The clean, crisp air. The crunch of leaves or the squish of mud underfoot. Skies of wild colours, so full of a mixture of clouds with shapes and sizes of a Sussian-nature, creating breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. These are just a few of the reasons why Fall is my favourite time of year to hike. I am fortunate to call southern Vancouver Island home, where one could throw a dart at a map, blindfolded, and hit a beautiful hiking spot nine time out of ten. Francis/King, Thetis Lake, and Mt Work Regional Parks; Gowlland Tod and Mt Fynlason/Goldstream Provincial Parks; and PKOLS/Mt Douglas Park are all located in a rather geographically small area, and each could offer a full day of hiking on its own. Go just a little further out of town and you have the rugged coastal beauty of East Sooke Regional Park. Just a bit further yet and one could satiate their hunger for stunning coastal or low-alpine hiking on the Juan de Fuca or Kludahk Trails. We are truly fortunate to have such a broad selection of spectacular hiking areas so close at hand. But the beauty of living in Canada is that regardless of where you may reside, there is more than likely a beautiful spot of nature for you to explore right in your own backyard.
Fall weather can be rather unpredictable at times, yet it is typically a mild season outdoors on southern Vancouver Island, with a healthy mix of sunny days and rainy days. And while the sensation of hiking with the warmth of the sun on your face is incredibly pleasant, it’s not the fair days that I generally crave to be playing outside in the fall. I find it is often on those rainy, blustery days that I really love to get outside for an adventure of some sort. Everything seems just a bit more challenging, requiring a bit more determination, and therefore feels a bit more rewarding on those days. The pizza is more delicious, the hot shower a bit more soothing; and when you finally crawl into bed it is with a deeper sense of satisfaction from the day’s activities.
However, with the extra challenge of the wetter and cooler conditions comes the need to make sure the preparation for our time out is thorough and thoughtful. With how dynamic and unpredictable the weather can be this time of year, making sure to have an extra warm layer in your pack, along with one that is waterproof, can prevent an otherwise great hike from turning sour. In the Fall daylight levels begin to drop much earlier, and progressively so; keeping a flashlight or headlamp and a spare set of batteries in your pack is a must. Carrying adequate water and food for the days’ adventure is also key. It is easy to overlook how dehydrated we become while moving our bodies when the weather is wet and cool; but it is no less important to be aware of staying hydrated on those days as much as it is on the sunny, hot ones. Extra calories might also be required as well, as the energy it can take to keep us warm in cooler conditions might put a bigger strain on our bodies’ resources. No big stress though. As long as we take the time to plan for these factors, as well as keeping aware of what the weather is doing in our chosen adventure area, researching that area to better know what we’re getting ourselves into, and leaving a travel plan with someone who isn’t on an adventure themselves, we can get outside with confidence and really connect with nature.
Hiking in the fall can be every bit as enjoyable and impactful as hiking in the summer… dare I say even more enjoyable? Did I take my grandpappy’s advice of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad attitudes and poor planning” too much to heart during my formative years? I guess there is only one way for you to find out for yourself: get out there! Because regardless of the season, regardless of the weather, everybody belongs in nature.