Magical Meares Island

On the summit of Lone Cone with a marvelous view of Clayoquot Sound, Tofino, and surrounding islands.

I had wanted to visit Meares Island 20 years ago or more, and didn’t, but this winter when I was planning trips for the spring, I looked into it once again. I found the site to the “Lone Cone Hostel and Campground,” with information about climbing adjacent Lone Cone Mountain, and further details about the nearby Big Tree Trail. I was stoked! I listed it on the Rambler’s website, and before long I had 10 other eager hikers.

The Hostel and Campground is located at the old Ahousaht village site called Matsquiaht.

In more recent times it was the site of Christie Indian Residential School, which ran from 1900 until 1983, and was the last residential school to close in British Columbia.
During the mid-1980s, a fire burned the main building to the ground, leaving only a few outbuildings.
After Christie closed, the property was used as a family development treatment center known as Kakawis. After Kakawis moved to Port Alberni, the Catholic Church put the property up for sale and it was purchased by Ahousaht First Nation in 2012.
The site continued to be used for healing purposes until 2015 when it was transformed into a campground under the direction of Ahousaht Ha’wiih through their economic development entity called Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) and Ahousaht Business Corporation (ABC). /

Most of us had originally opted to tent, but the weather forecast the previous Wednesday was grim: rain setting in Friday night and continuing all day Saturday. Only four of the group then chose to tent, with the rest of us settling in the well-equipped hostel. This hostel, in fact, is the best I’ve ever stayed at. You can’t beat the setting, or the cooking facilities. The beds were comfortable, too, the showers were hot, and the hot-tub was deluxe!

We set out Friday evening with Tofino Water Taxis under partially cloudy skies, with some sprinkles.

When we arrived at the island, we were met by the affable Kyla, who transported our packs up to the hostel.

The skies cleared up, and a beautiful sunset beckoned us to the beach.

Matt and Michael setting up their tents in the fabulous campground.
We enjoyed combing the beach at sunset.

Saturday morning we set out at 9 a.m. to hike up Lone Cone Mountain, 5 km. one way with an elevation gain of about 700 meters. The trail was level and a “little” damp for the first while.

Where do I go?”
“Oh, this is fun!”

Although the trail was muddy and rough, the huge ancient cedars made up for it.

Look up, way up!
Nice fungi, too!

Then the trail steepened and after 2-3 hours we reached the summit, and the clouds cleared to afford us a fantastic view.

Tofino is visible in the distance.

We then returned to camp, and enjoyed the hot showers, hot tub and other amenities.

Enjoying the covered fire pit.

Sunday morning the water taxi picked us up and took us to Big Tree Trail, also on Meares Island.

The hostel and campground as we head for the Big Tree Trail
Lone Cone Mountain
Where are you guys going in such a hurry!”

Big Tree Trail was the center of the dispute in the 1980’s between the Tla-o-qui-aht and MacMillan Bloedel, who had plans to log the island. The courts, however, ruled in the favor of the First Nations people, and decreed that no development could take place until the group’s land claim was settled.

The Big Tree Trail didn’t disappoint! Boardwalk for the first while, as we marveled at the huge, ancient cedars, some up to 1500 years old!

And the grand daddy of them all is the Hanging Garden Tree, a Western Red Cedar, probably more than 1500 years old, and 18 meters around!

But the Hanging Garden isn’t the only marvelous tree.

Other interesting formations in this fascinating forest, too.

Evelyn, a trained botanist, theorizes that the twisting by this cedar was a self-defense mechanism, so that it wouldn’t be logged. It worked, too!
After ambling around the 3.3 km trail for 3 hours, we boarded the water taxi.
And we headed back to Tofino. Still under sunny skies!

Leave a Reply