Nev Judd: Online and out there

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On trails and roads, electric bikes are putting the “coast” in Sunshine Coast

Like everyone else on the Sunshine Coast, I live near a hill. For 20 years, I knew any ride in or out of Roberts Creek would require exertion, some sweat and a little resolve. That resolve would often disappear at the mere sight of my car keys.

Then I bought an electric bike. Turns out, I’m not the only one!

“The e-bike flattens the hills quite nicely,” says my friend and fellow Creeker, Randy Shore. “I had been riding a Devinci hybrid for about 20 years, but I had fallen out of love with steep hills.”

Out on a recent ride with TraC, (Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast) a volunteer member-based group, which encourages people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles by changing local culture towards active transportation.

To clear his mind and to enjoy the sunshine, Randy mostly rides backroads on his Specialized Como to avoid the noise, dust and highway bike lanes.

“The bike lanes on the Sunshine Coast are at best incomplete,” he says. “But even the lanes that exist are badly cracked or covered in so much debris that they are too dangerous to ride on. Even when a lane is available I feel safer on the road.”

Teacher, Sheena Careless commutes a few days a week from Gibsons to Roberts Creek Elementary School, sometimes dropping off her eight-year-old son, Toby, at Gibsons elementary. She’s clocked 1,800 kilometres on her RadWagon electric cargo bike since purchasing it in February 2021, a choice her family made in preference to buying a second car.

“I can do a week’s grocery shop, ferry two kids … I could do the recycling if I were more organized!

“The highways are not awesome, so we take back-routes when we can,” she adds. “I don’t e-cycle for the exercise; I e-cycle because I want to get somewhere. I don’t want to show up sweaty. I can e-cycle to school and be ready to teach.”

Commuting in the opposite direction for the last 20-plus years is Alun Woolliams, president of TraC (Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast – transportationchoices.ca). A volunteer member-based group, TraC encourages people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles by changing local culture towards active transportation. It’s also about encouraging local and non-local governments (The provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure-MOTI) to improve infrastructure.

Guerrilla bike-lane cleaning is among the many events organized by TraC. Other activities include Active Transportation Weeks, (formerly Bike to Work Week) bike polo and e-bike scavenger hunts. Photo courtesy transportationchoices.ca

“An e-bike is a brilliant replacement for the car,” says Alun, who bought a Giant e-bike three years ago. “It takes the hills away and makes it so much easier to get out of bed and get on my bike.”

TraC organizes Active Transportation Weeks (formerly Bike to Work Week) and events such as bike polo, e-bike scavenger hunts and guerrilla bike-lane cleaning. (When I call Alun, he is literally at the bottom of my driveway, cleaning the Lower Road bike lane with fellow TraC members.)

The group has worked closely with the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Town of Gibsons, Town of Sechelt and MOTI to establish a designated bike route. It has also hired a consultant to assess the feasibility of a “Connect the Coast Trail” – a multi-use path between Langdale and Sechelt. However, four government jurisdictions plus private land ownership mean a plan is rarely simple.

“It’s not acrimonious, they’re trying to work together,” says Alun. “It’s complicated but there’s room for improvement.”

TraC president, Alun Woolliams. Photo courtesy transportationchoices.ca

For respite from the Coast’s somewhat unique multi-jurisdictional bureaucracy, Alun can still escape to the forests where he continues to mountainbike the old-fashioned way – unassisted.

“If I’m going into the forest, that’s just recreation and I don’t feel like I need assistance, but I think it’s great that people do, if that makes it more accessible.”

Avid mountainbiker and trail-builder, Dale Sapach, counts himself as an e-bike convert. “They have a whole different fun factor to them and they make going uphill trails really quite enjoyable,” he says.

“One of my trails on Mount Elphinstone was super steep; 50 minutes full on pedal to get up there. When I started building that trail, it became obvious that I’d never finish it.”

His Specialized e-bike changed that.

“It still took me over a year to finish the trail, but regardless, that’s kind of how I got into it. I think it’s great these things exist. You can keep pushing your limits and keep riding with younger people.”

While the assist of an electric bike may make uphill trails easier, it does not necessarily make the sport less skillful, or less risky, says Dale. On the contrary: “The pros, the downhill racers know how to keep their speed through corners. You’re ultimately limited by your skill. And that potentially is an issue for some people who lose control.

“I think the biggest issue with full-power e-bikes is the weight. You require more upper body strength. When things go sideways a bit, they can go sideways a lot worse when your bike weighs 52 pounds.”

Gary Jackson agrees: “Where many people believe the e-bike is cheating, as one of the most experienced mountain bikers on the Sunshine Coast, I believe it’s much harder physically and technically to ride an electric mountainbike.

“You’re riding a bigger vehicle faster over more terrain. Because they’re more capable, I end up riding steeper terrain, higher technical climbs, aggressive technical loops, where on a pedal bike you’d have to go around to come back down. An electric bike allows you to ride fall line all day with much more elevation.”

Separation anxiety or eBike envy? Either way, Leah deals with Sylvester’s issues.

Gary owns Off The Edge Bike Shop in Sechelt. When I drop by for a quick chat, we’re still talking an hour later. He’s passionate about bike safety and dispelling what he sees as misinformation about e-bikes.

“Everybody asks, ‘how much power does it have?’ and my answer is always ‘way more than you need! You want to be talking about efficiency, weight, reliability, warranty, all that – they’ve all got lots of power.”

While it’s difficult to track the growth in popularity of e-bikes locally with any accurate measure, Off The Edge sales provide some insight. The store, a fixture for 15 years, sold its first electric bike in 2016. In 2017, it sold eight. In 2018, it sold 40 e-bikes. In 2019, it sold more than 100.

“In 2022, I’ll sell as many as I can get,” he says.

The Coast’s baby boomer demographic with its disposable income means e-bikes sell faster here, according to Gary. He recounts the experiences of older customers who thought their best cycling days were behind them. Now they’re riding to Phare Lake before breakfast, followed by the base of Mount Hallowell.

“It’s like Viagra for bikes!” he laughs. “Boomers have figured out how to not age.”

Gary sees e-bikes as not just removing hills, but also overcoming political obstacles.

“Boomers get stuff done,” he says. “Now it’s a voting entity. All the sudden, where the 60-plus crowd was not a voting demographic for the cycling community, now it is, and they’re going to have their voices heard.

“E-bikes are going to bring infrastructure. E-bikes are going to bring bike lanes. E-bikes are going to bring much needed revenue and resources into a very difficult economy. E-bikes are going to bring conscientious, enthusiastic volunteers, to help build and maintain trails. “Cyclists can learn from e-bikers and we’re lucky to have them.

Gone with the wind

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A muscular six-foot-three and weighing well over 200 pounds in his wetsuit, Stefan Benko is not easily swept off his feet. That is unless he’s afloat on a carbon-fibre board and attached at the waist by a harness and 100 feet of nylon lines to a polyester kite.

Just add wind and waves for lift-off!

