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Hornby Island

Hornby Island is one of of those places that everyone knows and loves to visit. The island is primarily known for its beautiful sandy beaches, warm ocean water, beautifully maintained mountain biking trails, outdoor education centre and the laissez-faire attitude most locals seem to have. This year round population is drastically different than the influx of visitors who come for the beaches every spring and summer. Despite this there seems to be little, if any, localism (check Jordan River if that’s what you’re into) and most locals are decidedly happy to show off their island home, providing you treat it with the respect and love it deserves.

For me Hornby holds a special appeal, partially because of the many memories I have of my time there but mostly because of the potential for adventure it holds. Even with a well planned itinerary Hornby always finds a way to surprise and delight. You never know who you’re going to meet or what’s going on on the island.

Several weeks ago I was thrilled when a good friend invited me to her cabin there for the weekend. Even though I was in the middle of renovating my kitchen, I knew my girlfriend and I needed a break and we packed up and left our kitchen in ruins – no drywall, flooring or anything, really. Everything that used to be in the kitchen had been unceremoniously dumped anywhere there was free space.  

Nevertheless, the adventuremobile made it’s way north with three bikes balanced on top and the back seat and trunk packed with food, clothing and gear. We got over to the island after dark and slowly made our way to the cabin then climbed straight into bed to rest before a day of riding.I got up the next morning rested and excited; Hornby’s Mt. Geoffrey is home to my all time favourite bike trail – No Horses. I decided to go for a hard solo ride in the morning and then for a more leisurely group ride after lunch and a beach trip. Both rides were stellar, 3 hours in the morning, slightly less in the afternoon. Both included a lot of climbing, a characteristic I’m trying to introduce into all my sessions; the training effect is undeniably positive but the pain is immediate and frequently brutal. Anyone wanna go for a ride?

No Horses was of course the standout trail; it flows down along an old creek bed, sending you swooping down one side then spitting you back up to the top – over and over. It mimics a mutant halfpipe, only steeper and more aggressive in its mission to throw you out over the buffed berms. The ever present imaginary soundtrack in my head was loudly playing ‘Two Shoes,’ by The Cat Empire; my mind transferred up into the trees above and I could see myself there, smoothly streaming around the high corners then violently accelerating back down towards the old creek before once again soaring up and around. Over and over, faster and faster until..

It’s flat all over and the trail is finished with you. Bummer.

Thoroughly used up, we enjoyed a fresh salmon dinner surrounded by more friends who had made their way over for the rest of weekend. The drinks and the stories continued past a characteristically beautiful Hornby Island sunset and late into the night.

Trying to keep the bicycling theme of the weekend alive, I brought my road bike to ride home on, assuming it would only be 60km or so.  After feeling slightly tired from riding across Hornby and Denman Island I was shocked when the first road sign indicated I was still more than 80km from Nanaimo.  Uh oh.   I stopped at several gas stations along the way home to fill up on electrolytes and arrived home about 3 hours later, ready to fight the kitchen.

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