Gravel Pimp – Got her done!

2 04 2013
Getting up while the moon was still bright in the sky...

Getting up while the moon was still bright in the sky…

I spent a lot of time last year doing recon on a dirt route from Lake Cowichan to Victoria. With the Galloping Goose MUP mostly dirt from Sooke Potholes Park to Victoria it seemed straightforward to just find a route from Lake Cowichan to the potholes. As it turned out that wasn’t so easy after all.

First try...

First try along the cyan line above…

At first it looked simple to run down the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] and along the east side of Sooke Lake down to Leehtown and then hop on the Goose MUP to Sooke Potholes Park and onwards to Victoria. The trouble was Victoria takes its water-supply very very seriously and has blocked off any access through the area we wanted to ride with gates, fences and guards. Click on the map above to read what happened.

E&N Railway route...

E&N Railway route…

We tried riding the E&N Railway corridor from Shawnigan Lake To Victoria which is quite a bit to the east of our previous route. It worked, but riding on the tracks was pretty brutal so I couldn’t really recommend it as a bikepacking route. Not to mention it was almost too easy with no real grades and such a straight shot to Victoria. The Gov’t keeps threatening to reactivate the rail service along this line, but so far it hasn’t happened. It you don’t mind getting bounced around a lot and want to check it out it’s a viable option.

What roads?

What roads?

Not to be deterred we returned to Sooke Lake area and tried to go to the west of the Sooke Lake drainage. Both my print maps and electronic maps showed logging roads leaving the Leechtown area and heading west then north to join up with roads around the Koosilah Provincial Park. Sadly these roads were fictional. They exist only as a cartographer’s dream! 😦

Another dead end...

Another dead end…

About this time I realized that riding a bicycle out to Leechtown and back for every route recon was taking up too much time and frankly riding the Goose MUP so many times was getting boring. So I broke out the KLR dualsport motorcycle. I plotted another route uphill out of Leechtown that looked promising on the map [pink line above], but I only got as far as the burgundy line on the lower right before I hit a water-supply gate and the rest of the mapped roads stopped existing.

More moto recon...

More moto recon…

Next time out I burned a whole day on the motorcycle going in and out of various logging roads as I kept running into more locked gates or dead ends. I managed a loop from Victoria out to Port Renfrew then up to Lake Cowichan before heading back home. The good news is it was a fun day on the moto and I learned a lot about the local logging road network. The bad news is I still didn’t have a route that went all the way through, but I had narrowed down the options enough I thought it was time to take another chance with the bicycle.

Getting down to the last few options...

Getting down to the last few options…

With a lot of recon done I figured one of the two connectors shown above in pink and green would work. Obviously I’d rather ride the shorter pink route. Especially because the green route features a ton of altitude loss as you head south and a bunch of fresh climbing as you head back north on top of triple the mileage. Locked logging gates stop me on my motorcycle so it was time to start pedalling again to finish the route off.

Finally it got done...

Finally it got done…click image for GPS info…

This past weekend I headed out from Lake Cowichan and rode my bicycle down the TCT to the Kinesol Trestle and past the Koosilah Provincial Park. I headed up into the mountains on the Kapur Main logging Rd and connected with the West Jordan Main logging road. That took me to the [supposed] junction of the Butler Main logging road and the Leech Main logging road, but once again the Leech Main [the pink short cut in the map 2 above] doesn’t actually exist on the ground. So I rode south on Butler Main dropping altitude fast and connected with Graveyard Main to head north again to Leechtown. I knew I would make it at this point, but the landscape had changed at Leechtown since my last visit with logging equipment gone, vegetation grown and creeks running hard with snowmelt. I had to poke around a bit until I found the bushwhack across the Sooke River to the Goose MUP. Once I rolled up to the familiar red shelter I’ve slept in a bunch of times I was really happy to finally put that mission down as a success in the books.

Sooke River...

Sooke River…

The GPS says it’s 175kms from Lake Cowichan to Victoria along my route. Those numbers don’t sound impressive, but when I look back at all the time I spent pouring over maps, riding my motorcycle and pedalling my bike it was quite a job to figure this route out. I had decent maps and a bunch of dirt roads available for me to use. I didn’t have to do one lick of trail building or mapping to find this route. So I am even more impressed with all the trails I’ve ridden in the past and the effort the folks have put into finding them or building them. Thanks!

Phase 2...

Phase 2…

Now that Phase 1 of the Vancouver Island Bikepacking Route is done I’ve got plans for Phase 2. The next part of the adventure is to map a route from Cumberland/Comox down to Lake Cowichan. The green segment on the map above goes from Port Alberni to Lake Cowichan and I’ve been down all those roads in my truck so I know they are a sure thing. The cyan segment at the top of the map goes from Cumberland to Port Alberni. It looks pretty straightforward, but I’ve said that before! I’ll do an initial run with my motorcycle this spring to confirm the route from Cumberland to PA works and is a decent one to ride. Then I’ll come back with my bicycle to enjoy it by pedal power. 😉

My goal for 2013 is to get that far.

Phase 3...

