Vic – Renfrew – Nitinat – Carmanah – Youbou – with Rick and Bob – 2016/07/02

It is time to start working out the camping routine. Figuring there is safety in numbers (less likely everyone forgets the same thing), I did not want to start this solo.

We didn’t cover as much ground as expected on the first day out, as we did not start early, and our lunch stop in Port Renfrew suffered from extremely slow service. Food was good (and expensive), it was just SLOW.

Rick’s shot of the bikes at the Coastal Kitchen Cafe. That’s Rick’s Triumph, Bob’s Vstrom, a Belgian BMW, and my KLR (with tent).

Stopped for gas at the Marina just north of Port Renfrew. It was hot when we left Victoria, but cold by the time we got to Port Renfrew.

View of the clouds in the hills from the Port Renfrew Marina.

Backtracked out the driveway and Gordon River Main was pretty much “right there”. Up Gordon River Main, ignoring the GPS suggestions to turn left (north). Turns out the GPS thought there was a closed gate on Gordon River Main … once we got past that it was happy to go straight to the S end of South Shore Road (one of the two roads running the length of Lake Cowichan). Roads were dusty. Temperatures got warm in the hills, but were fine by the lakes. We  had a brief spot of cellular connectivity at the end of Gordon Main, but that was it until we hit Youbou on the way out.

Anyhow, we had a few “stops” on the way out toward nitinat/Carmanah. Bob’s handlebars were working loose (I’m not sure what the fix for that was, but he was riding hard the next morning, so he must have gotten things sorted out), and I had a “luggage problem”. During one of those we decided we were heading for Nitinat, not Carmanah. Nitinat was pretty busy, so we ended up in the “overflow” on the beach as I had expected/planned.

camping on the beach

Once we started to unpack, I realized that I had not resolved the “luggage problem”. The straps apparently slipped off the sleeping bag and dropped most of my gear. Rick/Bob found the sleeping bag, and I saw the sleeping pad fall. But we didn’t realize I’d lost the tent. I _thought_ I was missing a piece when I re-strapped things down, but idiot that I am, I didn’t do the mental inventory. Bob and I went back to look for it, using the GPS track to figure out where it should have been … and despite multiple passes up and down the road, we could not find it.

Fortunately, someone overheard my predicament and loaned me a quite nice (but small) one man tent… which was good, because the weather was not conducive to sleeping directly under the stars.

The weather was not bad, but it was the worst I’ve ever had at Nitinat.  The wind blew into the small hours of the morning, and there was intermittent  light rain. The contrast is easily explained: I only go windsurfing at Nitinat when  the forecast is for hot sun :)

Dinners were simple. I think Rick and Bob both had some sort of “boil in a bag” meals, and I had some noodle based “pour into boiling water and simmer” food … with a can of tuna.

A walk around the campsite, and some time spent at a nearby fire on the beach wrapped up day one.

Nice campfire shot by Rick.
Early sun and clouds across Nitnat lake. Wind at 6:30 AM!
The morning kitchen at Nitnat. Stove at Tom’s feet, food prep log behind him. Bob in foreground. Shot by Rick.

With the early night, it was a fairly early morning (for me), the shots of the sun and cloud across the lake show 6:30 AM timestamps. That has always been situation normal for me at Nitinat, except that I wasn’t killing time waiting for the wind to fill in on this trip :) Granola for breakfast, water for the coffee press (oh right, the coffee press makes stronger coffee than the coffee machines, remember that Tom), and it was basically time to slowly start packing.

We were on the road to Carmanah by 9:30 AM. That was a nice chunk of road for motorbikes. Fairly narrow (once onto Rosander Main), windy, with steep sections and enough potholes to keep your attention. Bob was making “surprisingly” good time in the lead. Having just done the Chris Birch course, I was mostly focused on the road and pushing the bike a bit… which is why it was surprising to me that  I wasn’t constantly catching up to Bob. ( Rick was sight-seeing at the back, and I ran in the middle most of the way to Carmanah.)

Entrance to Carmanah/Walbran.
Bob on the boardwalk, checking out some plant.
The three sisters
Bob, in the stand between the three sisters… for scale.
Tall trees…
Carmanah Creek… not much algae here!

At Carmanah, we walked to the three sisters where we took the obligatory pictures. The valley floor was surprisingly warm. We probably walked too far. Bob said his hip was giving him some trouble. Rick soaked his head under the pump when we got back to the bikes, and I know I was sweating. We took a bit of a break to cool off and eat. That pushed us to something like 1pm.

A little spur with a great view of the west coast / Pacific
Another spur with another great view. Nitinat Lake.
Not a lot of wind/kite surfers out, but conditions where not great either.
Rick in his “Dark Side” helmet :) … Nitinat viewpoint.
Caycuse river, from bridge just SSE of nitinat campsite. Georgeous.

Since Rick wanted to be home for 4 or 4:30, that meant it was time to head straight back. No Bamfield, Flora lake, nor Nanaimo Lakes. I could have split off for the Nanaimo Lakes on my own, and might have done that if I had been better organized, but I didn’t really look at the route until our last stop in Youbou, and I wasn’t into backtracking 10 or 20 km.

Youbou stop. Catching up on cellular connectivity. Cassy’s Coffee House.

That was pretty much it. Bob split off at some property he had an interest in before we got to the main Duncan – Lake Cowichan highway. Rick and I basically rode straight home.


Notes: broke a weld in the pannier rack on the left side where the loop  connects the left and right sides. Need to locktite the main bolts for the panniers (left worked loose – again? pretty sure I had threadlocked it last time). I put off welding the known crack on the right side because I really want to disconnect the ignition before welding stuff on the bike…  and getting under the seat is tough because of the pannier rack. Lower subframe bolt on left also seems to have a tendency to work loose, and the hole may have worn a bit out of round.

Notes 2: The borrowed tent was almost certainly a MSR Hubba … considered by some to be THE bicycle camping tent. It was a neat tent, just a bit too small… still trying to figure out what to buy to replace the one I lost… modern Hubba’s are too expensive for me, and the bicycle campers note that you want a green tent if you might be camping somewhere without an invitation. I will likely settle for an McKinley Kluane … it is cheap, and while it doesn’t have the flat roof, or a short crossing peak pole, it does have a system that provides some extra lift over the doors, and given that I’m not planning to be hiking multiple days into the woods, reliability and waterproofness are not safety critical.