Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 2…

13 05 2013
Middle of nowhere...

Middle of nowhere…

Day 3 – Wrong Turn

I made a serious mistake on the last day. I didn’t question the Google Maps bike route enough. I was so close to PA I could taste the ice cream and I wasn’t thinking straight. I ended up paying the price.

How bad was it?

  • 2500′ and 3.5hrs of pushing my bike up Mount Horne
  • 30 degree C heat
  • limited water
  • not realizing it was a dead end until right at the top where I was expecting an awesome downhill run to PA
  • road down other side didn’t exist :(
  • 30mins of controlled falling down the mountain on my bike the same way I pushed up

I was totally crushed when I figured out the mistake in my route. I sat down and would have cried if I didn’t feel the need to conserve water! In my defence when I looked at the Google Maps satellite images it put a white line and road name for the imaginary roads. The white line looked just like a break in the trees which is what a logging road looks like. The only way you can tell the real roads from the fake roads is to zoom in uber close at which point the fake roads disappear and are replaced by trees. The real roads of course stay on the screen no matter how much you zoom in. Lesson learned.

The only upside was the cell tower at the top of the mountain meant I had 4bars on my phone so I could download satellite images and scope out a new route – very carefully!

After figuring out where to go next I had to head down the way I came. It was so steep I could barely ride safely and had to stop a few times to let my brakes cool.

Steep road...

Steep road…

and up...

and up…

thank God some water...

thank God some water…

my Sopranos look...

my Sopranos look…

Forgetting the climb for a second...

Forgetting the climb for a second…

at least the views are sweet...

at least the views are sweet…

and up we go...

and up we go…

My only reward...

My only reward an awesome cell signal… ;)

Back where I started...

Back where I started…

Day 3 – Heading to PA Finally!

4hrs of hard work and I was back where I started from. Bummer. :(

The safest option would have been to head back to the highway and ride to PA on pavement. Did I take it?

Hell no! ;)

I decided to stay dirty and recon a route around the bottom of Horne Lake on logging roads. This had some risks and since it was now the afternoon one more setback would mean another night of camping as I could run out of daylight. After tasting a bit of main road touring I felt the opportunity to ride alone on logging roads was the better way to spend my time.

Although I felt some trepidation passing another “Keep Out!” gate the road past the gate was pretty nice. Enough shade to help beat the heat and after hours of pushing uphill it was nice just to be riding my bike again. The road deteriorated rapidly and I feared it might dead end, but it kept going and I was rewarded with a connection to a well maintained logging road at the south end of Horne Lake.

I got a little cocky at this point and spotted a shortcut on the map if I was willing to hike-a-bike across a clear cut. It would save me a long logging road detour. So I went for it. As I rode up to the clearcut I realized it was really rough and uphill the whole way. Yikes! I just kept going. Looking back at the effort required to manhandle the Krampus up the clearcut I’m not sure it was easier than riding the long way around, but it was a unique challenge. After many hours of touring on this trip doing something new was refreshing even though it was really hard.

At the far end of the clearcut I thought all my challenges were over, but Google Maps screwed me one more time with a fake road. I thought I had a straight shot to PA. But when I showed up at the intersection it didn’t exist. A zoom way in on the satellite image revealed it was another faker. **sigh**

This time however there was a reasonable alternate route I could take so instead of an 8km ride to PA. I had to ride 14-16kms. Not the end of the world. I had been through enough that even though I was pretty burnt out I knew I would get to PA that night before sunset and be drinking a cold beer.

So I cranked down the last part of the logging road I was on and hit the Alberni Highway. I enjoyed a really long downhill that brought me to the PA city limits with barely any pedalling. I stopped for a sub, bag of chips and a cold Sprite. I was thrilled to be almost done the ride. Not knowing PA very well I didn’t realize I had some super steep hills to climb back to my friends’ house, but nothing could stop me now!

I rolled into their place at 8pm. I guess I didn’t make it for lunch! A shower, 3 beers and a hottub later I felt like a champion. ;)

Another gate...

Another gate…

Looking good...

Looking good…

What happened to the last guy that tried this route... ;)

What happened to the last guy that tried this route… ;)

Getting rustic...

Getting rustic…

and rough...

and rough…

and I'm golden...

and I’m golden…

Stunning views...

Stunning views…

more gates to ignore...

more gates to ignore…

One last challenge...

One last challenge…

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut...

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut…

IMG_5752

Halfway up…

Last section of gravel...

Last section of gravel…

The Alberni Highway...

The Alberni Highway…

Viktory!

Viktory!

The Mighty Krampus!

All Hail The Mighty Krampus!

The loop map - click for more details...

The loop map – click for more details…

Wrap Up

All in all it was a great trip despite the heat and the navigation challenges. I learned a lot about this part of Vancouver Island and about route planning with the tools at my disposal. The Krampus with Porcelain Rocket bags is a capable bikepacking rig.

