Last weekend I ventured up to Mount Washington, for the first time since middle school, with my friend and reliable travel partner Elizabeth. Elizabeth and I go on at least one trip per year together, and whenever we do it is always full of laughs and good times.
Mount Washington is located about a three and a half drive up island from the provincial capital and my hometown of Victoria, B.C. The coastal alpine mountain range offers locals, like Elizabeth and I, a cheap and convenient winter getaway. A great alternative to the exciting but expensive Whistler, Mount Washington Alpine Resort makes for a great long weekend getaway.
Elizabeth had never been to Mount Washington and I hadn’t been back since a school trip in the sixth or seventh grade. On the island many families do winter vacations on the mountains and great memories are created on school ski trips up to Mount Washington.
This particular trip was wonderful because it gave me the opportunity to try snowshoeing for the first time. I have been wanting to try snowshoeing for over a year but haven’t had the chance, and now that I am recovering fairly well from my accident I am able to do moderate activities like snowshoeing.
The first thing that surprised me about the winter sport was how affordable it was, compared to skiing or snowboarding. A full day pass costs $33 and includes snowshoe and pole rentals! A typical day of snowboarding or skiing would cost between $130-$150, once you include equipment rentals. I was also super fortunate that my parents keep our old gear and I could call my Mom and get my old snow pants and ski jacket from when I was in high school to really help me cut down on costs.
The second thing that took me by surprise was how great of a workout snowshoeing is! Although it might just appear to be a walk with wider shoes on, snowshoeing is no joke. Walking on hard packed snow with a large plastic apparatus attached to your feet makes your steps wider and engages different muscles than you usually use. Pair that with the fact that you are actually hiking up and down a mountain and you get a full workout! An hour of snowshoeing can burn 400-1000 calories an hour!
There is a definite technique to the sport as well. When going down hill, if you find yourself gaining speed like I do, the trick is to lean forward instead of back so that the metal spikes in your snowshoes clamp down into the snow and help you balance. Also you have to be sure you don’t try to walk backwards while in the shoes, as the backs of your shoes will overlap one another and you will trip. It’s all about big even steps and if you want some extra support and balance then a good set of poles goes a long way.
Another benefit of this winter sport is how close it allows you to get with nature. You can get right in-between the ski and snowboard runs, alongside the trees and into the heart of the mountains. During our treks, although we didn’t see a lot of winter wildlife we did see many types of birds, including some eagles.
Elizabeth is braver than me when it comes to birds, so during a snack break in our longest hike, she fed the mountain birds seeds from her hand. We were lucky enough to catch a few photos with the birds, as they were quite brave and weren’t scared at all to come land on my shoes or on Elizabeths hand (even after I screamed a few times). I was so glad to have that experience with the birds and it’s moments like that that make Elizabeth such a wonderful travel partner.
Mount Washington is located within the Comox Valley near Courtenay and Campbell River. It turns out Campbell River is a mere 25-30 minute drive from the mountain range, so on our last full day after snowshoeing we headed over to explore the coastal fishing town.
Elizabeth and I were surprised and disappointed to discover all the cute shops the town had were closed, because of the holiday weekend. The highlight for me was the discovery of an April Cornell, the American designer is North America’s answer to Cath Kidston. April is known for her beautiful floral prints and my Mom, sister and I used to wear her clothes all the time when she had a store in Victoria.
One shop that was open was a junk shop full. It was full to the brim with antiques, old CDs, DVDs, pins and other great finds for great prices. I have a pin collection, passed down from my Dad, which I have added to over the years and in this small shop I found three pins to add to my collection for the total price of $1. My favourite one is from April 17, 1985 for the Canadian Association on the Status of Women and reads “A DATE WITH EQUALITY”.
Overall snowshoeing was a great workout, a wonderful way to connect back with nature, and a really fun way to spend the B.C. Family Day long weekend exploring more of my home island. I would try the winter sport again on a different mountain with some new trails. I hope the next long weekend winter road trip I go on offers as many adventures, if not more, than this short trip did.