Column: Retreads still going strong

You may wonder what is a typical hike like.

Biggs Park, looking toward Nanaimo. (submitted)

Biggs Park, looking toward Nanaimo. (submitted)

We thought it was time to report on the Retreads Hiking Club so this old scribe came out of his shell for a few minutes.

Julia, our leader, reported there are now 102 members listed at the arena where the club is hosted and the typical Wednesday hike has between 15 and 25 participants. Currently the club has 16 members who lead various hikes.

The leader’s job is not too difficult, but does have some responsibilities. Leaders must know the hiking trails and be able to describe the meeting place and the level of the hike. They get hikers signed in and are expected to have the same number finishing as started. Members take safety seriously and occasionally discuss and even practice some of the steps that would be taken in case of an emergency.

You may wonder what is a typical hike like. Ahead of time the leader has sent a note on the hike through our list-serve. We meet at Saywell Park just before 9:30 a.m., sign-in and do a count. We then distribute ourselves into available cars, contribute to the cost of running the car, and drive to the trail head. Usually a few members choose to meet at the trail head. We again check the count, assign a sweep to be at the back of the pack and head off up the trail. The lead will call occasional halts, especially at any junctions on the trail. This being a human enterprise, just as we, at the back of the pack catch up, off we go again. Us slower ones don’t get to rest much, but we do move at a slower pace.

Along the trail there are many and varied discussions, about family, about travel and what fellow citizens are doing. About halfway through we stop at a scenic spot for a lunch break. On longer hikes we will also have briefer coffee (or whatever) breaks and will also break if there are particular scenic items such as a waterfall or a view of the eagles on the river.

The hikes are between six and 10 kilometres in length with a variety of elevations. Examples of more challenging hikes include the top of Bald Mountain, Mount Tzouhalem, Maple Mountain and Cobble Hill Mountain. Some of our popular and recurring hikes include loops along the Cowichan River Trails from the forestry bridge and downstream from the Mile 66 bridge at Marie Canyon. These hikes are interesting and vary with the change of the seasons. For example, swimming in summer and watching salmon and eagles in early winter and sometimes in snow later.

A recent hike included a round of Chemainus Lake followed by a hike down the side of the E&N railway and into the waterfalls running at peak flow on Stocking Creek. This was an easier hike so the “oldies” among us could enjoy it. Of course earlier hikes had taken us up behind Ladysmith to the source of Stocking Creek which is quite a contrast. There are advantages to the hikes near more urban centres. We are often able to find a neat coffee shop or even a hospitable pub where we have after-hike food and good cheer. Talking waterfalls, we hiked into the Robertson Creek Falls recently. This required some creativity in the form of a ladder to let us cross a creek with dry feet. We also hike in Biggs Park near Nanaimo.

As suggested above, the club includes recreation and social elements. We recently held our Christmas party at the Curling Lounge at Lake Cowichan. A fun party with good food, a few acts, and dancing with Jan Mathews. We had pictures of our hikes for the year scrolling on the big screen and this reminded us of the effort, the beautiful scenery and the shared experiences. We also have picnic events arranged during the summer.

Our January through March 2018 hikes have been planned and will be posted soon. The list can be found by looking up Cowichan Lake Recreation and Retreads. The club appreciates the encouragement, support and assistance provided by Tanya and the staff at the Recreation Centre. Incidentally a drop-in hike costs a toonie and annual membership $15.

David Kidd is a member of the Retreads Hiking Club.