Dear Hemingway and Octavia,
Over that past few years, I’ve been working steadily towards completing my Island Alpine Quest. Even through the winters, I’ve reached objectives that started on remote sections of highway or plowed industrial roads, but this winter will be the first in a long while where I won’t be doing that; at least, not as much. Already, Phil and I have picked off the low hanging fruit. The peaks that remain require ascents in specific months –sometimes season– or require multiday trips. That means this winter will be spent revisiting some of my favourite areas and exploring less remote, local locations. The good news for you two, I’ll be dragging you with me! I hope you’re ready for some chilly snowshoe trips– hot chocolate will be mandatory!
As of Sunday, 29 November 2019, Mount Benson was still green on top as the chilly winter didn’t set in until late December. It was a perfect day for our family’s first trip to the summit of Mount Benson. I was sure that Hemingway would be able to do it because we’ve made far more intense trips already, but I knew it would be a challenge to get Octavia and mom to the summit.
Of note, Octavia, you’ve asked me about the mountain many times as we drive down the highway, or when paddling in the bay, so I knew this trip would leave an impression on you. And I was right! Every day for months after, whenever you spotted Mount Benson, you would point it out with pride.
I hosted the event as an Island Mountain Ramblers hiking trip with a very easy pace. I estimated between 4.5 and 6 hours for the return trip (660 metres and 7.5 km), and the more leisurely pace enticed several members to join us. In fact, this is why mom was convinced to join. I don’t think she’s been on a mountain trip for two years! For mom, the hike would be a leg-burner! By the time we reached the trailhead, the group size was 10 people.
The dull grey skies reeked of the sunshine to come, but the forecast wasn’t so promising. Under the forest canopy in the shade of the trees, the air was cold, but the climb kept us warm. Octavia held my hand as we walked—she made it all the way to the old service road before she needed to be carried! I helped you over the more significant obstacles and up the slippery sections, but you made it farther than I thought you would. Hemingway, your biggest challenge was finding someone to listen to your terrible jokes! There’s only so many “pooped on your head” jokes a group of people can take –that number is one—before they’ve heard enough. I’m sure it was more to do with needing a snack than being denied the ability to tell your jokes, but you were in tears over it.
We reached the summit around noon. Octavia, who was riding on my shoulders, was starting to fall asleep. I could feel the startle reflex kick in every time you began to nod off. Just below the crest of the summit, I put you down to walk the last few minutes to the summit. It was great timing on our part to have lunch on the breezy summit.
You both marvelled at the view. Octavia, you excitedly explained that you could see the “whole buildings and even my house.” You’ve been on higher mountains, but you were probably too young to remember, and it was great to see your reaction to the view stretched out below us. The real highlight of the day was the whisky jacks. The thieves were about as we ate our lunch, and you inadvertently shared your nuts with them.
By the time we reached the car, we had been walking for 5.5 hours. You were both exhausted, and it was tough to keep you awake for the fifteen-minute ride home.
I’m proud that you both toughed out the day. Hemingway, particularly, you didn’t complain at all about it being too hard, at least not while we were on the way up. We have a lot of adventures coming this winter, and I’m looking forward to getting out with you.