After my walk, I settled in to update my ride journal and enjoy the cooling temps. Full day!

    Ready for the ferry
    IMG_20180717_070040447_HDR.jpg

    Tied down ready to sail
    IMG_20180717_081301150.jpg

    And we're off!
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    Ocean Blvd, looking east towards Royal Roads Bay and Strait of Juan de Fuca
    IMG_20180717_112702615_HDR.jpg

    More photos to come....
    #2
  3. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 2 continued

    Gordon River Rd. north to Lake Cowichan IMG_20180717_143528406_HDR.jpg
    Continuing on Gordon River Rd.
    IMG_20180717_143538473.jpg

    More gravel
    IMG_20180717_144912020.jpg
    Gordon Bay Provincial park
    IMG_20180717_185642620.jpg
    #3
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  4. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 3
    Lake Cowichan to Tofino to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park 344 miles

    I woke up early eager to hit the road, since this had the potential to be a long day. I left at 7am and tried to follow a track on gravel roads along the north shore of Lake Cowichan north to Coombs, but it was gated as were several others. I thought about taking gravel to Bamfield and up to Port Alberni, but since I didn't have a great map, it seemed prudent to bail so I backtracked to Lake Cowichan and went west to the main highway CAN1 north to Nanaimo. Pretty busy, but a nice highway. My plan was to make it to Tofino and back to my campground that night. It would make for a bit of a long day, but I thought it would be worth it, since I had heard several times to not miss Tofino. Highway 4 west from Coombs was spectacular, even with the traffic. It reminded me of Lake Crescent in places or the Mt. Rainier highway. Lots of traffic, but it flowed pretty well. I took a break in Port Alberni for my Starbucks fix, before grinding to Tofino. Tofino itself seemed pretty touristy with a lot of traffic, so I quickly took a look around and headed back down the highway. It might be worth more time on a future trip though. On my return trip I once again stopped in Port Alberni for dinner. By this time it was getting late, but I knew I had time to get to my campsite before dark. I took few photos today since I was in traffic much of the time and I was in a bit of a self imposed time crunch.

    Long Beach south of Tofino
    IMG_20180718_161853857.jpg

    Englishman River Falls Provincial Park
    IMG_20180718_194140441.jpg
    #4
  5. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 4
    Englishman River Falls Provincial park to Alder Bay 224 miles

    After my full day previously, I was surprised to wake up ready to get on the road, so I left at 7:00 that morning. I rode up 19 which is a great four lane divided highway with little traffic. Then I took a gravel road for a bit before I hit Highway 28 to Gold River which was fantastic! Way better than yesterday. It reminded me of the Olympics, but better. Gold River is a quaint little town, I like it. I stopped in Gold River at a wonderful little coffee/deli spot for breakfast/lunch. This is definitely a spot I would like to return to and spend a bit of time. After my breakfast wrap I head up to Woss on gravel. Cool views and a few logging trucks along the way. The whole island seems to be one big logging operation, since all the gravel roads I rode were well used by log trucks and company vehicles. They were all polite, slowing down for me and I returned the favor by pulling over when I saw them coming. Once I got back on 19 to Woss and pavement, I continued northwest past Nimpkish Lake to Alder Bay resort, my camp for the night. I was getting closer to my unstated, but increasingly important goal of riding to Cape Scott Provincial Park at the very northern tip of the island. It's as far north as you can ride as far as I know.

    On a side note, as I got further north, past Nanaimo and Courntenay, the highways became more and more empty of traffic and the trees came closer to the road. It was like being in what I imagine Alaska might look like (somewhere else I my ride to in the future). Very distinct from the southern island. I very much enjoyed the solitude and cooler temps as I meandered north. I found out later that the climate on the northern section has much more rain most of the time, so you have to be prepared.

    Alder Bay Resort sits on the bay on the east side of the island so I was able to watch all the fishermen come in with their catches or salmon. Nice way to end the day. As it got later, I watched menacing clouds approach and dived into my tent once to avoid a rain shower. It didn't last long, but the clouds remained so I began to wonder what tomorrow would bring since it was my final push north to Cape Scott. Since I am from Washington, rain is something I'm used to and prepared for, so I figured it would at least make for a interesting ride. Just a couple of days ago I was enduring temps in the 90s, now I was looking at 50s and 60s. It was a nice break actually.

