On Saturday Nov 20 Peggy and Roger Taylor led seven intrepid adventurers on a counter-clockwise exploration of the Mt. McDonald area in the east Sooke Hills. The day was lovely - sunshine, big trees, ocean vistas, green forests, mossy balds, arbutus and manzanita galore. If you’ve not spent any time in the Sooke Hills I can tell you the area punches above its weight in terms of both views and fun!
Taking a modified “bag-em-all” approach to the high points on offer we started off ascending via the north side of McDonald leaving right from the Mt. Wells Parking Lot. With stops for views on Mystery Bump we were soon up to the first local maximum on this roller-coastery route. The first high point west of the McDonald summit (aka Primus) gives excellent views of the western Sooke Hills - Quimper, Thunderbird, Ragged, Braden - and more - lay out in front of the hiker.
From Primus it was a minor bushwhack down to join the main trail to John Peak (aka Stick Bump). Here the views really stretch out. We lunched - fresh shortbread cookies - just baked that morning were consumed with gusto by all.
Lunch stop on John Peak
Next it was off to Martin’s Boulder via Alan’s Ledge for boulder preening - you climb it - you get to preen.
Boulder preening: Roger, Christine, and Mike
Then down and through the Arroyo de la Muerte (Note) to the western slopes of Neal. From here it was up to the top through wonderful examples of arbutus trees existing in implausible spots. We even saw leaves and nascent buds of the first early saxifrage on warm and well protected SW exposures.
Next on the order paper - a trip to Photo Boulder on the western slopes of McDonald proper. Messing around with boulders was enjoyed by all - even if they didn’t hump on up!
Peggy (resting), Christine, Roger (the booter), Mike (the bootee), me, and Rachel
More boulder fun as we tagged the top of McDonald and headed down via a cliff side trail - new to me - that headed northward. Lots of interesting cliff-side exploration here - this little traveled route should be a riot of wildflowers come the spring. We soon hit the main trail down to the parking lot and the end of our outing.
The day finished with some cold-water therapy (I’ll spare you the photos!) for a few of the team.
I like to think I know the Sooke Hills pretty well, but the route down from McDonald was a “lifer” for me. What a treat to end the day on something new with such a fun crew. Thanks to everyone - especially Peggy and Roger - for organizing and participating in a grand day out in the Sooke Hills.
At Alan’s Ledge south of John Peak summit. L-R: Christine, Roger (in the tree), Rachel, Mike, Mary, Dave (behind the tree), Peggy, and Ken
Note: I call it Arroyo de la Muerte because on a particularly hot and sweaty day last summer I tumbled off the side of this gulch and rolled in dirt, dust, and wild rose prickles. It took forever to get the sweat-caked dirt out of my scrapes - and, I was picking prickles for a week. I’ve looked askance at this little short cut ever since. But really - it’s easy-peasy - just don’t trip!