Monday, February 15, 2010

Rambling in the South Island: The Wonder Trail to Thunderbird and Mt. Manuel Quimper

Mt. Quimper crop

For many of us in the Victoria area, the land in the Sooke Hills around Mt. Manuel Quimper, the Thunderbird Cliffs and Ragged Mountain has become a regular feature for weekend rambles. The area has a lot to offer – interesting and unofficial “trails” that require a bit of map reading skill, amazing shows of spring and summer flowers, and some of the best views in the Victoria and Sooke region.

Late afternoon light on Mt. Quimper
This summer Mike and I were busy showing Tom, a Victoria newcomer, the local hiking scene (yes, we've had him out on an ACCVI adventure to Lomas Lake – hopefully he’ll join!). We quickly powered through some of the old favourites and on June 27 we decided it was time to try something with bigger views and some scrambly bits.

Taking advantage of the long daylight we started our walk at a “civilized” hour. We pulled into the car park at Harbour View Road and were on our way by 9:30 am. Our route took us to the top of the Thunderbird Cliffs, back down, and over to Manuel Quimper. Here we went up the north east side and came down the “Mary Trail” -- named after yours truly -- on Quimper's western flank. Then we followed the Harbour Road trail back to the car.

The distance was not long – 14 km in total. We took an enjoyable and leisurely 8 hours to complete the trip. But, the hike does go up and down a bit, and, of course, bushwhacking is a given! Especially in the gully between Thunderbird and Quimper and the last 20 minutes on the western-facing “Mary Trail”. There are other trails that involve less bushwacking, particularly on Quimper. But the western flank is little travelled, especially by mountain bikers, making it prime for flower viewing in spring and summer.

The highlight of this trip is the scramble up the Thunderbird Cliffs, truly one of the premier view hikes in the area. For newcomers especially, this trip lets hikers get the lay of the land around the Victoria/Sooke Basin area.

The Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve, and the bigger Sea to Sea Blue Green Belt is not particularly “tamed” -- not a lot of maintained trails, published trail maps, or sign posts. Mike and I, along with many of our friends, have spent time wandering around in this area using a combination of topo and compass, very old maps, 20 year old hiking books, and now GPS. We've been inventive in hunting down information too -- once I even phoned a real estate agent and inquired into the purchase of Ragged Mountain, asking for a map so we could "see for ourselves" (hey, I'd buy it if I had a spare million!). We've bushwhacked and barged our way through low spots and blow down, followed promising flagging to nowhere, pussy-footed through delicate Garry Oak habitat, and scrambled up the rocky bits-- always happy to get out and explore, and always looking for "lifers" (new places to hike).

Our first success on putting together Thunderbird with Quimper happened some ten years ago when we first gained the top of Quimper and discovered a map posted in the fire lookout. It pointed us to the Wonder Trail -- a connecting route through the area between Harbour View and Glinz Lake. Stitching together bits of trail, overgrown logging roads, and using the old water main pipe that threads through this area, the Wonder Trail makes a great entry point for Thunderbird especially. If you haven’t been in already, why not tug on the hiking boots and give it a try?

If you know more about the history of the Wonder Trail, or of any other route in the Quimper/Thunderbird/Ragged area, please get in touch -- -- I'd love to learn more about this wilderness area so close to Victoria.

More photos at Calpyso Orchid on Flickr.

Mary Sanseverino

View Thunderbird and Quimper: June 27, 2009 in a larger map