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Mount Work is a lot of work

Cindy at the summit of Mount Work.

Cindy at the summit of Mount Work, on the Saanich Peninsula at Vancouver Island.

On Saturday, Cindy and I went for our second hike at Gowlland Tod Regional Park. We made the 15km drive out with our friend Renee several weeks ago to hike down to the water at Mackenzie Bight. This time we were heading up, to the summit of Mount Work.

The summit is only 450m (1500 ft) above sea level and they spot you the first 100m, but that's a lot of up for this prairie boy & city walker. We started brightly enough, with a wide gravel trail, but as it turned and headed up, the trail narrowed and got a lot rougher.

The first third of the trail was a steep uphill with lots of tree roots and loose rocks to navigate. We went as fast as our legs and lungs could carry us; definitely in the slow and steady category. We were passed by half a dozen hiking couples, usually with dogs in tow. But we persevered.

The forest was lovely. Firs and ferns, arbutus and birdsong. As we climbed we got glimpses of the surrounding hills. It was a cool, cloudy day with a light drizzle falling. Enough to make the roots and rocks slightly slick, but the drizzle felt good compared in the high humidity. It was quite muggy without it.

Around 40 minutes from the trailhead, the path levelled out and we hit a relatively flat patch. It was great to be able to take a few full strides. There were even some lookouts, but we weren't anywhere near the summit yet. It was just a breather before the real climbing started.

The final third of the hike got quite a bit steeper and the tree roots were replaced by bare rock. The combination of smooth rocks without any obvious footholds and their slickness from the drizzle made trailfinding tricky. But we weren't the first folks to experience this; yellow trail blazes guided us up and up.

arbutus tree

A small arbutus tree at greeted us at the summit. Arbutus are one of my favourite trees!

Just over 75 minutes from the car, we made the summit. At least that's what the sign said. The views were pretty awesome, even as we peeked out around the trees. To the east, we could see Swartz Bay and watched a ferry make its way toward Salt Spring Island on the way to Vancouver. And to the west, we looked across the inlet to the Malahat.

We didn't stay long; the wind was picking up and the rain started to fall more heavily. So we ate a couple of cookies and started back down. The descent was a challenge - my knees and quads moan much more on the way down. But we slowly picked our way down until the flat section at the midpoint and things got easier. I only had to come down one rock on my butt and I count that as a victory. And I'm no longer thinking about the trail runners who blew past us like mountain goats with a deadline.

The Mount Work hike is listed as moderate in Cindy's trail app, but I think they have a very wide range for "moderate." I'd put it on the more difficult end of moderate spectrum. It was pretty much at the limit of what I'm able to tackle these days, but there was nothing impossible if I stayed patient. And after a day of recovery, my knees aren't screaming at me any more.

I'd definitely do this hike again, except there are so many more to do in the area, so a return to Work will have to wait.

If you do this hike, let me know what you think!