John Stick Peak, Malcolm Mountain, Plateau Peak and Mt. Braden - January 18, 2021

With the COVID-19 travel restrictions still in place for the foreseeable future, Megan and I decided to find another hike in our backyard to keep ourselves occupied this past weekend. We decided on a hike that would take us through the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park.


The parking for this particular hike was nothing more than a small pullout on the side of highway 14, and since it only fits two cars and we arrived later in the day, it was full when we arrived. This caused us to move on to the new larger parking lot just over a kilometer down the highway. While this would add to our hike we weren't overly concerned about this. After we parked, instead of heading up the hill with the large amount of people out for a hike, we instead headed towards the highway, ducking onto the remnants of the old Sooke Flowline. This large concrete pipe is placed along public land and allowed us to cover the 1 km from the parking lot to the original trailhead with ease. It does have a fair bit of moss on it and can be slippery if you're not careful.


Megan patiently posing for a photo as we walked along the Sooke Flowline

After a nice easy warmup on the flowline, we found our trail and followed it into the woods. This section was an old access road and was just as easy as the flowline to follow. A few hundred meters up the access road, we came to a junction and checked our map to confirm our trail before turning up the trail that would allow us to finally gain some elevation. The trail steadily rose at a gentle pace until we came out of the forest into a clearing and got a look at our objectives for the day. Once in the clearing we began to gain elevation at a quicker rate and soon it appeared we were about to reach our first peak. Much to our disappointment however, we found out that this was not actually our first stop and instead we were still about 30m below it. To reach the actual summit we would have to descend a steep trail 40m back into a valley before going right back up again to the peak. After some minor grumbling we headed down and up again and finally reached our first break.



Looking back up as Megan begins to descend the steep hill down from the false summit


Ten minutes after reaching the top of John Stick Peak, with our stomachs filled with some trail mix and all the necessary photos taken, we headed off for Malcolm Mountain. This required us to again climb down a small valley before heading right back up again. From this point forward we were following a route that I had taken a few weeks before and it was very interesting noting all the things you miss the first time around. Many different plants and rock formations caught my eye and I found myself wondering how I missed them only weeks earlier.


A small sign and caption posted at the top of John Stick Peak

The view from our first summit


Once we arrived at the peak of Malcolm Mountain we didn't stay for too long as it had only taken a short time to get there and due to its close proximity to the first peak, the views were almost identical. We started heading west t0wards the next point on our agenda, which had only just come into view. On our way down, realizing that it had been quite a while since we ate, and that all we brought was trail mix and a few granola bars, the discussion was raised as to whether or not we kept going up the next peak. We were quickly approaching a point where we could easily turn back towards the car and be headed home in under an hour. Megan agreed that we had come this far, we may as well carry on, and although we didn't have much for a lunch, we did have enough to tide us over.


Access road in the valley between peaks 2 and 3

At the bottom of the 200m descent, a well maintained logging road led the way to our

next portion of trail. At this point we were deviating from trails I had hiked before, looking for new interesting spots. We walked down the logging road, engaged in conversation when we suddenly spotted a small piece of flagging tape marking our entry back into the woods. As we followed the tape, it became apparent that once again I was leading us on an unexpected adventure. I always have quite a habit of trying to find the route less travelled, but this typically ends in me bushwacking through the forest, wishing I had followed a previous hikers recording. Megan put up with my "Adventuring" with great spirit and soon enough we were headed up a steep rock face towards the trail I had navigated weeks before. Once we had linked up with the well maintained and easy to follow trail, our pace increased dramatically and we were soon standing on top of Plateau Peak, which is about as clear a description as i could ever imagine for it. Although it was rather lackluster, we gained motivation knowing that this was the second to last stop of the trip. We took a few quick snaps and headed back to the trail to carry on to our final objective.

A small trail on the side of the mountain taking us back from my detour to the main route
Megan snapped a quick photo as I looked out from Plateau Peak


With our stomachs encouraging us to wrap up the trip, we followed the path to a valley that only weeks before had been the source of a raging river, but today was silent. A windstorm a few days earlier had destroyed the trail and trees were laying down everywhere, but it was easy enough to navigate around them and back up to Mt. Braden. Our topographic map showed us at the summit so we stopped at took some pictures of the view that only allowed us to see 30m in any direction before being obscured by trees. Disappointed with how terrible the view was on the final leg of the trip, I vowed to do this part first next time so as to end on a nice open summit. After cursing myself for getting my hopes up, we carried on the trail that would lead us down the mountain, only to discover to our surprise that we still had to summit the actual peak of Mt. Braden. The new viewpoint we found ourselves at opened up to 360 degree views of Sooke and we stopped for quite a while to revel in the beauty.



The cairn we originally thought marked the top of Mt.Braden


Megan posing at the actual peak


Now that we had ticked off the fourth peak of the day, it was time to head back to the vehicle. I took a good look at the route back to the car and realized that due to our different parking location, there was a chance to make the trip into a complete loop without having to double back on any of our trails from earlier in the day. Not only was this a plus but it actually saved us about a kilometer off the total distance of the hike. We decided on the best route and followed the well marked, highly travelled path back to the Veitch Carriageway. This part of the trail is a wide, well maintained access road turned trail, and we passed several groups heading both to and from the parking lot. We covered the last 3 kilometers quickly and within an hour we were back at the car headed to reward ourselves with a relaxing night of pizza and movies on the couch.

Stats:

Distance: 13.54 km

Elevation Gain: 794 m

Highest Elevation: 476m

Time: 4 hours 24 minutes








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