I admit: so far, hiking hasn‘t been one of my favorite pastimes. However, I didn’t want to miss the amazing view from Mount Arrowsmith over Vancouver Island. With no gondola going up, there was no other way but to climb through the forest and over rocks to the summit. Fortunately, there was a hiking partner – and motivator.
We had been out for a while when the trees thinned out, the soft forest floor turned into rugged rock and finally the view on the surrounding, cloud-covered mountains was clear above the tree tops. We looked at lush forest green on the slopes while the first rays of sun found their way through the haze. The perfect place for a picnic with homemade bread and savory muffins.
About two hours earlier we – islander and hiking partner Dug and I – started from the parking lot. And I was glad that I had looked for someone to climb the 1,819 meter high mountain with. Especially for safety reasons – you never know whether you will meet a bear, sprain your ankle or even get lost. Google Maps only helps to a limited extent on such a mountain. ?
At the latest when we were sitting at the lunch picnic, while little birds landed on our heads and hands because they were after the food, we realized: our research into the ascent was a little superficial. Otherwise we would have known that the hike doesn‘t take a few hours, but almost a whole day and that it is mostly steep – meaning really steep and over rocky ground – uphill.
Finding hiking partners
If I had known that, I would have argued for a different route. Dug and I had only met in the morning. Inspired by travelers like Jonas Grünanger or Anthony Botta, I used Tinder to search for people who would walk with me across the island. Through Germany, Europe and around the world, Grünanger and Botta have used the dating app to find accommodation. It’s like couch surfing. They were explicitly not concerned with “the one thing”. What works for both of them should work for me, I thought, setting up my profile (something like this: Traveling around the world. I’m on the island from X to Y. Looking for locals who show me the area. Not more!) And lo and behold: Dug is a passionate hiker (like the vast majority of Canadians – what else can you do when you’re surrounded by so much nature?) and is out and about several times a week in the forests and mountains of his motherland.
Of course it’s a risk: If you don’t get along with a new hiking partner at all, then you are standing somewhere on a mountain and know that you either have to walk back alone or at least have to walk the way down to the valley together and adure him/her for another while… Luckily this didn’t happen in our case. On the contrary. It was like meeting a good old friend again.
Hurting feet, tired legs
But back to the mountain. Dug knew the approximate direction we had to ascend. We couldn’t see the summit of Mount Arrowsmith. It was covered with clouds. The view was – I can’t say otherwise – breathtaking: small streams that made their way over the rocks, a little snow, small, flowering plants that grew out of rocks, various types of fir whose tops swayed in the light wind.
At some point it was afternoon. We had been hiking for a few hours. At that point, we had to decide: do we dare the way to the summit? After all, we had to walk all the way back – and at the very best, arrive at the bottom while it was still light. “It’s not far anymore,” assured hikers who came towards us. After so many hours of climbing, my legs felt like pudding. But: thanks to willpower and Dug’s motivation, we made it to the summit. And it was so, so worth the effort. When we reached the top, the last clouds had just cleared and gave a view of the many surrounding lakes, the ocean and the hilly and green islands. What. A. Sight.
We were back at the car just in time for the sunset in the evening. Never before in my life have I been so knocked out, exhausted, fix and finished with hurting feet and tired legs. But it was great fun – and sparked a little hiking joy in me. And, well, a few other sparks flew there on the mountain, too. ?