Year in review: Busy year saw Retreads hoof it here, there, and everywhere

The Lake Cowichan Retreads had a busy, fun filled year, rewarded with sunshine for most of our hikes.

The Retreads hiking group enjoys the view from the top  of Mount Bolduc

The Retreads hiking group enjoys the view from the top of Mount Bolduc

The Lake Cowichan Retreads had a busy, fun filled year, rewarded with sunshine for most of our hikes. Here we review some high points of our hikes — yes some were quite high like Mt Bolduc. We include the recent urban hike — yes we count Lake Cowichan as urban. We also look briefly at some social aspects of belonging to this dynamic club.

Our big social event was the Christmas Party held at the curling lounge. We had a full house this year, including a few pickleball players that we welcomed in. We were served a delicious turkey dinner — thank you Arlene and team — reviewed the years’ events in a slide show of hikes from this year and last; played fun games; and danced to Jan Matthews In Overdrive with Angie at the controls. Having our club operating under Lake Cowichan Recreation facilitated these arrangements, as did our social committee. We give a rousing thanks to this energetic, creative committee.

Wednesdays throughout the year find us enjoying Vancouver Island trails, often managing to end hikes at interesting places such as the Unsworth Winery, the Duncan Garage, Bean Time in Ladysmith, the Dinghy Dock floating Pub on Protection Island, the Sushi Bar and Jakes in town. These become places to sit back and relax and share interesting stories about our lives and activities. Often the social relations run deeper. Members share other activities that they learn about during hikes and occasionally members help each other when they experience difficult times. We hear questions asking “how is so and so”? Invariably someone has checked in.

Our hikes cover the South Island including east to Ruckle Farm Park on Salt Spring Island, south to Goldstream Park, south west to East Sooke Park, north to Newcastle Island and Jack Point in Nanaimo and down to the Port Renfrew area. We also covered many points in between.

Hiking is a great low impact way to explore and understand the geography of our island. Of course there is some impact on knees, feet and our cardiac system. Sometimes the “why am I doing this” question comes to mind, but there is a great deal of satisfaction when we complete the trek and we are back again the next Wednesday. This year numbers have ranged from 15 to 30 hikers.

A brief review of our 48 hikes shows we did four hikes three times. These include the Cowichan River Footpath Loop from Mayo Road down to Trestle 66 and back, and the loop from Trestle 66 downstream. Also Bald Mountain, right up to the former tracking station. These are popular hikes. We completed six hikes, Fisherman’s Trail off the old highway, Robertson Waterfall (spectacular in the rainy season), and Mesachie Forest twice.

Looking at distances traveled, 28 hikes were local, that is right from town or a short ride along the lake or down the river. Thirteen hikes were a medium distance. For example, near Duncan, Ladysmith, Shawnigan Lake or Avatar and Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew, and seven hikes more distant. Examples are East Sooke, Nanaimo, Salt Spring Island (with an expensive ferry ride) and Goldstream. The good news is there are many excellent hikes right around our area, and fascinating places to visit within a one to two hour drive.

Which is your favourite hike you ask? There is no simple answer. Each hike has its own unique features and views. Some take us up mountains, some along rivers. We climbed a number of mountains such as Bald Mountain, Skidder Mountain, Maple Mountain, Mount Tzouhalem, Mount Good and Mount Bolduc. A great many of our hikes take us beside water — Cottonwood, Shaw and Holland Creeks, the Cowichan, Koksilah, Robertson and Goldstream rivers, Cowichan, Heart and Stocking lakes, and some follow along the ocean shore — Ruckle Park, Newcastle Island, Dodd Narrows and Jack Point.

Recently, our hike was right inside Lake Cowichan. Immediately on Saywell Park we had a discussion about the river protection work and floating dock spear headed by the town and CLRSS. Next, we visited our outstanding museum that a number of members had not been in before. We then went behind the museum following the trail around the Ted Burns Nature Reserve along the edge of the lake. We noted the former railway spurs where logs had been pulled out of the lake. We then crossed Point Ideal Drive with a stop a check the community garden.

We moved on cautiously across South Shore where only two logging trucks rolled by, up behind LCS, down a lane beside the upper playing field and down Coronation Street.

We had an interesting discussion when the Anglican Church came into view. One member’s parents had been married at the little church when it stood in Mesachie Lake. He had been wondering where the church had gone. In their family photo it had been surrounded by two to three feet of snow. Now he had an answer — moved to Lake Cowichan! On across by the library to Ts’uubaa-asatx Park with the magnificent totem pole and the Forest Workers’ Memorial Park.

We again crossed South Shore Road and Otakhi Park on to the former railway, now foot bridge. Here we had discussions about a huge flood in the 60s; river swimming and, of course, jumping off the bridge — not a new activity.

For our cardiac health we marched up River Road and right onto Elk Road. As we approached the firehall the alarm went off so we watched in admiration as the volunteers rushed in, put gear on and were off to the fire — this one just down the street! As we were less than a block away, the hike stalled as some watched, intrigued with the activity and efficiency of the volunteer fire brigade. After that excitement we headed up toward the former Boyd school and down the trail through Friendship Park — a neat path through the forest right in the centre of town. We crossed the street once more to the Lake Sushi Bar where we enjoyed an amazing lunch.

Altogether it was another great year for Retread Hikers. We are no longer a fringe group. We have many active members enjoying our great outdoors and learning about the many features of this great part of the world. Our hikes for the next quarter are already planned, beginning New Years Day at 10:30 a.m. meeting as usual at Saywell Park.

We hike every Wednesday. If you are interested, be at Saywell Park with good boots and a lunch, pick up a brochure at the arena or Google Cowichan Lake Retreads. There are a few basic rules we commit to: be on time; bring a lunch; carpool where possible — driver receives gas money; non-members pay $2 per hike. Become a member, if you wish, through the Cowichan Arena. We have four meetings each year to plan the quarterly schedules.

See you in 2016.