Retread hikers clambered across Holland Creek when the trail was blocked by work projects.

Retreads make tracks on three creek trails

Cowichan Valley hiking group hiked Holland, Cottonwood and Widowmaker Creeks.

From a point just upstream from No. 1 highway we hiked up Holland Creek near Ladysmith. A week later found us hiking up the Cottonwood and Widowmaker Creeks just west of Youbou.

The Holland Creek Trail which is proudly maintained by Ladysmith is a steady climb up the side of the creek, with gentle sections and quite steep sections that have steps and ropes to hold onto. We made our way up in good time, took a rest break at the waterfall view point and on up, almost to the point of crossing the creek when there was a very clear sign indicating we could go no further because work was going on.

What to do? The first idea was to go ahead and then ask forgiveness. This was rejected and we backtracked down stream to a place where it would be suitable to have lunch and clamber across the rock to the other side of the creek. The clamber included some challenging moments, but we all made it across. One outcome was we were not able to hike up the side trail to a view point well above town which is our usual lunch place.

On our way down we came to a memorial and wondered what was that for? Then someone said can’t your Iphone answer that. Sure enough we found the Citizen article that described the sad situation where, in August 2013, a grade 11 student had gone on an evening walk, failed to return and was found dead below the trail the next morning. A sombre moment wondering about life.

Our trip to Ladysmith was not complete without a visit to Bean Time Cafe for coffee and snack. That was a mighty big snack, you say!

Cottonwood Creek runs up the north side mountain just west of the former Youbou Mill site. As we hiked up we learned from one member that this had been a trail where motorcycle trials had been held in the past. As always when we hike in forest lands we marvelled at the investment and effort that has gone into building forest roads. We were grateful to see that some water was flowing down Cottonwood Creek in spite of the severe drought conditions.

We had a coffee or tea break at the side of the creek before the climb became steeper. After some time we came to a junction with a bridge crossing a smaller creek. We felt we had gained enough elevation and expended enough energy so we sat and ate lunch before retracing our steps. Yes, four kilometres in with an elevation gain of 300 m (about 1000 ft) and four kilometres back out. Some of us older guys felt that was about enough and were reminded of that the next morning. Others still had a spring in their step and could have continued for many more kilometres.

Because I tended to be a bit behind the main pack and focused on putting one foot a little in front and slightly above the other, I missed the philosophical discussions that went on during the hikes. However, the lead group did stop from time to time to wait for laggards and then off again. It is great exercise and a sense of accomplishment when we complete these hikes. Also a memory of the great scenery we have passed through, the friends we have been out with and our increased understanding of this wonderful valley.

Our next hike is a Big Tree hike to Avatar Grove in the Port Renfrew area and sundry other monster trees between here and there.

The arena has schedules for the next quarter and also a web page for the Retread hikes.

Submitted by David Kidd