The view at Mary Vine Lower falls.

Take a hike with JDF Parks

There’s a new, organized hiking program — complete with guides — coming to town.

Britt Santowski

Sooke News Mirror

There’s a new, organized hiking program — complete with guides — coming to town. These monthly hikes will be rigorous and informative, and ideal for anyone in good health who would like to explore the rugged terrain of our beautiful region.

The hiking program is offered jointly by the Juan de Fuca (JDF) Electoral Area Parks and Recreation Commission (herein after referred to as JDF Parks) and the JDF Community Trails Society (hereinafter referred to as Community Trails Society).

Besides promoting healthy living, community, the purpose of the program is to offer monthly hikes matched to the season. The actual number of hikes will depend on the availability of volunteers.

WHO’S WHO

JDF Parks is an administrative, volunteer-driven service that acquires, develops, maintains and operates all of the community parks in JDF electoral area.

The Community Trails Society is a group of hikers who go for vigorous leaderless monthly hikes. They also educate, promote best-practices for stewardship of trails, and advocate politically ensuring that green-ways are incorporated into community development plans.

Volunteers needed

The hikes will be led by volunteers, who are experienced hikers who are trained in navigation and first aid. They are also incredibly knowledgeable about each hiking trail and will be able to impart wisdom on plants, animals, landscape, or history of the hiking trail. They might also be able to share the finer points of navigation by map, compass or GPS.

Sid Jorna, the President of the Community Trails Society adds on their website (jdfcommunitytrails.ca/communityhiking.htm), “For this program to work we need members who will sign up as hike leaders. As hike leaders they would be registered as CRD Volunteers and be covered by CRD Liability Insurance. Hike leaders would also be trained in the hike and in basic first aid. The hike would be outfitted with a backpack of basic supplies such as first aid Kit. In return the hike leader would commit to executing the hike at the time it is scheduled. If 12 leaders step forward, the obligation would be for one standard hike per year. If you wish, you can sign up for more than one standard hikes.”

Monthly guided hikes

These guided hikes will be offered on the second Saturday of every month, beginning on April 13. Over the next three months, the following hikes are offered:

Sooke Potholes Regional Park Flower Ridge hike (4 Hours)

Charters Creek Sooke Mountain Park (4 Hours)

Priest Cabin Park to the Matterhorn (4-6 Hrs)

All hikes leave from the William Simmons Memorial (out on Otter Point Rd by the business park) park at 9 a.m. Hikes are free, but contributions are welcome. On a scale from one to five, the recreational hikes range at about a level three.

“They are not wussy hikes” forewarns Jorna. Come prepared with the right gear and the right equipment. If you show up wearing sandals, you may well get turned away.

Want something more intense?

If you want an increased hiking challenge, you are also invited to join the Community Trails Society. They go on hikes on the first Saturday of every month. Their next scheduled hike (April 6) is the Wonder Trail hike. As outlined on Upcoming Events on their website (jdfcommunitytrails.ca), they will “meet at the CRD parking lot at the end of Harbourview Rd at 9 a.m. for an exploration of the Wonder Trail towards Glintz Lake.” Be forewarned: this is a five to six hour hike on forest trails. Dress appropriately, and bring food and water.

This group is passionate about hiking. They have been doing it for six years now, and the turnouts for hikes these days sometimes can be as many as 20 people.

Past hike destinations have included Mount Manuel Quimper, Thetis Lake, Matheson Lake, Sooke Potholes, Windy Bluff at Camp Thunderbird, Owl Trail, Grassy Lake and the JDF Marine Trail (from Parkinson Cove to Sombrio) to name a few.

These leaderless group hikes are announced a month before each hike on their website. All hikes will be equipped with GPS, rescue beacon and a first aid kit.

For more information on this particular group, visit their website at jdfcommunitytrails.ca.

UNDERSTANDING THE SCALE of difficulty

Level 1: Easy and accessible by all.

Level 2: Maintained trails with stairs and boardwalks.

Level 3: A walking trail for individuals in good physical condition and an above-average level of fitness. There may be steep climbs, and footing may be treacherous in wet conditions.

Level 4: These trails are for fit and seasoned hikers. Some of the trail may cover treacherous terrain and may include rope climbs for steep, slippery slopes.

Level 5: Challenging trails for the adventurous, experienced, very fit and well-equipped hiker. Steep climbs and difficult terrain are par for the course.

Safety first!

A big part of hiking, as with any other extracurricular activity in life, is being prepared. Dress for the weather. If you’re going for a longer hike, dress for the changes in the weather. Wear appropriate hiking boots. Bring water. Bring food. And tell someone where you are going.

Even if you are going with a group, it is a good idea to let someone else know where you are headed, where you will be parking your vehicle, and what time you plan to return.

If you come inappropriately dressed, you may get turned away. Since this group advocates safety, they ensure responsible hiking from the get-go.

Jorna sums up the hikes with the more intense Community Trails Society: “You just can’t send people into the wilderness. We [at the Community Trails Society] don’t do any formal training, but you will be hiking with a group of people who have a wealth of experience among them. Learning will be inevitable.”

For guided hikes that include formal training under the tutelage of a certified guide, consider those offered by the JDF Parks.

Where-ever you hike, be prepared, hike at your level, and tell someone where you are going. The wilderness is beautiful. You’ll want to make it back to tell someone about it.

FREE WALKS AND HIKES IN SOOKE

Level 1: For the casual walker, SEAPARC offers free community adult walks (16+) Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 to 11 a.m.

Level 2/3: For the more energetic and fit hiker, the guided and informative hikes offered through the new Recreational Hiking Program. This group meets on the second Saturday of every month.

Level 4/5: Want something more intense? These leaderless group hikes offered by the Community Trails Society might be the right fit. This group meets on the first Saturday of every month.