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Sunshine Coast Cycle Tour

Sunshine Coast Cycle Tour

August 23rd, 2010  · stk

Powell River Cycle - Day 3
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Comox - Saltery Bay (21.4 miles + a ferry ride)

We awoke at 7 AM. Even though the ferry didn't leave for Powell River until 10:10 AM, we thought that we would rather get up and ready and wait at the ferry terminal rather than take the chance of missing it. Alex ran off and played with some kids, while Scott and Rachel packed up camp. Rachel ate hot oatmeal for breakfast and Scott had yogurt, a kiwi and a chocolate bar (thank God Alex didn't see that!). Scott whistled for Alex to come back for breakfast - twice - but she didn't show, so we packed hers and figured she could eat it while waiting for the ferry.

We were ready to ride just before 9 AM and just then, Alex popped into camp. We hopped onto our bikes and we ventured off to the ferry terminal. Now that Scott's bike is repaired, he wanted to tow Alex. It was a very short ride to the ferry terminal and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. While we waited near the dock, we chatted with a young Vancouver couple that were most interested in our adventures and had lots of questions. They did a cycle tour of Cuba last year, which they highly recommend. They say that the motorists there are very considerate of cyclists because they are used to sharing the road with all manner of traffic: pedestrians, burros, cyclists, etc. Perhaps that is something that we'll consider for a future trip.

We boarded the ferry and found a table in the cafeteria where we able to plug in both the iPhone and the HP Jornada. Scott and Alex were both eager to order something to eat, but by the time we actually pulled away from the dock, it was about 10:20 AM and they still had a breakfast menu posted. Even though Scott really had a burger combination mind, he ordered a scrambled egg breakfast. Alex on the other hand, had seen a display showing kids meals. She finally settled on the hot dog meal, only to find out that the kids meals were erroneously posted. They did honor Alex's request, however, saying that it would take an extra 10 minutes or so to make, but they'd be happy to bring it out when it was ready. They didn't have to do this and it was very much appreciated.

Shortly after Scott finished his breakfast, Rachel decided that it was time to get something to eat. She went up to the hot food counter, looked up at the menu and noticed the lunch selections were now posted. The breakfast menu was still up at the entrance to the cafeteria, but Rachel decided to play dumb. Well, it paid off because she was able to order a hamburger combo, and because it would be a few minutes before it was ready, they would bring it to her. She got her tea, paid for her meal, and then returned to the table.

By the time Rachel was finished eating, there was just enough time left in the sailing to go to the bathroom and seek out the pamphlet board for a map of the Sunshine Coast. Well, she found the bathroom, but she didn't find the rack of pamphlets. Instead, she found a tourist information girl, ready to give information and advice. She highly recommended Saltery Bay Provincial Park Campground and said that for information anywhere on the South part of the Sunshine Coast, "you should stop at the information booth in Madeira Park". (While on the Sunshine Coast, we noticed a real division of information between the north and south, which we thought a tad odd).

We disembarked from the ferry with the foot passengers and quickly pulled off to the Harbour Masters office. Rachel changed into her cycling shoes, Alex changed out of her jeans and we both removed our cycling jackets. We also wanted to let the vehicle traffic get ahead of us so that we wouldn't have to start off with a literal boatload of motorists zooming past us.

Once we began cycling, we wondered, "why did we wait?" Vehicle traffic seemed quite heavy, but it came in 'waves' from the pulse of traffic lights.

Before we got out of town we stopped at a "Point of Interest". There were a couple of totem poles and a bunch of "in memory" plaques. There were also information boards which provided a variety of facts about the area around us: Texada Island, Vancouver Island, Powell River, and so on. After 20 minutes, we climbed back on our bikes and began cycling in earnest.

Powell River is a pretty town, with lots of nice houses. We enjoyed riding past them, looking at them all - old and new. Gradually, the houses thinned and we were outside the city limits. It was a pleasant ride, with occasional vistas of the ocean off to our right. We made our way along, riding up some rolling hills - up one side, then down the other. There was a light breezy headwind, which helped keep us cool on our climbs, but forcing a tad more pedaling on the downhill runs.

