I believe Walt Disney had it wrong when he called “The Magic Kingdom" the most magical place on earth. Yes, that castle is quite beautiful, the images, the fireworks behind it at night when Disney puts on their show, the way the castle can look huge on camera, but yet in real person, it’s quite small. That’s pretty magical. It’s quite clear that Walt Disney never visited Vancouver Island, or better yet, The Comox Valley. The main portion of the valley is comprised of Comox, Courtenay (my town), and Cumberland. Each place holds an extremely special place in my heart. My families beach house sits across the beach in the city limits of Comox (only on technicality, because the city is only one road, and not the ones above it), I was named after the town of Courtenay, and Cumberland has some of the most fun mountain biking with the most incredible views of the valley below, the Straight of Georgia, and the mountains of the Sunshine Coast.
Why is this place so magical? It might have something to do with the fact that I’ve practically grown up here in the summer time, and it might have something to do with how it truly is magical. Growing up we were so lucky to have a beautiful place to roam, free of danger, and nothing to do but get sand in our pants. When I’m at the beach I have a beautiful back drop of the mountainous Sunshine Coast. I can watch the views of the Bald Eagles flying in the wind, perched on top of the trees looking for lunch. They’re some of the most majestic and beautiful birds I have ever seen. When I’m sick of swimming in salt water, and I want a little more of a thrill, I can hop in the car and find a swimming hole at one of the local rivers. Want to swim in some rushing water and a place that will keep you guessing when walking down the river? No problem. Want a big rock to jump off of into a calm pool of water? The valley has that covered too. Want to float the river for an all day excursion? Lets make it happen. Did I mention the mountain biking? It never gets old. The first time I rode in Cumberland, it stole my heart for my most favorite place to ride, from the flowy, bridge filled trails, to the most amazing views of the scenes below. My most favorite thing to do in the summer post a hot sweaty mountain bike ride, is head to the river to wash the sweat off and cool down. Once you’ve cooled down from the cold river, we head back to the beach, sit in our floaty with our beverage of choice and let the tide bring us back to shore. It truly doesn’t get any better than that. Hawaii is paradise, but the Comox Valley is magical.
Now pair all of this up with the friendly Canadians and you couldn’t ask for a more magical place on earth.
Which brings me to this. Chris and I have travelled to Cumberland to do a couple of races. It started last year when we went up for the 12 hours of Cumberland, support a small local race, race some new trails, challenge ourselves on a team of two, and stay at the beach. The friendly faces and personalities of the locals brought us back for more this year. We came up in April for the Cumberland XC race, and boy did they show us what a XC race should be like, nearly 100% single track and nothing but smiles. We followed up the XC race with the 2015 edition of 12 Hours of Cumberland this past weekend, and boy it did not disappoint!
Chris and I once again teamed up for the event. This year they changed the course up a bit, added a single track climb at the beginning before hitting the logging road to the main single track parts of the course. Once off the logging road we got the chance to flow on some single track, which included lots and lots of pedaling before hitting the fast and rocky Crafty Butcher descent. From there, we had more climbing before hitting a wide open descent to a very pedally flat’ish trail that requires ALMOST as much focus as Hush Hush on Chuckanut Mountain. This trail was called “josh’s trail”. I don’t know who Josh is, but I was cursing him right around lap 8 or 9. The trail was super tight with trees all around you, and soft dirt because I think it was freshly cut this spring.
The entire day went off without a hitch, for the most part. I did happen to make a wrong turn on my first lap, went down the wrong trail, back up it, and then down it again when someone told me that was right way (it wasn’t). Chris also did flat 3 times, but that’s not surprising to us at all, now is it? Chris and I ended up finishing 24 laps, 12 each, with a total of 12,000 feet of climbing between the two of us, and nearly 180 kilometers. We had time for one more, but neither of us had the energy or the legs to go out for one more lap. Compared to last year, this course was far more physically demanding than it was last year. The inclusion of more single track, the single track climb, and that darn Josh, adding his trail in, really increased the amount of physical and mental energy needed to get through a lap.
Friends near and far, I urge you to take a trip to this magical place on Vancouver Island. Visit the coastal town of Comox, the city of Courtenay, and the Village of Cumberland. Bring your mountain bike, your road bike, your paddleboard, your swim suit. Bring your free spirit, your best friend, you will not be disappointed.