“It’s just me and the elements,” says Stefan. “The beauty of being on the water is a fantastic feeling, especially here on the Sunshine Coast. I have been out in 35-40 knots, incredible winds, swells so big you get in a lower spot, you don’t see land, you’re in a bowl, and then on top you take off because the wave propels you up.”

Tacking up and down the coastline on a stormy day, kiteboarders can generate speeds in excess of 40 kilometres an hour, leaping 30 to 40 feet above the waves. Not surprisingly, there’s a learning curve to be navigated.

Attention to detail and painstaking preparation are essential for a safe and enjoyable kiteboarding experience, says Stefan Benko, pictured both in his element and prior to departure.

A south-southeast wind is gusting 15 knots on the sunny day we meet at Davis Bay. Stefan is part of a close-knit but welcoming community of kiteboarders who can often be spotted on windy days, plying the ocean waves from Langdale to West Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, northwest of Vancouver, Canada.

Many are self-employed like Stefan, connected to each other by the messaging service, WhatsApp, and highly motivated to hit the beach when conditions are right: Davis Bay in a south-southeasterly; Bonniebrook or Wakefield in a north-northwesterly; Shoal Channel between Langdale and Granthams Landing when summer thermals are blowing; or off the mouth of Roberts Creek when a southerly wind blows over the pier.

“We are all connected to weather apps and weather change usually means wind,” says Stefan. “Sometimes though unexpectedly the wind just pops up in the morning. You have two hours and then it dies. If the wind dies, the kite doesn’t fly and I have to swim back. It can be a long swim!”

A fickle wind is just one of several potential hazards of which kiteboarders must be aware. Stefan’s preparations begin in his van where he sorts through equipment based on conditions. A harness, bar and board, boots, wetsuit, impact vest, lifejacket and a helmet if it’s particularly rough are foremost on his mental checklist.

Then there’s the choice of kite. Like boards, kites vary in material and size based on your weight, level of discipline and wind speed. Strong winds mean smaller kites – about seven square metres. Lighter winds mean bigger kites with more surface area to generate better pull.

Today, Stefan is excited to use his new, 12-square-metre foil kite, which unlike inflatable kites, generates more power and operates well in lighter winds. “It’s the Rolls Royce of kites,” he tells me as we head down to the beach. “It just wants to go up, up, up. I love it!”

At the water’s edge and now in his wetsuit and harness, Stefan unpacks his gear – all of which weighs little more than a few pounds. Connected in a bridle, the nylon lines look like a bird’s nest at first. Stefan painstakingly makes sure that lines are straight and not crossed.

Rocks and barnacles are never too far from the sand of Davis Bay and a sudden gust of wind could potentially drag and damage the kite or cross the lines. That could spell calamity if equipment malfunctions half a mile offshore. Wind can also up-end a kiteboarder before they’ve even made it into the ocean.

Stefan recalls the first time he saw kiteboarding. “It was 1997 and I was in Maui, Ho’okipa Beach, and windsurfing was at its height. On the beach is this guy. He has a surfboard in one hand and two handles and a kite in the air. He is being dragged down the beach by the wind, there was so much force.”

Stefan rushed to assist. “I held him, we walked to the edge of the water and he put his feet in the suit-board straps and off he goes. Soon he’s flying, jumping, up and down. And I go, ‘what the heck is that?’”

Stefan had helped Marcus ‘Flash’ Austin, a pioneer of the sport, later to become its world champion for many years. “I used to windsurf, snowboard, wakeboard, anything to do with boards. When I saw kiteboarding, I thought ‘this is the sport, I want to get into.’ I used to paraglide. It’s the same idea of flying and hanging off the strings and controlling the wind and the kite and being able to lift. It was a perfect combination for me to get into it.”

With his lines straight and his final check over, Stefan is almost ready to launch. He’s keen to emphasize to anyone considering the sport, take lessons. Kiteboarders the world over always help each other, he says, but starting off with proper instruction is essential. (Several schools run out of Squamish.)  

“There are so many things that can go wrong in a split second,” he says. “A sudden gust can shatter your confidence; it can rip the kite out of your hands or you’re being dragged by the kite, out of control, face first, hurting yourself, or someone else. Learn how to fly a kite and get the sense of balance, counter-balance, the pull and learn what not to do with a kite. If it flies out of control, there’s no way back.”

Mastering the art though can reap rich rewards and not just speed and big air. “A few years ago, here I was kiteboarding feet away from a pod of orcas. Last Fall, I was in the mouth of Wilson Creek and a salmon jumps and hits me in the thigh. Really!”

“Are there any conditions you’d refuse to go out in?” I ask. After a brief pause, Stefan answers: “No wind.” We laugh and with that, he edges into the waves, the slack in the nylon lines soon stiffening as the kite extends overhead.

Seconds later, he’s skimming the whitecaps heading west, before tacking into the wind and returning towards the mouth of Chapman Creek. Reclining at a 45-degree angle, edging into the waves and gaining speed, Stefan finally takes flight, and is suspended in mid-air. Seven seconds later, he descends.

I’m almost certain he’s smiling.

Written by nevjudd

February 22, 2022 at 7:41 pm

Cold comfort

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Cold-water plunges too good to limit to New Year’s Day

It’s a raw, rainy November afternoon when I join Sherryl, Donna, Maggie, Tara and Meaghan at Porpoise Bay. Some dog-walkers are around but it’s safe to say, we’re the only people wearing bathing suits.

At the water’s edge, Donna Shugar confides: “My husband Ken thinks he should be here; just in case I don’t return.”

“How come he’s not doing this?” I ask.

“He’s from California,” Donna replies. “He says he hasn’t been warm since he moved to Canada.”

It’s true, cold-water exposure is not for everyone. There’s nothing inviting about today’s leaden skies and grey ocean. But seconds later, in fading light, we’re in, submerged, swimming, floating and talking. I stifle the urge to pant.

Donna Shugar, Maggie Guzzi, Sherryl Latimer, Meaghan O’Brien Spithoff and Tara Swann are undeterred by the cold rain falling at Porpoise Bay.

“There’s always a shock but I don’t really think about it anymore, I just do it,” says Sherryl Latimer. “I do a deep-breathing exercise for the first 30 seconds and then I am submerged, and it feels great.”

Like most of the others, Sherryl is a cold-water convert. She organized today’s swim and hopes it will become a regular event for like-minded enthusiasts. Sherryl invited Tara Swann and Meaghan O’Brien Spithoff, who swim with a group that meets multiple times a week at Henderson Beach in Roberts Creek.

For reasons as varied as the growing number of people who practice it, cold-water immersion is no longer just for New Year’s Day.

Meaghan is inspired by the contrasts between “the powerful ocean and the vulnerable human that enters it”.

“It’s breathtaking,” she says. “It feels like an internal strength develops inside you the more you swim and yet the ocean soothes you at the same time.”

Her friend Tara craves the connections made in the ocean – and not just human connections.

