Thursday, July 2, 2015

Galloping Goose Gals

Ernest Hemingway once said,

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

We just got back from our third bike tour in British Columbia and I've come to the realization that I totally agree with Hemmingway's statement... there really isn't a better way to experience your environment than on a bicycle. One website I visited called it 'slow tourism.' I think that slow tourism is my new favourite thing.

So in keeping with this theme my friends and I decided to visit Vancouver Island and bike the Galloping Goose Trail. Like the Kettle Valley Railway, "the Goose" as it is affectionately called, is an old railway bed that has been reborn as a multi-use regional trail. This 55km trail has is it all, showcasing all that makes the west coast so spectacular... from lush rain forest to our province's capital city of Victoria.... there's something for everyone along the Goose... even a Castle!

We spent 4 days exploring the Galloping Goose, these are just a few of our highlights.

The Inner Harbour
While technically not on the trail, the Inner Harbour is so close by that you really shouldn't miss the chance to experience this bustling tourist magnet**. The Empress Hotel, the Royal Museum and of course our Parliament Buildings surround this beautiful harbour. After touring the Legislature we went to Red Fish, Blue Fish for supper on the wharf. Don't let the long line-up deter you... it's worth the wait! Personally I recommend their deep fried dill pickle. Yum.
Red Fish, Blue Fish

**This is a very popular tourist area, especially in the summer, so we walked our bikes on the sidewalk instead of attempting to ride on the busy road.  After crossing the Johnson Street Bridge it's just another kilometre south on Wharf Street. 

Hatley Castle (km 14)
This incredible 40 bedroom mansion was built in 1906 by the Lieutenant Governor at that time, James Dunsmuir. You could spend all day exploring this 586 acre estate (which is now a university) but if you don't have all day, you could take the hour long Castle Tour. You'll hear about the eccentric Dunsmuir family (talk about drama!), why their home was designed to look like it a Tudor castle and even about their very own ghost!

Sooke Potholes (km 46)
The potholes are a series of deep, polished rock pools and potholes carved naturally into the bedrock of the Sooke River. The Potholes Provincial Park is right beside the Goose (km 46) and is a great place to stop, have some lunch and check out these geological oddities.

Todd Trestle (km 47)
Giant old growth Douglas firs were used to build this imposing trestle bridge. It is one of the few original examples left of a timber bridge on the west coast.

Leechtown (km 55)

When we were preparing for this trip we had read that the section between Todd Trestle and Leechtown was narrow and difficult to navigate. Don't believe it. This is a beautiful part of the trail with many breath-taking views of the Sooke River below. When you get to km 55 you will see a small trail leading into the forest and taking you to what's left of an old house. It's hard to imagine that this area was once was a thriving lumber town.

Of course, what's a biking trip without stopping for geocaches along the way? Fortunately the Goose does not disappoint as there are hundreds of caches in the vicinity. We found about 25 along the trail which was just perfect. Here's a few that we really enjoyed. 
Hope you have as much fun exploring the Goose as we did.

Helpful websites:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

The day was blistering hot. We were on a gravel road that was full of twists & turns and, in many places, only wide enough for one vehicle. On one side of the road the mountain was rugged and steep and on the other side, it was straight down to the Fraser River. As Tony navigated our 4x4, sometimes through spaces that seemed smaller than our beast of a truck, I reminded myself that we were doing this for fun.

This particular trip was our annual Anniversary trip and we decided to attempt a back-roads loop that had been on our "to-do" list for a long time. This road trip takes you past some of the most amazing views of the Fraser River but it is not a trip for an inexperienced driver or, for that matter, anyone with a fear of heights! The entire loop is about 125 kilometres...from Clinton to the Big Bar Reaction Ferry, south along the High Bar Road that parallels the Fraser River, east through Edge Hills Provincial Park and then back up to Clinton. The last leg of this loop is the most treacherous part. Six switchbacks up a 23% grade. They've put a sign at the beginning of the switchbacks. It pretty much sums up this road trip for me.

We were just starting up the mountain when we saw something ahead, glinting in the sun. "Oh no." Tony said. "This is not good." A few moments later we saw a man walking down the road. When he saw our truck he began to wave his arms, frantically imploring us to stop. It was his car that we saw, broken down in the middle of this desolate spot. You have to understand... this place is remote. We had been driving for over three hours and we never passed another vehicle. When we arrived, the look of utter relief on Chris' face was very apparent. We were his only hope to get out of a very bad situation.

Tony and Chris worked on his Volvo for over an hour. It was 38 degrees, the sun was relentless and so were the flies. To his credit Tony worked hard, trying to reattach the radiator hose that had been ripped to shreds. When it was apparent that it couldn't be fixed we took our new friend to Clinton where he found a motel and a tow truck driver that was willing to go back and rescue the poor car. Chris sent me an email a few days later and thanked us again for rescuing him. If we hadn't come along I'm not sure what he would have done.

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

Fast forward to this last weekend. We were anticipating a quick little get away to Merritt. Some hunting and geo-caching. Doing what we love to do.

That Sunday night Tony was driving in the mountains above Merritt when, suddenly, he saw a young girl coming down the mountainside, running towards the truck. "Oh no." he said. "This is not good." "Please," she said to Tony, "I left my friend up on the mountain. She broke her foot and couldn't go any further. I was going for help."

They drove back up the mountain and found the injured girl sitting, waiting for someone to come rescue her. When she saw her friend climb out of our truck she was overwhelmed with relief. She was expecting to wait for hours for her friend to come back with help and was getting pretty worried about spending a very cold night alone, high up in the Merritt grasslands.

After Tony helped her into the truck and they started to make their way down the mountain he decided to say what was on his mind. "Look" he said. "I have three daughters about your age and I'm going to tell you what I would say to them right now. I'm looking at what you have and all I see is a couple of little fanny packs and two bottles of water. You have no emergency equipment. Nothing that would help keep you safe during a night alone in the elements. What would you have done if I hadn't come along?" The drive to their car took about 45 minutes and he gave them a lecture the entire way. I'm sure that they are words they will never forget. At least I hope so.

Don't Worry. I'll be Fine. Nothing is Going to Happen to Me.

Unfortunately these aren't isolated incidents. It seems that you can't turn on the news without hearing about another outdoor enthusiast that has been lost to the wilderness. Some are rescued and some, tragically, are still lost.

So this post is for all of you who love to be out there like we do. It's for you who love this great and gorgeous wilderness that we are lucky enough to call home. And it's for you who come to visit. Don't take this land for granted. Go out there and have a great time but please, be prepared for whatever may happen because...

We do worry. You might not be fine. And it could happen to you.