Beer and Camping in Whistler/Squamish, BC

So one thing I quickly learned when planning this trip is that, unless you’re staying in the Whistler village or on the mountain, you’re probably hanging out in Squamish, BC. That’s fine, because it turns out that Squamish is an amazing town. It reminded Greyson and me a lot of Truckee, actually.

Squamish Beer and Camping // tahoefabulous.com
Squamish, BC is an outdoorsy town on the northern end of the Howe Sound. It’s in a gorgeous setting, with towering granite cliffs and unbelievably blue water. It’s about 50 minutes from Whistler, and the drive is on the gorgeous but nerve wracking Sea to Sky Highway. In addition to miles of mountain bike trails, it’s also famous for climbing – especially Stawamus Chief. Think of an outdoor activity, and you can probably do it in Squamish – hiking, kayaking, trail running, rafting, etc.

After a full day of downhill mountain biking in Whistler, we were too exhausted to ride the trails of Squamish, which is probably our biggest regret of our whole road trip. Oh, well, we’ll just need to go back! Unsurprisingly, we visited several breweries in the Whistler/Squamish area and I really liked them. We were there in early-July, which is definitely high season in Squamish, so all of these breweries were packed. If you go during a busy time of year, prepare to stand or share a table with friendly locals. I also got to pet a lot of cute dogs at these breweries, too.

Beer
First up was Backcountry Brewing. This brewery has a full kitchen (we had good thin crust pizza) and was super busy. We tried two IPAs, Close Talker (3.5) and Sid Rogers Lil IPA (4.25) that appear to have gone off the menu. I really liked this place and would definitely go back. They also have cider, if you can’t do gluten.

Next was A-FRAME Brewing, which was just down the street. Here we did a four beer tasting flight, and this was my favorite Squamish brewery overall. We sampled (beer descriptions by A-FRAME):
Okanagan Lake Cream Ale (4.5/5): Okanagan Lake Cream Ale is pale gold with a sweet malty flavour, light in hop aroma and a smooth dry finish.

Elfin Lake Belgian Ale (3.5/5)

Shuswap Lake IPA (4/5): Shuswap Lake IPA is a bold, lean and assertive West Coast IPA. Brewed with Galena and Horizon hops in the kettle and dry-hopped with Centennial, Chinook and Cascade hops. This hop forward ale has a smooth, crisp, hop forward flavour with Centennial hops providing medium aromas of floral, grapefruit and mild citrus.

Sproat Lake Pale Ale (4.75/5): Sproat Lake Dry-Hopped Pale Ale is a fresh, light and sessionable ale where every new batch is hopped with an entirely different varietal. This batch of Sproat Lake Pale Ale focuses on the juicy side of today’s most popular hops. Brewed with Flaked Oats, Wheat and dry hopped with Amarillo, Mosaic and Citra. Smooth and silky malt body, light orange hues with aromas of citrus, orange zest and tropical fruits.

Finally, we have Coast Mountain Brewing, the only brewery we went to that was in Whistler. Here we tried (again, descriptions by brewery):

Forecast West Coast Pale Ale (3.75/5): Forecast gives us a peak into the future where fairer days breed serious mountain Apres sessions. The incredible Amarillo dry-hops here add tremendous, beautiful fresh-squeezed juice like character.

Day Dreamer NE IPA (3.75/5): Beautiful hazy, juicy goodness with notes of tropical fruits and citrus throughout. Brewed with generous additions of Canadian flaked oats, flaked wheat and tremendous late and dry-hop additions of Citra hops.

Lodging
There are not a ton of camping options in the Whistler/Squamish area, especially for non-private campgrounds. We ended up staying at two private campgrounds and one night in a hotel.

Our first night in the area, we camped at MTN Fun Basecamp in Squamish which I would highly recommend. The sites are spacious, the crowd wasn’t too rowdy and there are bike trails right from the resort. It also looks like a great base camp for rafting and climbing and booking guided trips as well. Post biking, we got a room at the Sea to Sky Hotel. The hotel was fine, the price was decent and the rooms were clean. They had a bike storage room, which was just a conference room, but better than nothing. I wished we could have locked up our bikes while they were in there, though. The best part of Sea to Sky Hotel was the restaurant within walking distance Pepe & Gringo’s (also known as Pepe’s Chophouse). Generally, when a place has a bunch of different cuisines on the menu, none of them are that good. But Pepe’s had Indian, Italian, and Indian and more, and everything we had was delicious. Finally, we stayed at Riverside Resort in Whistler. This is a private campground with walk in-only and drive in camping, motorhome spaces, and rental cabins. This was definitely the worst place we camped – very much a party campground and pretty pricey.

Overall, I’d recommend staying in and exploring Squamish and making the trek to Whistler when needed. If you really want to stay in Whistler, splurge and stay in the village. Overall, Whistler and Squamish are awesome and I can’t wait to go back.

My First Time at Whistler Mountain Bike Park

If you haven’t already seen it, the following video is a hilarious must watch before anyone rides at Whistler for the first time.

I felt like my first time at Whistler and the above video had a lot in common, including difficulty finding parking and being completely overwhelmed by how hard everything was. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast, but struggling on the blue trails was a bit of a knock to my pride. Also, Whistler was the only place I rode on the whole trip that I wished for more suspension – 130 front/115 rear was not enough. Obviously, it worked well enough that I had a fun time. But if you have a shorter travel full suspension bike, Whistler is a place that it’s worth upgrading to a longer-travel rental bike for the day.

Mountain Biking Whistler // tahoefabulous.com

There’s a ton of information about Whistler out on the internet, but I think that much of it is geared to advanced+ riders. Here’s what I wanted to know when I was planning my trip:

Can an intermediate rider have fun at Whistler Mountain Bike Park?
Absolutely! There are tons of trails that were super fun for a non-hardcore/non-DH rider. Just be prepared to ride grades lower than what you normally ride. The nice thing about the bike park is that the trails are so well built that even the green/beginner trails were fun to ride as a more experienced biker. I’d recommend Whistler for mtb newbies as well, but would suggest signing up for a lesson, especially if you are going with people who are going to want to go hardcore all day long.

