Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Galloping Goose

Beautiful trestle
I was given a surprise day off of school today. We are having half a dozen plumbers join us for the last five weeks of class, so my teacher needed a day to bring them up to speed. We were told to self study. Well, I chose to take a personal day. It was a needed move. I have been having a hard time concentrating on the school work, dreaming about other, more fun things to be participating in. So with a whole day to myself in a new place I decided to do a big trip. The Galloping Goose Regional Trail was to be my destination, an out and back ride. The terminus of this trail is in the Sooke Potholes Regional Park, 56 kilometers from the starting point, which is located off Douglas street close to downtown Victoria.
This dude is METAL!! Blenkinsop Lake
I began my voyage from the house where I stay in Sannich, a suburb community of Victoria. A short, zigzag route called the Royal Oak trail takes me down to the Lochside trail, which runs north/south from Sidney to Victoria. The Lochside is a rail to trail that takes one from a rural agricultural area, crossed Blenkinsop Lake, fringes on Swan Lake Regional Park, crosses Quadra street, and a few smaller roads, including one somewhat busy and not very well laid out for cyclist, intersection. Before long I was at the whye, one side to Victoria and the other to Sooke. I hung a left to begin my unknown journey to places alien to me.
Lochside Trail
The Galloping Goose was once a a gasoline powered railway that operated on an abandoned CNR line. It passes through 7 communities in the Greater Victoria area. From urban, rural, and semi-wilderness, the trail sees a little bit of everything. I was happy with the low amount of people that I met. The ones I did were really courteous with their dogs. I met several other cyclist with whom I chatted with and gave me directions and local information. I helped on lady to find her dog, that had taken off into the woods. I passed her and shortly there after, I heard the dog down the bank. I called it and he came running up, and was soon re-united with his owner. I was able to plug in and listen to podcasts on my iphone, since I didn't have to be concerned with vehicles creeping up behind me. The only close call I had all day with an accident was having an issue unclipping from my pedal at an intersection, and for a brief, but terrifying second, thought that I was destined for the asphalt.
Sooke Basin
The first ten kilometers of the Goose is parallel to the Island Highway. How nice to see car commuters stuck in traffic while I cruise along at 25kph. The path is paved asphalt, two lanes about six feet wide each. Lots of room to pass pedestrians or slower cyclists. Being an old rail bed it is basically flat, a couple of ups and downs to get past road crossings and to approach bridges. Soon I was past the Burnside interchange and into a quieter place. A rest stop, complete with an outhouse and nice bike rack was a welcoming spot for me to lighten the load. Back in the saddle I set a quick pace and covered some terrain. Fast. Soon I was at the first big road crossing, with no intersection or crosswalk. I talked to another cyclist and he suggested jaywalking, so I just blasted across 4 lanes when it was clear. Now the trail turned to hard packed gravel. Not as fast as the paved parts, but the gravel is very comfortable and smooth. The trail was like this for the rest of the way out to Leechtown.
Leetchtown info
The trail now was running through more rural areas, smaller road crossings and less people on the trail. I was surprised by the amount of shade along the way. Good sized trees lined the route most of the way. That kept it cooler and my skin from being exposed to UV rays. I wore a long sleeve Merino shirt today to protect my arms. I passed Glen lake, and Luxton fairgrounds, where dozens of amusement park workers were setting up a large carnival. What a crazy business! The trail went through lots of green space including the impressive park, Matheson Lake Regional Park, which carries on into Roche Cove Regional Park. Roche cove is a small cove off of the Sooke Basin. It looks like a lake until you see the tide lines on the exposed rock on the shore. Just beyond this the trail skirts the ocean for a gorgeous kilometer, where one rides perched on the edge of the trail, 30 feet above the ocean. I passed through Sooke and was on my way out to the Sooke Potholes Regional Park. The Goose has several re-decked trestles that cross over deep canyons too. I didn't stop to look down, but they are neat, curving structures and fun to cruise over.
The train station
Sooke Potholes park included the last 10 kilometers of the route, and gradually turns into an incline. I was working pretty hard to keep up my speed. It stretches out past the viewing areas of the potholes and a campground to follow the Sooke River to the site of a town called Leetchtown. Leetchtown is now gone, torn down and reclaimed by nature. It was originally a gold rush town with gold being discovered in 1867 and mining continued until the 1930's. At it's heyday, Leetchtown had a bigger population than Victoria! A saw mill was constructed in the '30's and it ran until for 30 years. Some trails exist to bring you around the area, in the forest. I didn't venture to have a look, as I had another 60+ kilometers to ride home.
Sooke potholes
Chimney and column from some strange structure
I made it to the terminus of the Goose, took a picture of my odometer and turned around. The slight downhill made the return trip faster and I stopped along the way to take pictures of the river. I turned into a parking lot and found a picnic table for lunch. I took a quick look at the potholes. I think there are better places to grab a glimpse of the wonderful geographic formations but I needed to eat. Beside the parking lot a curious structure is viewable. It looks like it was once supposed to be a castle or a get away. Stone columns, a huge chimney and a stone foundation were all that remained, or all that was actually constructed. Very curious? I ate my lunch of cheddar cheese, apple, sardines in tomato sauce, and nut mix. I was joined by an elderly couple from Sidney who were out exploring the area by car. Well nourished with my Paleo inspired meal, I bid my company fair well and needed to get moving. It is really easy to stop, and getting going again could be tough. If I was touring, I most likely would have had a nap or read my book. But I wanted to get home to cook dinner and I had a liter of chocolate milk sitting in the refrigerator that was making my mouth water. A year and a half ago it would have been a cooler full of ice and beer. My how tastes have changed.
Curious deer
Pretty vista, I was looking for T Rex
I cycled at a good pace to get myself back to civilization. I saw a few quail and two curious deer before I left Sooke. The trip was nice and the views were amazing in places. I was still in the shade and a little wind had blew up, cooling me. I was surprised with the "rush hour" of cyclists along the last stretch on the highway. We were moving much faster than the cars heading out of the city to the burbs, with time to chat between lights and smiling faces. I returned home at 4:30. It was a good day of work for me. I was pleased that I had completed what I had set out to do, and the day was as big as any I had before this. I had a great day finding adventure in a new place, by myself. I would suggest the Goose for a day ride, but I would caution that pedaling for 120+k is really hard work, even if the trail is basically flat. There is no opportunity to coast, so you are turning the cranks constantly. I was on my road bike too. A mountain bike would be slower too, with a greater resistance in tires. Many points of access are available so riding for a couple hours is very do able and I would encourage giving it a shot. Find Adventure!
Love this sign