A Victoria naturalist (Freeman King) used to tell the young naturalists with whom he went on hikes on rainy weekends, “You aren’t sugar. You won’t melt.” It’s true and it’s something I am keeping in mind these days when the rain seems to be offering us a daily infinity-curtain of downpour. I really want to get outside to run and go on hikes, but the rain throws down a barrier. Once I make myself go and face my fears of melting, I am always rewarded. On the other hand, staying inside, dry and in-active, makes my weekend lousy.
Going up Cobble Hill Mountain this past weekend proved the perfect rainy-day excursion. I began with a warm-up run along the Malahat Beach Road, then headed to the Cobble Hill Mountain Regional Recreation Area (26 kms. of signed trails). This area is reached via Cobble Hill Rd. and Thain Rd. The trailhead and parking lot are across from the western entrance to Cobble Hill Village. There is an E&N train station there, where the train once stopped. The trailhead for Cobble Hill Mountain is located in Quarry Nature Park (see info). Once there, you will see parking lots, washrooms and an off-leash dog park.
From the trailhead at the foot of the mountain, you simply head up, following signs, to the summits. The hike trail is on a steady and occasionally challenging incline. I kept to a measured pace, as did most of the other dog-walkers and child-hikers on the trail, but I did note there were some heavy-breathing hikers who wanted to use the climb as an intense workout and go fast. By going slower, I was able to enjoy the darkness made by the tall firs, cedars and bare-branched maples along the trail, as well as examine the many kinds of mushrooms and fungi growing at this time of year. There are parts of the trail where fallen leaves make a thick brown carpet, where roots twist and cross underfoot and you feel as if you are entering Hobbit Forest. The trails are well-marked, however, and as long as you stay on the trail (don’t wander off on one of the many un-marked paths) and take the same route down that you took up, you won’t be pulled into an encounter with a Golem, or get lost. My daughter and I once took a “short-cut” and ended up on the southwest side of the mountain, a long way from home. We had to retrace our steps to find our way out of private property and into the park.
Once at the top (there are two summits) you can survey the area below you as if you are royalty and the tiny village below you is part of your kingdom (shared, up there, with eagles).
I was able to avoid the forecasted rain all through the trip. When I stepped out of my car at the trailhead, the rain was falling fitfully – one drop, once in awhile. On the trail, under the cover of trees, I was dry. The incessant rain promised for the day, didn’t really start falling until I was on my descent from the mountain top and 100 metres from my car. By that time, I was loping down the decline like a happy mountain goat, well-heated from my climb and protected by my un-meltable good spirits.
Judith Belton is a Cowichan Valley writer and former newspaper reporter. She lives in Mill Bay and loves to run all over the valley and the Island.