When plans fell through for a road trip to Nationals, my adventure wheels started turning. The local race scene took a break on the same weekend in case any usual entrants might be making the trip to Winnipeg, so there was no need to prep for an impending race. Training intervals were stuffed into the black duffel that contains my race lycra, and baggier casual shorts were pulled out with a head full of anticipation.
I'll admit to frequenting the same loops in recent months as I've been attempting to carry form through the end of road season and into the cyclocross months. Routes that pass over concrete and dirt, through thick trails and open fields. Along these little strips of path I quite often come across side shoots or even full forks in the road, yet never seem to make the turn. With ambitious plans for the weekend, I decided that the next few days would be the perfect opportunity to dive in head first.
Day 01: I loaded up the pack with anything heavy that I could find to test riding comfort with such bulk. Climbed into the clouds to get an idea of what the added weight might do to my ascending abilities.
Day 02: Similar pack load, but I took on some trails that were a little more technical in nature. Even without a bag I'm still working on my single track handling skills, so the learning curve felt a tad steep.
Day 03: Attempted to connect every short trail I knew of in the Northern end of Nanaimo. Combining paths I've discovered on my own with those that were taught to me last winter.
Day 04: Took it pretty easy with the main ride waiting for me the following morning.
Day 05: As a precaution I decided to wear two waterproof jackets with the intention of keeping myself warm. Never did I think I'd be calling upon both layers to actually keep rain out.
Precipitation continued to fall and there were major portions of trail that I could only walk the bike through. Wet moss living on wet rocks turns out the be a slippery combination.
After three hours in the rain, my camera began showing signs of water damage as the focus started to soften, the burst mode took on a life of its own, and my rear LCD shone a corrupted card message I'd never seen before. Without hesitation I shut everything down and stuffed the equipment safely into the confines of my pack where the interior was still bone dry.
Trying to keep the idea of a ruined camera out of my mind, I continued on the trail I'd chosen in hopes of knowing where I was going. It only took an additional fifteen minutes to finally emerge out of the dense brush onto familiar roads and Timberland Lake sitting in the distance. Giving myself a much needed lakeside break allowed me a mental breath as the calm water pinged with rain drops and resonated like pennies falling from pockets. Not a soul was around and the only sign of past life was the bright pink spray paint in an accusatory fashion labelling the trees "sluts". My faith in humanity is now restored...
Shortly after departing from the lake I came around a corner to see a man and his dog in the distance. On closer inspection I noticed that running across his biceps and shoulders sat a rifle. He strutted down the centre of the service road as if crucified to the firearm while his waist high wolf dog circled him. Thinking it best to warn him early of my presence, I called out with a jovial, "Hello!", and watched the figure spin and point the barrel straight at me with the confidence bestowed upon a comic book villain.
A second passed that felt like ten before he pointed the gun towards the sky with the same speed he had turned the gun on me. He let a long sigh of relief out as he began to say he thought I was a speaking buck. Slowly I started to roll in his direction again with a slight grin as if I hadn't just soiled my bibs. Once next to him I asked about the area just to make sure I was on the right track and we spoke for quite some time. A kind man, just out to retrieve his hat from the day before when a cougar got between him and his belongings. Reasons for carrying a rifle began to make more sense as he described the large population of oversized cats in the region.
The conversation turned to my own reasons for being out on such a day, and as I told him that I'd ridden all the way from town his brows seemed to perk. One quick scan of my attire and bike choice lead to the remark, "You fully intended to be out here. In this kind of weather... In no way did you get trapped in this weather like most would think. Right?!". He goes on to inform me of his past mountain bike exploits on those very trails, getting his first bike with suspension, and that he also had a great touring bike waiting for him in the garage. Listening to a stranger reminisce about such happy memories and having him compare them to my own adventures reminded me of why I keep working on this blog, and what keeps inspiring me to seek new roads. A refresher I didn't know I needed.
Day 06: Worked out the mechanicals from day five and after letting my camera sleep in a rice bath it came back to life. It's still doing some odd things, but it's usable. Sunday also turned out to be a beautiful day.
If you find yourself in Nanaimo looking for routes, here's the links to each adventure day.