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August 1, 2009

Nanaimo—Mount Tzouhalem

Filed under: BC 2009, MTB Travel — anotherheader @ 1:23 am

A tired dog makes it to the Living Forest RV Park

A tired dog makes it to the Living Forest RV Park

On Tuesday our short stay in Victoria ended and it was time to move north to Nanaimo.  When we picked up a map at Rider’s Cycles (1092 Cloverdale Ave) on Monday, we also purchased “Moutain Bike Vancouver Island: The Pursuit of Technical Singletrack” by Daniel Cammiade, a guidebook for riding Vancouver Island.  The guidebook is expensive ($20) but does serve as a useful template for Vancouver Island rides.  The island has plenty of riding opportunities but, with the lower population pressure, the mountain biking areas tend to be smaller and less well developed.  The folks at the bike shop suggested we try Tzouhalem* which is about an hour north of Victoria and on the way to Nanaimo, our next stop.  When we were told that the riding at “Mt. Zoo” was possibly more challenging than the riding at Hartland, we were interested.  I’m not quite sure why the “more challenging” moniker was appealing.  It’s not as if Hartland wasn’t hard enough.  Perhaps Uncle Knobular is a gluton for punishment.

Finality at Mt. Tzouhalem on Vancouver Island

Finality at Mt. Tzouhalem on Vancouver Island

We considered riding Tzouhalem on Monday, but it seemed too far and there was much more left to discover in Hartland.  Tuesday seemed to be perfect, as Mt. Zoo was halfway to Nanaimo, our next stop.  But when Tuesday came, as we broke camp for our relocation north, the rain started.  It was drizzling as we left Victoria.  Moving north the weather changed to a cold, steady rain.  Nothing that any self respecting British Columbian mountain biker would be daunted by but more than enough to slow up a couple of Californians.  So we passed on the Mt. Zoo ride and drove directly to our campground in Nanaimo instead.

Wacky neighbor at The Living Forest RV Park

Wacky neighbor at The Living Forest RV Park

Though it is a RV park with hook-ups, cable, and the promise of wireless Internet, The Living Forest does not look like the typical RV Park.  Separated from each other by a distance that fits the National Park standard, the RV spots were forested and comfortable.  We paid a small amount extra for spots on the bluff overlooking the wetlands of the nearby cove.  The extra money was worth it to watch the rain squalls pass on the water and to see the colors of the sunset reflecting over the water.  Nick was pretty much figured that this was the place that we were heading to all along.  He was ready to stay for the duration of the trip, however long that was.

On Wednesday the rain subsided and we had a choice of where to ride.  Our pre-trip plans were to ride near Nanaimo but the previous days momentum pushed us towards Mt. Zoo.  We gave in to the momentum.

We accessed the Mt. Tzouhalem trail system through a neighborhood in Duncan.  Mt. Zoo has a web of marginally marked trails that make trail finding challenging.  Somehow, with the aid of the map in our guidebook, we found our way through.   This was one of the rides where afterwards it is hard to say exactly where we rode.  We finished, though, with a sequence of trails that included Finality, a smooth, fast singletrack romp through the lush rain forest, and climbed on a fire road until we reached Lower T.  Lower T is another loamy-smooth track that took us to more rolling singletrack that lead us back to the parking area.

Knobs at Mt. Tzouhalem

Knobs at Mt. Tzouhalem

Our track took us through a good swath of Mt. Tzouhalem.  The trails we experienced were some of the easier ones we’ve seen in BC with a fast and twisty flow on a cedar loam tread.  It seemed like there are fewer rocks and roots in this area.  The build-ups are also less frequent than on the mainland.  Some of the build-ups are new and well maintained but others have fallen into disrepair.  As Brian found out, some of the older structures can break under your feet, so be careful to check them out first.

With the web of trails and active trail building going on, we’d be uncomfortable in characterizing all of the trail system as “easier” based on our limited experience.  There’s so much more to explore here.  This is a place that needs systematic exploration.

Wonder what happens if the boards break when crossing a ladder structure?  Knobs was walking at the time.

Wonder what happens if the boards break when crossing a ladder structure? Knobs was walking at the time.

Our Mt. Tzouhalem ride ended our brief mountain biking foray to Vancouver Island.  Overall, we found the riding on the island to be less well developed than the trail systems on the mainland.  With minimal signage and tracks that often see less use, there’s more of a discovery element to the average ride.  In the end, though, as we page through Daniel Cammiade’s guidebook, we can’t help but think that it would be fun to poke around and explore the riding nooks and crannies on the island.  But that will have to be on a future trip.

Tree going from a rock at The Living Forest RV Park (HDR)

Tree going from a rock at The Living Forest RV Park (HDR)

Nanaimo pictures:

Mt. Tzouhalem Pictures:

*  We were told that a new, dedicated freeride mountain biking park is under development in Victoria.  This sounds like something to look forward to.


1 Comment »

  1. Poor tired dog. I know after he catches up on his rest, there will be many requests to go for walks. Last chance to mark the Pacific northwest.

    Good pictures of the trails and Knobs, also.


    Comment by Becky — August 4, 2009 @ 3:34 am

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