My wife gave me the best Valentines Day gift ever, the gift of hiking! She took the day to visit friends in Vancouver! This weekend I did two trips, a portion of the Kludahk Trail and another section of the Beaufort Range Mountains. The weekend was two full days of travel and hiking. It's taking me a little bit of time to readjust to the fluorescent lighting and drone of central air in my workplace.
One of several water features on the Kludahk Trail
My Saturday trip was the Kludahk trail. Truth be told, this trip was the plan B but the weather dictated the need for a different plan. Originally I was to join the ACCVI on a ski-tour up Mt Becher. I'm going to do it, I'm going to say it..... winter 2015 is dead. The Mount Washington snow-cams confirm the worst, bare runs and distant peaks that are mostly comprised of exposed rock and trees. A few weeks ago my hike up Mount Moriarty was done in very little snow even on the upper ridge and summit. Further on my social media feeds, hike after hike revealing bare low-alpine areas! When it came time for the Kludahk Trail, we had our suspicious but we didn't fully know what to expect. The trail is far below the 1600 metres of Mount Moriarty, only about 1000 - 1200 metres.
Total Distance: 10.7 km
Starting Elevation: 900 m
Maximum Elevation: 1106
Elevation Gain: 615 m
Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
The super-secret Kludahk trail has been a long time goal for myself. For years I have heard hints about a low alpine hike on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The geographical location makes the trail Canada's highest trail south of the 49th parallel and Canada's most southerly alpine route! The documentation on the Kludahk Club's website reports that snow pack in most years averages 10 feet of snow that provides excellent ski touring and snowshoeing on the South Island. Perhaps the trails biggest claim to fame are the huts! The Kludahk trail is the only route on Vancouver Island that has a series of huts for the club members to use for a small fee and can use for a small fee and time put into trail work parties.
Most of the 8 hikers met at 8 am at the Langford Park and Ride near exit 14, just off the Island Highway. I recognized many of the others from the ACCVIA AGM, where I did my intro to backcountry ski course. I was excited for the day the forecast was excellent, though in the morning there was light drizzle and significant low level cloud.
I have to say I like this group, they have hearts after my own. The first order of business, getting coffee --They have their priorities straight! We stopped in Sooke at The Stick, an amazing little cafe, just off the main drag. The shop is tiny but what it lacks in realestate it makes up for in panache, quality and flavour! This shop conjured a fabulous cappuccino for me, made with house roasted beans. There was also a good selection of cafe-style food options for breakfast, I chose a pumpkin muffin -- delicious. This would turn out to be my first encounter with the beans from this roaster in the day.
We continued en route to our destination. We followed highway 14 west until we could see the China Creek Campground sign on the left side of the highway, we turned to the right up North Main FSR. From the road we followed the logging road more than 13 kilometers to the start of our trail, gaining nearly 900 metres. The road is in great condition, though some sections of the road are very steep and the suface covered with largish blast rock. We used 4x4s to gain the top off the hill, high clearance was not required but the extra traction and power was definitely required. In terms of direction, I'll direct you toward the GPS route I posted,there are many off shoots from North Main FSR and it does become a bit of a maze.
Starting out on the Kludahk Trail, sodden ground
We were ready to hike at 10:15 am. As we headed toward the start of the trail we took note that the weather had dramatically changed, the clouds had shifted and there was hints of a great day to come! The trail itself was sodden. I started with my gaiters on but ultimately removed them as I was too warm, even though I was only hiking in a light long sleeve shirt. Throughout the day we all commented on the fantastic temperatures and discussions about the concern for alpine conditions this summer were abundant. I kept reminding myself that we were in the middle of February, even though the conditions were more like early June!
The trail is easy to follow, it's well booted and lightly flagged. Additionally there are other markers en route, carved signs, and small metal plates mounted to trees. Many of the formerly muddy sections of the trail are covered with aluminum or galvanized steel safety grating. They provided excellent traction and show no signs of oxidation, I have hope they will last for decades. They make the route quite to walk and easy to follow.
Meadow Hut on the Kludahk trail
Interior of Meadow Hut on the Kludahk Trail
At 10:45 am we stopped at Meadow Cabin. We didn't dawdle long and continued on our way. The trail meanders its way along the San Juan Ridge, rolling up and down, around tarns and small lake. There was little possibility to get lost, though there are several places I noticed that looked as though there used to be access routes but are now gown over. One of the greatest features are the views down the various valleys to the lakes below and a beautiful view down to the San Juan River valley.
A view down Blakeney Creek Valley to the San Juan River Valley
We made it to the better quipped and maintained Tower Hut by 12:30. The cabins are all well equipped with drainage sink, table, kitchen counter, gas range and even a fireplace. Thew two I walked past are elevated to keep them out of the snow pack, have a loft and even a small balcony out the loft where one could sit and enjoy the view of the outlying meadows and vistas. Neither cabin is locked and I noticed a locked donation box in Tower Hut. Surprisingly, it appeared to be occupied, fresh bananas and a Nalgene water bottle sat on the kitchen counter.
Tower Hut on the Kludahk Trail
We didn't tarry long before exiting and eating our lunch nearby in the sun! It was great to sit and enjoy conversation, listening to the history of the Kludahk's long development history, talking first aid kits and of course... drinking coffee.
After lunch we checked the time and decided to return to the car. The return trip was quicker, I believe the route trended down, plus we didn't stop for photographs. We arrived safely back at the vehicles at 2:45.
On our way home we spotted a fair amount of activity outside the small cafe at Jordan River, The Cold Shoulder Cafe. At least a dozen people were gathered inside, outside and around a fire burning near the picnic tables, outside the cafe. We just had to stop! I needed more coffee, I always do. Upon entering the cafe, I admired a variety of tasty treats but restrained myself and opted for a very delicious cappuccino. Upon questioning, the owner of the shop indicated they they get their beans roasted by The Stick. If you are in the area stop in for a treat and a great coffee or tea. Not only do they serve a mean coffee they also carry a healthy selection of Earth's Herbal loose teas. Note that right now The Cold Shoulder Cafe is cash only.