Photos by Union Production Co.
Words by Seb Kemp
Two and a juice
Short and curly
Bucket Of Blood
That Dam Trail
These are the names of my favorite things.
To say Cumberland is worth visiting is like saying that salt is one of two major condiments. Cumberland is a tiny town – just 3,000 people on the public register – but what they have here punches way above its weight.
If I was a town planner, my basic requisites for a kick-ass town would be as follows: rad bar (dirty but not grimy), rad trails that actually have dirt on them, and housing that backs onto the trails–housing that’s even slightly attainable for a moderately-derelict bum like myself.
Cumberland has all of the above.
The Waverley is, well, it’s my favorite bar of all time, perhaps because of the ghosts of great bands that have played there, the barmaids that keep it looking pretty, and the owner, Don McClellan, who seems to know his onions from his didgeridoos.
The trails are here too. The above list isn’t a Strava tick sheet but a sort of welcoming note to the potential here.
The housing, apparently, is sort of affordable. I didn’t know that one million times nothing is affordable, but I’m told by people who have a good grasp of the science-y skill of mathematics that Cumberland is within reach.
But mostly, there are trails. We shouldn’t be telling anyone about Cumberland because soon the street will be full of visitors, the trails might get busier, and the price of houses will start shooting skyward like mercury in a heat wave.
Cumberland was another industrial-age boomtown. It was a mining town that grew to serve the needs of the coal-hungry steam engines of the time. It ran hard from the 1880s until the 1960s, when most of the industry left town, taking the jobs with it. Cumberland went off the rails a little bit; an end-of-the-road town that no one wanted to visit or felt safe doing so.
These days, if you are visiting British Columbia for a riding excursion, you have to be mad to not consider visiting Cumberland. It might be a one-road town, but from that one road you can access the trails within minutes.
Martin Ready of Island Mountain Rides has a trail to his backdoor. Yes, you may know someone that has a trail to their backdoor too, but I doubt they live on the main street of town. Cumberland is tiny, but that’s the draw. Instead of skipping town to ride, residents can roll out of their own homes and hit pay dirt within seconds. Not minutes, seconds.
Martin’s situation isn’t unique in town. Everyone, it seems, has a sneaky line into their backyard.
The reason for this is partly due to the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS), a brave group of souls who have been figuring out ways to buy the land immediately surrounding town in order to preserve the natural habitat that hosts all those trails people love.
The CCFS has purchased 150 acres around the town, with an eye towards creating a barrier around the town that will prevent logging from taking over the Main Street activities. One hundred and fifty acres doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an ongoing project and if you’ve read a trail map at some point, you know that trails always stretch beyond the boundaries of a map. Spend a little time with someone like Martin and you realize that the map can’t get reprinted fast enough.
The community here has devised an amicable working relationship with the forestry companies that own and operate on the land beyond the CCFS buffer. The riding community admits there are trails out there on logging land and they document exactly where they are. The forestry companies, rather than kicking back, are happy to let the trails exist, just so long as there is an understanding about what is acceptable play and what is not, in the forest. Because of this tacit agreement, there is an expansive, dense and premium-quality network of trails. I’d give you a list of them, but I’d have to kill you.
Cumberland is the epitome of the idea that every town in B.C. has trails. Cumberland is tiny but it has trails – a lot of them–and all of them make you want to stay. We aren’t stopping for good this time around, though every time I visit I threaten to forever inflict myself upon the local community…by moving here, that is.
The snow line has been cruel this year, choking out much of the riding here, but fortunately, the melt began just before we arrived and we were able to enjoy some of the mountain biker-built trails. Our day started before dawn, racing through sea mist to the ferry to leave Powell River. It was quite the wake up call, let’s say.
We boarded the Queen of Burnaby and somehow managed to con our way up to the bridge where we were able to witness the wonder of modern ship racing/piloting/driving/whatever it is called. Captain Brian Ferry showed us how the controls work and I feel absolutely confident that if ever I was traveling aboard a ship of any size and the captain suddenly fell deathly ill, I could take control of the runaway boat and guide it safely into dock.
The hour-long ferry ride (or precursor to awesomely-heroic ship shredding) took us from the mainland of B.C. to Vancouver Island, beginning the end of the westward portion of our journey and the start of the slight south.
From here it’s all downhill, right?