Is there a tone in that title!? You betcha, baby. A grumpy, hard done-by, still-smarting-from-it, tone.
“There’s something really, really neat about doing a hard thing. Doing something that is physically demanding, incredibly challenging and limit-pushing.” I know… I know!! I‘ve said that before, but today I take it all back! Ha! (What’s that out-dated saying that rots my daughter’s socks? “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind?“)
This Meares Island hike up Lone Cone Mountain should really be named the Lone Smile Hike… as my hubby was the only one smiling through the absolute suffer-fest that this hike became…. what we endured made the surprise of the water taxi driver, when we announced where we wanted to go, understandable. And once we got to the island, the native man who met us and took our trail fee ($10/person) and said, “it might be a bit muddy,” with a rather concerned look on his face… let’s just say that THAT was the understatement of the year!
Tofino is a town, located on a narrow stretch of rocky, inhospitable land, north of the Pacific Rim National Park, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s located in a wild landscape of rough rock, wicked storms and spectacular rainforest.
Tofino is well known to many storm watchers and surfers, who brave the frigid waters in search of great winter wave action on its long, sandy beaches. Because there isn’t much real land there to speak of, with Tofino being isolated on its narrow, rocky peninsula, the hikes in the area tend to be short ones that showcase the spectacular ocean views with their crashing surf, their rocky shores or their long, sandy beaches, or they are ones that feature the incredible beauty of the temperate rainforest, with towering, ancient cedars and thickly fern’d and forested inland slopes.
Tofino lies at the entrances to Clayoquot Sound (pronounced “clay-kwot”)… a spectacular underwater treasure trove for scuba divers full of fish, soft corals, sea lions, whales, sponges, starfish and barnacles. A sound is an ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord. Tofino’s sound, a protected biosphere, is home to a great number of marine mammals, birds and fish and its calm, deep waters protect much of the wildlife that lives there.
Knowing that many of the hikes in the Tofino area are short, we decided to branch out and expand our horizons, taking on a hike that many of the locals here do up Lone Cone Mountain on Meares Island. Meares Island, itself, was the hot spot for an intense dispute with loggers, not so long ago, in the early 90’s, focussed on preventing clear cut logging there, and in so doing, protecting the sound’s natural landscape and its biosphere wonders.
The hike began with hitching a ride to Meares Island by the local water taxi ($40 each, return). The woman who ran the water taxi wanted us there early, as she had a girl to get to a travelling orthodontist… such is the life of a small town! So we grabbed sandwiches at a local coffee shop and raced down to the dock, then set out in her little boat, across the sound to Meares Island, 6km (15 minutes or so, by boat) away. [And I have to admit that taking a water taxi was particularly fun! I’ve never done that to a trailhead before!]
The hike is about 6.6km but… and here’s the BIG but… it has an elevation gain of 730m over the short course of 1.5km…. so its grade is probably the toughest, steepest, most torturous & punishing that we’d ever done. Then there’s the issue of hiking in the rain, on sodden trails, over, around and through slick roots and fallen trees and negotiating a lot of muddy bogs. We had really NO idea the extent of the adventure we were in for when this photo was taken!
Being winter, in Tofino…. and being very much a rainforest hike, albeit a steep one, there was a LOT of water that wreaked havoc with our (my) enjoyment…. tree roots were slick and slippery, any flat areas were bogs with boot-engulfing, quicksand-like peat in them, our trail was a stream at times…. and to top it all off, the top of the very, very steep mountain was covered in snow (even though it was only at 730m above sea level) and totally enshrouded in cloud.
Ugh. Ugh. Double ugh. I’m usually a glass half full kind of person, but when we reached the 300m mark, I wanted to quit and I got grumpier and grumpier, despite the beautiful scenery around me!
The trail disappeared above this 500m sign into dense, soaking wet foliage. And there had been no views for the longest time. I was getting really tired, and I was starting to get clumsy… not a good thing when I knew that we had to come back down…. and that the careful footing that would require would be an intense drain on my energy, concentration & resources. But we talked it through… and decided to push on.
Still steep here, the footing was surprisingly good. Perhaps it’s something about the wet snow gripping the treads of your boots, coupled with a healthy dose fierce determination, and an overwhelming sense that the end is close at hand. Here, the beauty of the incredibly white snow on the light green of the delicate cedar fronds was spectacular. But I was getting cold. Wet inside and out, and blanketed by the vapour of a cloud, I was saving my last dry layer for the way down.
At long last, we were there! What a journey up it had been, pushing the limits of my determination, emotional strength and fitness. The views were there for only a split second as the cloud vapour that covered the top of the mountain parted and we caught a glimpse of the sound, far below. I was disappointed, to be sure… but there was still something very, very satisfying and inspiring about being up in the swirling mists of a cloud.
Apparently, early pioneers to the area believed that cloud enshrouding the peak of lone cone brought with it the promise of good weather…. I quickly swapped a layer, bundled into my last dry pair of mitts, and we headed back down, as it was far too cold up there to eat our lunch, and I was rapidly chilling. [As an aside… sure enough, the next day’s weather did have moments of greatness!]
Watch the video below, a time-lapse…. this is the pace I wish we could have climbed down that mountainside! The reality was far, far slower, with us needing to very carefully place our feet (look at just how many footsteps Bill takes to come down this little stretch!), making sure we didn’t slip & twist an ankle or get hurt.
With a phone call placed at the island store for the water taxi to come back and get us (there’s no cell service), we waited in this picturesque spot, resting, drinking tea & taking the enormity of the experience…. anchoring me back into the reality of the beauty of the landscape & the dawning understanding of the enormity of the feat we’d accomplished, together.