Another important thing to realize (especially if you’re not used to riding at lift-serviced bike parks) is that even though you’re “just” riding downhill, it is a lot of work and hard on your body. Especially your hands. Even if you are in great shape, be sure to take breaks between runs or your hands will turn into handle-bar shaped claws.

Go on a week day if you can! We went on a Friday in July and it was still pretty busy. It was also very hot. Wear enough protective gear. Even if you’re a beginner who plans to ride easy trails, I’d recommend a full-face helmet (Something like the Bell Super 3R is well ventilated and light), a light, long sleeved jersey, elbow pads (I have these these lightweight ones from G-Form), and knee pads. If I’m at the bike park, I usually wear heavy duty knee pads (similar to these ones from Fox Racing), but we only brought our lightweight SixSixOne Recons and they were fine.

Whistler has a ton of amazing trails – way more than you can ride in a day or a weekend or probably even a week. We stuck to the Fitzsimmons Zone and rode mostly blue trails, with a green or two thrown in as well. We struggled enough on the blue trails that we didn’t even try anything higher. Whistler also splits their trails into categories beyond just difficulty – into “Technical” and “Freeride”. Freeride trails are machine cut and include features like jumps, berms, gaps, bridges, etc. Technical trails tend to be more based on natural terrain and are more likely to feature rock gardens, drops, logs, etc. I liked this classification, because I tend to prefer the “natural” features. I’d rather ride a rock garden than a bridge, even if the bridge is technically easier!

I did have a blast on Whistler’s freeride trails – there’s a reason this bike park is considered the best in the world. Here are some of the trails that I enjoyed the most:

  • B-Line upper and lower: (freeride, intermediate) Generally, I’m not a jump trail person (I don’t like jumping), but B-line was so much fun! All the jumps are rollable (no gaps or doubles), but you might find yourself having so much fun that you do catch air.
  • Ho Chi Min & Karate Monkey: (technical, intermediate) These are two trails on the easier end of the intermediate technical scale. From what I can remember, I could ride basically everything on these two.
  • Del Boca Vista: (technical, beginner) This was a fun beginner trail. Even Greyson, who is a pretty advanced rider had a blast on this one.

Those are just a few of the many amazing trails at Whistler Mountain Bike Park. I hope my tips for intermediate riders were helpful, and I encourage everyone who is the tiniest bit interested in mountain biking to consider a visit. Check back for places to stay, beer to drink, and things to do in the Whistler/Squamish area!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Flashback Friday: Getting SCUBA Certified

Back in the fall of 2015, I got certified for SCUBA diving. I wrote this shortly after, but never got around to publishing it. Hope you enjoy!

Getting SCUBA Certified // tahoefabulous.com

I’ve loved the water since before I could walk. My mom likes to tell stories about how, if there was a body of water around, I was in it (despite any signs or instructions to the contrary). Most of our family vacations growing up involved a lake, river or ocean for swimming, fishing, tide pooling, exploring, kayaking and snorkeling. On a couple of these snorkel outings there were a few people SCUBA diving off the boat, but we stuck with snorkeling. My mom and I occasionally talked about getting SCUBA certified “someday,” but we never did. Fast forward a few years, and I started dating Greyson. His family is super into SCUBA diving, and they have been taking dive vacations all over the world since he was a teenager. With my love for the water, he encouraged me to get certified, but with all my other hobbies, SCUBA certification got pushed to “someday” again.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Fall 2015 came along and “someday” came sooner than I was expecting! Greyson’s parents planned a SCUBA diving trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and they invited me along. This combined with the fact that my parents got me the SCUBA certification class and gear for my birthday meant that it was time to get certified. Greyson and I spent a few afternoons in Donner Lake practicing in snorkel gear to prepare.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

I finished my classroom sessions, pool dives and open water dives in September, and I’m now officially a certified open water SCUBA diver! For those of you who are interested in SCUBA diving but haven’t taken the plunge (no pun intended), I thought I’d write a little about what it was like to get SCUBA certified. Going into it, I was super nervous. I was worried about the classroom part, being able to pass all the skills in the pool, not being able to handle the open water portion, etc. It turns out that all my stressing was for nothing, and I found SCUBA certification to be a breeze.

The first step of getting SCUBA certified is the classroom portion. I did my certification through Sierra Diving Center based in Reno, Nevada, which is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified center. PADI is the main diving certification worldwide, and many diving resorts and destinations will only let you dive if you have a PADI certification.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

When I signed up for my diving class, I was given a packet of materials that included a DVD, a workbook and a special diving calculator. I spent a couple of hours watching the DVD while going through the workbook and finishing all of the practice problems. The problems are simple math problems to help you understand important diving safety concepts like pressure groups, volume, water pressure, dissolved gases in your body, etc. I thought the concepts were fairly straightforward, but there were definitely some in my class who struggled. Your mileage may vary.

The classroom session took place over a few hours on a Friday evening and Saturday morning. We covered the topics that were in the workbook, like equipment, safety and dangerous situations that can arise while diving, air chemistry, volume and pressure, what to do in case of emergency, and other diving related topics. We did practice problems using our diving calculators and had the chance to ask lots of questions. We also practiced setting up our SCUBA gear – tank, buoyancy control device (BCD), regulator, and computer. The SCUBA instructors I had were great – really funny, responsive to questions, thorough and knowledgeable.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

After we passed all of the required quizzes and tests and asked our final questions, we headed to the pool for our confined dives. The dives in the pool were where we were tested on our physical fitness and learned and practiced the skills we’d have to complete in our open water dives in order to pass. The physical fitness tests were pretty easy for me – we had to swim 300 meters using our mask and snorkel and float/tread water for five minutes.

