Two Dozen Things We Love About This Place: Lochside — A key path along peninsula (13)

I bought a new road bike a couple of months ago, complete with a zillion gears and clips to lock my shoes to the pedals.

It has been a little tough getting enough miles to boost my confidence at home in Cobble Hill because the area is rife with steep climbs and, it seems, even steeper descents.

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Yeah, I admit I’m a little intimidated by my new Cannondale.

So I welcomed the chance to pop the bike in the car and bring it over the Malahat to explore the Lochside Trail, a 29-kilometre, multi-use trail that runs in a fairly flat line between Victoria and Swartz Bay.

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It used to be a rail line operated by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway and, after that, the Canadian National Railway.

Today, it’s a popular trail, and sometimes road, that’s a recreational corridor used by cyclists, runners, equestrians and folks out for a relaxing stroll.

Regular vehicle traffic also shares the road with you in some places, so it’s important to keep to the right and yield when necessary.

I used Island View Road as a staging point, and rode southward for a while though the heart of the Saanich Peninsula’s agricultural heartland. Squash plants festooned with yellow blooms fought for space in a field close to where a family of floppy-eared pigs lolled contentedly in a muddy sty.

I saw a man walking with a horse on a lead rope. As I approached, the horse tried to swing around and look at me. I’ve owned horses and know they can be startled by cyclists.

Horses are prey animals and can think all sorts of things are out to kill them — mailboxes, garbage cans and humans in helmets huddled over fast-moving, two-wheeled vehicles.

So I called “Hello, horsey!” repeatedly as I approached, thinking it would help reassure the animal that I was, in fact, human. Its owner, however, looked at me as though I might be a little unbalanced.

It’s easy to get distracted by the scenery and not pay attention to the trail ahead, which is crossed by roads. Some of these roads are quite busy and the drivers may be unaware of the traffic on the Lochside Trail, so it’s important to keep your wits about you.

I turned around after a few kilometres and headed back toward Mount Newton Cross Road. I got a little confused about whether I should be riding on the sidewalk or not as the trail transitioned onto Mount Newton Cross Road and then turned north again on Lochside Road.

In one of those instant decisions that could have gone terribly wrong, I jumped my road bike off the curb and onto the marked bike path of the road. Had I crashed, it would have been in full view of the folks waiting for lunch at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Fortunately, the bike remained upright and my dignity stayed intact.

The Lochside Trail is a great corridor for those who want to get from point A to point B on the Saanich Peninsula. It also takes you close to several beautiful parks that are, in their own right, well worth exploring. There’s McDonald Provincial Park in the north, Horth Hill Regional Park, Elk/Beaver Regional Park and Swan Lake/Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary.

Bicycles and dogs are not allowed in all of these parks, so it’s best to check signage.

I was happy to see so many people enjoying the Lochside Trail during my ride. They included some hard-core cyclists on road bikes, parents watching kids wobbling along on mountain bikes, and families on foot enjoying the sight of farm animals doing their thing.

Whether you’re a local or, like me, live somewhere over the Malahat, a tour of the Lochside Trail by foot, bike or horseback is well worth it.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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