Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sea to Sky Trail Challenge(d)

This weekend I was lucky enough to get to help out on Great Explorations' Sea to Sky Trail Challenge. The Sea to Sky Trail isn't so much of a trail... yet, but is a collection of various trails, old and new... good and bad, that we rode from Birkenhead Lake to Squamish. I was far from alone, as half of the people I know in Vancouver seemed to be there either helping out, or just riding. Dave, Geraldine, Marg, Kala, Meaghan, Ali, and Amber were all on board. The volunteer crew were a great bunch and tackled feeding and taking care of 175 bike-punters with a lot of style and ingenuity. Friday night saw us head up to Squamish from where Dave and I drove (well, Dave did the driving) a 1-ton truck of gear up to Birkenhead lake. Dave and I both decided to become truck drivers when we saw there were no less than 4 cup holders for just 2 people. Imagine the extravagance.

I was up until about 1.30am sorting out bikes with help from the rest of the gang... then fell into my sleeping bag. All too soon I was awake again and hauling gear around to get everything going. Fixing bikes, hunting for things, and figuring out how I was going to be the group mechanic and the sweep rider... and most of all looking forward to riding.

Margaret's nest of coffee pots

Not a bad breakfast spot

...and also not a bad spot for ride registration

Birkenhead Lake. Pretty eh?

Once the peleton (or perhaps rabble) had got on the trail, Troy, Dave, and I followed along "Sweeping". Disappointingly, no broom was required. We went along taking down the trail markers and checking no-one had been left behind. It was cool in the forest to start with but things soon got pretty hot. I was more than pleased to jump into Mosquito Lake at Lunch to cool off. Refreshed, we set off for the final stop at 1-mile lake. Throughout the day we rode a mix of logging road, paved road, and some great trails coming into Pemberton. After another swim at 1-mile, I found I was keen to ride a little more (no one seemed very surprised by that. hmm) so I set off to ride to the campsite in Whistler while the others waited for the van. I remembered hearing it was about 20 km. I think it was 45. Oops. I rode about 110 km that day. Something like that anyway. Who knows. I rolled into the campsite in time for great music, a near pasta disaster, mysterious electric shocks from the truck, lots of conversation (some about the mysterious electric shocks), some bike fixing, and beer.

Dave in the jungle

Normally I'm pretty awake as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, but the combination of the heat, late-night bike repairs, and perhaps all that mountain air meant I had to drag myself out on Sunday morning. I got going before long with more bike repairs. I love repairing bikes, especially when it works. There was a lot of gear hauling to be done, and then I set of on my sweep... solo this time. Riding through Whistler's local paved trails on a Sunday morning was very relaxed, with the locals out walking their dogs and enjoying the sunshine. Whistler is my bike's birth place as this is where Ian (the man who is Chromag) lives, and Mike who welds them works in Squamish. I think my bike enjoyed a visit to its spiritual home.

Looking out at Tantalus

Everything went fairly smoothly until I went to leave the lunch stop at the Tantalus lookout. Maybe it was being so relaxed from the cool breeze, beautiful views, and sunshine. Maybe it was Dave distracting me with news of someone dislocating their shoulder on the trail I was about to ride on my own. Maybe I am just a muppet. I think the latter. I missed the entry to the trail and whizzed off down the road towards Squamish. Once I spotted the trail I knew I should be on... on the other side of the valley... I knew something was awry. Bah. I thought the solution would be to "sprint" the rest of the 30 km or so down to Alice Lake, where the rest stop was, and figure something out there. At least there would be some more nice watermelon to eat whilst I figured something out. On the way up the hill to the lake I caught Dave in the truck, heading up to the lookout to to collect the food and volunteers. I was saved... sort of. I still had to ride the trail I was meant to ride in the first place. I got a ride back up and started all over again, on the trail this time. The trail through Cheakamus Canyon is an incredible thing. The trail itself is lumpy to say the least and at least one part threatens to fall off the cliff at any time, held in place with steel cables and chicken wire.... but the sheer drop down to the river and the beautiful views of the glaciers and peaks on the other side were exhilarating (and very distracting from trying to ride over all those loose rocks). Down in the valley I tried to make up some time and sprinted from sign to sign, ripping them down and sticking them in my pocket. In case you ever decide to try this for fun, I don't recommend it.

Due to my tardiness Kala and Geraldine had set off to de-sign the last (and really fun) section of trail from Alice lake. By the time I met Dave at the bottom of the hill up to Alice Lake I was feeling like I still wanted to ride. Dave gave me a lift up the hill (just like those long-distance runners who can go home for a cup of tea as long as they come back and start from where they stopped- right?) and I set of with everything I had left in my legs to catch up with the Irish Ladies. A fairly warp-speed and fun ride down Jack's trail, skipping over roots and ducking under branches soon caught me up. Kala and Ger had everything under control, so I rode the last of the route back to Squamish and stuffed my face with food. I reckon that was about another 110 km. That sounds like a long way, and adds up to 220 km... so that's what I'm going to say it was.

Thanks to Robbin (Great Explorations), and all the gang for a fabulous and exhausting weekend. Especially thanks to Dave for my career inspiration and helping me out of my navigation failure. I'm going to give my knees a rest tomorrow.