“I felt a little like I cheated the social isolation in the last year,” says Tara. “We come alone and meet up together. We’re distanced. Anyone is welcome and it quenches a social need while you compete only with yourself.

“Every day the water’s different, the sky is different, your body feels different. I dip my head like a daily baptism. It’s like how I imagine church to feel for others – replenishing.”

“Rejuvenating” is how Sherryl describes it. “After swimming in the cold, it feels like you’ve had a massage inside and outside your body. I have underlying heart and lung issues, and I live with depression. This just makes me feel so good. It lifts my mood and spirit. During Covid, I found the periods of depression came more often and for longer. When I swim more, the depression spells lessen.”

Sherryl keeps a detailed log of all her swims, recording weather conditions, tides and time spent in the water. Her attempts to form a weekly group are now making headway and she draws inspiration from a group in Powell River.

“I went up last spring and swam with them. It’s mostly women and 10 or 12 who swim every day. Right away you feel a camaraderie because it’s a special kind of person who does this. Now with the few women who have joined at Porpoise Bay, you have this thing in common, it’s out of the ordinary and there’s a sense of adventure.

“The overall benefit is of feeling wonderful afterwards and sharing that feeling with others.”

Storms, wind, rain and snow are no deterrent to the women, who are not about to let the weather come between them and their cold-water fix.

Tammie Lumsden and George Vourtsis relish a rare sunny Fall swim at Georgia Beach in Gibsons.

The stormier the better for George Vourtsis, who started a group pre-pandemic as an extension of the Gibsons-based boxing club. The group meets Sunday mornings off Franklin Road.

“Storms! That’s the best time to come out,” says George. “When it’s nasty and the wind’s blowing and the swells are up and you know you’re going in, you get a rush – it’s a good feeling.”

Another regular, Tammie Lumsden, can vouch for George’s enthusiasm. “One Sunday was super stormy, and I was standing at the edge, saying ‘I just can’t do this, there’s just no way’. And George said, ‘yes you can, you can do it’. I just got in and it was totally fine.”

Ironically, it’s a cold, calm, crystal-clear Sunday when I join the group. (Two humpback whales even make an appearance!) More than one person remarks that the weather’s actually too good. Most of the group remain immersed for at least two minutes, although one or two prefer to quickly run in and out.

When I ask why swim, I hear familiar feel-good responses of camaraderie, connection and health benefits, including better circulation, stronger immune systems and improved mental health. That word “rejuvenating” comes up again.

Simplicity also strikes a chord for Tammie.

“It’s free! You live on the Coast! I grew up next to water my whole life. Why wouldn’t you?”

Almost all the people I speak to are familiar with Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete and so-called Ice Man, who has popularized specialized breathing techniques and cold therapy in books and videos. Less known to us now is Vincenz Priessnitz, who extolled the virtues of hydrotherapy more than 150 years ago. Hippocrates, considered the founder of medicine, was prescribing cold water as a curative circa 400 BC.

Science would seem to validate some of those shared but subjective feelings of exhilaration. A 2000 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology (“Human physiological responses to immersion in cold water of different temperatures”) found that the increase in dopamine from cold water exposure is comparable to levels recorded after taking cocaine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that in sufficiently high levels can lead to feelings of bliss, euphoria, greater motivation and concentration. The dopamine release triggered by cold water, unlike cocaine, is sustained, continuing to rise for up to three hours, long after exiting the water.

New year’s day swimming in Roberts Creek. It’s always a little faster getting out that going in.

I’m beginning to understand why a free, legal, non-addictive, long-lasting high might be so appealing!

For all its potent stimulus though, swimming here at this time of year is not to be undertaken lightly for first-timers. Sherryl heeded her doctor’s advice of “take it slow and listen to your body” before becoming a full cold-water convert. “It’s at your own risk, learn about what you’re getting into and have someone spot for you if you’re swimming by yourself,” she adds.

I’d add that neoprene booties and gloves are pretty skookum, too!

For now, Sherryl is hopeful more people will join the group, which currently meets at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park one to two times a week. (Search “Sechelt Cold Water Swimmers” to find the group on Facebook.)

“Perhaps we’ll be doing this every day,” she says.

Written by nevjudd

February 5, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Get up, stand up!

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With ocean and an abundance of lakes and tidal rapids, stand-up paddleboarders are spoiled for choice on the Sunshine Coast. Photo by Alpha Adventures

One evening last year, Jamie Mani was driving home late after coaching at Chatelech Secondary, where he teaches. Awed by the beautiful sunset at Davis Bay, he instinctively pulled over to inflate his stand-up paddleboard. A few minutes later, he was plying the calm ocean with just the setting sun and a rising full moon for company: alone, or so he thought.

“This whale appears,” recalls Mani. “So, it was just me, a whale, the sunset and a full moon!”

Whether on an inflatable or a hard version, a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP as it’s commonly known, offers a variety of escapes depending on your location. On the Sunshine Coast that could mean a peaceful, flatwater glide on Trout Lake; a touring adventure up Sechelt inlet on boards equipped with dry-bags full of gear under deck-line bungees; or an ocean jaunt to Keats Island or Pasley Island off Gibsons. For experienced SUP boarders, there’s world-class surfing at the Skookumchuk near Egmont.

“We’re so lucky on the Sunshine Coast, we have access to so many styles and bodies of water – coves, lakes, inlets, open strait, wave, no-wave,” says Mani. “And on any given day, if you’re willing to travel, you’re probably going to find calm water.”

Even old people can standup paddleboard! Hitomi Makino photo

Mani runs the Wilson Creek-based outdoor adventure store, Alpha Adventures, and was among the first group of instructors to be certified to teach SUP by Paddle Canada. He introduced SUP to the Sunshine Coast through Alpha shortly after trying it while on vacation in Hawaii.

“It was early to mid 2000s and in Hawaii, SUP was already taking off. I rented a board and loved the experience. Having been a kayak guide for decades, I do love paddling. But paddle-boarding is a completely different interaction with the water. I could go surfing on it. But I could also just look down at a reef, see turtles, see fish, check out the sunset. There the visibility is so good, it was almost like I was snorkelling, but standing up.”

An avid old-school surfer, Mani quickly realized another SUP advantage.

“I’d always liked surfing so when I saw those other surfers on SUPs, I thought: ‘It looks so easy because they’re out of the water, and they are able to catch waves, and they are always back out in the lineup way faster than any of us.

“That was kind of my second epiphany; this is amazing and I’m getting older, so this is easier, so it was a natural. Whether or not it was going to work for the business, we knew it was going to be part of our lives. We were hooked.”

During the mid-2000s, as the boards began to appear in adventure stores like Alpha, many viewed SUP as a craze, sure to be short-lived.

“One of our customers, who’s actually a teaching colleague, said to me: ‘Is this going to be the Crocs of watersports?’ I can almost remember the day he came in seven years later, and he said: “I was wrong. I’d like to know more about buying a board.

