One thing I have learned in my few years of hiking is that successful ascents and descents depend so much on balance. And balance, my friends, requires more than just coordination: it requires a hearty dose of confidence, too.
I am not the world’s most graceful person, but I generally have the coordination thing down pat. (Sure, there are moments when I am awkward and gangly, but for the most part, I have not suffered from a terrible lack of coordination in my life.) It’s the confidence thing that needs a bit of boosting.
You see, I am AOK scrambling up a mountain like a stealthy alpine feline, but when it comes to heading back down said mountain, I’m more like a kitten who’s caught up in the branches of a proverbial tree, mewing for somebody to please come help me.
It’s a nasty cycle now, because lately, when I scramble up over mossy rocks to reach a summit somewhere, in the back of my mind I start to think “I have to come back down here“, and then my nerve wavers, and then my balance gets thrown off course, and then before you know it, I am flailing dangerously on the side of a mountain, shedding a few tears, and generally letting fear take over my good time. It’s getting better with the more hikes I do, but the descents are a constant piece of learning for me.
So yes, while we were up in Cowichan, we also hiked the Orange and Pink trails on the glorious Maple Mountain in Maple Bay, just north of Duncan proper. (And, oh my gosh, while looking for a pdf link to the hike, I just stumbled upon an actual topographical map of the mountain! Be still, my beating heart!) We decided to hike the steeper trails to get access to some of the summit views of the Sansum Narrows, but this (of course) involved hiking back down at some point.
I was mostly OK hiking up the mountain. The trailhead to the Orange Trail was sketchy (the sign had been barrelled down, possibly by a mild mud slide, and there was muck and slippery rocks everywhere), but once we got past the first 20 feet, we were in the thick of a beautiful mossy forest.
Once again, it was very foggy that day, so while we were still below the tree line on the hike, we were treated to an enchanting scene of white mist, lush green moss, and stunning rays of sunshine that were trying to peek through the branches of the ancient trees.
The Orange Trail was hard, no doubt. There were some very steep ascents– the kind where you have to lean forward just to stay somewhat upright, but even that slight lean forward brings your nose to a wall of ground in front of your face. My confidence was shaken a few times as we climbed higher, because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine myself coming back down the same route.
But the views from near the top– oh my goodness- the views!! We couldn’t see any Narrows whatsoever underneath the blanket of cloud and fog. We also couldn’t see the town of Maple Bay or the City of Duncan– it was just mountains and other gulf islands peeking out from white pillows beneath us. Marty was over the moon with excitement and appreciation, and his over-the-top savouring of the views made my experience that much more enjoyable!
We climbed and climbed some more on the Orange Trail, until once again, it was nearing 3:30 pm and I started to worry about the sun setting (blasted Daylight Savings Time!!). Our guidebook had given an estimate of 2 hours to hike the trail one way, but it had already taken us over 3 hours (blasted crappy guidebook!). I was concerned that we would be stuck trying to descend in the darkness, and knowing my tendency to ahem, suck at climbing down, I was itching to turn back.
We decided not to go back down the same way we came up, mostly because we had had enough of the Orange Trail by the time we reached the (rather anticlimatic) summit. (There was a giant radio tower at the top but not the best views, so overall, it won’t be necessary to summit when we go back and try a different trail.) We proceeded down the Pink Trail instead, and yes, it was rather steep.
I’m happy that we didn’t have to come up the Pink Trail, because that would have been a killer cardio workout. It was hard enough scrambling down (straight down, it felt like), but I got through the descent by trying to be thankful I was headed in the down direction and not up in the worst sections.
We ended up having to walk a bit on the road at the very end to connect back to our van, but overall, it was a great hike and definitely worth the 2 tears I cried to make it to the top and back down again. (I literally cried one tear out of each eye and that was it, so that’s an improvement!)