As I pull open the protective packaging, a sleek, grey backpack unravels in my hands. Even better than I’d imagined it, I hold it up to the sunlight. I shake the stagnation of shipping from its straps, slip my arms inside and look at myself sideways in the mirror. Perfect fit.
Mat studies his before sliding in the stabilizer bar, attaching the hip belt and suggesting we take them on a test run. Twist my rubber arm. A light jacket, change of shirt, two litres of water and a handful of snacks in tow, we head for Flagpole Trail above Nelson, BC.
As we ascend the etched-in path, we buzz about our summer plans with even more gusto. Our bags, the final piece of the puzzle. Ultralight and incredibly packable, we’ll fold them into the bottom of our bike panniers as we roll across the dirt trails and gravel roads of British Columbia, making our way west to the Coast.
Arriving at Powell River some two thousand pedal powered kilometres in our future, we’ll unveil them for their virgin thru-hike voyage, traversing 180 kilometres along coastal shorelines, old growth forests and panoramic, mountain top viewpoints that make up the Sunshine Coast Trail.
Then we’ll roll them back up and head for the mainland to explore Vancouver’s North Shore.
But for now, the mid-morning sun is sweaty on our skin as we push our way up the mountain. Ablaze with excitement for what lay ahead, we can’t stop talking about the trip. If only, we say aloud, we had somewhere to home-base when we arrive in North Van, somewhere to rest and rejuvenate between big mountain efforts.
As we triumph to the top, we stand tall, feeling accomplished in our mission and excited for our future. The bags, lightly loaded, feel like a dream. Smiles wide as our faces, we watch as a young man quickly navigates the rocky route up the front of the Flagpole Trail.
“Hi!” he smiles, approaching the summit, barely searching for breath. He has run up the mountain the hard way. He is our people. “How do you like your backpacks?” he asks, quite serendipitously.
“We’re just finding out.”
“I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago, a lot of people had them and loved them,” he says, rather reassuringly. Unable to contain our excitement, we gush to him about our upcoming bikepacking trip and our plans to hike once we get to the coast.
“Well,” he says, as if sent from above, “I live in North Vancouver and I also love to hike. If you need somewhere to stay, you can come stay with me for a few days. I could show you around, set you up on some adventures and facilitate some trailhead pickups.”
Mat and I turn to each other, eyes-wide, minds-blown, mouths gaping open. We can hardly believe our own ears. I can tell we are sharing the same brainwave, feeling like we somehow manifested this magical moment on the precipice of the mountain. What are the chances of such a perfect encounter?
We turn back to our new friend, Josh, with no words more honest than the ones we speak when we say, “We’d absolutely love to.”