“We’ve always had a strong instructional component in our business, our foundation is on teaching and lessons. We really worked hard at getting people out on the water and realizing, we don’t live in a high surf area, so you can paddle in flat water conditions, sheltered coves, lots of lakes, calm days in open water like Davis Bay.

Alpha Adventures rents and sells boards, runs lessons, and hosts Summer SUP nights. Alpha Adventures photo

“It took a little while for people to realize, I can find a use for this where I live here on the Sunshine Coast.”

Board designs have changed a lot from the 12-foot behemoths that launched the sport. For surfing, SUPs are becoming shorter with more rocker (a more dramatic curve in the board upward from nose to tail) allowing quicker turns. Hybrid SUPs are good for calm, sunset paddles or small waves at the beach. Boards are increasingly tailored to weight and body size, says Mani, with children a growing demographic. There are even highly stable SUPs for anglers!

For the extra-adventurous, there’s foil boarding, which incorporates a hydrofoil beneath the board to elevate it and create the experience of levitating across the waves. “It’s just jazzy, you’re flying!” says Mani, who is bringing a foil board to the store.

What hasn’t changed about SUP is the benefit of instruction and the need for safety.

“I see people out paddleboarding, and there’s no personal flotation device (PFD) on their vessel or on their body. They don’t have a leash, and they’re definitely not prepared to fall in the water.”

Alpha’s SUP lessons spend about 20 minutes on land discussing the board, stance, style, and safety.

“The lesson philosophy is that it’s a whole paddling experience. It’s not just ‘hey, this is a board, here’s how to paddle.’ We look at safety considerations, the weather, immersion gear.”

That way, everyone is prepared, says Mani. Perhaps for a whale, even!

Alpha Adventures photo

Going downhill. Fast!

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“Tobogganing, which has sprung into such sudden popularity, is only a form of coasting. There is no more exciting and exhilarating sport for ladies and gentlemen than this on a clear, cold winter evening.”

  • Modern Manners and Social Forms: A Manual of the Manners and Customs of the Best Modern Society, James Bethuel Smiley, 1890

On the eastern slopes of Dakota Ridge, Emma Judd prepares for takeoff!

 

Even down at sea level and despite its name, the Sunshine Coast is no stranger to snow. Anyone who has grown up here can attest to cold snaps and snow days. Despite claiming to be 29, my mum-in-law Mary Vandeberg recalls the winter of 1954 vividly.

“We spent a lot time tobogganing down Davis Bay hill that winter,” says Mary. “We had spotters, but there really wasn’t much traffic to speak of in those days. And if there was, it wasn’t getting up that hill.”

Trouble with a capital T, Mary Vandeberg with her sister Gail somewhere on a road near Davis Bay, circa 1954.

For Mary’s daughter, my wife Leah, tobogganing the road down from Chatelech Secondary, was the ultimate way to celebrate a snow day.

Even in the snowiest winters of recent years, it’s difficult to image tobogganing Highway 101 from Selma Park down to Davis Bay, as Mary describes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other popular places to slide.

Located 14-km up the forest service road at the end of Field Road in Wilson Creek, Dakota Ridge is one of the few, if not the only sanctioned sliding area on the Sunshine Coast. Created in 2013, the sliding area has become a popular addition to the winter recreation venue, accounting for 30 percent of total traffic, according to the Sunshine Coast Regional District.

Especially popular with young families, the groomed hill is right behind a Quonset warming hut, which is equipped with a wood stove and picnic tables. If you’re craving some off-piste thrills, there’s a long, gentle clearing off Balsam Loop on Dakota Ridge’s eastern slope that’s perfect for building bumps and jumps.

We have liftoff! Ariana Harder takes to the skies above Dakota Ridge.

Local Cavin Crawford, who’s helped plow access roads to Dakota Ridge and the Tetrahedron for years, recommends a 200-metre slope at the eight-kilometre mark of the forestry road, near the turnoff for Dakota Bowl.

“You can drive up around the corner, let the kids out and drive down and pick them up,” says Cavin. “But please, do not toboggan on the road.”

Winter tires and chains are essential, if you’re planning to drive to Dakota Ridge; or catch the scheduled shuttle with Wilson Creek-based Alpha Adventures.

Closer to sea level, school fields are popular with the younger crowd. “The slope behind Gibsons elementary is good for younger kids and pretty good for building jumps,” says 12-year-old Kaishan Nonacowie. There’s also a gentle slope behind Elphinstone Secondary.

Flume Beach Park at the junction of Flume Road and Beach Avenue in Roberts Creek might be the closest you’ll get to sledding on the shoreline. It was a favourite spot when my kids were growing up and offers the added advantage of a scenic picnic area, plus the option of building a beach fire to warm up by.

In their element, Ariana Harder and Emma Judd on Dakota Ridge.

A poll of friends and family on Facebook elicited numerous favourite spots and a theme quickly developed: roads seem to be where it’s at. Some short, some steep, and most dead-ends. (My son suggested School Road in Gibsons, which might have been feasible in 1917-18, but not 2017-18.) While there’s room for discretion on secluded roads in particularly heavy snowfalls, as a rule, cars and toboggans don’t mix, especially for emergency services, highway maintenance contractors, and stranded residents.

Back in the 1970s, it was a different story, according to life-long Coast resident, Warren Hansen.

“My favourite hill was Benner Road, in Selma Park,” recalls Warren. “Back then, there was no such things as immediate plowing. People had to park on the highway in Selma Park and walk up to their homes. For at least a couple of days, kids could slide down Benner Road, or the top of Snodgrass and Chartwell, or the top of Radcliffe Road. Every kid from miles around would converge on this location.

“I remember a bunch of us piled on a toboggan racing other toboggans down the hill. We knew that once we passed a certain driveway it was time to bail otherwise we would blow the corner and get hurt. And most kids did get hurt from getting run into, going into the ditch, or bailing off the sled sliding at breakneck speeds.”

Mary Vandeberg and her sister Gail in the snowy Sunshine Coast winter of 1954.

Hansen acknowledges those days are over, but has mixed feelings.

“The plows, climate change and over-sensitive parents ruined the great sliding opportunities on Benner Road, which hasn’t been the same since those days. Then again, it could be because I grew up and know now that I would never let my kids slide on Benner Road.”

Wherever you end up sliding this winter, keep a few precautions in mind. BC Children’s Hospital recommends that young ones wear a ski, hockey, or bike helmet for tobogganing. Make sure your kids know how to control their speed and stop properly. Choose a slope away from roads and free from obstacles, such as rocks, trees, and fences. Never ride on a sled that is being pulled by anything motorized.

Bundle up, stay safe, and enjoy the snow!

 

The one that didn’t get away

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Ryan Judd consoles himself with the thought that it’s a dry cold, as he patiently waits for a bite.

Brad Knowles doesn’t care much for bananas. Not when he’s fishing, at least.

“Did you bring bananas?” he asks from the driver’s seat.

I check with my son Ryan, sitting across from me in the back of Brad’s truck. No, we didn’t bring bananas. We check our packed lunch. No bananas, although the hot chocolate seems to have spilled.

