Hiking Lone Cone Mountain, Meares Island (Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino)

Well, we’re doing a lot more hiking than running these days. Partly the cold weather and the snow, and partly Dave and I are still recovering from our recent races: not pushing our legs too hard just yet. He and I got out on a few short hikes in the snow last week. But yesterday I did a great one with some friends near Tofino: Lone Cone mountain on Meares Island!

April and Malcolm (both of whom I ran the Victoria Marathon and Shawnigan Half with in October) and

View of Lone Cone from the Tofino docks

I had all decided to head out to Tofino for Oysterfest. April suggested: Why don’t we hike Lone Cone while we are there?

 So I arranged our boat transport out to Meares Island with my good friend, Tla-o-qui-aht canoe-carver and wilderness guide, Joe Martin. The Lone Cone trail is now a usually publicly accessible trail – it is on Tla-o-qui-aht land, and it is respectful to request permission from Tla-o-qui-aht before going there. So, although there are other boat operators who will drop you off there, I definitely prefer to go through Joe.

November is not the best time of year to go hiking on the west coast – days are short (sunset is around 4:30) and the normal November weather is gale-force winds and buckets of horizontal rain. But this week had been unusual – hail and snow, and consistent sub-zero temperatures that kept it from melting. And then Saturday morning dawned crisp and clear: sunshine!

The boat ride over, Meares Island in background. Can you believe this is mid-November?

Hail frozen into the puddles.

We met  Joe at the First Street dock – with its beautiful views of Lone Cone across Tofino Harbour – still blown away be how lucky we were with the weather. My Tofino friend Paul joined us too, so we were four for the hike. We started from the trailhead at the dock on Meares at 11:15.

The first section of the trail – first a gravel road, then a winding path through the forest – was flat, but actually very difficult to walk. The hail that had fallen earlier that week had frozen into sheets on all of the puddles in the flats. In some places it was very slick, and in others we were breaking through the ice into thick black rainforest mud. We wondered: if it’s this slippery on the flats, at the bottom, how is it going to be for the climb? Lone Cone is 725 m high – we had a lot of climbing ahead!

But once the trail started to rise, we got out of the boggier ground, so there was not more ice. There were slippery roots across the trail, and in some sections lots of trees had come down that we had to climb or slide over, but in general the trail was quite good. As we got higher, we got above the zone where things had melted and refrozen, so the snow was soft and the footing was actually great! The trail got steeper and steeper – but it was just so pretty!

The bottom flat section was by far the most slippery - ice on everything.

Then through the big cedars that CLayoquot is famous for - above the ice, below the snow.

Paul, as we all stop for a quick breather on the climb.

More snow as we got higher - but the footing here was actually really good.

Me, on the way up.

We made the summit in about 2:15, never going very fast but moving at a steady pace. What a view! So of course we did what hikers must do in situations like that – snapped pix from the top, and tweeted/facebooked/instagrammed/texted them to everyone who matters to us.

Then we paused to actually take in the experience ourselves.

Fantastic! – a south-facing rock ledge that, even though blanketed in snow, was warm with the double-sunlight we were receiving: pouring down from the sky and also reflecting up from the ocean. And the view… nearly 180 degrees of Clayoquot Sound, islands and bays and the village of Tofino and Long Beach – and beyond it all, the sparkling open Pacific.

Whoa! Now is that a view or what???

Lunch break up there in the sun, watching bald eagles soar BELOW us.

We were a little under 2 hours coming down, and met Joe for the chilly ride back to Tofino just as the sun touched the western horizon, casting a pink glow over us and over the mountains behind us.

Last moments of sunlight, Lone Cone behind us... hard to believe we were just up there!

Clear, sunny and windless days in Clayoquot are so few and precious. To get one like this in November, and with the snow as well, was just so unexpected. The four of us are still on a high after such an amazing day.

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