Sunday, August 31, 2008

Biking Vancouver Island, part II

The idea was to get on the TCT at Cowichan Lake, and then bike down to the Kinsol trestle, doing the upper half of the section we started yesterday...as per the map here...
...but we take a wrong turn just 200m down the track, by not following to the letter the instructions on the sign.
Turns out there are TWO railbeds leading out of the Lake Cowichan community, the northern one an old abandoned CP railbed, and the southern one the TCT (goes through a park, with trestles, etc).

If you get on this old railway bridge, you are on the wrong path!
We end up on the CP railbed, which follows the highway to Duncan and is rather unexciting, not very well-maintained and backing onto dumpy backyards (trailers, dead cars, garbage...). It takes us about an hour to figure out that we are on the wrong track, but by then we are committed. Luckily, after lunch the scenery improves; the railbed leaves the highway and the dumpiness with it. We pass through Paldi, with its old water tower and Sikh Temple (!).

The forest is lovely and green, no traffic, and NO ATVs! Yay! The trail is muddy and this makes for interest for the kids, you can't just put it on autopilot. We finally end up in North Cowichan, at Sherman Road, quite near HWY 1, after a 3.5 hour ride. Consensus: more fun than yesterday!

And, bonus, we still have the "real" TCT to explore for another day!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Biking Vancouver Island, part I


Labour Day long weekend, and we are exploring the bike trails on Vancouver Island.
The TransCanada Trail is an old railbed that has been converted to a walking/biking trail. It starts somewhere near Victoria and goes to Nanaimo; we pick it up at the south end of Shawnigan Lake (turn off on Shawnigan Lk. Rd. South from hwy 1, then left on Sooke Lake Rd and the trail access is right before the new Cougar Heights subdivision turnoff). There are also lots of access points to the trail up the west side of the lake, along West Shawnigan Lk. Rd.


The trail is well-maintained, a constant 2% grade, so great for biking - even a road bike can handle the hard-packed surface. The scenery is rather unspectacular, though...mostly views of acreages with huge homes and horse paddocks, clearcuts to accomodate more of the same, and interspersed, some views of cottage-enclosed Shawnigan Lake.
Although the trail is marked as "no motorized vehicles", we encounter quite a few ATVs and dirt bikes.
There are some trestles on the trail, the most spectacular being the Kinsol Trestle - the highest one in the Commonwealth - which is, unfortunately, closed. It's rotting. As of 2008, it's being reviewed for possible fix-up...here's hoping!