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  • Meg Cuthbert

Hiking Bald Mountain or Noodles Shouldn't Be the Only Thing in Your Pack

This is one of my 12 Vancouver Island bucket list hikes for 2019. Checkout the full list here.

Fast Facts

  • Access: Bald Mountain Park, Marble Bay Road

  • Distance: 7.6 kilometres

  • Difficulty: Moderate, the switchbacks take the edge off the incline.

  • Highlights: Massive views over Cowichan Lake

Last month we wrapped up several video projects for a destination client who wanted to educate visitors on how to be prepared for our West coast weather and trails. I interviewed outdoor professionals and guides who discussed the basics: bring an extra layer, check the weather, and know where you’re going. So with that out of mind, Holly, Miranda and I set off confidently to Cowichan Lake to have lunch on top of Bald Mountain.

Cowichan Lake is an iconic summertime destination for lake lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Just outside of Youbou, Bald Mountain is a peninsula of its own, and the trails that switchback up its ridges offers almost 360-degree views throughout the hike. There are several trails in Bald Mountain Park, but the Summit trail is 7.6 kilometres of moderate hiking (roundtrip). The mostly single track trail has many, many switchbacks that help keep the inclines at bay.

The trailside vistas with unhindered lake views really steal the show on this trail. Once you’re about two-thirds of the way up the mountain the trail winds around a ridge offering incredible vistas over Lake Cowichan. The path is an excellent trek for day hikers and trail runners.

That’s the trail. It’s not the trail’s fault what happened to us.

Holly, Miranda and I were headed out on a two-hour trek, hoping that we would find a sweet spot to set up my wee whisper-lite camp stove and cook up some spicy noodz (that’s what the cool kids call spicy instant noodles). My backpack had all the water to cook the noodles, a three-pot cook set, fuel and the stove. Holly had noodles, and Miranda packed us each a high-altitude beer that would pair perfectly with a summit lunch.

Halfway up the mountain, just about the time we started to get hungry, I realised that I had forgotten my lighter, which was a key element to our lunch plans as it would light the stove. We’d gone camping on Malcolm Island the week before and lighter was taken out of my cook kit and not replaced. Luckily, there was a very hip group of hikers ahead of us, we asked them if they had a lighter (which of course they did because they were prepared) and made arrangements to borrow it when we all reached the summit.

The top of Bald Mountain is as its name suggests, quite bald. Very few trees smatter across its otherwise barren dome. So when a light drizzle began we tucked our backpacks under a solitary tree, commented on how none of us brought a raincoat and cheers our well-earned high-altitude beers. Moments later, as I began cooking the noodles, a full downpour unleashed from the sky.

Holly and Miranda tried to shelter themselves against the lonely tree, and I took the rain tarp for my backpack and put it on my head and shoulders (a fashion statement for another time).

The dark clouds had gathered all around us, and there wasn’t a speck of blue in the sky. We quickly cooked the noodles and decided that instead of standing in the rain, it would be better to start hiking down and try to find shelter.

And so, three soaking wet women began their decent while shovelling spicy noodles into their mouths. This particular brand of noodles leaves a bright orange spicy stain on your lips as you eat it -- because we were hiking and eating, we had orange stains all over our faces (as ladies do).

Finally, we found a sheltered place to stop and eat, we were laughing at how stupid we had been when a significant water drop dripped from the tree and into Miranda’s spicy bowl. “Oh god guys, I got spicy nood water in my eye!”

What kind of first aid equipment did we bring that might have helped her? Nothing. Just a little bit of water left in our water bottles and spicy orange stained fingers that couldn’t touch anything. However, Miranda was fine after about 15 minutes of vigorous blinking and sarcastic reassurance. Once we were sure that Miranda wasn’t going to lose her eye, we hiked down the mountain with orange stained faces and soaking wet sweaters without another incident. Well done us.

Overall we had a really great hike, and I’d love to hike it again. It might become a staple in my local hike lists. Lessons learned? Noodles shouldn’t be the most important item in your pack.

Things We Didn't Have With Us

  • Raingear

  • Extra Layer

  • Lighter/fire starter

  • First Aid Kit

  • 10 Essentials

Other Vancouver Island Hikes (all of which I was more prepared for)

And just for fun, here's another weird adventure with Miranda and Holly.


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