It's always best when you can do several things at once. In this case, I got a chance to combine travelling for work (a conference in Victoria, BC) with two great days of adventure hiking before the conference with fellow astronomer and groomsman Eric Burgh.
Eric picked me up a the dock in Victoria after a scenic flight to Seattle and a memorable ride on the hydrofoil. Fortunately I am not subject to motion sickness and am intrigued at doing nearly 40 knots on open water (unlike many of the other passengers).
Next morning we set off early for East Sooke Regional Park. The map showed a coast trail and an interior trail connected at half a dozen places with short perpendicular trails. We planned to hike west on the coast trail, cut inland when we became tired, and return via the Interior trail.
After hiking the a beautiful trail along the coast in the Olympic National Park just south of here, I was expecting more of the same: wide beaches of sand and gravel, rocks, sea-stacks, and dense forest. Our first glimpse of the shore at East Sooke looked quite familiar to me. A broad beach with driftwood, rocks, and numerous gulls framed a view of the calm bay with fog shrouding the distant islands. But we soon learned that sheltered beaches were rare here. The coast quickly became cliff-bound with crashing surf. We hiked the trail at the cliff-tops rising up and down steep slopes and weaving in and out between headlands.
What we were expecting...
...and what we got!
Really impressive kelp!
A petroglyph on the shore.
We pressed onward from Beechy head along more and rougher trail. After circumventing one steep inlet, we found ourselves a hundred feet up on a clifftop. Below us fog was blowing through but we sighted two adult and two baby seals playing amongst the ubiquitous kelp. Beautiful! Another hundred yards later, we descended to a sheltered beach and bushwhacked through a substantial amount of brush to reach the end of a spit of land (which turned out to be an island; more on this later) where we had lunch above the crashing surf, fog, kelp, and gull leavings.
Eric lead the way back to the beach via a less-strenuous route and we discovered that, what had been a narrow defile when we'd left, was now a narrow inlet with quite a lot of water flowing through. Fortunately, we could hop between the rocks and safely regained the beach.
Eric geeks out with the GPS at Beechy Head
A nifty backscatter fog-bow from Beechy Head.
Eric above the cove where seals played amongst the kelp.
Spelunking fun in the old copper mine.
The Coast Trail continued unabated past Cabin Point and onward through nameless bays. We were starting to tire and still had to face the return trip on the Interior Trail. Reasoning that the interior couldn't be as rough and rugged as the coastline, we opted to push on a little farther and head inland on the Coppermine Road. Indeed the first part of the trail was nice level road heading steadily upward toward the ruins of an old (and explorable!) copper mine. But soon (after a bit of spelunking), we turned back east on the Interior Trail and discovered the error of our ways. The interior trail was at least as strenuous as the coast trail and the car seemed many miles and hours away.
After nine hours of hard hiking, footsore, sweaty and beyond hungry, we reached the car and gratefully collapsed in its plush comforts. Back to Victoria for much-needed showers and a burger and pint. The hike was only about 10 miles, but definitely rates as some of the tougher terrain I've hiked.
Mount Finlayson from the stream-side path. Doesn't look so bad from down here...
Feeling somewhat the worse for wear after yesterday's grueling hike, we headed off for Goldstream Provincial Park 16 km up the road from Victoria. Our objective was the mighty Mount Finlayson (419m) at the junction of the Saanich Peninsula and the 'mainland' of Vancouver Island. The parking area was easy to find and, looking up, so was Mount Finlayson looming over the park with some impressive cliffs. We started across the bridge through forest of huge trees for 200 meters to the obvious trailhead. Various signs advertised that this trail was unsuitable for small children. This, it turns out, is an understatement.
The trail wasted no time in gaining altitude, indeed, in gaining 1300 feet of elevation in about mile, this translates to an average grade of over 25%! Despite the steep grade, the first half of the trail was in good shape--wide and well-groomed--as it climbed through the temperate rainforest. Half-way up, we descended a steep, rooty slope, crossed a small bridge and started the rougher section of trail, scree, roots, and steep rocks.
The trail heads up in a hurry
The trail breaks out of the trees and traverses an impressive batch of rocks.
Eric performs an unneccessary layback on the upper portions of the trail.
Shortly we broke out of the trees and started traversing east across a cliff face on sloping ledges. This is exactly the kind of trail we love and we were working hard on the third-class scrambles. Fortunately, the trail is well-marked with orange metal plaques bolted directly to the rock. In a couple places we bypassed the main trail to tackle some 4th and 5th class bits feeling good in the hot sunshine. By the time the slope eased shortly before the broad, bald summit, we were both dripping with sweat and feeling none of the pains of yesterday. Just goes to show that the best medicine for sore muscles is more excercise.
Burgh of the Mountains!
Looking down at the Finlayson Arm and park visitor's center from cliffs near the summit.
We reached the summit after 45 minues of uninterupted climbing and surveyed the scene. To the east was Victoria. The Olympics were clearly visible to the south across the water. Scrambling west we found a ledge with a good view down into the park and the Finlayson Arm. After an hour spent chatting with the many other people on the summit, we started down. The descent was probably more dangerous given the slippery, sloping rocks. We reached the base 45 minutes after leaving the summit and looked about for more things to do in Goldstream.
We wandered down along the creek for a quarter mile and had lunch at the Visitors Center. Then we crossed under the road in a tunnel and visitted the impressive Niagara Falls--so called because it is the same height (47m) as it's more famous namesake in the East. During this dry season, there wasn't much water, but a thin stream fell from a great height into a deep, rock-rimmed pool at the head of an impressively vertical canyon.
The map showed another trail parallel to the trail to the falls which crossed a bridge just above. Instead of heading all the way back to the road to get on this trail, we spotted a rough scrambling path up the side of the cliff which (in our judgement-impaired state) we reasoned must connect to the upper trail. I lead the way up steep dirt and rocks. The going wasn't so bad, but it got steadily harder. Always looking up, I thought I could see an easier way onward. Eventually, we were 100' up standing on a small ledge. Downclimbing looked more dangerous than continuing onward.
A rather newer petroglyph than the one above which we rather fancied.
The impressive Niagara Falls (47m) during the dry season. This photo doesn't do the place justice by a long shot!
Unfortunately, onward involved climbing through the lower branches of a tree above a considerable dropoff. I bulled through successfully, but Eric's pack kept getting hung-up on branches. Finally we achieved the other side, committed at this point to topping out the horrendous cliff traverse. Next came a steep, moss-covered dihedral. It turned out to be easier and more secure than it looked, but unprotected 5th-class climbing on dirty, mossy, loose rock 100' above unsuspecting tourists in a foriegn country always makes me... uneasy. We fought through some final shrubbery and emerged at the upper trail, the object of our foolhardy mission, on the wrong side of a chain link fence, scratched, dirty, shaky from the exposure and feeling like complete idiots.
"Maybe this is the clue that we aren't supposed to be here!" Eric said pointing at the fence.
"You're probably right," I said. "Shall we go back down the way we came up or hop the fence here?" There was little argument.
After the excitement of the involuntary climb, all desire for further adventure had left us. We headed back into town, dropped off the rental car, and wandered the lovely streets of Victoria for a few hours.
The rest of the time was spent in the much more mundane setting of an Astronomical Conference. I won't bore you with the details of it, but, after two days of hard, abusive hiking, we were perfectly content to sit for four days and hear about other people's research.
Great trip and exciting times in a far-away, foriegn land.
The Wilderness Journal