So 6/6/6 wasn't such a scary number after all, was it? I know that here in Victoria it was one of the nicest days we've had this year. And I took full advantage of the combination of a beautiful day and a day off from invigilating exams at the University to take my bike and power off to the end of the Galloping Goose Trail.
The Trail, named after an old locomotive and running on the old roadbed, runs from kilometre zero at the Johnson Street Bridge out past the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park to end at the abandoned mining village of Leechtown fifty-five kilometres away. I've never biked the length of it, and have always thought that the trip from Victoria to Sooke would be interesting. And it is.
The first section of the ride is alongside the main artery of Victoria, Douglas Street. After Switch Bridge, the trail parallels Douglas as Douglas turns into the Trans-Canada Highway heading up to Naniamo. As Douglas changes, the Goose veers south into Colwood. The Trail starts to become more than a commuter route at this point, as the trees lining the sides of the Trail start to close in and occasionally arch over it, leaving you biking through a green tunnel. It's here that you cross Six Mile Bridge, one of those typical places in Victoria—where a place of stunning natural beauty exists fifteen metres from fifteen thousand people. Or as I put it 24 years ago; “another f*cking picturesque view, eh”?
While the route that the Trail follows through Colwood is very pretty—lots of flowering trees and wild rose bushes—there seems to have been a distinct lack of commitment to the Trail by the local government during its construction phase. There are several awkward or impossible crossings (such as the one over the Island Highway at Ocean Boulevard) that could have been made so much better if trail users had been given a bit more thought (or respect). One also has to be careful crossing the Veteran's Memorial Parkway, as the Trail technically ends and then restarts across the way. But if you watch the signage here, you end up back on the Trail rather than on the pedestrian-only trails paralleling the Parkway.
Between Kilometre 17 and 18, if you keep watch, is a small post that says “Jenkins Trail”. This is an excellent turnaround point for a morning ride. If you turn north here, you end up in Glen Cove Park, with its AFPV (another f*cking etc) from a small bench in the boardwalk that cuts across the east end of Glen Lake. This is an excellent bird-watching spot—I spotted a redwing blackbird jumping from lily pad to lily pad and occasionally flipping up the edges of the lily pads, foraging for bugs. This isn't behaviour that I've seen in redwing blackbirds before, so I found it quite interesting. But I usually use this location for fish watching. The water here is usually quite clear, and the bottom is covered with a forest of plants, so if you watch closely you will usually see a number of fish of different sizes and types moving in and out of the shelter of the plants. But today it was only fry less that ten millimetres long zipping about in the water.
Leaving Glen Lake, you run into another terrible crossing, where the Trail, Glen Lake Road and the Island Highway come together. And particularly try to avoid this crossing during the Luxton Fair weekend—nothing but cars and people in every direction. Thankfully, the fair was a couple of weeks back, so the traffic was lessened.
After the Luxton fairgrounds, the Trail runs roughly alongside Happy Valley Road and becomes more distinctly rural in nature. Here farms back onto the Trail, and creeks run along side it, and the biking is a treat. It rained a few days back, so the Trail was still damp, and biking along it was a lot cooler than it was in the sun.
The next problematic crossing comes when the Trail crosses the intersection of Rocky Point Road and Kangaroo Road. It was a short while after this crossing that the unexpected happened between kilometre 27 and 28. I was cruising nicely, the gravel surface of the Trail here is a fine crushed gravel (say 8mm and under), and is well packed. Making good time, I came around a slight bend in the green tunnel and slammed on the brakes. I skidded to a stop while less than seven metres ahead of me a small black bear crossed the Trail. He (all bears are he, except for Polar bears which are she) was obviously still young and not anywhere near full sized. His coat was rough, not the late summer sleekness of a well-fed mature bear, and all I wanted to do was dig my fingers in and give him a good scratch. He jogged across the Trail and paused briefly on the down-slope on the other side, turning to look at me while I stayed quite still looking at him. Then he continued down the slope and stopped in the underbrush by the creek flowing at the bottom of the ravine.
I guess I never really believed that there were bears on the Island. I've seen the local deer—often on the Goose or Lochside Trails—and while the mule deer we'd see on the farm were seven hundred pounds and up, the local deer are luck to weigh a tenth that. So I didn't really think that bears would be able to live on the Island. But this area, particularly as you get closer to Matheson Lake, is still quite wild. Cougars are regularly spotted inside the city limits, and years ago one actually was spotted within two blocks of our house on John Street, but I have difficulty believing in them too. I think its because growing up in Edmonton, the urban and the wild were distinctly different things; with the wild being relegated to the National Parks like Jasper and Banff.
At approximately kilometre 30 is the cut-off to Matheson Lake Regional Park. Previously, this was the furthest I'd biked on the Galloping Goose. That was last summer when John and I biked out and Paula and Louise brought the kayak out. At this point you are just past halfway to the end of the Trail, and Matheson is a good place to stop as the lake is suitable for swimming, fishing, and boating.
The entrance to Roche Cove Regional Park is at kilometre 35, and this is where I stopped for lunch. The Trail has to be around a hundred metres up from the Cove, and provides some spectacular views. Roche Cove is connected to Matheson Lake, and Matheson is home to beautiful sea-run trout with orange salmon-like flesh (yes, back in the day I would occasionally drop a line into the water).
From Roche Cove, the Trail follows the Sooke Basin shoreline all the way over to Cooper Cove, passing at least one B&B enroute. It was only a couple of weeks back that we were out kayaking in Cooper Cove and Sooke Basin, so it was very interesting to see it from the Trail point of view.
After Cooper Cove, the Trail follows Sooke Road for a while before bending off to the north and heading towards Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, staying high up the side of the hill while far below the Sooke River tumbles along.
There are two spectacular trestle bridges here; the Charters Creek and Tod Creek trestles, both of which are high over their respective creeks. There are alternate routes over each creek for horse traffic. And the trail finally end at kilometre 55 in Leechtown—the former site of a gold mining community.
By the end of the trip I have to say that I was plenty tired. It has been months since I've biked more than fifteen or twenty kilometres at one go, so I biked back down to Sooke Road about kilometre 41, and caught the municipal bus back to Victoria, loading my bike on the front. I've never done this before either, and found the procedure quite straightforward, and the bus drivers quite understanding and helpful. But then most of the bus drivers here are understanding, patient, and helpful.
So I made it back to the house, tired, but not destroyed. And the next morning I experienced only a small amount of stiffness—about what I usually feel in the morning, so I was quite pleased with myself. Really, a terrific bike trip.