Friday, August 8, 2014

The Misadventures of Judge's Route - Mt. Arrowsmith Vancouver Island, BC

Hard to believe that it has been almost 5 years since the last time we tried to summit Mt. Arrowsmith.  Ben would have been 4 years old and Liv was 2.  We have since hiked to many summits on Vancouver Island, waiting for the right time to go back and finish what we started on Mt. Arrowsmith.  In fact, plans were to get back to Mt. Arrowsmith, three days from now, only to find out that the forestry companies have restricted access to many backcountry playgrounds due to the high fire rating.  So, Mt. Arrowsmith will have to wait to meet us another time and I will find some other adventure to take its place.

I did write an article about our adventure to Mt. Arrowsmith, way back in 2009.  I went with a creative writing style to tell the story, very different from my normal writing.  So much has changed since 2009 but one thing has stayed the same.  Joel still is our pack mule.

 *** A BLAST FROM THE PAST *** Dec/Jan 2010 article published in Take 5 Magazine 

He stands tall over the landscape, the sun proudly displaying his golden stature and white covered tips.  He calls out to adventurers and invites them up to enjoy the view.  Mt Arrowsmith is his name and he called out to me one day.  I accepted the invitation, provided I could bring a few friends. 

Mr. A is well set up for visitors.  He boasts a height of 1817 m, covers 1300 sq hectares and yet, surprisingly, is easily accessible year round.  There are three approaches to Mr. A’s massif; Saddle Pass, Rosseau’s Route and Judge’s Route.  I had informed the kind man of the small friends joining me and he recommended the Judge’s Route.  “That way, you need not worry about ropes” he said.  “It’s worth the climb, but do take caution as it is a tad steep!”  I thanked him for his advice and began to prepare for our visit.  Always bring offerings of food when visiting friends my mother used to say. 

When we arrived at Judge’s Route, Mr. A’s choice of trails was a bit questionable.  Standing before the Judge required tilting my head completely back in order to see the path.  As we proceeded along, you could simply reach out and touch the ground at shoulder height.  My small friends managed quite easily, a crawling-type technique that I was soon attempting.   Resourceful little ones they are.  A bit of time passed and my bigger friends and I contemplated calling up to Mr. A to let him know that we may not make it after all.  Mr. A responded with an inspiring stretch of second growth forest and, with the warm sun beating down on us, we instantly voted to continue on.  Mr. A had done such a wonderful job displaying the hemlock and alpine zones, turning back would simply be rude.

We climbed steadily upward until the air suddenly changed. The sun was still rewarding us with its rays but the warmth was no longer felt.  The chill was an unwelcome distraction from the beauty that surrounded us.  The Wind gently descended upon us whispering that Mr. A had to leave unexpectedly.  His sister, Mt. Cokely, had started throwing snow upon Mr. A’s eastern slope and that nonsense needed to stop immediately.  “Please feel free to explore the neighborhood,” the wind whistled, “and do come back again real soon.  Mr. A would love you to visit and hear of your adventure to the peak.”

We thanked the wind and retreated back to explore the biosphere reserve surrounding Mt. Arrowsmith.  The views were amazing.  West to the Port Alberni inlet, McKenzie and Beaufort mountain ranges and east to the Strait of Georgia and the Coastal range.  Blend in Western and Mountain hemlock, Yellow and Red cedar with Douglas fir to create a picturesque scene with basalt rock as the canvas.  Very nice indeed.

I look forward to meeting Mr. A one day.  He treated us to a fine sunny afternoon and I must repay him with an offering of food, delivered to his doorstep of course.

How to get there

If you are traveling from the West Coast, drive through Port Alberni heading towards Parksville. Turn right at the turn-off to mt Arrowsmith Ski Hill.  From the East side of Vancouver Island, travel West along Highway 4# towards Port Alberni and turn left at the turn-off to Mt Arrowsmith. From here drive down a logging road for 3kms. At the T intersection turn left, drive for approx.10 kms, cross Cameron River and take the next main turn to your left. The road will now start heading up at good grade, with lots of wash board. Drive for about 3kms, or count the roads, you want the fifth road on your right and you should see some flagging tape of assort. colors.  This is the trailhead for Judge's Route. You can drive up the road and park on the left side.  If you own a 4X4, there is parking about 30 meters up the very rough road that marks the trailhead.   There are three trails up to the top or close to the top of Mt. Arrowsmith.  Judges Route, Saddle Pass, and Rosseau Route.  Do your research, go prepared and enjoy!

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