We got out of the water, and now it was time for the hard part – getting into our SCUBA gear and getting properly weighted. It was in the high 80s in Reno that day, so I didn’t bother with a wetsuit, figuring that I’d be fine in a heated pool in just a rash guard and two piece, so I was weighted accordingly. We started off standing the shallow end, before I knew it, it was time to take my first breath underwater. It was definitely a weird feeling, but really cool! Our instructor had us practice breathing through the regulator while standing and without our masks, to prove that we could. Once everyone was satisfied that it was, in fact, possible to breathe underwater, we sunk slowly under the surface.

There is lots of sitting around and waiting during the confined and open water dives, and I eventually got pretty cold and added a shorty wetsuit. One of the instructors threw a five pound weight in one side. This would turn out to be both not enough weight and made me way uneven underwater.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

At this point, we graduated from the shallow end and swam to the deep end of the pool. It was so cool to float slowly down to the bottom; I was able to clear my ears quite easily and didn’t have too much problem with the pressure. I did have a problem floating gracefully to the bottom, though! I didn’t have enough weight on my belt, and one of the instructors had to pull me down. Once I was actually on the bottom, the extra water pressure squeezed the air and I was able to somewhat settle on the bottom.

Even though we were all in a small pool, we followed SCUBA best practices and stuck close to our buddy. I totally lucked out with my buddy, Tessa. She was great – and super strong which is nice when you’re getting in and out of the heavy SCUBA gear. We learned how to put our masks back on while under water, how to clear water out of our masks, how to share air with a buddy and other important skills. We did more sitting around while other people practiced their skills, though I was stuck in more of a bumping around, semi-kneeling position, listing to my left. This movement + short wetsuit + rough pool bottom meant my knees were super scraped up by the end of the day. This was really my only complaint about the whole class though.

I got smarter, and wore my ankle-length triathlon wetsuit for day two in the pool. The second day involved practicing and perfecting more complicated skills, like taking off your BCD and tank and putting them back on, slowly kicking to the surface with no air (but not holding your breath!), buoyancy control, and sharing air with your buddy while dragging them to the surface. I had the hardest time with buoyancy control! It’s apparently a tough skill to learn, and you can take an entire separate class just to practice. We also went on some “exploratory dives” which was mostly just trying to not accidentally pop to the surface or get kicked in the face while we swam around a fairly small pool. After two days in the pool, I was feeling ready for our open water dives, which happened the next week.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

One thing that was super awesome about Sierra Diving Center’s certification class is that we got to do our open water dives in Lake Tahoe! Lake Tahoe is at 6,224 feet, so we got to do our first dive at high altitude. This added some complications to our calculations and set some stricter limits on how deep we could go, but it was a fun experience for our first dives.

The open water portion consisted of four dives across two days – three where we practiced our skills and a fourth “exploration dive.” We dove at Sand Harbor State Park in Nevada. While I’d been to Sand Harbor a few times for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, I’d never actually swam there before so I was excited about the opportunity. Plus the water is crystal clear and littered with interesting boulders and rock features.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

We started out learning how to navigate with our compasses in the parking lot – I’m sure the other people at the park thought we were hilarious. We hauled our gear to the water (much further than usual due to the drought!), and before I knew it, my dive buddy and I were following an anchor line under water. We bottomed out at about 12 feet, and started demonstrating the skills we’d learned and practiced in the pool. I won’t list off everything we did, but, if you’re interested in diving, you can check out a generic list of open water skills here.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Tessa and I passed everything pretty much on our first try – my one exception was underwater compass navigation. I kicked too much and ended up on the surface on my first try. I remembered to watch my depth on my second try and it was fine. So there was more sitting around on the bottom, but it was definitely more interesting than the pool. We saw a ton of crawdads, which I knew lived in Lake Tahoe, but I’d never actually seen. After the final skills dive and a lunch break, it was time for our final exploration dive.

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

 

Our class had started out with both men and women, but, by the time of our final dive, all the men had dropped out and our class was all women (and one 13 year old girl!). We came up with a dive plan (where we’d go, how deep we’d get, when we’d turn around, etc.) and headed out. While being underwater and practicing skills had been cool, nothing prepared me for how awesome actually diving was! Our small group got deeper than we’d been before, swam around and over incredible underwater rock formations, and swam through a school of thousands of minnows.

When we popped up at our designated meeting spot, we all had huge grins on our faces. The instructors told us, “Congratulations! You are all certified SCUBA divers.” We had a quick debrief session and the instructors signed our diving logs, and that was it. We were done!

Getting SCUBA Certified //tahoefabulous.com

Getting SCUBA certified with Sierra Diving Center was a great experience, and I’d highly recommend them for anyone looking to complete a SCUBA certification. I haven’t been back in the water in quite awhile, but Greyson and I are hoping to do some diving this year.

Food, Lodging, and Things To Do at the Sunshine Coast

Things to do on the Sunshine Coast // tahoefabulous.com
I already wrote about the mountain biking and the breweries of the Sunshine Coast, but that’s not all we did while we were there.  The Sunshine Coast is an awesome destination and I highly recommend visiting.

Camping
We camped at two different places on the Sunshine Coast – in both Powell River on the north end and in Roberts Creek towards the south.

In Powell River, we camped at a private campground located right in town – Willingdon Beach Campsite. Often, that combination is a recipe for a loud, un-scenic stay, but that wasn’t the case at Willingdon. The spots were pretty close together and we struggled finding a spot flat enough for our tent. Our neighbors were super friendly and respectful and a beautiful beach was a short walk away. It was also pretty cheap for a private campground, and it had laundry available if you needed it.

In Roberts Creek, which is between Sechelt and Gibsons, we stayed at Roberts Creek Provincial Park. This was a nice campground with spaced out spots in the old growth trees, but even in the height of summer it wasn’t staffed like the other provincial park campgrounds. This was the only campground we stayed at in all of BC where we put money in an envelope!

