Theo Dombrowski explores popular day hikes and seaside walks on Vancouver Island
Many hikes on Vancouver Island travel through the rainforest to across-the-water views of the Olympic and Coast mountains. Outside of the Victoria area, you’re likely to find “isolation” too.
That’s according to Theo Dombrowski, the author of Popular Day Hikes 4: Vancouver Island and Seaside Walks on Vancouver Island. The 67-year-old retired teacher and artist told the Georgia Straight what also distinguishes island hiking is that you’re almost always “aware of the sea”.
Published this year by Rocky Mountain Books, both of these “entry-level” guidebooks focus on “family-friendly” day trips. All of the featured trails can be reached “fairly easily” by car using paved or well-maintained gravel roads.
“There’s so many hikes on Vancouver Island where you need four-wheel drive, you need keys to get to roads, and the roads are washed out, and all that kind of thing,” Dombrowski said by phone from his home in Nanoose Bay, northwest of Nanaimo.
He considers his two new books to be companion volumes, because they share similar formats but feature different outings. Dombrowski noted that every excursion gets its own map and step-by-step trail description, and there’s lots of colour photos.
Popular Day Hikes 4 is the latest entry in a series of separately authored guides covering Kananaskis Country, the Canadian Rockies, and the Northern Okanagan. It features 35 inland hikes—ranging from easy to strenuous—on central and southern Vancouver Island, including Mount Tzouhalem, Nile Creek, and the lakes of Forbidden Plateau.
One of Dombrowski’s favourites is the Mount Arrowsmith saddle route in “flower season”. That’s a 3.6-kilometre return trip with 544 metres of elevation gain.
“When the flowers are out actually is the end of summer,” Dombrowski said. “They look like spring flowers, but they’re buried under snow most years until the end of the summer.”
Seaside Walks focuses on short trails, with a few longer hikes, on the coast. This book covers central and southern Vancouver Island too, but also includes a couple of trips up north. A few of the walks incorporate sections of the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. There’s 39 excursions in total, plus a section on urban promenades and boardwalks.
“I really wanted to put the emphasis there on people who like walking but by the seaside, often with the option of having a picnic on the beach or walking along the shore for part of it,” Dombrowski said.
The author is particularly fond of the Radar Hill beaches, accessed via an “unofficial trail” in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It’s a two-kilometre round trip.
“It isn’t maintained or anything, so it’s a bit of a struggle getting down through roots and the steep bank and getting to pristine beaches with virtually nobody on them,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski mentioned that he’s concerned by the encroachment of development on hiking areas. His Mount Finlayson write-up in Popular Day Hikes 4 notes the popular trail is “badly infringed on by profit-driven developers”.
“It’s really shocking to see this sort of golf course halfway up the mountain,” Dombrowski said.