Had some errands to run up in the Lake Cowichan direction, and had a day to spend, so I tried running due west out of Shawnigan…
There is some logic in my head that says if you’d rather not get stuck behind gates trying to get out, don’t pass gates going in. A quick look at the backroads book, and my GPS refreshed my memory of the roads to the West so I backtracked and headed out on what I believe is signed as Pt Renfrew Road (From the K-line, W Jordan, Kapoor intersection to Fleet Main). That is a NICE chunk of road, I want to go back to that area (head of the San Juan River/valley).
A little further on, Port Renfrew Road does a switchback to descend to (and cross) the river and becomes Fleet Main.
That was just the first of some spectacular creeks/rivers.
Sorry, haven’t actually matched the timestamp to the GPS to figure out where that one was… but I’d guess at Fleet River.
I had the GPS “navigating” me to a friends place in Lake Cowichan, It wanted me to go up East Fleet Main… but I was pretty sure that Lens Main was the quickest route to the highway, but of course was not at all sure about the gates. That was at about 4km on Fleet Main, so I ran down the end of Fleet and headed north on Lens expecting to come back after checking the gate status.
Well, the gate on Lens Main was there as expected, and that is a big, straight, well maintained mainline. I don’t usually push my speeds that much, but having run big chunks of it three times I was making very good time by the last run.
Going south on Lens, the GPS seemed to think there was another route to the highway by just following Lens Main to the other (S) end. Well, going south, Lens splits into Lens Main and West Lens, going down both sides of Lens Creek, I accidentally took the West side, not that it really mattered, I would have missed this bridge if I had taken the intended route.
Continuing south, there is a bent bridge that has been blocked off, and about another km south of that, is “NO bridge”.
That shot didn’t come out well, but the flat line in the distance is a log marking the end of the road from the other side. You might get through here on a trials bike, or with a bunch of friends on dirt bikes… but not solo on a KLR. Two guys and a rescue system could get through if you had to. This shot doesn’t show the creek, but conveys the gap in the road better.
I took pictures of the “bent” bridge on the way back:
I call it the bent bridge because both ends come off at angles. The central span is straight but you come at from the right and exit to the right.
With Lens main cutoff, (e.g. no exit to the south) and the clock ticking past 5pm, it was pretty much time to bee-line it back to the north end, and head for Lake Cowichan.
So that’s what I did, straight N up Lens Main, through the dummy locked gate, up to Lake Cowichan (through the intermittent showers and rain). Talked to Roland in Lake Cowichan. Then East to run another errand half way to Duncan. Then down the island highway back to the house. The raw GPS traces are over 250km and 6 hours.
That said, I did spend some time talking to a nice family where the Lens Creek pool shots were taken. He worked for TimberWest and passed on various pieces of info, including that they’ve recently been logging the NitiNat River. That combined with info from a friend who says the Youbou to NitiNat campsite road is in horrible shape, suggests that the logging has torn the road up. That could make it even more desirable to find a place at Nitinat to store my windsurfing gear so I can just ride the bike in.
Difficulty: with the exception of that little side-trip up the S side of the valley just before Fleet Main, this was all very easy. Any street bike would have been fine, and that detour was simply steep.
Gates: The Kapoor gate at 6km was open. There was one around 9km that was closed, but there was a big gap to the left, unless your panniers are really wide, it should be passable by most everyone. Wider bikes might need to lean a bit going by.
Ideas!? There appears to be a “Maid Lake Main”, that runs from the Middle of Fleet Main through to the Lens Main (Southern half), that (with Lens and Fleet) would make a nice part of a big loop. It might be steep, certainly a few switchbacks in it. Lots of “good turf” to be covered starting in the area of that 4 way Port Renfrew / K-line / Kapoor / W Jordan intersection.