Sayward & Beyond - Exploring the NE Island
I'd passed by Sayward a few weeks past on a backroads ride. I thought I'd best go back and do it a little more justice. I had a few days, so I drove up late in the day and headed out NE on my rough road touring bike the next morning. It turned out to be a fine overnight adventure to a cool new (for me) corner of Vancouver Island.
Marina on Kelsey Bay, with the log sort (depot) in the background). I had a fine dinner here at the Straits View Cafe.
Sayward, population ~400, is 65 kms north of Campbell River along the North Island Highway. There's a cluster of businesses along the highway turnoff, but the actual village is 10 kms east where the Salmon River flows into the Johnstone Strait. Adjacent to the village is a large logging depot, and harbour on Kelsey Bay. Logging remains the primary economic pillar, but outdoor/adventure tourism is growing rapidly to take advantage of their incredible coastline and natural hinterland. Sayward has a tradition of independence, with a paved road connection only reaching the north Island in 1979.
I camped at the helpful Sayward Valley Resort near the highway where I left my car and started riding early the next morning. There's a couple of other camping options in Sayward.
Along the road into Sayward Village - an old logging sled with steam engine to haul logs. From the days before railway logging. I love the 2 matching shrubs growing off the front block.
I rode north up the highway to the turnoff onto Eve River Main, a backroad heading to the coast 20+kms NE. There's fine riding, a gradual descent, past a few rustic recreation campgrounds along the way, before one reaches the mouth of the Eve River, complete with a log depot, popular dock and boat launch for those heading out into the Strait. From here I followed a rough, tough (steep!) up and down 15km connector paralleling the coast north to Naka Creek Recreation Campground, my destination for the night (whew...)
Looking out over scenic Johnstone Strait from my ride into Naka Creek.
Naka Creek Rec Camp was a real treat. I met the 'hosts' (residents beside the campground) as I was riding in, and they encouraged me to camp at the gazebo. The campsite is small, 7-8 sites, but the grounds are grassy and spread out, with surrounding fields to take up any overflow. And the seaside! The place attracts boaters & fishers (there's a rough boat launch), as well as kayakers, marine wildlife watchers, and those who like to beachwalk or just soak in the chilled out 'end of the road' vibe.
Naka Creek was the highlight of this overnight tour. I'd been expecting some thing very basic, but found myself in a gorgeous place with all the camping basics, plus one of the best coastal settings I've seen along the Island.
My tent, with a gazebo at hand for kicking back should the weather turn ornery.
My front yard, along Johnstone Strait. Grand views and beach walking
Next morning I headed back to the highway along Naka then Tsitika River Mains - with some tough climbing up to 500m elevation. Didn't see another vehicle for some hours until I got close to the highway again.
Naka Main - climbing, and then more climbing ...
Then it was a few hours riding south back along the highway to Sayward. I told the manager at Sayward Village that I'd be back, as I'm (slowly) learning that Sayward is something of a riding hub, with another ride I want to try following the White River west to Gold River.
This was memorable short tour. I've got a soft spot for whimsical backroads art, so I'll finish with one more example of local art from Sayward.