Few aspects of trail running are more appealing then swiftly ascending the slopes of a major peak. With each searing breath and lactic acid-laden step you propel yourself heavenward. Peaks represent a very real goal that can be met with awe-inspiring views and a lofty sense of accomplishment. Running trails that lack major prominence may not seem as worthy of a pursuit, but these trails should not be underestimated and can be just as challenging, beautiful, and worthy trails to seek out and run. Perhaps few trails exhibit a merit worthy of comparison with some of the western cordilleran mighty summits then the coastal trails of the
The East Sooke Park Coastal trail is a true jewel tucked away along the southwest corner of
Vancouver Island. Upon exiting your car the trail seems quite tame. A wide gravel path leads between evenly spaced trees in a large grassy meadow. The trail seems to be teaming with hikers and you instantly worry you are going to be crowded. The trail flows into a nice sandy beach and becomes the final destination for many of the people you see parked at the trailhead.The coastal trail then turns abruptly west along the shady southern coast. Giant western red cedars, Douglas firs, and arbutus cast their cool shadows over the rocky path. Ten minutes into the run you approach a petroglyphic panel of unknown age. It appears to be a depiction of a salmon or other sea critter. Once again you lose more weekend warriors on the trail, whose main goal was the panel.
After the petroglyphs the trail begins to become much more challenging. It begins to rise and fall over angular jagged rock formations with intermittent sections of yellow grass-strewn headlands. Running along one of the many headlands in the fresh ocean breeze is beyond words.On the horizon the jagged outline of the Olympics rises out of the azure waters of the
Pacific Ocean. Foamy waves break on the rocky shore below as the gusty breeze blows the salty scent of the sea over the grassy headland. It feels like you are running through a painting as the fall of your feet brush a seascape across a remarkable canvas of stone and grass. Beechy head is perhaps the most prominent of all the view points along the trail and a concrete monolith marks the summit of the whaleback.
The real work of the trail starts after Beechy Head. Few hikers venture beyond this section of trail and it becomes more wild and secluded. The trail takes on a different persona; one of twisted rock and root with abrupt elevation changes. The next major point you run towards is cabin point. This is an old trapper-style cabin like the thousands that once dotted the BC coast during the early part of the last century. The cabin is available for use and is perched on a lonely wind-swept point.
After the cabin, the trail darts north into a large canyon and turns back on itself towards the south, skirting a large rocky hill. The remaining portion of trail continues to ascend and descend rocky coastal slopes. You catch glimpses of large cliffs and watch the full weight of each wave crash at the base, creating a very dramatic effect.
The trail then comes to a lovely little cove and beach, near the
Pike Road access. Many people shuttle cars so that they can hike the trail once and then drive back to the original trailhead.Most hikers take 5-6 hours to do the full trail. As for me I had to turn around and retrace my steps all the way back. I didn’t have time to run the full length of the trail but came close. My family was waiting back at the beginning beach and I was hoping to make it back to them in three hours.
coastal trail is a worthy and difficult trail. Every step must be adjusted for as each foot plant is on uneven rocky or rooty terrain. It becomes a struggle to climb and drop over each large headland only to have to repeat it over and over. Soon the quads ache and the calves beg for a stretch of flat easy running so they can recover. The views almost can’t be beat.This trail is highly recommended but if you are planning on doing the full out and back it could easily take 5 hours so be prepared for a long day on strenuous terrain. East Sooke Park
Week 3 was not as great as I had hoped. I am trying to get a scientific publication in the works which is a time consuming project. I also had family visit which cost me a day of running and school work. I compensated by doubling Wednesdays mileage but many of those miles were on a road which beats me up a little worse then on the trails. Over all I was happy with the 32 miles I achieved but it definitely could have been stronger.