Other Lodging
We stayed at a couple of non-camping lodgings while we were on the Sunshine Coast. I was worried about finding camping when we took the evening ferry from Vancouver Island to Powell River, so we booked a night at the Island View Lodge for our first night. Now, the Island View Lodge is not the height of luxury, but I thought it was perfectly fine for a hotel on the cheaper end of things. It had recently been remodeled and had a better than average continental breakfast. It’s pretty close to a mill though, and, while we couldn’t smell it in the room, the distinct mill smell was noticeable outside.

If you’re looking for a nice place to stay on the south end of the Sunshine Coast, I highly recommend the Huckleberry Cottage in Roberts Creek. We stayed in the Carriage House, an adorable studio with all the amenities we could want after camping. There was a washer/dryer, a full kitchen, and an amazing soaking tub. The owners were so nice and friendly and had a great spot for locking up bikes.

Restaurants
While we did some camp cooking on the Sunshine Coast, we did eat out more often at this point in the road trip.

Costa Del Sol was an amazing Mexican restaurant in Powell River. It’s more a hipster type of Mexican restaurant, not a hole in the wall and it’s pretty small so you might have to wait for a table. I loved the Costa Cesar, which was made with tequila, and the Yam Tacos.

In Sechelt, we ate at The Lighthouse Pub, which was at the marina. The restaurant is right on the water, and we could watch sea planes take off and land from our table. We even saw a seal pop up its head while we ate! The halibut fish and chips were incredible! Seriously, I’ve eaten a lot of fish and chips in my life and these were #1.

Between Sechelt and Roberts Creek, we stopped at Gourmet Girl, another waterfront restaurant. I had Belgian waffles with local berries, which were delicious, but Greyson’s home fry poutine stole the show. If you’re looking for something quick and easy in the Roberts Creek area, the pizza from Pepper Creek was good, if a little pricey for basic pizza. The staff was also super friendly.

Finally, Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons is in an amazing location, but you’ll definitely pay high food prices for the view! They were also out of the oysters I wanted when we got there, which was a total bummer. The food we got was good, and Greyson found non-seafood things to eat.

Kayaking in Sechelt Inlet

We wanted to do some exploring on the water instead of via mountain bike while we were on the Sunshine Coast, so we booked a guided kayak tour with Pedals & Paddles, who have an incredible spot on Sechelt Inlet, almost at the end of the road. The two hour tour was only $75 per person, which included the boat and life jacket rental, which was a great price. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgable, and the time flew by. The water was so clear that we could see down to the star fish hanging out on the bottom! The sea life highlight was definitely the moon jelly blooms where tens of thousands of translucent jelly fish turned the water a beautiful turquoise color. We also saw a mink playing along the shoreline!

Try This Beer: Sunshine Coast Breweries

The Sunshine Coast has a small population, but it’s big enough to support a few breweries, and I think we were able to try them all. Beer descriptions provided by brewery.

Sunshine Coast Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

Townsite Brewing, Powell River
First up is a brewery in the historic Townsite District in Powell River. Townsite Brewing is in an older, but updated building with fun brewing artifacts on the walls. Townsite Brewing has the only Belgian brewmaster in all of BC, and it showed in their beers. If you love Belgian-style beers, you’ll enjoy Townsite. Obviously, Belgian isn’t my favorite style, but I still enjoyed several of their beers.

Zunga Golden Blonde Ale (3.75/5)
(zung-ga) 1. a word peculiar to Powell River meaning rope swing, esp. over water
2. A delicious golden blonde ale. This golden blonde ale has a light bitterness and a balanced body to create a dry, refreshing finish, with hints of European hops. It is the perfect accompaniment to a hot day up the lake.

Suncoast Pale Ale (3/5)
Suncoast is our draught-only offering and our definition of a session beer. Think smooth, amber and yummy! This is for hanging out with great friends and enjoying lotsa laughs.

Note: You can only get this beer if you visit their Sunshine Coast taproom!

Tinhat IPA (4/5)
DEFINITION:
1. logger slang for hard hat;
2. a peak (elev. 1193m) along the 180km Sunshine Coast Trail;
3. a West Coast IPA
Loads of pungent, piney, citrusey hops give Tin Hat IPA a strong bitterness that is balanced with a malty body. Pair with strong flavours: curry, smoked meat, Gorgonzola cheese.

Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout 3.5/5
1. what happens when the perfect mix of people come together to form a brewery; 2. a delicious oatmeal stout
We’ve got a truly great team here at Townsite and every day we are thankful that we get to work with each other producing some really great beer. As Chloe is often heard to remark, ‘What we have here is a perfect storm: from brewing, to sales, to distribution & marketing.’ To celebrate this serendipity, Cédric has brewed up the perfect storm of a beer: a rich, round, roasty oatmeal stout using flaked oats and roasted barley to add to our house roast malts (Chocolate and Crystal) and hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Golding.

Persephone Brewing Company, Gibsons, BC
Persephone Brewing Company is at an amazing location a little outside of Gibsons, BC on the south end of the Sunshine Coast. It’s on a working farm, complete with gardens and livestock – though the animals can get a little smelly! You can wander around the grounds with your beer, check out the hop yard, grab snacks from a food truck, or just sit outside in their covered courtyard. We enjoyed hanging out there so much that we ended up doing two tasting flights!

Black Lager (4.25/5)
A full bodied dark lager. Roasty, clean and chocolaty with a graham cracker finish.

Goddess Golden Ale (5/5)
Modelled after an English style summer bitter. Crisp, dry and refreshing, with a light biscuity malty character. A delicate, herbal hop aroma, backed with an assertive bitterness.

Persephone Pale Ale (4.5/5)
This medium bodied, light coloured ale is bursting with juicy citrus and tropical fruit aromas from Citra hops. The pleasant citrusy hop flavour and modest bitterness is balanced with a light malt profile. A sessionable beer for the hop lover.

Persephone IPA (3.75/5)
A classic Northwest IPA with big citrus and grapefruit flavours with hints of mango and passionfruit on the nose. Medium bodied, with a light biscuity malt character.

Dry Hopped Cider (3.25/5)
This was a super sour cider! I don’t really like overly sweet ciders, but this went too far in the other direction.

