Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trail Spotlight - Bald Mountain near Lake Cowichan, BC, Vancouver Island

So many trails, so little time. I learn of new trails on Vancouver Island faster than I can cross them off my list. What I love even more is the diverse network of trails. Something for every level of hiker, trail runner, or mountain biker. Whether you are looking for an afternoon stroll thru the forest, a full day exploring trails, bike trails to shred, something to test your mountaineering skills or multi day treks, Vancouver Island has what you are looking for.

To help guide you through the endless trails to choose from, I am putting together a collection of trails I consider OTBP worthy.

First up - Bald Mountain Park near Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, BC

Trail use: Hiking and Trail Running

Description: Variety of trails to hike/trail run and consider level of difficulty to be moderate due to the gentle switchbacks that have you climbing close to the beginning. An easy option would be the Wetland Loop, a well groomed path with little elevation. Switchbacks steady but not steep on a mix of groomed trail, old road, rocky paths, mossy bluffs, and a technical trail [roots and exposed bluffs] starting about 2/3 of the way up to the summit. A variety of trails to hike or trail run pending your needs. Stroll along the Wetland Loop, go all the way to the summit, take the summit connector to Plateau Trail loop, or explore further from the summit.

Directions: From Hwy 1, head west on Hwy 19 to Lake Cowichan and when approaching the town stay right (North Shore Road) towards Youbou. Turn south on Meades Creek road and turn west on Marble Bay road.  Parking lot trail head on right hand side.

Maps: A couple maps to checkout. Signage along the CVRD trail map easy to follow. The Cowichan Lake District map offers some more options that would not be clearly marked with signs (and likely an out dated map). There was blue flagging tape [Jan 2016] that accompanied these trails. Gives option to those who wish to explore further.

Our trip report: The four of us hiked to the summit of Bald Mountain. Hiking distance 11km and just shy of 3 hours hiking time. Plenty of extra stops for taking in the view and snack breaks. Bald Mountain 611m in elevation and we gained a total of 885m while hiking. I plan on heading back to trail run this trail.  Hill climbing anyone? I love a challenge.

Highlights of the hike: The switchbacks were fun to hike.  Cuts down on the steepness of the climb and offers a neat perspective on the landscape as you see fellow hikers above and below you.

Last summer we canoed 30 km across Lake Cowichan so to see part of the lake from a high vantage point was rewarding.  The lake view is mainly the Youbou Arm and Honeymoon Bay but enough for Ben and Liv to be in awe with how big the lake is and that we traveled across it in a canoe. Favorite part of the trail would have to be the section about 2/3 of the way up.  Trail here leads across a rocky slope, around a bluff and up through a more technical treed trail.

Things to pack: It is good practice to always pack to be prepared, even on day hikes. The basics are small and can easily be kept in your pack.  Our basics include backpacks, water [plenty if hiking/running in summer...it will be hot], snacks [we seem to eat often], jacket, extra long sleeve layer, proper footwear [KEEN's work well], cameras, backup batteries, cell phone, GPS [if gadgets are your thing], headlamp or flashlight [and extra batteries], emergency blanket, army knife, whistle, matches and firestarter, toilet paper, plastic bag for garbage [pack out what you pack in ALWAYS], medicine [Benadryl, Tylenol, Ibuprofen] and first aid kit.  Even the smallest of cuts are easily fixed with a band-aid.

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