    A gravel road off of highway 19 just south of Campbell River that connected to highway 28 IMG_20180719_084956202.jpg
    I had no idea there were so many lakes on VI. I was constantly riding near water. Sorry about the thumb in the photo.
    IMG_20180719_091453937.jpg

    Highway 28 to Gold River is spectacular!
    IMG_20180719_100354626_HDR.jpg

    Riding along Upper Campbell Lake IMG_20180719_100636514.jpg
    #5
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  6. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 4 continued

    Uptown Cappuccino in Gold River took good care of me and my appetite!
    IMG_20180719_112933952.jpg

    Food and wifi! My phone plan wouldn't work in BC so I depended on my Inreach and occasional wifi to let my wife know everything was OK. IMG_20180719_105536112.jpg
    Heading to Woss on gravel IMG_20180719_115531097.jpg
    #6
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  7. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 4 continued

    I was surprised at the lack of elevation on the island. I was rarely above 300 feet, but I could see mountains that were much higher.
    IMG_20180719_122047036.jpg

    Time to blast! IMG_20180719_122111884.jpg

    Luxury accommodations! Seriously though, other than the picnic table, the place was OK, the showers were very clean and the scenery was top notch. IMG_20180719_150418051.jpg
    #7
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  8. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 4 continued

    Lovely evening on the water.
    IMG_20180719_163706998.jpg
    Yikes!
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    The marina. Lots of fishing going on.
    IMG_20180719_163711051.jpg
    #8
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  9. Argus16

    Argus16 #BeBest Supporter

    Joined:
    May 8, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,517
    Location:
    Vancouver Island
    Well done! Hitting all the good roads.
    You've done your homework for sure.
    #9
  10. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 5
    Alder Bay to Cape Scott to Sayward 260 miles

    Spoiler: I made it to Cape Scott, the furthest north you can drive on VI, which was my main goal for this trip. I got up after a great night's sleep, ready to achieve my goal. I stopped in Port McNeill for some fuel and food before turning north to Port Hardy and the turn off to Cape Scott. Just before Port Hardy I took a left off the highway to the gravel road to Cape Scott Provincial Park. The weather turned to crap on the way, but the riding was still enjoyable, ya gotta love Gortex!. I struggled a bit with visibility since it was misting and sprinkling steadily. It rained or sprinkled all the way to Cape Scott on some pretty beat up logging roads. Soon I arrived in Holberg, a small logging town as far as I could tell, with many logging trucks making there way up various roads out of town. Then it was the final turnoff to continue my trek north. the trees closed in as the road narrowed, so i was on the lookout for logging trucks, since there was little room to avoid them. Luckily I didn't encounter any large trucks, only a couple of company pickups. After 40 miles or so, I arrived at a jam packed parking lot and the end of the road. I parked and took a look around before noticing a park ranger clearing brush. She told me the rangers live in a yurt for their seven or five day shifts, I can't remember which. We chatted a bit and I asked her if she would take my photo, which she readily agreed to. many peopled hike or kayak the northern island, which was why the parking lot was full. After a snack and water, it was time to make my way back to the highway before continuing south to Sayward and my camp for the night. After 80 miles of muddy gravel there and back, it was nice to get back on the highway, but then I saw the sign to Port Alice, and remembered that it was supposed to be one of the better roads on the island. I thought, "what the heck, I'm in no rush". Forty miles of twisties there and back, what a treat! Not bad for a days ride. I continued on highway 19 to Port McNeill for some lunch to celebrate my accomplishment. I found a restaurant that looked promising, Gus's Bar and Grill I think it was, and ordered the special halibut and chips with clam chowder. Tasty! After my scrumptious meal, it was south on 19 to Sayward Valley Resort, a gem in the middle of nowhere. Grass campsite again! And close to the bathrooms (my 62 year old bladder would be happy). Tomorrow the ride to Victoria and the ferry the next day. The weather was significantly cooler up there. It was low 50s all day, but in Sayward it was mid 60s. I was looking forward to some 80s again.

    Breakfast of champions!
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    And the rains came.... IMG_20180720_082058008.jpg
    The road narrowed as I got further north.
    IMG_20180720_091133701.jpg

    Made it! Cape Scott Provincial Park Cape Scott cropped.jpg
    #10
  11. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 5 continued

    Time for a wash job! IMG_20180720_105937943.jpg

    Camp at Sayward Valley Resort. I highly recommend them!
    IMG_20180720_160014589.jpg

    Wait, what!? You have to be crazy to take a shower? Seriously, a loonie is a Canadian dollar and a toonie is a two dollar coin. If I learned this correctly, they don't make a bills smaller than a five, so they use coins. Very cool.
    IMG_20180721_070242111.jpg
    #11
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  12. EPOCH6

    EPOCH6 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2018
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Awesome trip! I love exploring the island, Campbell River > Gold River is indeed a memorable ride, last time I rode through there I got assaulted by insane 30 second hail storms near Campbell Lake. Pacific Marine Rd between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew is an all time favorite for me too.
    #12
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  13. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 6
    Sayward to Victoria 255 miles

    After wonderful nights sleep I packed up and headed south on 19 again, since it's the only highway in the north island. As I was packing up that morning, an old chap walked by and in a classic British accent said "Now that's proper camping!" I love the international flavor of BC! My plan was to get to Campbell River and have breakfast. After some of the coldest temps I encountered, I arrived in Campbell River, a thriving place with malls and everything else you would expect in a large town. Soon I was relaxing with my breakfast at SB. After breakfast I followed 19A south along the east coast through some beautiful towns and past stunning beaches. It was somewhat slow going, but considering it was a Saturday, things moved along pretty well. Once south of Nanaimo traffic picked up but again, nothing like what we have back home. I made it to Victoria by 3:30, so I stopped in to Island BMW to see if they had any visor cleaner, which they didn't. It was time to find my camp spot for the night, Island View Regional Park. This was the cheapest place I camped at $11 per night with only port-a-cans, but the beach was worth it. It was just north of town right on the beach facing east looking at San Juan Island and Mt. Baker. And it was SUNNY! After setting up camp, I headed back to town for dinner before riding back to camp. I spent the evening sitting on the beach and walking around till bed time. What a wonderful last night on the island! Tomorrow, the ferry back to the mainland.

