2019 VI Trail Section hikers

A group of 3 hikers and a singleton started to hike the VI Trail section by section earlier this year.  Currently, they have all made it to the west end of Cowichan Lake.  The next ‘section’ to hike will be from Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni.

Below is the trip report from the group of three:

“Day 1 – Bike from Clover Point to Humpback Reservoir:

Easily, the most civilized portion of the route. On an amazing warm dry February day between winter rain storms we biked along the nicely paved Galloping Goose bike trail. We stopped at the Six Mile Pub for a tasty lunch and cold beer. I don’t think we will have many lunches like this on this adventure. After lunch it was a leisurely ride to the Humpback Reservoir. Today was a great way to ease into the idea of a long trip.

Day 2 – Bike from Humpback to West Shawnigan Lake Park:

Day 2 was a little more serious but still quite civilized. We started out on the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail on a sunny day in late April. The trail is mostly wide well packed gravel with a couple of nice views from above the Malahat. It had one prolonged steep section just after the suspension bridge over Goldstream River, along a wide service road, probably 15% grade for about 1km.

When we reached a road called Trail Way we went straight across the road and veered left down a trail that involved a 20 minute hike up a trail with our bikes. The view at the top was nice but it was a 30 minute detour that we could have done without. It eventually connected up with the main route at the intersection of Goldstream Heights and Finlayson View Place.  I recommend riders go right when the trail reaches Trail Way and then Left on Goldstream Heights Drive then right on Finlayson View Place.

The Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail then hooks up with the Cowichan Valley Trail. It was mostly an easy downhill cruise from here on out to Sooke Lake Road. Then an easy flat ride to West Shawnigan Lake Park.

Day 3 – Bike from West Shawnigan Lake Park to Lake Cowichan:

After a comfortable night in a hotel and some delicious restaurant meals we were ready for the next stage. This section of the Cowichan Valley Trail is mostly a gentle downhill for the first half and then a gradual uphill grade all the way to the town of Lake Cowichan. You cross several trestles with nice views along the way including the impressive Kinsol Trestle. It was an uneventful but satisfying ride through the rain forest.

Day 4 & 5- Kayak from Cowichan Lake Dam to the West end of Lake Cowichan

We thought we would switch it up a bit and do some paddling and camping. In mid May we camped on Lake Cowichan and over two days we paddled from the Lake Cowichan Dam to the boat launch at the west end of the lake. We camped at the Timber West Caycuse campground. This split the trip into a 20 km and a 13 km paddle on the first and second days respectively – what should be a reasonably easy paddle for novices in cheap plastic Pelican kayaks.

The kayaking was not so easy. We realized after we started that the weather forecast for the town of Lake Cowichan has very different wind than out on the lake. The forecast said 4-6 km/hour variable winds but out on the lake we got hit with what I estimate to be 20-30 km/hr headwinds (from the west) the whole way with some gusts up to 40 km/hr. 1-2 foot seas with the occasional 3 footer. My friend disappeared behind the waves in front of me a few times.

My wife and I were using the 10 ft Pelican kayaks that they sell at Costco which are not very sea-worthy and we didn’t bring spray skirts because I didn’t think we would need them.  My buddy kept having to stop and wait for us to catch up as his rental kayak was much faster. Our boats were very stable but slow and kept taking on water.  It was comforting that the road was never far away from the beach if we had stop paddling.  If someone got too tired or overwhelmed we could always stop and hike to the road.  If it wasn’t for that safe bail out possibility we probably would have cancelled for the weekend or drove to the west end and paddled with the wind.  People have asked me why we didn’t just paddle east instead because the prevailing winds are always out of the west. I need to travel in the correct direction and do the stages in order from south to north or it just wouldn’t feel right to me.

Beforehand, I estimated 8 hours of paddling in total over two days, but we actually took about 13 hours. Now it felt like an adventure – just what we wanted!  At the end of the second day we dragged our soggy bottoms out of the water and loaded everything up for the drive home.  We were tired and sore, but satisfied.”

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