Author: Ken Lieuwen
Photo Credits: Ken Lieuwen
North Island 1000 Adventures
Well it’s completed. Off my list. I totalled approx 1200-1300km of mostly off-road riding. Probably 90-95% of the ride is FSR.
August 7, 2022, I decided to ferry over at my leisure, hotel it in Campbell River to get an early start on the trail. Early on the 8th, I ‘enjoyed’ a hotel breakfast, loaded my gear and set off on the North Island 1000.
Weather was great and had an enjoyable ride, getting my legs under me, I had opted for the Elk River Scenic Route. I had paper maps from Backroad Maps, along with Gaia loaded with the GPX from the web site as well as BRM and the GPX loaded on my Zumo XT, so felt relatively confident I wouldn’t stray too far off the route.
Beautiful ride around Brewster Lake, chased a few black bears for a couple hundred meters before they veered off into the woods, almost got smoked by a couple of young deer who decided the best time to cross a FSR was when you hear a bike coming.
The long strained stretch along Salmon River Mainline was fun and I was able to wind it up and get some speed outta my system. I pulled into Sayward, fuelled up, downed a Gatorade and oriented myself for the next stretch. A few km out of Gold River, I unfortunately came across a cambered corner with some fresh graded gravel on it and an on coming truck and trailer.
I went to the shoulder and got caught up in the loose gravel, did a bit of what I should do and a bunch more of what I shouldn’t do and down I went, ass over tea kettle, rolled over the bars and onto the ground. I was able to right my bike and surveyed the damage, broken windscreen, broken headlight mask, damaged turn indicator, but the biggest bike related damage was when I’d angered in, my hand guard was forced upwards and against my front brake master cylinder. With a mere 5ml of brake fluid which allowed careful use of the front brake, I realized there was no way I would continue another 900+km without front brakes.
So I limped into Gold River, reassessed my situation, bike damage, physical injury and bruised ego, and decided to limp home and complete the adventure in 2023.
Fast forward to July 2023....
Day 1 – Campbell River – Sayward – Gold River – Tahsis
On 30 July 2023, I set off to complete the North Island 1000. The major difference was that I had purchased one of KipMoto’s trailers with the intention to keep any and all heavy items down low. I also had brought a Rotopax of fuel and water so I wasn’t living out of Nalgene bottles as previously. The weight difference was immediately noticeable. I decided to duplicate the first stage of the trip, an early start and even recognized the area where I’d foolishly crashed. Made safe run into Gold River and headed to Tahsis.
It’s definitely worth the stop at the Upana caves. Bring a headlamp and flashlight if you want to crawl around inside and count on an hour or so at a minimum to explore the area. The turn off is on the route .GPX but the actual route is not. It’s about 10 minutes or so up the road at the turnoff. Tahsis is pretty and worth seeing, not a lot there. I headed back to Gold River, and set off towards Woss. I camped along this stretch at Vernon Lake. Beautiful lake, warm enough to swim and wash up.
Day 2 – Woss – Zeballos – Fair Harbour - Kathleen Lake
The next morning, weather was overcast but dry, I broke camp after a quick breakfast and high the road towards Woss where I fuelled up. From here I hit the road to Zeballos, uneventful but it did start spitting rain along the route. I noticed ahead of me as I approached Zeballos, three younger kids who were bicycling along the FSR. I drove through Zeballos, noting the fuel dock time for my return from Fair Harbour to fuel up for the next leg.
The rain started getting serious, so I took a few minutes to throw on the ole reliable Arcteryx shell. The ride to Fair Harbour also quite uneventful and I rolled into Fair Harbour in pouring rain and found a camp site with heavy cover where I managed to stay dry and made a hot cup of coffee and some lunch.
Super friendly people in campground offered to have me come hang under their tarp and warm at their fire. I decided to don the old ArcT pants and carried on back to Zeballos. Fueled up at the government dock, chatted with the woman who ran the place and noticed the clouds had cleared up! I headed to the Atluck area to find the Little Hudson Caves.
Another worthy stop. Spectacular cave system!! Also allow at least an hour to explore.
After leaving the Little Hudson Caves, I ran into the three kids, resting on a bridge, I I stopped and chatted with them, they were doing a similar route expecting 18 days on the road. It was starting to get on in the day so I decided to camp at Kathleen Lake, with just two site but managed to set camp, make dinner, swim/wash in the lake and was enjoying the sunset and bourbon when I heard the distinct sound of bikes on rough roads.
The kids had made it. Caught up with them and amazed at how light they were travelling and then again, to be in your early 20’s!