We dropped down to sea level to cross over Lang Creek and came to a stop when we passed the Lang Creek Salmon Spawning Channel. We quickly decided to pull in and have a peek. They were constructing an overhead trolley system of some sort inside the main tank building, but we were able to walk around the grounds, looking at the fish ladder. We were hoping to see some salmon heading upstream. We didn't see any, but as we made our way back down the creek, we found ourselves on the backside of the building, which was roped off. One of the construction guys was outside, so Rachel asked him if we could just cut through. As we entered into the work area, we started talking to the guy, Alex was his name, as it turned out. He was very helpful and told us all about the spawning channel. They have gated the entire creek, which diverts all the salmon into the holding area, where they manually count, sex, and check each fish that comes through. It was a very interesting talk and he informed us that we are about two weeks too early because the first species won't start running the creek for a little while.

After leaving the Lang Creek Spawning Channel, we had a bit of a hill to the Lang Bay area. There was a general store there, which advertised cold beer, but we didn't really think about stopping, as it seemed as though we still had another 10-12 kilometers to go before Saltery Bay.

A couple of kilometers past the Lang Bay store we crossed over Lois River, which had a high bridge over an area that is otherwise referred to as Eagle River. There were sunbathers hanging out on the rocks below us, and signs up around the area saying "Save Eagle River". Another kilometer further, we came across Canoe Route Main, which is the logging road leading 7 kilometers into the bush to where the Powell River Canoe Circuit lets out. (Another adventure on our "to do list").

We stopped for lunch on the side of the road not far after the Canoe Route Main turnoff. Even though it is the third day of cycling, it is the first day that we have had lunch out of our food bag. We had bagels with peanut butter and honey, pepperoni sticks, cheese, a Twizzler stick, a Reese's peanut butter cup and we washed it all down with a little Crystal light. Our lunch spot was really quite nice, as we were on grass and surrounded by Salal bushes, sheltered from the road by a 20ft boat that was up for sale. The property had a couple of signs posted. One was a commercial "trespassers will be prosecuted" sign, and the other was a hand carved sign that said "trespassers will be composted"! We got a chuckle out of the second sign, but when we heard the residents driving out of their driveway, Alex took off to hide behind a bush, because after all, she didn't want to be composted or prosecuted! (We waved and they waved. No shotguns, no hay forks and no lawyers were waved in the air. Whew!)

After our lunch stop, we began cycling up a hill. The road turned and we kept on thinking, "after this turn the hill will level off". No luck. The hill caught us by surprise, since all the reading we did indicated that the ride to Saltery Bay was "fairly flat". Psychologically, we weren't prepared for this climb! (Mind you, it's one thing to climb with a bicycle, but quite another when that bike is fully laden AND it's towing a kid on a 'Trail-a-Bike'!) Scott was towing Alex and was hot and grumpy by the time we finally reached the top, after a couple of kilometers of steady, steep climbing.

When we finally started the downhill descent, we had lovely vistas along the way. We really got an appreciation for how high we had climbed when we were able to look down at the ocean below us. But, as always, the descent was too short in comparison to the ride up.

At the bottom of the hill, Scott had to pull hard on his brakes because he saw a sign for "Saltery Bay Provincial Park" (though the graphic sign indicated picnicking, no camping). Knowing that "Saltery Bay Provincial Park" was our destination, he figured he should stop. Rachel came down the hill and informed him that the campground must be further on. We rode up another little knoll and soon came to Kent Beach Campground. This had us wondering if we needed to head back the couple hundred yards to the "picnic ground" or not, but Rachel was pretty sure that the lady on the ferry had talked about Kent Beach Campground and THEN the provincial park campground. Because Scott was still grumpy from his long hot climb he didn't want to have to cycle extra miles, so Rachel dug out her iPhone again and sure enough, it showed that Saltery Bay Provincial Park has two separate areas: a picnic area and a campground.

A little way further on and we saw the 400m-to-Campground sign, and then the turn off. Even though it had been a short days ride in terms of mileage, it had seemed like a full day - the hill at the end is what really made it seem tough.

We pulled into the campground and rode around for a bit, looking at the available sites. We saw a few vacant sites, and then a number in the one of the loops which had "Reserved" signs by them. A few of those "reserved" sites had paper notices pinned to them saying who was arriving and the date. As a result, when we saw a "reserved" site that didn't have reservation details, Rachel figured that it was probably available. One such site had a nice grassy patch on which to put our tent, so we jumped on it.

