Mount Tzhouhalem: Mad Dog Hemingway

In Activity, Clubs, Cowichan Valley Regional District, Family, Hiking, Island Mountain Ramblers by ExploringtonLeave a Comment

Dear Hemingway,

Every day you do something that makes me pause and think, Dang, how did he figure that out? But what you managed to accomplish on May 12th blows my mind! At not quite five years old, you successfully finished your first hike to the summit of a mountain, Mount Tzouhalem.

The success isn’t reaching the top of a mountain, in fact, you’ve done that many times and have already been to the cross on Mount Tzouhalem before. But that first time, I carried you in a backpack, and I was doing all the work! This time, Octavia mounted your old saddle, leaving you to muster the energy to hike Mad Dog Trail from Genoa Bay, up the toe of the ridge, along its length to the cross, and back!

Total Distance: 10.2 km
Starting Elevation: 25 m
Maximum Elevation: 491 m
Elevation Gain: 612 m
Time: 6 h 15 m

It was a bluebird day, and the sun glared off the water, pushing heat and humidity up the slopes we walked. We missed out on most of the April flowers, but we still managed to spot some Death Camas, Camas Lilies, and a few Shooting Stars, as well as a wide variety of other trees and plants. You took interest in exploring some young arbutus trees, rubbing your hands between the smooth skin and flaking bark and asking so many questions – after a few minutes, I reluctantly pulled you along.

We are working on your stamina and building up to some big camping trips in the Island Alpine. I know your preschool class has been going on long nature walks, but that’s very different from traditional hiking. Our goal for the day was to see what you are capable of doing; I came ready to turn around at any time. I’m more interested in you developing a love of nature than in pursuing my own agenda. It took only a little cookie encouragement to keep your spirits up.

We took our time getting to the top of the ridge, the most challenging part of the day. We paused frequently to rest, inspect bugs, climb the big rocks on the hill, and simply look out across the bay. For me, the highlight was when the skitter of dried leaves led to spotting a Northwestern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea principis) on the ground. It hung around just long enough for us to get a fleeting glimpse, but no chance for a photograph (two types of lizard sightings for us in one month!). Once we gained the upper ridge, we moved a bit quicker, but it still took us nearly four hours to get to the cross.

You were famished by the time we got there, and devoured what was left of your lunch. While I sat in the shade with Octavia, Brett, and Merritt, you sat out on the rock where you could watch the valley below. I wonder, did you see the hawk soaring below us? After you finished your lunch and tired yourself out climbing the rocks, we headed for home.

You never complained on the trip, and it wasn’t until we were three-quarters of the way back to the Jeep that you asked how much farther. As we descended the steep slopes, the dry soil acted like marbles, causing your feet to frequently slip out below you. You asked me to hold your hand to help you, which is impressive too.

When I checked our data at the end of the day, I was shocked: 10.5 km and 750 m elevation gain. I know many adults who can’t do that! When we wrote in our journal the next day, you asked me to fill one whole page with the words, “It was hard and hot.”

I love you, Hemingway!

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Matthew is an adventure blogger and photographer. He documents his adventures on His stories create a vivid backdrop that give his photographs cotext. He finds his adventures with the Island Mountain Ramblers, and whenever possible, his family joins his adventures.

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