    Beaches along the way
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    Wonderful scenery. Worth a return visit with my wife. IMG_20180721_111035747.jpg

    Island View Regional Park
    IMG_20180721_172459476.jpg

    View northeast toward the San Juan Islands
    IMG_20180721_191135694_HDR.jpg
    #13
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  14. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Day 7
    Victoria to Home 244 miles including ferry ride

    I was up early as usual, and had plenty of time before 9am, when I had to report to the ferry dock. I loaded up, got fuel, then headed to another Starbucks for a leisurely breakfast. At the docks, they were very organized and had a spot all set up for motorcycles. I got checked in and sat on the dockside or the street just enjoying the morning cool. When it was time to report back to the bikes for customs, there were quite a few bikes present. I talked with a few including one fella on the North American leg of a RTW trip. After getting through customs, we soon loaded up, I was the first one on the ferry! I enjoyed the trip back and even saw two whales! Once back in Port Angeles, I got some lunch and checked in with my wife since I had no cell service up north. Then it was time for the slog home on US101. On a Sunday. In the summer....ick! But traffic never materialized in the numbers I was expecting. Cool! I veered off in Sequim to take my favorite NF roads to Quilcene as it was getting quite warm. Once back on 101 it got really warm, hitting 92 through Shelton where I took a break. After a much needed break I hit the road again and took the backroads home, retracing my tracks from the previous week. It stayed in the 90s, but I steadily made my way home. It was great to be back home, with the thoughts of my adventures still whirling in my head.

    Beautiful sunrise on my last day IMG_20180722_054849438.jpg

    On our way!
    IMG_20180722_104305509.jpg

    Forest service roads south of Sequim
    IMG_20180722_135427100.jpg

    IMG_20180722_142308084.jpg

    Epilogue
    It's been a few months since I got back, so time for reflection. First of all the stats: 1,655 miles in seven days and costs were right about $500US. Would I go back? Maybe. I definitely want't to bring my wife for a mini vacation. The gravel roads were fun, but the pavement was another story. Highway 28 and 30 were a hoot! Highway 4 was also worth the ride although I experienced more traffic on the way to Tofino. Riding logging roads is something I do around my Puget Sound area a lot, so it wasn't that exciting to do it up there. The views were stunning though. We were mostly below 100 meters, even though there were mountains all around. I think we passed 350 meters once on the way to Victoria, but overall the roads on the island are pretty low. Having said that, the lake views were a definite plus. I enjoyed passing lake after lake on any given day. The Provincial Parks were wonderful, with clean showers and clean campsites. Very well taken cared for. The costs were very reasonable as well. the most I spent on a campsite was $31US with the least $11US. I had access to showers every night but two, so I didn't get too dirty. I recommend anyone spend a week exploring the island at least once, in fact now that I think of it, it would be cool to go back with a partner or group and ride the whole of the Vancouver Island Grand Loop to experience a lot more dirt. But there are other regions I want to explore, so who knows?
    #14
  15. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Thanks!
    #15
  16. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Glad it stirred some memories for you.
    #16
  17. Signals91

    Signals91 n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Farmington, MN
    Great pics! I'll have to put that on my list of places to ride when I make another trip out West!! I'd love to ride out to your neck of the woods. I saw your 'Echo Trial' sticker on your pannier, when did you ride that? I rode the Echo Trail this summer on my little weekend trip up in northern MN..
    #17
  18. AdventureDude

    AdventureDude Explore More

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    125
    Location:
    Orting, WA
    Thanks, yes, it is a wonderful place to explore. Nothing challenging, but the views are worth it. I rode the Echo Trail last year on my way to Duluth and the UP. I'd like to get back to Minnesota to explore additional NF roads.
    #18
  19. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,784
    Location:
    Kingsmill Corner Ont.
    Nice trip. Wonderful pictures. Thanks for taking us along.
    #19
  20. new2adv

    new2adv Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2018
    Oddometer:
    44
    Location:
    Victoria BC
    Great ride report! Looks like you made the most of your time spent on the island and hit all the highlights.

    I have ridden all over southern Vancouver island but never north of Nanaimo. Sometimes you need a visitor to remind you of what’s in your own back yard, and you definitely did that for me. Thanks!
    #20