Alex wondered if there were kids to play with at this campground. Scott wondered about the apré-ride beverages. Rachel wondered if cash would be the only campground payment option, since the self-register envelopes didn't have a spot to enter credit card information.

Rachel ventured off to a nearby campsite to inquire about what services could be found in Saltery Bay. She was informed that although it was only about a kilometer further on, there was not much there other than the ferry terminal and a burger stand. The people she was talking to were very helpful though and insisted that she take two beers to help quench the thirst after our hot ride. They also offered to pick drinks up for us in Powell River (they were heading back there for dinner). Unfortunately, because we didn't have any cash, we were unable to take them up on their offer.

Rachel then went off to see if she could find the Park Host, who might be able to take a credit card and give cash back. No luck. The Park Host was nowhere to be found. On the way back to the campsite she had a better look at the registration board and noticed that on the backside there was a notice that the site we picked was due to be occupied - starting today! Rachel then rushed back to the campsite, only to find that Scott had set-up up the tent and emptied out most of the bike panniers! She quickly informed him of the situation and he offered to carry the tent - whole - to the first available site. We were still gathering together the last of our belongings when the occupants of the site arrived. (Drat! If they had arrived only 3 minutes later, we would have been cleared out. Instead, they arrived just in time to watch us apologetically scramble about. Lesson learned: check both sides of a registration board in the future!)

Once we got to our new site and were basically set up, Rachel decided to take a quick ride into Saltery Bay to see if there were any services. The ferry terminal turned out to be less than a kilometer away. She stopped at the first burger stand she saw and made the inquiry about an ATM and cold drinks. She was informed that both available and close! "Only a 10-minute drive back over the hill - at the Lang Bay Store." Drat! We should have stopped!

Rachel cycled back to the campground, changed out of her sweaty cycling clothes and informed Scott that she was going to hitch back to Lang Bay. Alex thought that sounded like fun and said, "I want to go too!" Rachel thought having a small child would increase her chances of getting a ride quickly, so agreed. They cycled back up to the gate of the campground, while Scott stayed behind to finish setting up camp and get dinner started.

Just as Rachel and Alex stepped onto the highway, an RV pulled out behind them from the campground, but he didn't offer a ride. A couple of minutes later a pick-up truck pulled out from a driveway further along and he did stop to offer them a lift to the Lang Bay Store. The return trip was also easy. Again it was the second car that offered them a ride.

Reunited at the campground, all changed into swimsuits and headed down to the beach. We had been told that the beach was lovely and great for swimming. The path was not long and at the bottom there was an outdoor shower with change rooms behind. The water was cold, obviously used to rinse off after being in the ocean, but it would be good for us to use as bonafide shower. Just past the showers there were picnic tables on the shore in nice little clearings. There was also a little bit of an peninsula with a small bay and there were picnic tables out on the peninsula.

We made our way down to the beach in a small protected bay (mostly because when we arrived, Alex spotted two kids playing with a dog in the water). Of course, Alex wanted to be where the kids were, but within minutes of our arrival, the kids were called away. We stayed anyway and Alex played in the water and Scott went for a quick dip. Rachel sat on the shore and enjoyed the sun for a bit and then decided to go and brave the cold water showers to get her hair washed so that she could warm up in the sun afterward. Scott went off to shower after Rachel came back and we both felt better for being a little cleaner.

We headed back up to the campsite at about 6:30 PM to make dinner and prepare for the bed. Some other cycle tourists, from Germany or the Netherlands, were camped beside us and they were busy with their meal as well. We had a tasty and filling dinner of Beef Stroganoff over noodles. Alex polished off a small tin of chocolate Jello pudding, left over from her morning "kids meal" on the ferry.

Even though it was a short mileage day (only 21.4 miles in total), we were all feeling fatigued and eager for bed. We climbed into the tent just before 9 PM. Alex was soon asleep, and Rachel and Scott sat up and chatted for a while before their slumber.

Alex rode 21.4 miles today at a hilly average speed of only 8.6 miles per hour. The only bright side to the day's stats is an E-Ticket downhill run that topped out at 42.7 miles per hour. Alex's bum sat on her tiny 'Trail-a-Bike' seat for a bum-numbing 2 hours and 28 minutes. Way to go Alex! You're now officially a cyclist (minus the steering, braking, gear-changing, traffic-minding and hauling your own bum up the hills that is)!

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