Bananas will jinx fishing every time,” says Brad, who double checks that his assistant guide, Matt, has not brought bananas. Matt, a bass fisherman from Mississauga – where he’s known to some as “The Bassassassin” – knows better than to bring bananas.

We’re on our way to Blackwater Lake, about an hour out of Whistler, east of Pemberton. From mid-November to late-March, give or take, the 6.5-kilometre lake near D’Arcy is ice fishing country.

6.5-kilometre Blackwater Lake, about an hour out of Whistler, east of Pemberton.

At this time of year, Brad’s company, Pemberton Fish Finder, runs ice fishing tours. “It’s for people who want to escape the Whistler bubble and experience the lakes, wildlife, catch some fish and listen to some stories,” says Brad.

Brad has lots of stories. He grew up in Pemberton and is something of a local celebrity, starring in his own fishing show on Whistler Cable for a while. Together with running a fishing store, Pemberton Fish Finder keeps him busy year round.

My only adult fishing story involves a crab trap and a capsized canoe. I had always assumed ice fishing would involve a flight to Prince George or Edmonton.

Brad Knowles, owner-operator of Pemberton Fish Finder.

Blackwater Lake is idyllic. Serrated peaks loom all around us and under blue sky, the ice is blinding. The air temperature is just below freezing, there’s no wind, and the sun is flirting with the clouds. But for a creek in the distance, the only thing I can hear is my heart beating.

“Australians lose their marbles when they see this,” says Brad. “They ask me, ‘You’re sure we can stand on this?’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m 300 pounds, you can stand on this.’”

Brad sets about cutting holes in the ice with a gas-powered auger. He and Matt set us up with rods and we bait the hooks with freshwater shrimp, which are native to the lake. Everyone gets an upturned bright orange bucket and a thermal pad to sit on.

And that’s it, we’re ice fishing.

We immediately get bites. Brad and Matt coach us on setting the hook, otherwise known as the hook-set – a quick upward thrust of the rod before reeling in. One by one though, we lose the bites and rue our bad luck.

“Well there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching,” says Brad.

After about an hour, Brad carves out new holes and we spread out. Under his guidance, I switch bait from shrimp to trout roe. Ryan and Matt are several hundred yards away but the air is so still, it’s easy to talk without raising our voices.

A lone whisky jack keeps us company, occasionally stealing a shrimp from the bait bucket, and otherwise mocking us.

A lone whisky jack steals bait and taunts us.

Brad’s been fishing in this region for about 35 years, chasing all five salmon species, plus pike minnows, steelhead, cutthroat, bull, brook, lake and rainbow trout. Together with his dad, Ivan, and his brother, Sheridan, Brad has carved out a living here and now employs his wife in the guiding business while raising three kids.

“There’s not a day I don’t wake up and look at the mountains, excited to go to work,” he says. I can see why. Fish or no fish, Blackwater Lake is quite an office. There’s a small forestry campground nearby with a dozen sites and in summer, lily pads and extensive weed beds flourish here. And somewhere beneath our boots and buckets today are rainbow trout ranging from 10 to 25 inches and weighing as much as six pounds.

Just as I’m beginning to think the shrimp bait looks tasty we decide that it’s lunchtime.

Brad carves pairs of holes a few inches apart and sets up a shelter in seconds. We’re not cold but from inside the shelter the water appears even clearer through holes that take on a luminous quality. “Sometimes you can see the fish before you catch them,” says Brad. For now, we watch our bait descend beyond sight and remain ever hopeful.

No bites but the sandwiches help.

As 2 o’clock nears, Brad suggests we concentrate on a shaded corner of the lake. We exit the shelter and set up one last time, trying to ignore the creeping cold. I start to wonder whether one of us is actually carrying a concealed banana. Then I think back to growing up in the UK. As a schoolboy, I used to accompany friends on night-fishing trips in the Kent countryside. In two years of those fishing trips, I never caught anything but a cider hangover. It occurs to me that not only have I never caught a fish, I’ve never actually seen anyone else catch a fish.

Perhaps I’m cursed?

One rainbow trout, about 10 inches long and just in time for dinner!

I decide not to share this thought with Ryan, and instead concentrate on the hole, which I realize is freezing before my very eyes. Then I’m shaken from my thoughts.

“YEAH!” shouts Brad. I turn just in time to see the rod bend for a moment and a plump rainbow trout flop into Brad’s palm. “No way we were going before we got one,” says Brad as we celebrate the catch. It’s closer to the 10-inch end of the scale and a beautiful looking fish.

Hopeful of more to come we continue fishing for another half an hour, but to no avail. “That’s fishing,” says Brad philosophically as he drops us back in Whistler. Ryan and I both warm up while a friend cooks our catch. It’s more than worth the wait: fresh, flavorful and not even a hint of banana.

nevjudd.com

If you go

For more information about guided ice fishing trips with Pemberton Fish Finder, visit pembertonfishfinder.com.

Do not bring bananas.

Trail and tribulation in Powell River

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Make it to the top of Tin Hat Mountain and you will be rewarded with 360-degree views of more than two-dozen lakes. Plus you’re half way to finishing the trail! Photos courtesy Eagle Walz

Connecting Sarah Point, near Lund, to the ferry terminal at Saltery Bay, the 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail now ranks among the greatest hiking trails in the world, according to Explore Magazine’s Top-50 list. Not only is it more than twice the length of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, it’s Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail, and it’s free!

The trail’s mix of old growth forest, mountain peaks and sandy shoreline, attract thousands of visitors from around the world each year. Fifteen beautifully constructed huts en route provide overnight accommodation on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“It’s beginning to be seen as an economic driver in Powell River,” says Eagle Walz. “It’s the biggest recreational tourism resource we have.”

Walz is a trailblazer, one of a handful of outdoor enthusiasts who in 1992 realized that accessible old growth on the Upper Sunshine Coast was fast disappearing. They formed the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society (PRPAWS), a non-profit committed to setting aside protected areas on a trail sufficiently unique to lure locals and tourists alike.

Eagle Walz in his element, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail. Walz is a co-founder of the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, the non-profit behind the trail’s creation and upkeep.

PRPAWS mobilized volunteer work parties and began connecting the bushwhacked paths, deactivated roads, and disused railway grades left behind by a century of logging. In some places that meant constructing bridges – some 120 feet long – to ford creeks and rivers. They found enduring allies in a group of bloody old men, otherwise known as the BOMB (Bloody Old Men’s Brigade) squad. Comprising mostly retirees, many of whom practiced their trades at Powell River’s paper mill, the BOMB squad helped build bridges and huts, and are still counted upon for help in the trail’s never-ending maintenance.

The first time I interviewed Eagle for a story back in 2000, he was fending off criticism from a variety of sources over liability issues and the environmental concerns about sensitive wildlife areas. Walz and his cohorts had run into a host of jurisdictional challenges, too. Crown forest land, private land owned by logging companies, and Tla’amin Nation land are among the eight jurisdictions through which the trail crosses.

