Over the last several months TracksAndTrails.ca visitors have been priveleged to hiking trail reports written by Greg Lynch, owner of Comfort Cove Cottage. His trail reports have been a joy to read and he was the first to respond to my interview request with an interview that reads like a good novel…enjoy.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I’ve been hiking since I was eight years old when my Dad introduced me to Elk Island National Park outside of Edmonton. It was the summer of 1978 and he took me, a small kid, on the 10.5 km Shirley Lake Trail. I had to stop frequently to rest and drink but the wondering elk and buffalo prevented me from sitting too long! My dad was calm and reassuring as usual. The hike was long and hard in the hot sun but it got me hooked on exploring nature on foot.

What has been your favourite hiking trail or outdoor area?

Here’s a vague answer – Alberta and BC. I know that isn’t specific but Western Canada has varying terrain and geography and that’s what makes it one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Depending on my mood, sometimes I enjoy the rocky heights of the mountains and at other times, the misty shores of the coast. Here are some of my hiking highlights:

Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary – It’s only 1 hour west of the city but even on a crowded day, I may come across only 2 or 3 other hikers. The peaks of the front ranges are easy to scale and the mountain views to the west always tempt me to venture further. Looking to the east and viewing the bald prairies reminds me from where I grew up.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, north of Clearwater, BC – WOW! I met more foreign visitors in this park than Canadians. We haven’t been taught about this gem of a park with its many waterfalls and wildlife. The amount of bears we saw was staggering. At first, my wife and I were fascinated as we drove along the country roads. The appeal faded after seeing over 30 bears in one day.

Vancouver Island (Victoria, BC) – We’re currently discovering southern Vancouver Island and have grown fond of coastal hiking. Just outside of Victoria, the rugged beauty of the temperate rainforest is equal to that of the West Coast Trail. The hills are covered in thick rainforest while the waters of the Juan de Fuca can be either calm or stormy. The area where the forest meets the ocean is a perfect place to explore at any time of the year.

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

Fear and excitement – East Sooke is only 20 minutes outside of Victoria but it’s in a world unto itself. It’s known as Nature’s Gallery and its steep hills are covered with a thick, second-growth rainforest all the way down to the rocky shoreline. Last fall, on the first day to the area, we heard wolves howl in the distance. We knew these elusive canines avoid humans so we ventured up the Anderson Cove trail. About 10 minutes into the hike, as I waited for my dog to do his business, I whistled loudly. As if behind me,a wolf responded with an eerie howl. IT WAS CLOSE! My spine immediately straighten and my jaw clenched. I knew it was not threatening me but I still bolted out there, dragging my dog close behind.

Day 2 – On the second attempt at hiking in East Sooke Park, we made it to the shores of the Juan de Fuca Strait. The sun was bright and the Olympic Mountains across the Strait were snow-covered and big. Off in the distance we could see whales or seals surfacing and feeding on the returning salmon. It turned out to be the resident orcas and they came within 200 m of shore. That was the first time we went hiking and whale-watching at the same time.

Day 3 – We again ventured into East Sooke Park on a slow, flat trail. The birds were singing, the air was still in the thick rainforest and then a black bear emerged on the trail, about 100 m ahead. It stopped, looked at us and sniffed the air. My curious dog, still on leash, stared back with a confused look on his face. Everyone was quiet and stared at each other. The bear quietly crossed the path and entered the bush as silently as it had emerged. We waited for a few more minutes to give it the room and respect that it deserved and then continued our hike.

Have you ever been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

Thankfully, I’ve never been lost. I’m cautious to the point of being over-prepared. My extra supplies and emergency kit are cumbersome to carry in my backpack and uncomfortable on hot days (too sweaty). I’ve heard too many horror stories about hikers getting disoriented even on easy trails. If I ever get lost, I want the new reports to read, “Hiker found alive three days later. Cold and hungry but alive.”

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

I’m not too scared of black-bears, even in Wells Gray Park. I treat them like wild dogs and give them plenty of room and respect while not showing fear (it’s worked for me so far).

The scariest wildlife experience we’ve had was staring at a cute and cuddly grizzly cub in Waterton Lakes National Park. My wife and I were walking on a short trail when, just up ahead, a startled cub darted behind a tree and peered nervously at us. It must have been less than 1 year old and was about the size of medium-sized dog. We were more scared than it was!

We froze in our tracks and started looking and listening for its mother, who surely would have been nearby. As far as we could tell from our meager human-senses, she wasn’t in sight. Our instincts told us to turn and run but my bear-awareness training made us walk backwards while standing tall with confidence. We continued to walk slowly until we rounded a corner. We’ve never been back to complete that trail yet.

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

I did the West Coast Trail a few years ago. We went in September when the trail was relatively dry, the sun was hot and evenings warm. It was the perfect time to be there. But to be honest, for the amount of beautiful scenery I saw, it wasn’t worth the effort. No offense to the avid hikers, but I can firmly say that I am a dayhiker. I enjoy daytrips around BC and there are plenty outside of the many towns and cities. At the end of the day, I return to a hot shower, a comfortable bed and a hot, unburned meal.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

Hmmm… I’d have to say Trackandtrails.ca (wink wink). I like how experienced, outdoor people write about their journeys and highlights of their treks. Avid backpackers describe trips that I will never do and plenty of ‘normal people’ give me ideas and tips on places to discovery.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

I’ve purchased all of my gear from Mountain Equipment Coop about 10 years ago and it’s still in great condition. Their prices are a bit high but the equipment lasts a long time. I finally replaced my hiking boots this summer after putting on lots horizontal and vertical kilometers.

For contact information, please visit www.comfortcovecottage.ca