Keller Pilsner (4.25/5)
A crisp refreshing unfiltered lager with a bright, floral hop aroma. Very light in colour and body. The slight bready malt flavour is balanced with a firm bitterness and spicy flavour from a massive amount of Czech Saaz hops.

Multi Grain Saison (2.75/5)
A bright, refreshing farmhouse Saison brewed with barley, wheat, rye, oats, corn and rice. Light in colour and body with notes of peach, clove and black pepper.

Smoked Porter (3.75/5)
Aromas of smoke and roast up front, this strong, dark ale is brewed with a hefty percentage of beechwood smoked barley malt and roasted malts. Rich and roasty with a balancing hop presence, this is a perfect beer to pair with food or to sip on its own on a cold winter’s night.

Gibsons Tapworks, Gibsons, BC
We discovered our final brewery of the Sunshine Coast by accident – Gibsons Tapworks hadn’t shown up in any of my brewery searches! We were killing time, wandering around Gibsons while waiting for our ferry. I spotted a sign that advertised beer tasting, and away we went. The location was cute – lots of light and modern and beach decor. I really loved two of their beers, the Beach It session IPA and the Stormrider IPA. Definitely seek out this taproom while you’re waiting for the ferry.

Sixteen Traditional Ale (3.75/5)

Beach It India Session Ale (4.75/5)

One Sailing Wait IPA (2.75/5)

Stormrider IPA (4.75/5)

Mountain Biking the Sunshine Coast, BC

I left off in Campbell River, BC. We woke up bright at early and headed down the scenic coastal route to the ferry that would take us to the Sunshine Coast (with a quick stop for one more ride in Cumberland).

A huge inspiration for the #toasterroadtrip route was a video made by Bellingham-based mountain bike publication, Freehub Magazine. They made a video that highlighted mountain biking on the Sunshine Coast and the locals that worked hard to turn a depressed logging region into a mountain biking destination. We were sold, and the Sunshine Coast was a major priority destination on our honeymoon.

A quick word of warning – the Sunshine Coast is amazing, and I would highly recommend it as a place to visit. But, I wouldn’t recommend it as a mountain biking destination unless you are an advanced-intermediate rider or above. The trails we rode were really, really difficult (like, we were walking mile+ segments) and we had a hard time finding anything intermediate or below, other than at Sprockids near Gibsons. We did ride some amazing trails, and maybe you’ll have better luck than us, but I wouldn’t recommend the Sunshine Coast to beginner or intermediate riders, unless you do a lot of research. For newer riders, go to Cumberland or Parksville for biking and Sunshine Coast for the scenery.

Mountain Biking Sunshine Coast BC // tahoefabulous.com

The Sunshine Coast is an isolated, but awesome little region, north of Vancouver on the West Coast of British Columbia. It is only accessible by a series of ferries. We started at the north end and drove/ferried south towards the city of Vancouver. I’ll write more about the non-mountain biking parts of the Sunshine Coast in a later post, because there are plenty of non-biking things to do and see.  

Powell River
We continued our non-intentional following of the BC Bike Race route and arrived in Powell River just after the race concluded for the day. The main word I can use to describe biking on the Sunshine Coast (besides gnarly) is isolated. We drove for what seemed like forever on logging roads with no service, not seeing anyone else, before popping out at a surprisingly well maintained parking lot with a detailed trail map sign.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

We decided to take it a little easier on Day One, and rode from the parking area on Duck Lake Rd. We rode the Mud Lake Trail, a pretty easy 4 mile loop with only about 300 feet of climbing. It was pretty muggy, buggy, and mucky with not a lot of views. If you’re looking for an easier trail in this area, it fits the bill, but there was some bushwacking and it wasn’t the most exciting.

 

@tahoefabulous on the bridge of #alohatrail in #powellriverbc #mountainbiking #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

In all of the trail research we’d done, one trail in Powell River kept popping up in the recommendations: Aloha – so we made that our goal for Day Two. We weren’t able to find an open bike shop in Powell River, so our route was cobbled together from internet recommendations and MTB Project tracts.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map and Elevation Profile via Strava

We parked in the parking area on Alaska Pine Road, just off of Halsam Lake Road. We rode up Alaska Pine Road (with a ~0.5 mi detour when we took the wrong spur) for about 0.9 miles before turning right onto Death Rattle. Don’t ride up Death Rattle. This was a mistake and I pushed up the entire way. Death Rattle dead ends on Green Road, an easy trail that is somewhere between a double track and a fire road. After a mile of easy riding, the trailhead for Aloha & Blackwater trails will be on your right.

Aloha is a super fun, flowy trail with bridges and features that I found very rideable (and I’m a total chicken on wooden features). There’s also a Tiki Bar which is a must stop for photos.

Mountain Biking Powell River // tahoefabulous.com

Aloha and Blackwater cross each other a few times on the descent, and I think we rode a little on both, and you’ll finish out the ride on Blackwater. Despite its black diamond rating, I found it pretty rideable and comparable to Aloha on difficulty. We did find a downed tree, and Greyson was very excited to break out his Silky saw for some freelance trail maintenance.


Aloha was my favorite trail that I rode on the Sunshine Coast, and I’d highly recommend it. I’d actually recommend riding up Aloha and back down, though or find a different route that doesn’t require the ride up Death Rattle.

West Sechelt
West Sechelt was not a very successful day for us. Greyson got in a couple of bad, scary crashes and we ended up walking huge swaths of trail. We stopped by a couple of bike shops to ask about trail recommendations, but getting suggestions was like pulling teeth and we didn’t feel like we ever got a solid lead. A friendly local at the trail head did give us a bunch of suggestions, but his ideas were for a much longer ride than we were interested in that day. We started at the Gowland/Reeves Road parking area and headed up the access road. Next we climbed up Duracell, a rideable trail that gains about 350 feet in a mile before hopping on Shakecutters. Shakecutters dumped us out on an access road which we rode to Beaver Pond. After about ~0.7 miles on Beaver Pond, we turned right onto Baby Beaver.

