–Submitted by John Robertson
Five hikers set out in 2 vehicles from north Nanaimo at 6am. By 8:20, we had dropped a vehicle off at the Mount Washington trailhead, and backtracked in the other, to the old Wood mountain ski area. Drizzle and cold wind greeted us as we shouldered packs, but with the initial climb up the old ski hill, we worked off any potential chill quickly.We stopped for lunch at McKenzie Lake. By that time, the wind had died to nothing, and the sun was doing battle with the clouds (although the clouds ultimately won the day). After lunch, we continued on our way, in a light rain. From this point, the trail became a bit more grown in, and we took turns in the lead position, filling our boots as we knocked accumulated water off the blueberry bushes that hung over the trail.The GPS recorded 27.7 kilometers, and we were all quite satisfied with our day. It’s a good hike, when, as soon as the pack comes off, the talk is about the next opportunity to do it again.
This was a rewarding hike. There are no summits, but clear weather would definitely give some very good views. There are a number of biomes and terrains, giving a good variety of scenery. Judging from some of the meadowlands we passed through, it would be quite wet underfoot in the spring, but otherwise, it’s on the list again for next year.
As we came out on the open ground south of Panther lake, the light rain became heavy rain, then hail, the mercifully, quickly let up. The sun broke through again, and off came the rain gear. We then descended down past Panther Lake, and headed up to the junction near Croteau. From that point, it was a pleasant downhill walk on well-trodden trails to the car.
The fall colours were everywhere, in incredible variety. The trail was in excellent shape, and the walkout past the Becher and Drabble trailheads went quite quickly. We encountered a few work crews from CDMC after we passed the Slingshot meadows. It was the hard work that they have put in this season that made the trail such a pleasure.