Mount Arrowsmith Summit

Mount Arrowsmith Summit

| view from the summit of Mount Arrowsmith, looking east towards mainland British Columbia. Vancouver Island, 2019. |

Summer 2019 itinerary so far:
  • Fly San Diego -> Newark -> Dublin -> London Gatwick. Pray luggage containing dive gear also arrives after this stupidly long (but stupidly cheap!) itinerary I booked on some sketchy student-deals flight website.
  • Fly Gatwick -> Larnaca (Cyprus) on an EasyJet party flight where I appeared to be the only passenger not on the flight as part of a hens do.
  • Two weeks of photographing a nautical archaeology expedition and diving 2-4 times a day. Also finish coursework requirements for Master’s degree somewhere in there. Much consumption of moussaka, pickled caper leaves, and the most delicious lountza-halloumi daily post-fieldwork sandwiches you can possibly imagine (basically ham and cheese sandwiches, but in a totally different league).
  • Fly Larnaca -> London Gatwick on much quieter flight full of hungover hen do attendees.
  • Fly London Gatwick -> Vancouver -> Victoria. Make way to University of Victoria. Attend 2019 Marine Imaging workshop. Learn things.

After this whirlwind start to the summer, I hung around on Vancouver Island for a few days to hike some mountains and buy kitschy maple leaf-themed souvenirs. I hadn’t been on the island since a family bike trip from Vancouver to Northern California since I was 11 years old, so it was a good time to see some places I’d never seen before.

On the recommendation of an ROV pilot colleague who was born and raised on the island, I headed off for a speedy solo-summit of Mount Arrowsmith, the highest mountain on the southern half of the island. At 1819m the peak is not very high, but it is quite prominent and on clear days rewards hikers with spectacular 360° views of the Salish Sea and mainland British Columbia, the Port Alberni Valley and the Vancouver Island Ranges. I hiked the mountain on Canada Day, July 1st, and got lucky with a gorgeously clear day with views for miles.

Mountain Puff

| a wild mountain puff. |

I summited via the non-technical Judges Route, which involved some fun class 3 scrambling most of the way to the top, with a few exposed sections that weren’t too sketchy but were still a bit anxiety-inducing for a height-phobic wuss like me.

Arrowsmith Panorama

| panorama looking northwest-ish from around 3/4 of the way to the summit. click to enlarge. |

I spotted a bald eagle flying overhead, some lizards, and a female grouse with three puffy chicks.


| spot the bird and two well-camouflaged chicks. I'm going to guess they are sooty grouse. I am very bad at bird identification. |

On the summit I met a kindly man who also went to UCSD and graduated in the early seventies, then moved to Vancouver Island in his twenties, met a girl, and never looked back. He was hiking with his daughter who was around my age and visiting home from Germany. They were very sweet and we chatted about US-Canada politics on the hike down. They invited me for dinner next time I’m on the island, and I very much hope I can find my way back soon so that I can take them up on their kind offer.


| late-afternoon fireweed near the trailhead. |

This next day I was glad I had saved up some relaxation on this wonderful hike as I had yet another stressful 48 hours of travel ahead:

  • Victoria -> Vancouver -> San Diego.
  • Cab to my friend’s house in Mira Mesa, who had generously looked after my parked car for three weeks so that I could avoid another illegal towing fiasco with my terrible landlord -> 1am car battery dead -> wake friend, get jumpstart, apologize profusely and promise to buy many lunches.
  • Drive around city for an hour -> sleep four hours -> grab exact same bags again without unpacking -> 7am battery dead again (it’s nearly 5 years old anyway and spends long stretches of time sitting idle while I’m at sea, so that’s fair) -> jump from neighbor -> Harbor Freight in LA, buy jumper cables -> car starts, yay!
  • Randy’s Donuts -> car starts! -> realize I got to LA way too early -> hang out in a Coffee Bean for a few hours waiting for Jake’s flight -> car no longer starts! -> wander around empty parking garage with shiny new jumper cables -> tell Jake I’ll now be late even though I was three hours early -> finally find someone to give a jump.
  • Drive in circles at LAX in Fourth of July traffic, go wrong way for Jake’s terminal three times while being relentlessly pursued by Terminal 7 security guard waving a ticket pad.
  • Worry this will be the time I’ll accidentally stall my car and have to get yet another jump while being issued thousands of dollars in fines by this security guard who seemed to have made it his life’s work to ensure I would not stop in the pickup zone for longer than three seconds to figure out where the hell Jake actually was without getting a ticket (I’m not exaggerating, literally three seconds, and this was the only terminal that wasn’t busy at all).
  • Find Jake on the fourth time round, load a bunch of Pelican cases into back of car -> speed away from security guard charging down the sidewalk flashing his flashlight at me -> seriously do I look like this guy’s ex-wife or something, what did I do to piss him off this badly? -> eat donuts while sitting in holiday traffic on the 1.
  • Mainline burger from The Habit while waiting for boat (as a proud Californian I have to introduce all visitors to our finest burger chain that isn’t In-n-Out) -> get a jump from some dudes in massive pickup truck -> Ventura Harbor, unload gear -> park car -> deal with that problem another day.

Painted Cave

| painted cave, santa cruz island. |

  • Sail to Santa Cruz Island -> meet team of cave divers and engineers deploying cool cave diving robot -> several nights with little sleep hanging out with Jake debugging his camera system and talking to people about robots -> watch three faraway fireworks shows on the mainland -> ride a zodiac into a big cave full of sea lions -> sail back to Ventura Harbor.
  • Call AAA -> endure some VERY incorrect mansplaining on how car batteries work -> AAA dude did not bring car battery as advertised by roadside battery service -> sleep on boat again -> get jump start from engineers driving their robot back to Texas -> drive Kenny to Santa Monica -> battery store in San Diego -> replace battery -> home -> sleep.