Mountain Biking West Sechelt // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map and Elevation via Strava

Baby Beaver dead ends at another access road, where we turned right and rode for less than 0.1 mile before hopping on Parbac. We rode Parbac for about 0.3 mi before turning left and getting on VFR, which we’d read good things about. This is where the climbing got impossible for me, and I pushed my bike up about 95% of the 286 foot climb. It was steep. Greyson and I also both got the heebie jeebies on this section of the trail for some unidentified reason. We finally reached the top and got ready to finally descend.

Despite VFR’s blue rating, I found myself walking long sections of the descent. VFR was one of the hardest trails I’ve ever ridden. The trail was narrow and steep, with sections of tight trees, loose rocks, and steep drop offs to the side. Sometimes all three at once. When we were there, the Sunshine Coast was towards the end of an usually long dry spell and the trails were pretty beat up, so I don’t know how much that contributed to the difficulty, but after Greyson’s crashes and my long stretches of walking, we decided to bail on to the access road as soon as we could. Luckily, we were able to easily navigate back to our car.

Sprockids Park/Gibsons
Greyson was still feeling pretty beat up from his crash, and we had to catch our ferry to Vancouver, but we decided to do a little bit of exploring at Sprockids Park. Despite its name, Sprockids is open to everyone. It’s a park made up of a bunch of short mountain bike trails, ranging from easy to advanced, and you can string them together for a longer ride, or just session small sections easily. There’s also a skills development area where you can practice riding wooden features, ramps, and small drops. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but it was a fun stop, especially if you are newer to mountain biking or have kids along.

Next up, places to stay, things to do, and beers to drink on the Sunshine Coast!

BCXC in Campbell River

After a fun couple of days in the Cumberland area, we headed north to Campbell River. Taking the advice of locals, we got off of Hwy 19 and drove up the coast. The drive was gorgeous and worth the slightly longer trip. Considering that it only added about 20 minutes, I would highly recommended the scenic route.

Hazy #mountains from the #beach #vancouverisland #toasterroadtrip

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As I mentioned in my lodging post, we stayed at Elk Falls Provincial Park. This was yet another amazing BC Provincial Park with access to a waterfall. A brand new suspension bridge giving new access to amazing views had just been completed so we made sure to check it out.

We had fun exploring Campbell River, which had a more rustic and ocean-y feel than the other spots we’d visited on the island so far. I especially liked driving out to Dick Murphy Park at the very end of a long spit and getting my feet wet in the ocean. Next time we’ll have to go on a whale watching or kayaking trip out of Campbell River. My parents did a multi day kayaking trip off of Quadra Island, which looked amazing!

#seaweed in the waves. #toasterroadtrip #vancouverisland #britishcolumbia

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Of course, we also went biking while we were in Campbell River. I ride a 2016 Transition Smuggler, a shorter travel 29er that was basically designed for the rooty XC trails of Campbell River. I, on the other hand, am not used to that type of riding, and spent a lot of time getting stuck on short, steep, punchy and rooty climbs. I was also surprised by how narrow lots of the trails are up there! The forests of BC have a lot more biomass that the Sierra and we were frequently fighting our way through overgrown trails. Note: ferns are better than blackberries, but will still scratch you up! There were some frustrating moments along the trail and I didn’t feel like I was riding very well.

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com

I did have fun on the trails we rode in the Pumphouse area of Campbell River, especially on the return trip when I finally loosened up. We rode Water Tower , which is a gradually climbing, wide trail (basically a double track) to the Ridge Trail for about a third of a mile before turning onto Dean Martin. Dean Martin had some really steep climbs – I could have used that twelfth gear. We then took Lower Deliverance until we hit the Forest Service road. I decided that with the struggle riding I’d been doing so far that day that I was ready to turn around. We headed back down Lower Deliverance until we came to Connector which took us to Alligator Rock. I enjoyed Alligator Rock much more than Deliverance, so I’m glad we came back that way. Though it was rockier, it was less exposed. After that we were back on Dean Martin and back the way we came.

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com

Mountain Biking Campbell River BC // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

Beer, Food, and Lodging on Vancouver Island

I realize I’m jumping around some chronologically, but I wanted to collect my Vancouver Island recommendations in one place.

Beer:
First, and most importantly, the beer.

Vancouver Island Breweries // tahoefabulous.com

White Sails Brewing, Nanaimo, BC
We stopped at White Sail Brewing in Nanaimo on our drive from the ferry to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. The brewery is in an industrial type building, but beachy and full of light on the inside. I enjoyed all of the beers that I tried. Beer descriptions from the breweries, unless obvious. I tried:

Brickyard Beach Red Cream Ale (4.25/5)

Restrained hop bitterness with a balance of light caramel grain and a clean, dry smoothness to finish.

Mount Benson IPA (5/5)
Medium bodied. This beer offers a well balanced clean malty flavour characterized by its distinguished hop bitterness. Delicious aroma of fruit and citrus.

Ridge Ryeder Rye IPA (4/5)
This is a seasonal that’s not always available.

Snake Island Cascadian Dark Ale (3.75/5)
Medium bodied. Full flavoured with hints of chocolate and coffee. A healthy dose of Pacific NW hops to balance the dark malt character. Dark colour profile that drinks like an IPA…. delicious!

Cumberland Brewing Company, Cumberland, BC
Cumberland Brewing Company has a hippie vibe and constantly has lots of high end bikes parked outside. It’s a good fit for the mountain bike focused downtown of Cumberland. We ate there and had a couple of beers. The food was delicious, if a little pricey. I wasn’t super into the the beers they had listed – their beer list leaned towards bitters, wheat beers, sours, etc. The beers we ended up getting were decent, but not on my favorites list. The brewery is definitely worth visiting because the food and atmosphere are great though. I tried Finally IPA (3.75/5) and Tropical Hop ISA (3.75/5.