Seventeen years ago, he addressed those questions with a question of his own: “Would the trail have been built if we’d settled all these issues first?”

When I caught up with Eagle earlier this year, that question at least, appeared to have been answered. “You couldn’t start this trail now and try and make this happen,” says Eagle. “But that doesn’t mean the logging companies won’t stop logging. Western Forest Products, with their tree farm licence, they are the biggest interest. We manage to work together and eke out considerations. I only wish it would be a bigger buffer along the trail than we get most of the time.”

That buffer can be from 10 to 30 metres, sometimes more. Occasionally, the trail must be relocated in places. Overall, says Eagle, compromise and varying levels of protection ensure the trail’s viability.

“Our vision is that in 100 years, we’ll have no more logging near the trail,” he says. “It will be designated an old growth trail to be enjoyed by future generations. It needs someone to be the champion for it. We’re hopeful the younger generation will take over and certainly a lot of younger people are using it. People of all ages.”

Perhaps more challenging to PRPAWS is pressure on the trail from non-hikers.

“Mountain biking is very popular here, as it is everywhere else. The pressure is always to turn something into something else. But a multi-use trail wouldn’t have the same appeal as a single-use trail. We’re struggling to remain a hiking trail only because that’s what’s given us the edge in the market place. That’s what is bringing people by the thousands from all over the world to Powell River.”

In the meantime, trail maintenance keeps Eagle busier than ever. Ten years retired as a teacher, Eagle says he has time to enjoy the trail, but it’s usually when he’s part of a work party. The day I call him, he’s about to leave on just such a mission – a five-night trip to Confederation Lake, a steep section of the trail in Inland Lake Park, north of Powell River.

Eagle Walz takes in the view from the hut atop Tin Hat Mountain.

It’s a favourite spot, he says, before adding: “I think usually where I’m working, I like that part the best.” Eagle’s other cherished locations include Tin Hat Mountain with its 360-degree views of more than two-dozen lakes; and Mount Troubridge, popular for its magnificent stands of Douglas fir and yellow-cedar old growth.

When Eagle’s not on the trail, he’s writing about it – though not in the way he might have envisaged in 1972, when he moved to Powell River to write poetry: “I write hundreds and hundreds of emails,” he says in a deadpan voice. “That’s basically the extent of my writing.”

  • Visit http://sunshinecoast-trail.com/ for everything you need to know about planning a trip, including the definitive guide to the trail, written by – who else? – Eagle Walz.

Desert delights in Tucson

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Sonoran desert

The pigs attacked shortly after dawn.

The first indication was a dust cloud billowing from the bushes beyond the swimming pool, closely followed by deep, guttural belching.

Javelina pigs are native to the American southwest, extremely shortsighted, and smell like skunk. Perhaps for the last two reasons, they seem to be permanently agitated. Thankfully for us, they were attacking each other in what turned out to be a short-lived domestic dispute.

Short-sighted, smelly and agitated - Javelina pigs.

Short-sighted, smelly and agitated – Javelina pigs.

“If they approach you on a trail, they probably can’t see you,” said our guide, Koi. “Make some noise and they’ll go away.”

Koi works for Southwest Trekking, a professional guide service that offers guests of the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Hotel free sunrise walks into Tucson Mountain Park. The 6 a.m. start might hurt a little on vacation, but the reward is a fascinating introduction to the unique landscape of the Sonoran Desert.

This is the only place where the saguaro cactus grows wild and many were blooming thanks to nightly thunderstorms during our late-August visit.

“They’re supposed to bloom in May but something’s going on,” said Koi, who showed us another cactus native to the Sonoran Desert, the so-called jumping cholla. The cholla’s stems are easily detached and love nothing more than to reattach to anyone or anything unlucky enough to be close by. The spines are barbed and extremely painful to remove.

Between Tucson and the Mexican border an hour south, the United States’ only population of jaguars roams. I was OK with not seeing one, but we did see several deer, including a buck.

The Marriott Starr Pass: "Too nice," according to Emma Judd.

The Marriott Starr Pass: “Too nice,” according to Emma Judd.

Post-hike, we drank coffee on the Marriott terrace overlooking Tucson, a city I visit for business several times a year. This was the first time I’d been able to bring my family and I had a long list of favourite places to show them: Maybe too long.

The first problem was the Marriott Starr Pass. “It’s too nice,” explained my daughter, Emma, as we floated one more time around the hotel’s lazy river in an inflatable. “Why would I want to leave this?”

“There are wild pigs out there,” my wife, Leah, chimed in. My son, Ryan, conceded that he might be willing to get off his sunbed to play golf at Starr Pass Golf Club: in a few hours.

So it was with some coercion, the Judd family arrived at San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish Catholic mission 16 kilometres south of Tucson. When first glimpsed amid dusty farmland from Highway 19, San Xavier del Bac looks like an oasis. Gleaming white with two towers and a cupola, the church is as old as the United States itself and the quintessential example of Spanish colonial architecture.

San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish Catholic mission 16 kilometres south of Tucson.

San Xavier del Bac, a Spanish Catholic mission 16 kilometres south of Tucson.

Enter through the impressive carved mesquite-wood doors and you’ll find the interior is just as dramatic. Candles flicker beneath an eclectic mix of religious devotion: paintings, carvings, statues and frescoes fill the church, which was built between 1783 and 1797 (replacing an earlier version built in 1700). It has since survived earthquakes, lightning strikes, and leaky walls, and continues to host daily mass.

We lingered in the pews before heading outside to buy sweet Indian fry bread from a vendor in the car park. We walked it off by climbing Grotto Hill, a short walk from the church and the best place to snap panoramic shots.

No one seemed in a rush to get back to the lazy river. We we’re on a roll, so we headed east to the Pima Air and Space Museum. You’d need several days to fully explore the museum’s 80 acres inside and out. And I needed several hours to sort through the 500 photos I took there. Center-stage in the museum’s main hangar is the Lockheed Blackbird, a plane that will evoke childhood memories for anyone who grew up in the 70s playing the card game, Top Trumps. In the aircraft issue of Top Trumps, Blackbird was a virtually unbeatable card. It flew from New York to London in less than two hours, and from Los Angeles to Washington DC in 64 minutes. Nothing could touch it for speed (2,193 mph) and cruising altitude (85,069 feet).

One of the 500 photos I took at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

One of the 500 photos I took at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Just a few feet from Blackbird is the Bede BD-5 Micro-Jet, which appeared in the 1983 James Bond film, Octopussy. Almost 13 feet long, the BD-5 was apparently sold in kit form but proved to be beyond the abilities of most homebuilders to complete. (Presumably it wasn’t flown much.)

There’s much to keep you indoors at the museum, and not just the air conditioning. Several exhibitions pay tribute to space travel and World War II, but the huge variety of planes outside on the tarmac were worth braving 40-degree heat to see. Besides behemoths like the Boeing B52 collection and oddities like Aero Spacelines’ Super Guppy (which looks like it should be in an aquarium or a cartoon), there are planes displaying from nose to tail the work of acclaimed street artists and mural designers.