Phase 3…

You can see from the map above that Phases 1 & 2 get me a little better than halfway up Vancouver Island. I’d like to go all the way to the top on dirt, but my knowledge of the north island is limited and it will take 3-4hrs just to get to the bottom of that area on my motorcycle so there will be some serious time involved in that part of the recon. I’d like to get at least one moto recon session in the books for 2013 so I have a lay of the land in my head to help me situated data I glean from maps.

Keep on rolling...

Keep on rolling…

I’ll get a trip report for the latest ride posted later this week or next – here are the photos for now. I’m excited for another great year on the bike with lots of new roads and trails explored.

Keep those wheels rolling Gravel Pimps of the world! 😉



15 responses

2 04 2013

Good job, Vik! I liked all the photos of the adventure you put on your flickr stream. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to get up that way and ride this route.

2 04 2013
Andy D. (Big Dummy Daddy)

That last photo looks very suspiciously like a Krampus, albeit with non-Rabbit Hole rims and an apparent internal geared hub. Am I mistaken, or did you take the plunge?

3 04 2013

@Andy – good catch. Yes that’s all my 29er MTB parts on a Krampus frame/fork. It’s a great geo for bikepacking. Glad I made the switch.

3 04 2013
Andy D. (Big Dummy Daddy)

Nice. Based on my brief experience aboard a Krampus, it seems to be a nearly perfect exploration machine.

3 04 2013

So far I’d concur. As long as real fatbike floatation isn’t needed she’s a winner. And since you can swap over all your existing 29er parts making the move ins’t awfully painful.

3 04 2013

Cool to see how the route worked out! The crossing from Boneyard to Leechtown must have been interesting. Did you need to splash thru a ford? I have ridden up the Comox Main logging road to PA from Courtenay as far the Tomato Creek mtb trail (about 3km) and considered just riding on because the scenery is fantastic. I know guys who have ridden a circuit from Cumberland around the lake. It is gated to motor traffic sometimes. From the Comox lake dam at the south end of the lake, the Bevan trails and pipeline trail drop you right into suburban Courtenay (about 7km) and also hook up to Duncan Bay main which is paved to the base of Mt Washington then turns to gravel. There is also a connection if you ride from the Comox Dam along Bear’s Bait trail then up towards Forbidden Plateau, across a logging road to Brown’s Main, which drops you out at the base of Mt Washington on Duncan Bay Main just before it turns to gravel. Hope it helps! Good work!

4 04 2013

@Fred – thanks for the route tips. I’ll keep them in mind as I push north.

The crossing from Boneyard Main to the Goose requires a ford. Last summer when the water levels had dropped there was a way to walk over logs/rocks and not get wet. This spring there were actually 2 fords req’d and wet legs up to the knees. Nothing serious.


It may be possible to shave several KMs of riding up Boneyard Main and back down the Goose if you find a strategic ford of the main branch of the Sooke River. That seems easier said than done so I’m not I’ll invest the time to find one.


8 04 2013

This is really great. My girlfriend and I will be touring through the Island this summer and if you are able to provide a map (or gps files that I can turn into a map) we might have the chance to try this out 🙂

8 04 2013

@Cawlin – a couple options:

1 – if you follow the links in this post to the reports for each leg there is a link there to Ride With GPS and the tracks for each leg.

2 – let me know how much time you have, your riding speeds/interests plus where you are starting/ending and I can put together a route for you.

8 04 2013

I feel like a crazy person…I can’t find the link to the post that would have GPS for the final route you mention (this one

Thanks for the offer of putting together a route, very kind of you! We’re not rocking bikepacking gear on this tour, mainly riding roads. I’d like to get out on some logging roads in a few areas on our tour and we’ll have 40mmish tires and capable bikes so this sounds about right, thoughts?

8 04 2013

@Cawlin – sorry the image should have linked to the GPS data. I fixed that and here is the link:

There really isn’t anything I rode you couldn’t manage with 40mm tires and panniers. You’ll go a bit slower on some rough sections and maybe walk your bike a bit more, but it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Also if you aren’t against some lightly traveled paved roads you could do a loop out towards Port Renfrew along the coast that is quite nice.

8 04 2013


Good I’m not crazy 🙂

Really excited to ride this! I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t at this point., it will be nice to get off the roads.

Lightly travelled paved roads is the aim of most of our tour – what route roughly would you recommend for a loop towards Port Renfrew?

Thanks for all the help!

8 04 2013

@Cawlin: here’s an idea:

– ride from Victoria to Sooke [mostly on Galloping Goose MUP]
– keep heading west to Port Renfrew along Hwy 14 [paved]
– head north from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan on Pacific Marine Dr. [paved]
– jump on the route I just rode that takes you back to Victoria on TCT, logging roads and Goose MUP

It’s always nice to ride logging roads on weekends if you can schedule it that way.

This link has GPS for Galloping Goose MUP [ignore rest]

This link has GPS for Hwy 14 and Pacific Marine Drive [ignore rest]

This link is the Lake Cow to Galloping Goose MUP I just rode:

You’ll have to hack these up a bit, but it will give you a track to follow all the way around.

9 04 2013


Very cool, going to look at this is more details. Seems like a nice little loop 🙂

10 05 2013
Gravel Pimp: The Missing Link… | The Lazy Rando Blog...

[…] the end of March I rode the dirt connector route I’ve been working on for a while between Lake Cowichan and Victoria. I’ve since ridden another leg of the Vancouver Island […]

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