I want to ride my bicycle ~ I want to ride my bike ~ I want to ride my bicycle ~ I want to ride it where I like
~ Queen, Bicycle Race, Fat Bottomed Girls

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting Dirty On Hornby Island

Have you ever ridden trails that were just so good you never wanted them to end? For me Hornby Island is one of these places; it's a little island just off the east coast of Vancouver Island. I had not ridden there in over 10 years, so when the Dirty Girlz invited Scwink and I to their annual June camping trip, I was super excited. Were these memories of buff, fast, flowy singletrack a figment of my over-active imagination or did these amazing trails really exist?

We got all packed up and head out the door after work, excited and nervous for our first MTB road trip together. We made great time and ran into a few other groups of people that we were camping with when we pulled into the ferries. It was pretty awesome to see so many vehicles with mountain bikes on them (8 bikes on 4 cars, all in a row) all going to the same place. It's one of those "you know it's going to be a good weekend" feelings.

Yup, gunna be a rad weekend
We rolled into camp just as it was getting dark and quickly set up the tent in the rain, ready for some much needed sleep. The next morning we woke up and finished setting up camp then walked over to the village for delicious breaky at Jan's Cafe, I was itching to get my tires dirty, but first wanted to do some other island things. We visited the local bike shop to pick up a local map, not only do all proceeds from the map go towards trail maintenance and development it's a really well designed map, you will want it on the trails. The little shop has tons of rental bikes and gear. After that we decided to hit up the Farmer's Market and access the trails from there. I think this may have been the first Saturday Market of the season, so there were not many vendors there yet, but what a beautiful setting. If you ever head to Hornby, it's a don't miss.

We hooked up with one of the other women of the group and headed out onto the trails. The plan was to play on the green trails today and see how Scwink feels. Well, it didn't take long to see these were the type of trails that we are really sorely missing on southern Vancouver Island. Smooth, wide enough to not make new riders too nervous and fast and flowy ... with the odd nice wide bridge here and there. Scwink was having a great time, riding through creeks and getting the clean island wind in her face, so much fun.

Scwink 'enjoying' the lush ride up the mountain
We decided we would try to climb up and ride some other trails. I don't know that many sane people who like climbing, and Scwink and I are not climbers - that is for sure - so we took our time riding up the old logging road and enjoyed the view. One of the things that struck me was how lush and green the forest was. It was like something out of a fairy tale. The photos just do not show how beautiful it really is. After a bit more pedaling and pushing we make it to the Y were the other green trails intersect, but I had this 'great idea' to ride a blue trail that looked super smooth and fun. I talked my ever trusting and loving riding partner into checking it out.

They even have super tech trails there too...we stayed away from this one...for now.

Is that a dinosaur behind me?
Well, it started off great, but then when we'd gone too far to turn back it got a little too steep and twisty for Scwink and she ended up walking the end of the trail. I felt pretty bad about this, but she was keeping her head up and still had a smile on her face. Once at the bottom we were back onto a green trails, but this one had a fast, fun DH flow to it. It's nice and wide but with berms and serious movement, it was so much fun. I was having a blast and stopped to see how Scwink was doing and she rolls up with a HUGE grin on her face and I could see that she loved it ... awesome!

On our way back to the car we stopped to check out the amazing Hornby Comunity Hall, there was a birthday party going on inside and two of the kids saw us rolling by on bikes and asked if we had been to the pump track yet. I didn't even know they had one, so after we got directions Scwink decided to grab the car and meet me there. It was a fun little track with a few little jumps, but there was a crew working away to make it bigger and better. I really can't wait to see what they build there, but what the crew were describing sounded like a ton of fun.

There was still plenty of day left and we were thirsty- how oh how should we quell our thirst? Well, we decided to visit one of the many wineries on the island, and we were not disappointed with Carbrea Winery. It is a perfect rustic setting in such a beautiful spot. After an amazing wine tasting (we tried 7 different wines and liked them all) we picked up a few bottles of wine and headed out to explore more of the island.

Next up was a stop at the Cardboard Bakery for some much needed sustenance. We picked up some yummy gluten free brownies, fruit smoothies, and I had an amazing almond sweet bun. I could have eaten a dozen of them without thinking much about it ... mmmm ... so good. After that we explored their awesome garden and then headed to our next destination, idyllicWhaling Station Beach.

Such a beautiful area
The beaches on Hornby are gorgeous white sand beaches that, if it were just a little warmer when we went, would have been really hard to stay away from. After we got back to camp we took a little walk down to Tribune Bay beach, a wide, flawless beach that apparently gets quite warm in the summer on account of the shallowness of the water and, again, beautiful white sand.

Enjoying the beautiful Tribune Bay beach

The next morning we packed up camp; Scwink decided to relax and explore the island a little bit more while I went out with some friends to ride the amazing trails for a few hours. After climbing to the summit we sat and enjoyed the amazing view, pulled out the map and mapped our route for the rest of the ride. We decided to go about halfway down on various trails twice, head back up and then do the last run down to be a fast flowy ride ending with the famous No Horses. I have to say this again - the trails on Hornby are just amazing! We were hootin' and hollerin' all the way down ... stopping once in a while with huge grins on our faces to give each other high fives and talk about how great that trail was.

The gangs all here!

A few hours later we were back at the car and headed to meet Scwink at Middle Mountain Mead. Now this was a great idea when we made the plan in the morning, but after a big ride and not much breakfast, the mead hit me pretty fast - the rest of our party found it pretty funny. What can I say; I am a lightweight for such a big dude, but it makes me a cheap date, hah.

Not many riding photos as we were having too much fun...maybe next time.

After all that, we headed back down to the ferry, all a little sad we were leaving this beautiful little island. While the trails are amazing the cost of getting there will keep me from coming back more than once a year or 10. I think next time we go we will either camp in a different spot or rent a cabin as we were not impressed with Tribune Bay Campsite's facilities and it's fairly expensive for what you get. A cabin or B&B is not that much more for a LOT more convenience.

Some things to know if you are thinking of heading over to ride the amazing trails:
  • Ferry from Vancouver Island for two people and a car was $80.00
  • Camping is $35 a night for a tenting spot
  • Bring your own water - there is no natural source of fresh water on the island, though you can buy some at the marina if you have money and a container
  • Buy a trail map from the local shop - all the proceeds go to the trails and it's a great map
  • Make sure to pack out as much as your garbage as possible as there is no place for it to go otherwise

Good-Bye Hornby...we will miss you.
All in all it was a wonderful trip full of good friends and amazing riding. If you have never been you should make plans as Hornby has some of the most fun I have ever had riding trails. And, if you are not from this region, take some time and ride the amazing trails of Vancouver Island - we are very spoiled here. Heck drop me a line and I will either show you around or let you know where the best trails are.

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