Riding the backroads west from Sayward

August 30, 2017

Another grand ride through remote backroads on the North Island.

 

I didn't really start from Sayward, but from Sayward junction (where I left my car) along the North Island Highway, about 65 kms north of Campbell River. The scenic village of Sayward, along with Kelsey Bay Harbour, with camping, services and restaurants, is 10kms east off the highway, along the east Island coast. 

 

Lunch break along NE shores of remote Vernon Lake, south of Woss, on the 2nd day of my ride. As you can see, the weather was totally cooperating. I went for a short lunchtime swim.

 

Check out the route map at the bottom of the page.

 

This ride was a 3 day loop. Day 1, I headed SW from Sayward following the White River up into the interior, in the shadows of Mt Victoria, over 2,100m, 3rd highest peak on the Island. Then it was down towards Gold River at the tip of Muchalat Inlet along the wild west coast. I branched NW 10kms before Gold River to camp at Muchalat Lake Forestry campground (recommended!). This was the toughest day, following smaller backroads, with elevation up near 600m. This was my 2nd kick at this can: I'd tried the ride back at the end of May, but was forced to turn back due to deep snows after our long crazy winter.

 

Climbing up the White River Valley. About 20kms south from Sayward, one must cross a bridge over to the west side of the river. I missed this, and ran into a decommissioned bridge that cost me time

 

I started my riding on a Saturday, and encountered a few logging trucks early on day 1, as well as heli-logging off the road, but that was mostly it for truck traffic this trip. Yeaayy weekends!

 

Our brilliant summer sunshine was still going strong when I reached the 40 site campground at the west end of Muchalat Lake. Got a lakeside camping spot (lower pic below) and plunged in for a cooling swim (top pic). Brilliant.

 

 

Then I headed north on Nimpkish Main for around 65-75kms (depending on route) to connect with the North Isle Hwy about 10kms south of the logging village of Woss. It's a dirt logging track, but signed all the way north fto the main highway (and beyond).

 

Today's North Isle Hwy to Port Hardy was completed in the early 1950s, and only paved up to Port Hardy in 1979. 

 

Interestingly, it turns out that the old Island Highway only went as far north as Sayward, and the ferry connection to Prince Rupert went via Kelsey Bay terminal. In days gone by, the backroads route north from Gold River was the ONLY road for those driving up to the North Island. It's still used by the forestry industry and backroads enthusiasts. The ferry north to Prince Rupert switched north to Port Hardy in 1979.

 

 

Top left above shows a massive spar used for loading/unloading railway cars off Nimpkish Line, one of the few remaining railway logging operations (most were phased out 60 years past). Tragically, they lost 3 workers in an accident earlier in 2017. Bottom left shows heli-logging along White River Main. Top right - one of the old signs for the backroads highway north from Gold River. Bottom right - part way through portaging my bike and gear around a bridge that had been removed along the White River: thankfully, the water was low enough I could do this and was not forced to retrace my way back to an earlier bridge I missed. 

 

I camped my final night at Lower Klaklakama Lake, about 5kms south of the North Island Highway. It was a fine (paved!) 65km ride, up and down gradual hills, back to Sayward junction the next morning, arriving at 11am. The ice cream stall was open and ready for business.

 

Nearing Sayward at the end of my 3 day ride. There's a wonderful final descent into the Sayward Valley. If you look carefully, you can just see a sign for the Valley at the bottom right.

 

In the map below, you can see my 3 day route in purple/magenta (the green tracks are other rides).  At the top right, you see Sayward junction, the start and finish of my ride. At the bottom, you see Gold River, with Muchalat Lake, where I camped, just above. You can see where the old backroads highway reaches the new North Island Highway, just SE of Woss.

 

 

 

 

 

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