Adventure is more than just an exciting experience or a bold undertaking involving uncertainty and risk. It’s also about discovering the unique characteristics every trail, mountain and forest hold. Take Mt. Tzouhalem for instance. Looking east of Duncan, it’s the mountain with a cross perched on top. Not a common feature of mountains on Vancouver Island. Mt. Tzouhalem, like most mountains, is covered in forest yet hidden within the forest is a maze of trails that criss cross the rocky terrain. These trails are well used and known simply as Mt. Zoo by local mountain bikers and hikers. Today it has a nickname but the history behind the naming of Mt. Tzouhalem is fascinating. It was named after a fierce aboriginal chief who successfully led his people in an ambush of northern tribes looking to raid Cowichan Bay for slaves. Some even believe the mountain to be haunted. If one can get past the ghosts and spirits of Mt. Zoo, the reward is a view second to none. Mt. Zoo also holds a secret village, so secret I can not even tell you what trail it’s on. (Mostly because I forget). Around a bend and near some trees lies an Inuksuk Village. Many hikers stop here and add to the ever growing display. There are Inuksuk’s of every size and shape. After a few moments of taking it all in I suspect many add to the collection or fix the ones that require a bit of maintenance. The temptation to build is hard to resist.
Perhaps the unique characteristic of a mountain is not the mountain itself but rather the people who made the mountain what it is today. The view from the top of Mt. Benson is impressive and on a clear day you can see most of central Vancouver Island. This most certainly makes Mt Benson unique but have you ever heard of Gordie? Joel, the kids and I had the pleasure of meeting Gordie while hiking Mt. Benson one summer afternoon. Gordie created many of the hiking trails on Mt Benson. I’d guess he is about 78 years old and still hikes the trails to this day. You can find him regularly doing trail maintenance on Mt. Benson which is where we met Gordie. We could hear his axe hard at work long before we saw him. We stopped to chat and immediately he was drawn to Ben and Liv. He crouched down on one knee and began asking the kids questions. The usual how old are you and are you having fun. Then the conversation shifted to Gordie telling Ben and Liv stories of when he took his children hiking here when they were their age. I suspect seeing us hiking with our children brought back fond memories for Gordie. He offered to lead us to the next trail and we were more than happy to have him join us. The four of us quietly followed Gordie and listened to happy tales of his time on Mt. Benson with his children. It was a special moment. Not everyone may be so lucky to meet Gordie on the trail but they can check out the ruins of an old cabin. As I sat within the footprint of the cabin I wondered what stories could be told. If only these walls could talk.
Many special and rare species live within the mountains of British Columbia and part of the adventure is discovering them. The Sasquatch lives in the Rocky Mountains and Kermode bears roam the North Coastal Mountains but the Insular Mountains of Vancouver Island are home to something much bigger; Giants. The Carmanah Valley, locatedA combination of climate, topography, and geology has created ancient forests of awesome proportions. Growing here is the world’s tallest Sitka Spruce, the Carmanah Giant. It towers 96m above the ground and is estimated to be 800+ years old. Just within the Pacific Rim National Park boundary and northwest of Carmanah Valley is the Cheewhat Lake Cedar. This giant is Canada’s largest tree by volume and possibly the oldest as well.