While on vacation with my family in Parksville I was hoping to get out for some good runs, and really wanted to get some good climbing in since its hard to come by at home in Ontario. My challenges were a total lack of knowledge of the area, no one to guide me, and a desire to stick close to where we were staying.
The first trail that seemed close, safe, and significantly uphill was the Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail which is maintained by the Regional District of Nanaimo. It was easy to find, about 30 minutes from Parksville. I parked at the Cameron Lake Day Use area and the trail started directly across the highway.
The climbing starts as soon as you leave the highway. The trail starts out very wide on what must be an old roadway. After a short stretch on this road an information sign indicates where the real climbing begins. The trail from this point on was much narrower but well maintained. I was definitely starting to feel the climbing and my HR was super high. My Ontario running didn’t prepare me for this kind of uphill! Eventually I got to a bridge over a beautiful mountain stream that the trail had been following. I took the Lookout trail that goes up to a rocky lookout and then planned to take the historic Arrowsmith Trail back down. From here it was a couple more km’s and a few hundred more metres up to the lookout. The lookout was about 4km up after almost 900m in elevation gain. Considering our local hills are about 50m, I was happy with this amount of climbing.
The lookout was great – the clouds were low but I could still see out to the Georgia Strait and some of the peaks in the area. Also lots of ugly clearcutting, but most of this area is private land so it comes with the territory I guess.
I had planned on following the trail and looping back to the lower section of the Arrowsmith Trail so I continued on from the Lookout. The trail from this point on was much narrower, less maintained and obviously less frequently travelled. I was following the orange trail markers and continued climbing. I thought I was heading up towards an old ski area. Eventually I came to a warning sign about road blasting in the area, then a logging road. At this first logging road it was easy to pick out the continuation of the trail on the far side of the road. Shortly after I came to another logging road and couldn’t find the next section of trail. I pulled out my iPhone which I had the trail map on and compared that to where my location was on google earth (much easier than a compass!). I wasn’t confident with where I was and made the safe decision to back track out the way I came in. This made for a longer run but I knew being conservative was the only option. I messaged my wife to tell her I was going to be late and turned around.
I started back and began the descent back to my car. I had climbed just over 1000m and knew the way down would be harder on my legs than the way up! I had no problems finding my way back on the trails I had come up on. It was definitely a workout for the quads as I made my way down as quickly as I safely could.
Apart from getting lost, this was an awesome trail. Easy to access, great conditions, and tons of climbing – just what I wanted. I had really wanted to get up into some alpine on Mt. Arrowsmith itself, but getting lost on this much easier trail made me realize it was a smarter choice to do alone.