I’ve hiked stage one of the Alberni Inlet trail many times. I’ve hiked to the first lookout that looks over at Mount Arrowsmith and the one that looks northward over Port Alberni and the Beauforts, as well as the first one that overlooks the inlet. I’ve hiked to the old mining cabin on Mount Hankin (or Copper Mountain) too. I’ve hiked from the other end as well, from the China Creek trailhead. But for one reason or another I had never hiked the whole stage. I decided to change that this summer.
So I called up my friend, Jim, and invited him to do it with me. After the usual rigmarole of dropping a vehicle at one end, we started around 10 a.m. at the China Creek Marina Trailhead and headed northward.
The first part of our hike was quite fabulous. We hiked through some big old forest that slopes steeply into China Creek. The forest is quite lush with ferns, berry bushes and moss dominating the understory. After hiking over two ridges we descended to the creek itself where there are three aluminum bridges that led across the creek bed. The last one spans the main stem just above an incredible pool where one can’t help but pause a while to admire the clarity of the waters, the colours of the rock at the bottom of the creek and the big old trees that surround it. It’s definitely worth a photo or two.
After that the trail starts back up the other side to the industrial road that leads to the China Creek Log Dump, crosses it, and continues up the other side. The trail is not used much at this end, so at times it is possible to momentarily lose the trail. As we climbed, we came across several recent clearcuts, interspersed with patches of the older forest. The hillside became very dry with Lodgepole Pine and Arbutus competing with Douglas Fir for dominance. There were lots of rocky bluffs at times allowing great views of the inlet. We were glad our water bottles were full.
The trail eventually led down to a small gravel beach where we had lunch. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent trekking up and down a series of steep ridges. There are a couple of spots where the trail builders have provided ropes and cables to grab on to. There were a lot of old arbutus leaves on the trail. To my surprise, I found out that they are very slippery. I found myself on the ground twice. On the way we passed the remnants of an old telegraph line that went between Bamfield and Port Alberni, now long since abandoned. And we passed what is called the Old Scout Cabin. It’s a ramshackle affair. You could get away with spreading a tarp over what’s left of the roof as an emergency shelter. But it would be breezy.
From the cabin, the next part of the hike was all uphill on the shoulders of Mount Hankin. By then we had realized that we were a little behind schedule. And the climbing we had already done was taking a toll on our legs. It was a slow 300-metre climb.
But once at the top, it was all downhill from there to the trailhead at the end of Anderson Road. On the way down there is a short length of trail that looks like it was built long ago. I like to think that it was built as a horse-trail by the miners, who worked claims in the area back in the 19th century.
When we finally got back, we realized that the hike had taken us eight hours—two more hours than the time estimate given on brochures. And we were bushed. That gave me pause. We did spend some time looking at birds. Our pace was quite relaxed at first. But also it may have been because we were both on the senior side of 60. But I also realized that it may be because of all the up and down. My GPS app told me that we had gone up and down more than a thousand metres that day. That’s comparable to climbing Mount Arrowsmith using the Judge’s Route.
Suffice to say, mission accomplished. It was well worth it. And this fall, I think I’ll be signing up for Boot Camp at the Echo Centre to make sure I’m getting enough exercise!