Day 3 - Kathleen Lake – Port Alice - Coal Harbour – Holberg
Broke camp and first stop was the Devils’s Bath. Kind of an obstructed view so I launched the drone to shoot some video from above. Pretty impressive! I hit the road to Port Alice. Arrived and enjoyed a breakfast sammich at the Foggy Mountain Coffee Company.
Topped up the fuel and headed to Coal Harbour. Not much in Coal Harbour and makes me wonder how these little communities survive, did a quick drive through and on to Holberg. Arrived in Holberg to find the Scarlet Ibis wasn’t open til 1500h. Met a couple of fellas who saw the US Marine sticker on my panniers and turns out they were both Marines as well. They’d arrived the night before (they too were traveling on bicycles) and had just ridden out to Cape Scott. We shot the shit for awhile and they suggested I book one of the “Adventure Huts” online to ensure I could have one. I did and left them to pack and hit the road.
I road out to Cape Scott but wasn’t packing hiking gear so had to be ok with being in the proximity of the northernmost point of Vancouver Island. Headed back to the Scarlet Ibis and checked in. Got cabin 4 and got kit sorted and had a very short hot shower ending in ice cold.
Think they are “free” but you only get 6 minutes of hot water. LOL. Ate dinner there at the Scarlet Ibis and went back to the “hut”. As the bar closed at 2000h, the others staying there had done what I did, bought off sales. We all ended up gathered around a propane camp fire and shot the shit til midnight.
Day 4 - Holberg - Port Hardy – Port McNeill – Telegraph Cove – Woss
Easy ride to Port Hardy, departing Holberg around 1000. Ran into the Marines in Port Hardy and caught up. Fueled up and had lunch at the Devil’s Bath Brewing, chatted with several folks and headed to Port McNeill. I’d planned to overnight there. Nice ride, got into some over grown roads but manageable. Stopped at the “World’s Largest Burl” and decided based on some other folks that Telegraph Cove be my destination.
Great ride some great roads and arrived at the tourist trap called Telegraph Cove. No room anywhere, hotels (rooms starting at $400/night) or camp grounds so…. Hit the road looking to camp around Bonanza Lake. Started spitting and after looking at two forestry Rec sites and the impending rain storm decided to make a break for Woss.
Make it to Woss and fueled up, decided to grab a room at the dive next door. This is one of those hotels that my first thoughts are they shoot porn or snuff films here. 10 rooms and as the evening wore on, several normal folks staying there joined me outside for drinks and shoot the shit. The group on the Side-by-sides ended up being the same guys that spent the night drinking with the other Marines in Holberg.
Anyhow it had a hot shower and a bed (I slept in my sleeping bag LOL). Some early to make a run for Campbell River. The goal was a hotel with laundry facilities as I was headed to Quadra and Cortes Islands for a few days, so wanted clean clothes, hot shower and an actual bed. I was also wanting to watch Abbey’s Celebration of Life and they were live streaming it.
Day 5 – Woss – Sayward – Campbell River
Didn’t sleep half bad in the murder hotel and headed out without breakfast to the Eve Log Dump. Arrived at that Rec site to find it full of people and a gorgeous sunny morning. As all the sites were full, I just pulled right up to the beach area, made porridge and coffee on the trailer and enjoyed breakfast. Chatted with several folks who were camping there. From there headed to Sayward where I met up with a guy who’d I’d chatted with in Holberg. The guy who’d ridden across the US from the east coast and was headed back to the east US coast by crossing Canada. We ate together what we could scrape together as lunch from the CO-OP after fueling up. Gas station lunch LOL. From there some random FSRs into Campbell River.
All in all an enjoyable trip even solo.
Be prepared for lots of similar scenery but its beautiful no doubt. The roads are all pretty good conditions, on most I was able to average 60-70kmh and some up to 90kmh.
There were some sketchy roads and areas where you defiantly need to adjust on the fly for road conditions. This trip I only packed 2-3 meals for dinners and porridge and coffee for mornings as I figured I would be able to scrounge lunch on the fly (I did have a few cans of tuna salad in case) and grab supplies along the way.
The weather wasn’t awesome but the rain was limited to day time so I was spared setting and breaking a wet camp.
I would explore the off shoots further if I was to do this again. I carried a radio with the RRs on it, they’re posted on the route. Did not get a lot of chatter as most of the logging companies don’t use them instead use their own company radios so don’t expect to hear oncoming trucks calling the markers.
I used my inReach to update my wife on known windows, 0900, 1200, 1500 and 1800. If I missed more than 3 there was likely a problem. I also carried a satellite phone with a note on my inReach contact info to have them call me vs texting if activated.
It was nice to ring home in the eve and touch base but with all the huge trees the satellite exposure window was quite small resulting in short calls.