My dad had always talked about riding his 175cc Yamaha enduro up-Island to work in logging camps when he was younger. I used to picture him carving through dusty gravel Island roads lined with giant Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar. Recently, we decided that a father-son enduro trip was in order, so he could go back and I could see the area for the first time.
With a stroke of good timing, our friends at Husqvarna have a pair of 350s they offer to loan us for the trip. There are going to be a lot of ferries involved, but that is kind of the point. Having grown up in Tsawwassen, where the ferries take off from Vancouver to Victoria, Nanaimo and Gulf Islands, I have a lot of nostalgia for summertime ferry journeys. And the best way to do them is on a motorcycle. First on the boat, first to the cafeteria and first to disembark—the only way to roll.
Taking off from Tsawwassen, we head to the ferry sailing up to Nanaimo. While we’re waiting in line we run into a few of my dad’s old friends on their big Harleys, they remind him about the Seniors Discount. Forgetting to mention his age at the gate, his mellow is harshed for a minute as he realizes he missed out on asking for the coveted Seniors Deal. Alas, next time.
Disembarking at the Duke Point terminal, we make our way up the old Island Highway along the ocean. The bikes aren’t made to be wound up on the Inland Highway, and we want to take our time anyways. We putt our way up the coast to Campbell River for lunch, and then it’s on to Port Hardy for the night. This is the longest stretch of highway riding on our journey. Sometimes you just have to pound some pavement.
Telegraph Cove for breakfast the next day is a treat, and we run into my dad’s friends from the ferry again. After a quick breakfast and warm up with a coffee, we are off, hungry for a day of back-roads dirt ripping from Telegraph Cove down to Gold River.
Say what you will about logging in B.C., but it has left some great Forest Service Roads to explore the backcountry of the province. The 350s are the perfect machines for this route, and we keep a great pace after peeling out from Beaver Cove, one of the great log sorts on the island. In the shadow of Bonanza Peak, we curve our way down to Woss Camp, past Bonanza Lake. One of the major concerns with hitting up active Forest Service Roads (FSRs) is the behemoth logging trucks that barrel down the roads. One of the trucks comes around a hairpin turn and we are careful to quickly pull over and let him blast by, covering us in a haze of dust. They own these roads, we are just here as visitors.
We make our way into Woss, where my dad used to work. It is a stereotypical little logging town: a bunch of company trucks, some small, little company town rancher homes and quiet except for a few trucks cruising by on occasion. There are a few buildings still standing that he remembers, but most of them are long gone. South from Woss, the gravel road makes its way past Woss Lake, Vernon Lake and Muchalat Lake before reaching Gold River. Before the highway was built ,these logging roads were the only way to get up from Southern Vancouver Island. Loggers swigging back Lucky Lagers would make their way up these dusty trails from places like Cumberland up to Woss on Sunday nights, and back down south on Friday nights after work.
The bikes haul all the way south, past the logging zones around Woss, and after a pit stop in Gold River, we park our sore butts for some frothy pints and tacos in Cumberland. As we finish our dinner, Dad, completely zoning out and staring directly behind me, has stopped talking completely. The zoning out is not unusual, but the sudden lack of dialogue is a bit strange. “Dad, what’s up?” I say. “Brett, there are two girls making out behind you. I have to text my buddies to tell them about this.” More than a few old guys have their day made with this one, thanks to these good-time girls of Cumberland.
Waking up the next day, we decide to give our butts a break after our long haul of dirt road riding yesterday, so we go island hopping. From Cumberland, we head the short distance to Buckley Bay, on to Denman Island and over to Hornby Island. You can’t beat a beach day at “Big Trib” to chill out and take a break from a long day in the saddle. The island is packed with funky buildings, little restaurants and coffee spots, and is the perfect place to relax for a few hours before taking the two ferries back to the big island to make our way for our fifth and final ferry ride of the day, from Comox to Powell River. The sun is setting as we cruise across the glassy waters towards Powell River on the new LNG powered ferry.
The journey to PR is made specifically for one reason: Costa Del Sol Latin Cuisine. If you know, then you know. If you don’t, go check it out. It’s the best Mexican food by far in this part of the country. I talk with the servers again about getting a Michelada on the menu. (Hoping this happens soon.) After a decent sleep in a fleabag motel, we are off, heading back home to Roberts Creek, ending the journey with 1,200 kilometres of great riding, bear sightings, lake swims, ocean dips, burritos conquered, beers swigged and butts completely sore.
Words and Photos: Brett Beadle