In August, the west coast of Canada (and well…the whole northwest of America) was either on fire, or full of smoke. We already had plans to visit Vancouver island to visit friends on Hornby Island. But after that, we decided to stay an extra day and check out a hike on Vancouver Island. There are several fun sounding hikes in my 105 hikes book; Mount Work, Jocelyn Hill and Mount Finlayson.
Unfortunately, the smoke became much worse during our trip, so we opted for the easiest hike through trees – Mount Work. We hoped the trees might diminish the smokey feeling. Plus, at least we could look around the forest, even if we couldn’t see any Vancouver Island views!
Mount Work – the basics
Distance: The hike in 100 hikes book is 6km. Our version was about 7km.
Elevation gain: 230 m
Highest Point: 450 m
Time: 2 hours
What to bring:
It’s pretty easy, but slippy in places. Bring your walking boots at least!
Aim to always bring the Ten essentials
There is a loo in the carpark at the start of the trail
Very dog friendly. We met several happy doggos on leads
How hard is it?
Easy. The path is well sign-posted and although it’ll get your heart going, it’s not hard at all.
Mount Work Map
I’ve mentioned before that pollution and smoke triggers my asthma. Because of that, I found this hike really hard. The trees do help filter some of the smoke, but there was just so much that we could easily taste it. Basically the hike looked amazing with the smog, but it didn’t feel very nice. We had to take it quite slowly!
We didn’t actually forage, but there were plenty of salal berries and really cool mushrooms on Mount Work.
One really lovely thing about Mount Work summit trail is all the amazing trees. Look at the cool growths on this one!
We found one tree that looked like it had been thoroughly tapped by a woodpecker. We also found quite a few arbutus trees with hanging lichen that looked like it had lametta (tinsel strands.) This must look amazingly christmassy on icy days!
However my favourite trees on Mount Work were the arbutus trees. I have never seen so many gathered together in one place. Each one has an original, crazy shape. They are also so many different shades of red, orange and yellow as the bark peels off in different stages. If you like the look of them, I have more photos of them on Hornby Island and in Lighthouse Park.
Mount Work will make you work
Although this is an easy walk, there are a few sections that will really get your heart pumping. You need to climb up mossy rock faces lined with more arbutus trees. I was doing my best to breathe through my nose (for the smoke) so my heart rate really soared.
The amazing views – ehem.
So, Mount Work should have some gorgeous views. The weather forecast showed that this was a clear sunny day. It’s just the smoke hid everything! This was much much worse than my day at Brandwine Mountain (even though we were far further from the fires!) If you look really carefully you can just about make out three layers of mountains beyond the trees in the foreground. We should be able to see the sea, as well as lots of islands further away.
This view was actually just before the official summit. Mount Work’s Summit isn’t particularly impressive, but at least it is surrounded by more cool arbutus trees!
Make up your own route home!
We decided to extend our hike a bit and devised our own route back, wiggling our way through Mount Work Regional Park. One of my hiking friends from Wanderung, Jutta, told me about an app called Maps Me, which turns out to be really useful for finding small tracks and paths in the back country. If you like to make up your own routes, it is sooo helpful!
Marc didn’t have the app, so I was our navigator. But he still wandered off ahead. I had to call him back quite a few times when he’d wander off in the wrong direction. We didn’t see a single other hiker once we were off the main summit trail. I guess everyone else is too sensible to hike on a smokey day.
Still, don’t the trees look eerie and spooky through the smoke?
I especially love the golden lighting from the sun through the smog.
Heading back to Vancouver
It is less than 30 minutes drive from the car-park at Mount Work, down to the ferry at Swartz Bay, so we were on the ferry home by the later afternoon. It just looks a bit later because the smoke blots out the sun.
This is our final view of the islands next to Vancouver island (I think they are called Galiano Island and Mayne Island.) This was not particularly pleasant to breathe, but it looks pretty!
I think the hike up Mount Work would be pretty good on a non smokey day. There is hardly any elevation gain, and the hike itself is really varied with the different areas of the forest. It’s just our visit to Vancouver island as just a teeny bit too smokey for us to enjoy it. I guess we’ll just have to go back!!