The Renfrew Road
Title: The Renfrew Road; by Terry Connellan
Seasoned cyclists high on British Columbia's Renfrew route
Seasoned bicycle tourers will likely tell you that their
long distance journeys are a natural extension of after
supper and Sunday morning pleasure rides, and are
not endurance trials. When asked how far they travel
in a day they reply: "Just far enough." "Until I get tired."
Or: "until I see a nice campsite." These are honest
answers. These people aren't evading the question.
And these people have discovered that the bicycle
is the perfect vehicle for open-ended adventuring.
Anyone of any age and either sex can master one.
And they can choose from dozens of tours of varying
length on and around British Columbia's Vancouver
One of my favorites begins and ends in the City of
Victoria. It's best done over four days with two nights
camping and the last evening to spoil yourself
shamelessly in one of the Province's best dining rooms.
Before embarking on any tour, read everything you can
about the route, historical and geographical. This
heightens expectations and enjoyment, and minimizes
For this tour I recommend the Victoria Outdoors Club's
Hiking Trails I and II, and Island Adventures by Richard
Blier. Maps to get include; Guide to Forest Land of
Southern Vancouver Island, B C Ministry of Forests-Duncan
Forest Recreation Map, and Galloping Goose Regional
Park Corridor from the Capital Regional District
Give yourself an early start on day one by arriving at
Brentwood for a morning ferry to Mill Bay. This avoids
cycling the difficult Malahat Drive. Follow the road
to Shawnigan Lake village and an ice cream stop
at the first intersection. Take the road west along the
north side of the lake to the junction with the Shawnigan
Lake West Road, keep straight on and you are on
the start of the Renfrew Road.
Six kms from here the pavement ends but the surface
is good gravel as the road skirts the south side of
Koksilah River Provincial Park. The riverside picnic
sites on the right are a good place to stop for lunch.
There are some fairly long grades of around 8%
leading to truly spectacular views and you'll get
there with reasonable effort if you have the proper
gearing on you bike and the right size tires.
From here the road to Port Renfrew is well maintained
gravel logging road, and fairly well signed; when in
doubt go straight ahead. Expect to be passed by
large trucks from both directions. But don't worry
these drivers are pros.
After riding thousands of kilometers on logging roads,
I feel qualified to offer a few tips about sharing the
road with behemoth trucks:
Be highly visible; wear a bright lime green, yellow
or orange shirt. Be predictable; no sudden changes
of position on the road. When you see an overtaking
truck in your rear-view mirror, and he is a hundred
meters or more behind you give two or three wide
overhead waves to acknowledge his presence,
Pick the "line" you're going to ride and move to it
and ride in a straight line.
This tells the trucker where you'll be and what he has
to do to pass you in safety. I also give the wave to
oncoming trucks sometimes accompanied by a
downward pull motion as if I had air horns, more
often than not there is a responding BLAAAT,
a smile and a wave.
Loggers will be a welcome sight if you run into
a problem. They have radios, first aid kits and will
be first to the rescue. They are our friends let them
know that you are theirs. They have had more than
enough interference with their right to earn a living,
let them know that you are the "good guys".
The Bedspring Suspension Bridge over Williams
Creek, 31 kms from the start of the Renfrew Road
is one of the real treats of the trip. It will be necessary
to walk and lift your bike around barriers at each end
of the bridge, and you may have to ford a washout
section beyond before getting back on solid road.
Head for the Forest Service recreation site on the
San Juan River at the Black Suspension Bridge.
This is a user maintained site so "leave only footprints,
take only memories". There are a half-dozen shaded
campsites riverside and the San Juan was shallow
and cold when I camped there in late September.
Remember to hoist your food bags [including all
toiletries] on a line at least 4 meters above ground
as a bear precaution.
Across the bridge is a climb to start your day but
before long comes continuous descent as you
travel the last 18 km into Port Renfrew.
The Port Renfrew Hotel serves consistently good
food in cyclist-sized portions, so you might want
to delay breakfast until here. It's possible to store
your panniers at the hotel and cycle the five
kilometers to the marvels of Botanical Beach.
There are provincial park rangers on site and
the interpretive program for the tidal pools.
Touring by bicycle presents the ultimate in
independence with unlimited options. You may
wish to spend the entire day on the beach and
overnight at the hotel before riding the 70 kms
to Sooke, or, as we did, travel the hilly 38 km
to the free Western Forest Products campsite
on the beach at Jordan River. The views over
the Juan de Fuca from here are breathtaking.
Sunset is sometimes exquisite.
My companion on this tour was accomplished
cyclist Ellen Tremblay. Ellen is a knowledgeable
birder, and this, coupled with her non-stop
enthusiasm, makes her an enjoyable cyclemate.
Our destination the next day was a delightful Bed
and Breakfast on Belvista Place in Sooke owned
by friends Joe and Pauline Cziraky, (250) 642-5005.
This is a perfect way to cap your tour. You can sit
and watch swans coming in to feed, or sit on the
dock and catch crab.
I like to finish the day with dinner at the fabulous
Sooke Harbour House where most of the ingredients
are fresh out of their garden or the ocean.
Your ride into Victoria is along the beautiful, no-stress,
35 kilometre trip along (a former railroad line) the
Galloping Goose Trail.
After this pleasant journey you may wish to avoid
riding the tricky, tacky Colwood Strip by having friends
pick you up on Aldeane at Sooke Road across from
the gates to Royal Roads University.
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