Two years ago, while camping on San Josef Bay, my friends Arwen, Matt, and I adventured beyond the beach and up towards Mount St. Patrick on the north end of the beach. We made it about half way up the mountain, but called it quits as it was hot, buggy, and we had cold beers back at the beach. I always dreamed of what lay beyond that mountain along that increasingly rugged trail.
Well we finally got to find out, as the Island Mountain Ramblers hiking club set up a journey which would summit Mount St. Patrick, descend to Sea Otter Cove, and cross over to Lowrie Bay.
We traveled to the north of the island on a Thursday night, finding ourselves on San Josef Bay for the evening. In the morning we woke early as we needed to ensure our travel coincided with tidal crossings to make the passage through Sea Otter Cove after traversing Mount St. Patrick. The trail deteriorated rapidly as we crossed over Mount St. Patrick. As we crossed the spot we had stopped two years ago, thinking we were miles from the summit, we in fact were not too far at all. The summit of Mount St. Patrick feels like you are in the alpine, although the elevation is only 425 metres. This is likely due to the extreme wind and weather experienced here on the northern most tip of the island. On a clear day, the view from here must be majestic as it looks over the northern tip of the island and all of Cape Scott. I will plan to return just to experience it.
After crossing the summit, we descended back down quickly to Sea Otter Cove, through rain-forest, bogs, marshes, you name it! The trail was quite diverse. At Sea Otter Cove we encountered two rivers which had to be waded through, then crossed the open high tide flood plains to the final headland before Lowrie Bay.
The final headland offered lots of thick slough to work through, then a full on bog to cross. Moss which sunk a foot in depth as you stepped into it was prevalent, although our boots were already soaked so we mucked onward.
When we finally stepped on the beach we were elated by the sight, a beautiful west coast facing stretch of sand, with two rocky edges and three island headlands in the middle. We made camp, discovering the cabin, latrines, and water source nearby. In the afternoon we explored the remote beach as the tide rushed in. We encountered one large black bear on the beach who retreated into the bush as we met her.
The following day we awoke to rain and a grey beach landscape. Although we planned to stay two nights at Lowrie Bay, we decided to hike out. As the rain had persisted throughout the night and continued throughout the day, we encountered a much wetter trail on the way out as the previous day. In parts the entire trail was a river of rain pouring off of Mount St. Patrick. We embraced the wet, charging through rivers we had tiptoed through the previous day. The trail was relentlessly wet.
Upon arrival back at San Josef Bay we considered our options; stay here on the beach for departure the following day, or pull out late in the afternoon on Saturday for a warm meal at the Scarlet Ibis pub in Holberg and a long drive home. As the rain persisted we opted for the latter option, and made tracks for our cars just as the sun began to peer through the clouds.
I can easily say this was one of the most wild coastal hikes I have experienced yet. As it crosses Mount St. Patrick, it provides an incredibly diverse route through rain-forest, alpine like conditions, bog, marsh, and beach. This is a very different experience then the Cape Scott Trail to Nels Bight and lighthouse, but highly recommended if you are feeling adventurous.
Check out Matt’s trip report from this adventure as well.