I refused to allow the family back to the hotel until we’d visited my favourite place to eat in Tucson, the Guadalajara Grill on Prince Street. Hand-made tortillas, salsa prepared table-side, a roaming mariachi band, and fresh margaritas served in glasses the size of fish bowls – the Guadalajara Grill by itself is worth visiting Tucson for: Especially if you don’t have to go to work the next morning.

Tucson view

Good morning Tucson!

Back at the Marriott the next day, the male half of the family followed in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson at the Starr Pass Golf Club. Golf is a huge lure for Tucson visitors, with the city boasting numerous award-winning courses. Many of them cut their prices on mid-summer afternoons for those willing to bear Arizona’s heat. (Tucson is drier and generally a few degrees cooler than Phoenix, 90 minutes’ drive north.)

Starr Pass is no exception. The club features 27 holes divided into three nines played in three different 18-hole combinations. We played the Roadrunner nine, the club’s shortest circuit, which was just as well, having lost all our original balls by Hole 8. The afternoon thunder clouds seemed to be beckoning us inside and at the first sign of forked lightning, we called it a day.

That evening we ventured downtown to Reilly, which combines pizza and craft beer in a century-old building that used to house a mortuary and funeral home. Any morbid thoughts were soon banished by parm truffle fries, roasted crimini mushroom pizza, and Brussel sprouts in sherry, hot sauce and pecan brittle crumbs. Reilly epitomizes the resurgence of Tucson’s downtown, which features numerous bars and restaurants with inventive menus in historic premises restored to former glory. Perhaps the classiest of them all is the Hotel Congress, built in 1919, and now a thriving music venue, as well as housing a restaurant and bar.

Hotel Congress, built in 1919, and now a thriving music venue, as well as housing a restaurant and bar.

Hotel Congress, built in 1919, and now a thriving music venue, as well as housing a restaurant and bar.

A great way to see downtown and learn some of its history is by bicycle with guide, Jimmy Bultman, who runs Tucson Bike Tours. Dive bars, food trucks, a pinball arcade and downtown’s historic neighbourhoods feature in the sunset tour, which I did in April. I enjoyed it so much I rented a bike and covered much of the same ground by myself the very next day.

Jimmy turns kayak guide elsewhere during Tucson’s summer months, but he’s back now. The city is home to a growing bicycle network, including The Loop – more than 100 miles of trail shared with skaters, joggers and horse riders. In the foothills and mountains beyond the city is an extensive network of mountain bike trails.

And for the ultimate in relaxation, there’s always the lazy river at the Marriott Starr Pass. Just give the pigs a wide berth.

yo ma dawgs

If you go:

  • Marriott Starr Pass offers deals starting at $129 a night. Visit marriott.com/hotels or call +1-520-792-3500.
  • For more on the Pima Air and Space Museum, visit pimaair.org
  • Details of Jimmy Bultman’s bicycle tours are at tucsonbiketours.com
  • Desert hiking and biking tours are available through Southwest Trekking at swtrekking.com
  • visittucson.org is a good resource for anyone planning a visit to the city.

Written by nevjudd

February 15, 2016 at 10:23 pm

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YIR1

It was already late December

When I found the time to write

I was going to do it in November

But ‘going to’ became ‘might’

Too busy staging cat selfies to write ... until now!

Too busy staging cat selfies to write … until now!

Now the pressure’s on

Another deadline, I fear

The hours have all but gone

And 2016 is drawing near

cy and ryan

The graduates

2015 was fast

It didn’t walk, it ran

But one memory that will last

Our boy became a man

boys

A fart joke never gets old.

Ryan finished school

With a vision to refine

And ever since the Fall

He’s been studying design

Ferring's travelling A-Team.

Ferring’s travelling A-Team.

He got to share 18

With guests from far away

Ferring’s travelling A-Team

Nan and Grandad came to stay

Birthday boys. 102 candles between them! You do the math.

Birthday boys. 102 candles between them! You do the math.

He still can’t get a beer

19’s the age to be

But that’s another year

So he bought a fake ID!

Our summer was so hot, we went to ... Las Vegas.

Our summer was so hot, we went to … Las Vegas.

We sweltered in summer heat

And here the forests burned

The grass died beneath our feet

But the rains have since returned

Taking no chances with Emma's first driving lesson.

Taking no chances with Emma’s first driving lesson.

Emma learned to drive

Now she wants a car

But her savings took a dive

When she travelled to afar

Walkies with Nanny.

Walkies with Nanny.

Two weeks in the UK

Emma got spoiled rotten

So much packed into each day

Will not soon be forgotten

Just push a little harder!

Just push a little harder!

London shopping, up the Shard

The Thames and fun upon the river

The set of Harry Potter starred

Butter Beer and no damage to her liver

Up on the roof of the Downtown Grand in a cabana by the infinity pool. Like bosses.

Up on the roof of the Downtown Grand in a cabana by the infinity pool. Like bosses.

We visited the U.S.

Despite our dollar in a slump

We like it in the U.S.

Despite that tosser Trump

Can't even go to my bedroom without Donald Trump showing up ... tosser.

Can’t even go to my bedroom without Donald Trump showing up … tosser.

There’s other stuff we did

But I’m running out of time

It’s best goodbyes are bid

And I post this up online

So be well this joyful season

It’s time for me to go

If for joy you need a reason

Here’s a picture of J. Trudeau.

You're welcome ladies.

You’re welcome ladies.

The Missing Link: Connecting the Coast to Squamish

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Yellow sections on this Google Earth map indicate about 10 kilometres of work needed to complete a trail connecting Sechelt with Squamish.

Yellow sections on this Google Earth map indicate about 10 kilometres of work needed to complete a trail connecting Sechelt with Squamish.

The map looks straightforward at first. As the crow flies, little more than 50 kilometres separate Sechelt and Squamish. Then you notice contour lines, crammed together like intense low-pressure systems, numerous splashes of white, indicating icy peaks, and deep blue streaks showing alpine lakes and ocean inlets. In between are green valleys that never seem to quite connect. Old logging roads, new hydroelectric projects, powerlines and pipelines present an extra layer of complexity revealed by Google Earth.

A cursory Internet search turns up more than 100 years of failed attempts to build a road system between the Sunshine Coast and “the mainland”.

So when Geoff Breckner tells me he’s about 10 kilometres away from completing a 75-kilometre trail connector, I’m interested.

If successful, the trail would reveal a side of the Sunshine Coast unfamiliar to most residents, including a series of spectacular waterfalls between Pokosha Pass and Clowhom Valley.

If successful, the trail would reveal a side of the Sunshine Coast unfamiliar to most residents, including a series of spectacular waterfalls between Pokosha Pass and Clowhom Valley. All photos courtesy Geoff Breckner

“With 10 capable guys and permission it could be finished in a week or two,” Breckner tells me by phone from Squamish. “But there are channels to go through, rules to be followed … funding.”

