At one point this summer, I decided I was going to do a solo bikepacking trip. The idea of doing it solo wasn't so much the goal. The whole solo portion of it was more out of necessity because I was sure that I wasn't going to be able to find other people that I could coordinate with to do this ride.
But it turns out I was wrong.
I had decided I wanted to ride from Vesuvius Bay to Ruckle Provincial Park on Saltspring Island. The ride wasn’t my usual. It was almost completely on paved roads, some of which are very busy. But I wanted the challenge of facing the fear of riding next to traffic, trying something different and getting to somewhere amazing in the process.
As soon as I started talking about my plans for this trip I discovered that I actually had a few friends who had been wanting to try bikepacking but just hadn't had the opportunity. Within a couple of weeks of talking about it, I had three women who wanted to join me. We somehow also managed to find dates that worked for all of us. This was only my second bikepacking trip and it would be the first for everyone else, but the ladies coming with us were three of my favourite people on the planet and I couldn’t wait to get out on some bikes with them, even if it meant some extra work on my part.
Figuring out how everyone was going to carry their gear proved to be the most difficult part of our planning process. We had four ladies with different skill sets, different bikes and different carrying capacities. My friend Cassie and I were on mine and Logan’s touring style mountain bikes (Marin Pine Mountains), which were both already set up for bikepacking. We had bags, racks and everything figured out for two people to carry all the gear they needed for a backpacking adventure. The other two ladies, on the other hand had a bit of a challenge. Michelle had a gravel bike, which was going to be perfect for the trip, but she didn’t have proper bags or a bike rack. Maya had a full suspension mountain bike with no attachment points for racks or bags and zero bags figured out. Her bike was definitely not ideal for the riding we were going to be doing, but the stoke was larger than the challenge and we knew we could figure it out.
Between borrowing from friends, family and the biking community, renting a tent, and buying a couple of things, we were able to get all four bikes outfitted with enough gear for everyone to get out on the road and enjoy themselves for a couple of days.
Then came the actual riding. Despite being warned, I didn’t take to heart the idea that riding on Saltspring Island is essentially an endless series of hills. You go up and down one hill just to go up and down another. We had four ladies with very different skill levels, endurance and experiences on bikes and obviously three very different types of bikes as well. This meant that there were a lot of adjustments done both to riding speed and style. We would ride for a while and then stop at the top of a hill to let everyone catch up, always checking in to see where we were on the type one to type two fun spectrum and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves before continuing on. It was also fascinating to see how each bike performed, where the strengths and weaknesses were and that a trip like this can be accomplished regardless of what you have to ride. It wasn’t the bike or even the skillset that really mattered. It was the determination and willingness to get out there and pedal.
Despite this trip being almost exclusively on roads and somehow 90% uphill, it was beautiful. Saltpsring Island is a little bit of country paradise. The roads are flanked by tall maple and Douglas Fir trees, each few kilometer seems to have its own farm stand beside a unique farm, and even the drivers were mostly courteous due to the abundance of people riding bikes or scooters to get around. Every hill felt like a challenge, but each challenge was softened by the beauty that surrounded us. On our way to our camp site we stopped in the lovely town of Ganges, had lunch and enjoyed a bit of civilization before heading back out and away from stores or restaurants.
After a few hours of riding we reached our beautiful campsite. The walk (or cycle) in only campsites of Ruckle Provinicial Park are all situated in a meadow on a cliffside. To reach them you pedal through a short bit of Douglas Fir and cedar rainforest before emerging into a luscious area of grassland overlooking the southern gulf islands. This trip was not the first time I had seen this campground, but it was the first time I had been here on land. We had sailed past the point a few times and each time I had thought about what a great place it would be to camp. So here I was, fulfilling that wish. We found a nice picnic table, leaned our bikes up against it and set up our tents. That evening was spent enjoying the incredible views and nature that this campsite has to offer. We also just happened to be there on a full moon and the light from the moon was so bright that I managed to capture some pretty awesome shots, even after the sun had gone down!
The next morning we took it slow before deciding to part ways two by two. Maya and Michelle live in Vancouver and decided it made more sense for them to take the ferry from the south end of the island to get home instead of riding all the way back to the other end of the island. Cassie and I on the other hand retraced our trek back up the big hills and down their slopes, arriving back to Vesuvius Harbour with plenty of time to make it back to Vancouver Island. On the way we were even graced with some warm summer rain which helped to cool us down and keep us motivated on our ride home.