Mount Tzouhalem

Some days are like a snapshot of my life.

It was a gorgeous November day and we were feeling particularly adventurous so we decided to tackle the great Mount Tzouhalem.

Mount Tzouhalem is a very prominent fixture around here. He is a large mount that jutts out into the sea creating the far shore of Cowichan Bay.

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It is named after a notorious native warrior who lived in this area in the mid 1800s. Tzouhalem was a nasty sort known for killing men and creating widows. He was eventually banished from his village. He fled to the mountain where he lived in a cave with his 14 wives (most of whose husbands he had killed). He himself, was killed in 1859 on a nearby island while trying to aquire another wife. Whether the husband or the wife killed him…nobody knows.

Mount Tzouhalem is a large land mass and there are many paths to the summit and various lookout points. Most of the paths are wide and the forest, as always, is stunning.

Climbing Tzouhalem

Along the way we couldn’t help but stop occasionally to marvel at the vegetation that grows on this little island. There were mushrooms of every size, shape and colour – most of which, I had never seen before.

This one stunned me with its sheer size! Probably 9 inches in diameter….

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…and at least 4 inches tall! I told you things grow crazy out here!

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After a great deal of time wandering the many paths we managed to find the summit. I was very excited for the long awaited view. I looked out in great anticipation and saw…nothing.

Just haze.

Disappointment began to creep in as I realized that the clearness of the day had dissolved and there was no view. Then I glanced down….and further down…green…and…some blue. My mind adjusted to what I was seeing and suddenly there was the valley! It was so much further down than I had expected that I almost missed it. I had not realized how high we were – much higher than when we had climbed other mountains in the area. The view was spectacular!

Tzhouhalem 11The Cowichan Valley lay before us with all its lush beauty and I fell in love with my home all over again.

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Although it was November, the sun was hot and the air – warm. We sat on the rocks, watched the eagles ride the updrafts and listened to the silence. When you’re this high, most civilized sound does not reach you. Perhaps the odd boat motor or car backfiring in the distance but other than that there is nothing….just nature. It is magnificent!

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I had been told that there was a cross somewhere on the mountain and although I had no idea where it was, I was determined to find it. We searched till the sun was low in the sky and then we realized we should head home before we got trapped in the darkness.

We decided to go down by a different route to enjoy the views for as long as we could and then suddenly, there it was, sentinel of the valley.

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Of course, we had to stop for photos. It’s what we do. :-)

Paul stayed back to take the photos as I went to examine the cross more closely. Paul barked out directions as to where he wanted me to stand for the best shot…..what he didn’t realize was that about six inches to my right there is a thousand foot drop! It was enough to make my knees weak and at times I had to hold onto the cross for a moment to calm my nerves.

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I can’t help but think of this hike as a metaphor for my life.

I have spent a lot of time wandering. I have often felt lost. I have spent many days searching for God and not finding him. I have lost hope and given up many times. Yet, somehow I still find my way back to Him. Somehow He finds a way to make Himself seen. When it seems like everything is lost, I look up and there He is right where he’d been all along. Like that cross on top of the mountain, He stands, unchanging and highly visible. It is I who wander, lost, because I have strayed off the path or lost my map. Sometimes its my perception that is off. Like when I looked out from the summit and couldn’t see the land. The land was there, clear as day, but my mind could not see it because it had decided it was not there.┬áStanding beside Him has often felt dangerous and unsafe and at times the best I can do is hold onto Him for all my might for fear that I might stumble or slip into the abyss.

What I do know….what I have learned from all my wanderings is this….

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