I cleaned up the GPS tracks on Ride With GPS to remove any detours, backtracks or wrong turns so the routes are more useful to people that download them. Riding 200kms in 3 days doesn’t seem like much, but it was quite hard for me with a lot of pushing.

The great news is I know have ~400kms of dirt touring route mapped out from Cumberland to Victoria BC and I’ve covered a bit less than half of Vancouver Island so there is lots more to come! :)

Ride GPS data...

Ride GPS data…


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13 responses

13 05 2013
Aaron M

You just can’t help but add bonus kms to any ride can you? ;) A great adventure Vik, well done.

13 05 2013
Eric

Great stuff. I hiked Mt. Horne last summer, that’s an unforgiving climb. It could have been worse though, as Sam Whittingham of Naked Bikes found out: http://timetogetnaked.com/gallery/hardest-day-on-the-bike-ever/2013/05/07

14 05 2013
thelazyrando

@Eric – hilarious that they rode more kms in 1 day than I rode in 3.

14 05 2013
Micheal Blue

Vik, interesting reading and nice pics again. Too bad I can’t just jump on my bike and go riding there! Do you use some portable water filter?

14 05 2013
Micheal Blue

BTW, I don’t get the “one gear” thing; it’s definitely not intelligent..so what is it?…vanity?. I wonder what their knees will say when they get older…

14 05 2013
thelazyrando

@Michael – I use Pristine drops to purify my water. Where I live the water sources are all high quality. I could probably get away with no purification. These drops are easy to carry, easy to use and cheap. Plus there is nothing to go wrong unless you lose them or leave them open and they leak.

MEC sells Pristine – http://www.advancechemicals.ca/Pristine-Water-Purification

As far as single speeding goes it has nothing to do with intelligence. It’s a valid way to setup a bike and I enjoyed my similar fixed gear bikes when I had them. SS is cheaper, lighter, less to go wrong and allows you to focus more on the ride since you never have to think about shifting.

As long as you enjoy the ride there is no wrong or stupid choice.

If I had more money I would setup my Krampus with a SS wheelset as well as a geared one.

14 05 2013
Micheal Blue

Vik, I get the SS for flat or gentle terrain, but taking it to such a demanding terrain is asking for knee surgeries :-) I know this is only my opinion: I don’t buy the “lighter” and “focus more on the ride”. Nobody is going to notice extra 300 or 400 grams of weight in real life. Thinking about shifting? Well, at least to me it comes so naturally, that when I feel my legs are starting to pump too hard, click…shift down and that’s it. Actually, at least I can focus on the ride better, because my legs are not crying about being overstressed. I find it amusing that people are willing to go a good distance to get certain equipment, but they are not willing to consider the health of their bodies. Just thinking about this logically: when you’re pedaling, at certain points your knees are not in natural positions for the natural functions of the body (walking, running). When you put lots of power into the legs at those moments, you stress the knees and possibly other parts of the legs a lot. You think you can get away with it? For how long? I also wouldn’t mind a SS bike, but I’d use it for fun rides in flat Toronto, not for mashing it in a hilly terrain. The leg muscles are much stronger than the knees… Just my opinion :-)

14 05 2013
thelazyrando

Lots of people have complete PBP [1200kms with tons of climbing] SS/FG and the Tour Divide has been ridden fixed gear and SS several times. All the riders I know who have done this are happy and healthy without any need of surgery.

You may not want to ride SS on such a ride yourself, but that has no bearing on what works for other people.

14 05 2013
Eric

I agree, to each his own. Keep in mind though, Sam’s no ordinary cyclist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Whittingham

9 01 2014
Tom

For what it’s worth, the rest of us had gears, Sam was the only one on a single speed, and he rode a lot further than us, like a 100 km further.

I rode from CR to Vic last summer on gravel (mostly…), but went from Lake Cowichan to Renfrew via the Gordon River Rd as I wanted to check out some beaches en route.

The crux of the route going north from Campbell is finding an alternate route to Gold River that avoids highway 28.

5 04 2014
Jered

Ha! I’ve fallen for the old “Google maps says there is a back way off Mt.Horne” trick myself. I sent a problem report to them, so hopefully no one else has too. You could have taken the steep but short hiking trail down to the tracks and the cabins along Chalet Rd. http://imgur.com/WpmRkOo

I found your blog researching the log train trail, and I just got back last night riding my troll along a similar route. I won’t be riding it in 30c weather any time soon, that’s for sure!

6 04 2014
Vik

Hey Jered – do you live on the Island? Not many bikepackers here. We need to band together. ;)

6 04 2014
senobo

Yup, I’m mid island on Horne Lake Road just above the tracks. I recently sold my DR650, and this was my first foray into bikepacking. I commend your discipline pedaling over just taking the KLR. The slower speeds and brutal hills are a bit hard to deal with after dual-sporting the past 8 years![image: Inline image 2][image: Inline image 3][image: Inline image 1]

On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 5:58 AM, The Lazy Rando Blog… wrote:

> Vik commented: “Hey Jered – do you live on the Island? Not many > bikepackers here. We need to band together. ;)” >

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