Beach Fire Brewing, Campbell River, BC
Beach Fire Brewing was my favorite brewery on Vancouver Island. The staff was friendly, the beer was great, and the interior was beautiful. We got there right after it opened on a week day, so it was pretty empty, but it seems like it’s usually a popular place. I am usually an IPA all day person, but at this brewery I noticed the beginning of a trend. I was preferring BC Pale Ales over their IPAs. I tried

Beach Blonde Ale (4.5/5)
Light, refreshing and flavourful. Perfect for a hot day at the beach, or where ever you find yourself soaking up the west coast sun. A clean, light body with a touch of malt sweetness, this balanced brew sports a subtle hop bitterness and flavour. It‘s all yellow polka-dot bikini, without the peroxide.

Ember Red Ale (3.5/5)
A smooth drinking, crimson-coloured Scottish ale. Malt forward with caramel and subtle roasty and chocolate flavours, balanced with mild English hops. It’s perfect for keeping your fire pit glowing.

Hight Tide Pale Ale (5/5)
A hop forward, west coast pale ale with restrained bitterness, but a big hop aroma and flavour. Just as the tides change, hops in this beer may ebb and flow to showcase new and novel varieties. It will always reflect a stoic focus on a new-world hops with rising flavours of citrus, pine and tropical fruits.

Wheelbender Stout (4.25/5)

Gladstone Brewing, Courtenay, BC
We stopped in at Gladstone Brewing to kill time while we waited for our ferry to the Sunshine Coast. We only tried a couple of beers, which were pretty good. The location was really crowded and loud and we were feeling pretty overwhelmed, but would be fun for a rowdy night. I tried

Gladstone IPA (3.5/5)
The Gladstone Straight 6 IPA glints a dark copper, aromas of tropical fruit can be found, but resinous pine is much more prominent. Lightly malted, strong bitterness from West Coast hops is the focus, complimented rather than diffused by bright citrus flavours courtesy of a generous amount of Southern Hemisphere hops. What malt character remains is most apparent after swallowing, where the light sweetness works to hold the bitterness on the tongue.

Gladstone Pilsner (3.5/5)
A bright, clear, golden Lager, the Gladstone Pilsner smells of crisp yeast and lightly spicy hops. Noticeably bitter, the combination of generous hopping and Pilsen malt results in an extremely refreshing brew. A light toasted finish creates a full body that remains dry and does not linger on the tongue.

Lodging
We stayed at three campgrounds and a motel on Vancouver Island. I’d highly recommend the campgrounds we stayed at near Parksville (Hammerfest Trail Network) and Campbell River (trail write up coming soon!). We stayed at Englishman River Falls Provincial Park outside of Parksville and Elk Falls Provincial Park near Campbell River. These parks are quiet, clean, well maintained and CHEAP, especially if you’re used to California State Parks prices.

Camp 8 among the ferns and forest. #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on

We stayed at a private campground in Cumberland, which was very close to Cumberland Forest, but not the nicest. The campsites were small and close together and it was hard to find a flat place to pitch our tent. There’s not a lot of other camping options around Cumberland, so I’d recommend finding a motel or vacation rental. There’s a mountain bike focused hostel in Cumberland, The Riding Fool, that seems cool, but we didn’t stay there so I can give it a first hand review. Courtenay and Comox are a very reasonable driving distance as well.

Food
We cooked a lot of meals at our camps, but also tried a fair number of restaurants on Vancouver Island. We were more focused on beer and biking than food, but we ate a few places I can recommend. First up, Lefty’s Fresh Food, where I had probably my favorite meal on the island. I had an omelet with smoked salmon, artichokes and gruyere and parmesan cheese. I still think about that omelet. In Cumberland, I loved Rider’s Pizza. I pretty much never say no to pizza, especially after a bike ride. Finally, we hung out at the Broken Spoke in Courtenay for quite awhile. It’s a bike themed coffee shop with delicious and strong coffee, comfy couches, and plenty of magazines to read.

Oh, and Greyson tried his first poutine while we were on Vancouver Island.
 

Cumberland Trail Network in Cumberland, BC

Mountain Biking Cumberland Forest // tahoefabulous.com

Things got super busy at work for a while, and then I got a new job, but I’m feeling back to normal finally. I think I’m going to spend this awful winter we’re having in Tahoe finishing up my mountain biking road trip recaps. Hopefully I’ll finish by spring when it’s time to get back on the bike.

The previous stop on our #toasterroadtrip was Englishman River Falls Provincial Park and the Hammerfest Trails. After an amazing couple of days there, we headed about an hour up the road toward the three Cs – Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland. I’ll do a post about the lodging/food/beer of this area next, but now, the mountain biking.

The mountain biking in this part of Vancouver Island is centered in the small town of Cumberland, which is just a short, 15 minute drive from Courtenay. Despite a population under 4,000, Cumberland is a dream destination for mountain bikers. There are more than 50 miles of trails, several bike shops, delicious pizza, a cool brewery, and even a hostel that caters to mountain bikers.

Trail map in hand, we headed to Cumberland Forest and up a fire road. Through no purposeful planning, our honeymoon followed the path of the BC Bike Race, and we began to see the pink route marking tape that would become very familiar over the next 10 days. After about 3.5 miles of fire road climbing, we turned into the forest and began to climb single track – the trail Truffle Shuffle. This was my first hint that BC trail grades are significantly harder than in the other places I’ve ridden.

As I got off to push for the 10th time in under 400 meters, I told myself, “You’re just not used to technical climbing. Most of the uphill you do in Truckee is on fire road or easy single track. Get to the downhill. You’ll be fine.” We crested the climb with 3.6 miles and more than 1,000 feet of climbing. The route that had been recommended to us was approximately Upper and Lower Vanilla to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. Vanilla and That Dam Trail were recommended as new, super fun trails that are representative of the type of riding in Cumberland Forest. Vanilla was fast, flowy, and rideable. We hopped onto Teapot briefly to connect to That Dam Trail. Trailforks rates Vanilla & Teapot as blue/intermediate and That Dam Trail as black/advanced.