Breckner is recovering from major back surgery. When his doctor advised him to exercise he began hiking into the backcountry near his home in Squamish. The 53-year-old estimates he spent 200 hours during the last two summers working on the Squamish end of the trail.

A self-described “mountainbiking nut,” and “bush rat,” Breckner grew up in Deep Cove when the sport was still a novelty. He opened Pemberton’s first bike store, High Line Cycles, in 1994. A trail connecting Squamish with the Sunshine Coast makes a lot of sense, he says.

“I thought this was a great place for a bike trail. I knew there were logging roads up there and I researched as much as I could, checking out the feasibility of a route to Sechelt.”

Geoff Breckner’s tent at the south side of Pokosha Pass, near Mount Jimmy Jimmy.

Geoff Breckner’s tent at the south side of Pokosha Pass, near Mount Jimmy Jimmy.

Visit Breckner’s Facebook site ‘Squamish to Sechelt Trail’ and you’ll see a Google Earth image of the proposed route. From Upper Squamish and the Ashlu River Road, the route first heads north over existing trail through 4,000-foot Pokosha Pass before heading south, then due west following Clowhom Lake to Salmon Inlet, skirting the Tetrahedron Provincial Park, and on towards Sechelt via the Coast Gravity Bike Park.

About 55 kilometres of double track roads, and 20 kilometres of single track trails make up the route, says Breckner. The 10 kilometres still to be cleared comprise three sections of one kilometer, four kilometres and five kilometres.

“Once complete, it would be a long ride – two days for most people, but I hope to have a hut or shelter so people don’t need a tent and can travel light,” says Breckner. “The main problem would be lack of use, rather than overuse. The more use the better, to keep trail maintained and established.”

Breckner has received numerous offers of help from this side of the divide. Doug Feniak of Tillicum Bay is among those pledging assistance.

A self-described mountainbiking nut, Geoff Breckner rarely goes anywhere without his ride.

A self-described mountainbiking nut, Geoff Breckner rarely goes anywhere without his ride.

Feniak grew up riding with Breckner in Deep Cove. “It was a dream of ours when we were young, to be able to ride from Squamish to the Coast,” says Feniak. “We hiked into the Tetrahedron in August, looking for the best way. It’s super steep into Thornhill Creek but it shouldn’t be too bad after that because it’s old roads covered with Alders.”

Trails are in the Feniak family’s blood. Wife Jessica Huntington and son Linden both build trails, the latter professionally. Daughter, Holly, was 2012 downhill mountainbike Junior World Champion.

Doug says he expects to have a group working on this end of the trail in the fall.

“It would certainly be good for tourism here and I could see the B.C. Bike Race using it,” says Feniak.

Long-time local trailbuilder, Richard Culbert, says a trail to Squamish is “common sense”.

Culbert built the trail to the summit of Mt. Elphinstone, opening it on his 70th birthday. Now at 75, he’s busy clearing a trail up 4,700-foot Polytope Peak, which connects with Rainy River Road and Port Mellon due south. He believes that a trail from Squamish stands a better chance of completion if it veers south to Port Mellon, rather than to Sechelt.

Salmon Inlet from the top of Gray Creek Forest Service Road, looking north across Thornhill towards Clowhom valley. It's about 60km from here to upper Squamish.

Salmon Inlet from the top of Gray Creek Forest Service Road, looking north across Thornhill towards Clowhom valley. It’s about 60km from here to upper Squamish.

“The trail I’m working on is about a kilometer from a logging road, which appears to connect with this route,” says Culbert pointing at a printed version of Breckner’s route. “It also avoids Thornhill Creek [near Salmon Inlet] where the road is covered in alders.”

Warren Hansen concurs. “That gap after Salmon Inlet is some of the most rugged terrain I’ve ever walked in,” says Hansen, forester/area manager for Chartwell Consultants and an avid trailbuilder. “A lot of that area was logged in the 60s and 70s, so we’re talking about logging roads half a century old – many of which have been heavily deactivated and are covered in alder.

“I admire following an idea, but I worry about the sustainability of it,” adds Hansen. “The skeptical side of me thinks that there won’t be enough people using it. It will need to be on a lot of people’s bucket lists to make it sustainable.”

Hansen identifies with Breckner on one level.

“I believe in unfettered access to crown land. You live in the city, you can’t do this and that, but you have spoon-fed amenities. In a rural environment you don’t have those amenities, but you do have unfettered access to crown land. You can hike it, bike it, pick mushrooms in it, build trails. So you use it as you see fit, knowing that one day, it might be logged.”

Perhaps the person most excited about a possible connection is Bjorn Enga. The Granthams Landing-based filmmaker is the founder of Kranked, an online store for electric-assisted mountainbikes. They may upset purists, but bikes capable of climbing mountains in minutes, as opposed to hours, are catching on, says Enga.

“I’ve been riding on the Coast since 2000, and it’s an amazing coastline,” he says. “Suddenly, I’m thinking how much more I can see up there riding an e-bike. Imagine how phenomenal it would be to offer overnight tours with a fully charged battery for the next day.

“The Sea-to-Sky Corridor could become the e-bike capital of the world.”

Enga is helping Breckner with route planning and believes that trail completion is a matter of when, not if.

“Geoff goes way back to the start of mountainbike culture, before the glamour of the parks,” says Enga. “He’s done the hard part and one way or another, the trail will happen.”

In the meantime, some adventurers will continue to blaze their own trails. It seems as though everyone on the Sunshine Coast knows “a guy” who knows a route to Squamish. But their identity can be as elusive as the route.

More falls in the backcountry between Squamish and the Sunshine Coast.

More falls in the backcountry between Squamish and the Sunshine Coast.

Not so, Todd Lawson and friends, whose epic three-day trek from Lake Lovely Water, Squamish, to Sechelt via Clowhom Lake and Salmon Inlet, was featured in a 2014 issue of Mountain Life magazine. The trio packed inflatable stand-up paddleboards for the trip, which featured untold hours of bushwhacking through endless alder roots and Devil’s Club – an experience Lawson described in the story as “torture”. (He also wrote of the route, “It looked good on a laptop.”)

A different hazard awaited Denis Rogers of Sechelt, and fellow Coasters Mark Guignard and Al Jenkins, who hiked to Squamish in 2004 after being dropped by boat at the head of Narrows Inlet.

“It took us five days,” says Rogers, whose group followed a route from the head of Tzoonie Valley to a 4,800-foot pass, and then down to Falk Creek and a logging road leading to the Ashlu River and Squamish beyond.

“The third day was an interesting one,” recalls Rogers. “I fell in a lake and broke my watch, and Mark, the only one of us who didn’t bring bear spray, had an encounter with a black bear. Mark was about 20 yards ahead of us, picking his way through the boulders, when we shouted to him that a bear was taking an interest in him.

“The bear started down towards him, but then turned back. We suggested that perhaps the bear had been deterred by an offensive smell.”

Some hazards you won’t find on any map.