Day 9 already?
I had a really good sleep at Nookta Gold B&B! Silvie is such an amazing host, she served me a breakfast of scrambled egg, chicken crepes and sautéed potato. I wolfed that down in no time! Thanks again Silvie, you have an amazing place and are such a genuine and kind person! (Me and my new companion Cookie- Silvie’s corgi)
I was on the road by 8:45 and headed out into a gorgeous sunny day.
Scott and Jude had mentioned there were some big hills between Tahsis and Gold River, the first one came 2.5 miles in!
It was a steep beast! Probably 18% and went on for over a mile. It was a baptism of fire for the day ahead! I got to near the top and was so close to walking the final few hundred yards, I’d run out of gears and was tired already! I was about to unclip when I heard a loud crack right next to me in the woods to my right. I wobbled to the left and looked round but couldn’t see anything.
There was more crashing around and flailing branches as I slowly made my way up the hill but no sign of what it was! I carried on peddling faster, the moving bush and branches followed me up the hill! What the hell was it!
I moved into the wrong side of the road to get out of the way, whatever it was, it was big! I wasn’t sure if it was a bear, elk or deer but I didn’t want to be nearby as it crashed about within feet of me.
I shouted out ‘just riding my bike up this big hill!’. With that the crashing around moved downwards into the forest. I made it to the top of the first climb and calmed myself down. If I’d have blown the air horn there, to scare it off, everyone in Tahsis would have heard it and known it was me and why it was going off!
I carried on but was really nervous about cougars, everyone said this is cougar country and wolves were around too. I felt even more anxious now.
Every rocky area I came to, I eyed up and down and kept looking behind me, it was an anxious few miles until I calmed down a little. That first hill clocked up 600ft in less than a mile, so much of my attention was on getting my breath back!
The road went from gravel to Tarmac and back again, it made the climbs easier to contend with. A few chipmunks darted across the road, then a weasel. No more large stuff, for now.
I came across some stunning lakes with snow capped mountains reflecting in the calm water. I had to stop every few minutes to take it all in, this was the famous tree to sea drive and I could see why!
I seemed to get off lightly with the hills, were those first few all it was? Easy!
That’s until I met the big hill up to Bull Lake. Jeez…
I managed to stay on the bike for the first mile, but it just got steeper and steeper, then turned to deep gravel. I had to get off, I had no gears left and was wobbling around going too slow. I had extra fluid loaded today and I felt it!
Pushing the bike was even harder, my calf muscles were burning. My feet kept slipping in the deep gravel. I was praying for the road to even out enough to get back on but it jump ramped up even more.
I tried getting back on, it worked for a moment. I managed to take the sting out of the gradient by zig zagging the road. It worked for a bit until a car came past and I had to stay on my side. Every pedal turn just resulted in my back wheel burying itself in the gravel. I walked the rest, about half a mile!
I was baking hot, heat was bouncing off the surface. Walking at 2-3mph up hill, pushing a bike full of gear doesn’t result in any wind resistance, so sadly no cooling breeze!
I finally made it to a section which was rideable so I got on and got back into a rhythm. Despite having to walk a section, the mountains around me were spectacular, I loved every moment.
I was still cautious about cougars and kept my eyes peeled. There wasn’t much happening at all, just birds singing and a lizard or two shimmying across the road. I’d seen two lots of cougar scat at the side of the road so knew there were some in the area.
A few miles later, I looked around to my left, just cursory, and saw a light brown tail shooting off into a bush. I had to double take, was that what I think it was? Yep, It looked like it and gave me the creeps, big time! A cougar tail. I put my foot down and found energy from somewhere to fly up a few ascents and get a huge gap between me and where I saw it. I’d heard stories about cougars the past few days, over and above all I’d read up about. This sighting scared me, no two ways about it. It must have seen or heard me and snuck back into the darkness of the forest. Although it was a scary moment, I was a little disappointed it was just it’s tail I saw. But it could have been a different story.
I was even more determined to get to Gold River for lunch now and enjoyed a decent section of downhill right up to the outskirts.
I was still creeped out by that tail and paranoid about every rock face and dense bit of forest so I stayed as close to the middle of the road as I could, that made me feel safer.
Literally just outside Gold River, a bear flies across the road right in front of me. I brake immediately in panic, still shaken up by the cougar. It was was a youngster and shot up a tree. It perched there, clinging to the trunk and a branch looking at me. I calmed down and filmed him for a few seconds on my camera (will post when I get it downloaded). He was more scared of me, I didn’t want to stress him out so spoke calmly to him as I rode past slowly.
I have no idea if mum was around or if he was too old to be with her still. Either way, he was a cute little fella and I’m glad he looked healthy and is scared of humans. A habituated bear will probably be shot.
Quite a morning so far as I rolled into Gold River. 3,500 ft in 35 miles. Something crashing around right next to me. A cougar tail and a young bear. I was so tempted to just stay in Gold River but knew I had an afternoon of opportunity to make up some more ground. So I did.
I headed out to Campbell River which went right through Strathcona Provincial Park, I couldn’t wait for this, I’d be riding by some huge mountains and lakes .
I was still a bit shakey about the cougar and my legs were very tired from some sharp and long climbs, but I had to do it.
A local said the road was not hilly, just lots of twists and turns. That was a relief, my legs were aching already and I could just about manage the 60 miles to Campbell River.
I think the local guy had a different idea of hilly to me. It was up and down like a yo-yo and added nearly 4,000ft to the day!
Add to that 20 miles of headwind. That’s all I needed. I was reaching the top of a hill, ready to enjoy a well deserved freewheel only to be bashed in by a headwind. Instead of freewheeling, I found myself pedalling downhill just to prevent myself from coming to a stop! It was like a double hill!
You could see the wind coming on a long stretch of road, a huge gust created a Mexican wave in the branches either side of the road. Rolling along, like an air tsunami, then it would hit you. The only good part is it would cool you down. By now it was mid to high twenties Celsius and I was roasting.
There were no places to get food or drink between Gold River and Campbell River and I was running out. I thought I had more than I did, schoolboy error! I had to ration it by getting to 10 mile targets. I’d stop and have a few swigs on the bottle, give my legs a shake and the plough on another 10 miles before the next drink.
Counting down the miles kept me motivated. At 70 miles I’d tell myself, another 5 and you’re nearly at 80 and it’s just 15 after that until the days done. I often stopped to take in the views too, it was mind blowing, what a place!
With 15 miles left to Campbell River, the wind dropped and I had a prolonged series of downhills which did wonders! I zoomed into town at nearly 7pm and promptly downed 4 cold drinks from the first place that sold them.
I’m nearly a day ahead of schedule now! I’ll probably go to Port Alberni tomorrow, Tofino if I have the legs. It’s going to be hot, around 30c and it’s Canada Day so I hope to get some toots when people see my jersey.
What a day, 99 miles, 6,650ft of climbs, a bit of a cougar, a bear and some epic climbs. I’m tired, fried from the sun but thankful for such a good day after the few I had last week.
Roll on the next few days!