In the places I usually mountain bike, I can typically ride everything on a blue/intermediate trail and everything to nearly everything on a black/advanced trail. Before this road trip, the Downieville Downhill was the most technical trail I’ve ridden, and I could ride ~90% of it. I can ride the easier double blacks at Mammoth. I say this because mountain biking in BC is different. Vancouver Island is closer to the grades of California/Oregon/Washington, but on the Sunshine Coast/Whistler/Squamish, the trails are much more difficult. This is something I really wish I had known beforehand. I still had a great time, and I’d go back to any of these destinations in a second. If I’d known about the difficulty of the trails ahead of time, I could have adjusted my expectations and been less frustrated.

One more from #cumberlandforest on #vancouverisland #pnw #toasterroadtrip

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That Dam Trail was a little more feature-y than Vanilla, and had jumps, drops and an optional log ride. Some of the features were WAY above my pay grade and I walked some steep drops, but it was still a smile-inducing trail. That Dam Trail dropped us out on the fire road which we rode down until we came to the Missing Link trail head on our left. Note – Cumberland Forest is pretty well signed, but some of the lesser used trails get overgrown which can lead to confusion. Having Trailforks on your phone is great, as well as the paper map that the local bike shops sell. We climbed up Missing Link for less than a quarter mile and ~100 feet of elevation gain before turning onto Found Link for our last downhill of the day. This short trail has jumps and a drop at the top, and the lower section is rooty with berms before dropping us out on the fire road, which led us back to our car.

Greyson and I agreed that Missing Link/Found Link (sometimes called Lost and Found) was our favorite part of the day, though I also really enjoyed Vanilla. Our full ride was 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing.

Our second day was more of a slogfest, which involved a lot of pushing bikes – not necessarily because of difficulty, but because of how overgrown the trail was. A local bike shop had recommended Bronco’s Perseverance, which connected to a trail we later found out was called Swamp. We got onto Mama Bear after that -which involved pushing up a very steep and short connector- so I’m not sure if we did that correctly. I wouldn’t full heartedly suggest this route. Bronco’s was pretty fun, but Swamp was a pretty miserable slog, overgrown, humid, and buggy. Mama Bear was decently fun, but I was pretty done after Swamp. I told Greyson that I’d definitely ride Bronco’s again, if I could do it without riding Swamp. From the Trailforks map, it looks like you can get from Bronco’s back up to the fire road, but I don’t have first hand experience.

We loved Cumberland so much that we actually returned to the Cumberland Forest for a quick ride before our ferry trip. Since we knew it had to be short ride, we decided to revisit what we already knew we liked, and we did a quick fire road – Missing Link – Found Link lap. It was a perfect end to our time on Vancouver Island!

Recommended Routes:
Long: Truffle Shuffle to Vanilla to Teapot to That Dam Trail to Missing Link to Found Link. 7.25 miles and ~1,230 feet of climbing. If you want to skip the technical climb on Truffle Shuffle, it looks like you can continue up the fire road and take another fire road (called Vanilla Access) and get onto Lower Vanilla.

Mountain Biking Cumberland Forest // tahoefabulous.com

Mountain Biking Cumberland Forest // tahoefabulous.com
Elevation Profile via Strava

Short: Missing Link to Found Link. 2 miles and ~375 feet of climbing.

Mountain Biking Cumberland Forest // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map via Strava

Try This Beer: Buoy Beer Company; Astoria, Oregon

We went to 18 new breweries on #toasterroadtrip, our beer and biking focused honeymoon, one brewery reigned supreme: Buoy Beer Company in Astoria, Oregon.

Buoy Beer Company // tahoefabulous.com

My best friend Jodi and her boyfriend Jeff (co-owner of the awesome Independent Beer Bar and beer expert) recommended it, and we were so happy they did. First of all, the brewery is in a beautiful location with a view of the water. It’s in a refurbished industrial building and the setting adds to the delicious beer and tasty food. I ate an amazing clam chowder and Jodi recommends the deep fried cheese curds.

Now, the beer (all descriptions by Buoy Beer Company unless obvious):

Cream Ale (4.75/5 stars): Crispcleanclassic. Where Ales meet Lagers, a uniquely American brew is born. Our Cream Ale is fresh and inviting, with a restrained use of Willamette hops for a crisp, familiar finish. It’s like those days we get here, where impossibly big clouds frame the purest, sunniest sky you can imagine. This was my favorite beer at my favorite brewery.

Pale Ale (4.75/5 stars): Buoy Pale Ale mixes subtle sweet notes of Pale, Crystal, and Munich malts followed by a wave of floral and citrus flavors from a tri-fecta of Oregon grown hops. Beers up! Close second to the cream ale.

IPA (4.5/5 stars): Full of flavor, this NW IPA is proof that you can go big without the bitter bite. No hop shock here. Well-balanced and lovingly dry-hopped with Meridian and Crystal hops for a rich, citrusy finish. Beer with a backbone – born from a place where a little heavy weather never hurt anyone.

Northwest Red Ale (4/5 stars): Big, malty, hoppy. Five malt varieties commingle to create a dark red color with a balances malt base. Late kettle additions and dry-hopping with Ultra and Sterling hops bring out the NW Red’s defining character. A lot’s happening under the surface here; like it is with the mighty Columbia River, rolling right outside our window.

Amarillo Single Hop IPA (4.25/5 stars): This single-hop series uses the same traditional IPA malt base for each edition, with the only change from batch to batch being the type of hops that are used. This non-complex malt base allows for the varying hop profiles to be showcased in each release. Amarillo offers citrus and grapefruit flavors with fruity spectrum of aroma descriptors: grapefruit, orange, lemon, melon, apricot and peach

You should definitely stop by Buoy Beer Company for food and beer if you’re traveling 101 between Washington and Oregon. It’s also so good that you should make it a destination if you’re on a beer tour. I can’t wait to go back!