When it comes to getting outdoors, especially on social media, there can feel like there is an implied notion that it has to be epic or some big adventure. I have shared in my messaging that I personally believe being outside and staying active is the goal. Immersing yourself in nature, connecting ourselves to the energy it provides and benefiting from being active is more than enough. The reason I bring this up is because a friend took exploring his backyard and the Sooke Hills to a whole new level.
Hiker and friend Ben Puszka this summer has just accomplished his goal of reaching the top of every single named mountain and high point in the Sooke Hills. Ben shared this on a local facebook page we are both part of and the story really inspired me. The positivity of the everyday adventure was something I wanted to share with you all here.
I now turn you over to Ben and his reflection on standing on 48 “peaks” of the Sooke Hills from over 3 years of hikes. Please enjoy his story below.
Sooke Hills Wandering – The Everday Adventure
The Sooke Hills holds a lot more than most people will ever realize when it comes to exploring opportunities. I myself spent years hiking and running up Mount Braden over and over again. Sometimes I would think to myself “I wonder where all these other trails go?” Fast forward a few years and I’ve developed a vast knowledge of those trails that span many kilometres of the
Sea-to-Sea Regional Park and Sooke Mountain Provincial Park. These two parks as well as the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park make up what most people refer to as the Sooke Hills; a collection of rivers, creeks, lakes, mountains and hills overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca just west of Victoria.
It was fall 2017 when a friend of mine invited me on a hike he had recently discovered. We entered the Sooke Hills at a location I had never been before, in fact at the time I was still clueless to the fact the these trails all connected from Sooke Potholes all the way to the ever popular Mount Wells. That day was quite an adventure We travelled over two summits and came
across two lakes, which I frequently visit still, and even got lost on the way out due to some very overgrown trails. That did it though… I was hooked on the hills. I downloaded a GPS app on my phone and scrolled in wonder at the absolute maze of trails, it was very overwhelming at first.
For a couple years after that I spent my time hiking the tallest summits or ones I had heard had great views. I camped at the lakes multiple times and visited Mount Empress in every season, even in a blizzard! It actually wasn’t until June 2019 that I had the thought to count up how many summits I had done in the hills. My total was 20 if I recall. I then counted up the summits, 48, I was almost halfway to finishing them all! Just over a year later on July of 2020 I stood on top of the final peak, Sooke Mountain.
The number of summits is obviously up for debate but my criteria was any named summits on my GPS app (Gaia) North of Sooke road and East of Sooke River.
My personal challenge was a blast to accomplish looking back on it. I did the majority of them solo but returned to some of the better ones with friends and family. My dog even has a total of 18 Sooke summits! …yes I kept track… I love statistics. I learned a lot in regards to hiking as well. Route finding was needed for a handful of the ones that have no trail. Even some that do have trails I would come to find that said trail had been completely overgrown and that’s how I learned that bushwacking isn’t as fun as it seemed as a kid.
When it came to some of the summits that were less than remarkable, I still found myself immensely enjoying it because it usually meant I’d be in an area I hadn’t explored before and I always seemed to come across something new. I also love to pay attention to the little things while out in the woods. I’m constantly looking for animal tracks or just listening for odd sounds in the woods. The beauty of it though is that I’m not even close to seeing all there is to see out there, and even areas that I’ve been to before look different with each season. In fact the one week a year that Victoria actually gets some snowfall I always try and make it out that way for a hike.
To be clear I don’t always hike in the Sooke Hills. I, like many a hiker on this beautiful island, head to Strathcona Provincial Park in the warmer months with longer days. To conquer bigger summits and admittedly take in more spectacular views than can be found on the south island. However the 3+ hour drive just isn’t always feasible. Which is why the Sooke Hills draws my attention so much. It’s only a half hour drive from my house to the nearest trailhead where I can be immersed in dense forest and beautiful scenery on trails that see little to moderate foot traffic.
There are some real hidden gems to be discovered back in the hills and the CRD is in the process of putting in a new parking lot and plenty more signage for the trail. I have mixed feeling on parking lots and more access but I’m sure in the long run it’ll be beneficial to the protection of the Hills.
Why am I sharing my story here with Chris on his blog? It is because I want to let others know you really don’t need to drive hours and suffer up a 1000 meters of elevation to get in a good day of hiking. In the Sooke Hills you can easily come up with a 15k+ route with multiple summits and be home within an hour of finishing. Sooke Hills Wandering – The Everyday Adventure.
I’d just like to add that when I was really getting into to hiking and photography, Chris was one of my first “instagram idols” and now I’m on his blog?! Who would have thought! Thanks reading my Sooke Hills story everyone ~ Ben Puska
Ben’s Images from his many hikes. Some beautiful images here, Enjoy !
Ben was born and raised in Victoria where he still calls home. He enjoys anything outdoors, though his main interests currently are hiking, running and climbing. You can follow all of Ben’s outdoor fun on his instagram account, Ben.Seas.Trees . Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Ben, you really did get out there and #ExploreBeyondTheUsual .
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Sooke Hills – Resources and Information
I am certain Ben’s story has inspired you to visit the Sooke Hills for the first time. Maybe you visit often but now want to do more and go deeper into the hills.
While many of the mountains have names from the colonial history of Vancouver Island it should be recognized the name Sooke is derived from the local first nations people. The Coast Salish T’Sou-ke First Nation traditional territory spans almost all of what is now know as the Sooke Hills.
Here are some links to help you get started on with most notable being the many resources compiled on the park information pages from the CRD (Capital Region District)
- Sea To Sky Regional Park
- Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park
- Mount Wells Regional Park
- Sooke Mountain Provincial Park
- Gaia Maps Best Hiking Sooke Wilderness
- All Trails Best Forest Hikes Sooke
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