Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Riding the Trans Canada Trail

                                            **** A BLAST FROM THE PAST ****

Published article in the Take 5 August 2009 issue.  What I love most about the Trans Canada Trail is everyone has access to a portion of the trail in their very own province.  What are you waiting for, go check yours out!

Vancouver Island is home to world class mountain-bike trails you can ride nearly all year long.  With our kids interested and capable of riding on their own, it was time to get on some of these trails.  I would love to tell you that both kids can ride for miles at a time with no stops or complaints.  Or even tackle the steep single track.  No such thing… they are only 2 and 4.  Right now we are making sure that they are comfortable when they ride to help build their confidence.  Then the wheels started turning in my head.  Could we all get out and ride some trails together?  A little imagination was needed but we finally figured out a solution.  Picture this, the two of us with our bikes, towing the bike chariot with the 2 kids and their bikes either; 1-riding the trail with us or 2-in the chariot with the bikes strapped on the back.  Then take this picture and scramble the combination every 10 mins, with our dog in tow.

We took this crazy scenario to the beautiful Cowichan Valley and rode along the Trans Canada Trail. The TCT offers over 20,000 km of recreational trails that connects every province and territory across Canada.  One section of this trail, the Cowichan Valley Trail, is exactly what I was looking for.  Travelling along the abandoned CN railway from Duncan all the way to Lake Cowichan, the trail offers four trestles combined with stunning views of the valley and river.  The history and construction of the trestles is impressive and the TCT has done a wonderful job restoring them.  One trestle that remains to be restored is the Kinsol Trestle, north of Shawnigan Lake. Towering 145 ft, this trestle is the largest wooden rail trestle in Canada.  Once this trestle is opened, the TCT will almost connect Nanaimo and Victoria offering 200 km of trails to enjoy.  Looking forward to riding that one day.

What makes the Cowichan Valley trail perfect for families is the trail itself.  For kids learning to bike, its straight with very little incline and well groomed.  The trestles provide distraction and getting from one to another is the adventure. There are a few different access points to the trail, depending on the distance you want to cover.  Holt Creek trail head to Lake Cowichan is 24 km one way.  Approximately half way are Skutz Falls and Marie Canyon day use area.  Marie Canyon gets you immediate access to trestle 66.  From here you can head west and still get to see Skutz Falls and trestle 70.2.  This route worked great for us and the kids.  Both were able to ride the trail and when they got tired, into the chariot they went.  At one point, both napped at the same time.  That is when we put the miles of trail behind us.  We made trestle 70.2 our picnic spot by just sitting on the trestle taking in the views.  After the naps and lunch, a little hike was required.  Just so happens there is a great little hike at trestle 70.2 that takes you to Spring Pool.  It’s a 2.6 km hike one way alongside the Cowichan River.  After the hike we started the ride back home.  The return trip still included the kids going in and out of the chariot, but it went much smoother.  Their confidence and skills were improving.  More so, dad mastered the art of bungee cording the bikes on the chariot.  The dog still had to fend for himself.

A large part of the Cowichan Valley Trail is within Cowichan Valley Provincial Park.  Outdoor adventures here are not limited to biking.  There are some great hiking trails, like the Cowichan River foot path or the Skutz Falls trail.  If camping is your thing, try Stoltz Pool and Horseshoe Bend campgrounds.  For the extreme adventurers, tubing down the river looks like fun. Something for everyone.  Our crazy bike, chariot, kids, and dog adventure turned out better then expected.  Being able to provide the kids with a chance to ride alongside us was special.  Surrounded by the beauty of the Cowichan Valley was not too bad either. The dog better watch out or I might think up some sort of saddle to help the kids out while hiking.

What to do

The activities are endless when it comes to The Cowichan Valley Trail and Trans Canada Trail.  There is hiking, trail walking, trail running, and bike riding.  Add a little adventure to your life and swim in or tube down the Cowichan River. 

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