Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic.
-Van Morrison, Moondance, 1970
–by G.K. Sydney (photos and column)
This beautiful song by a great musician was so good that it was repeated many times by others over the years. And its inspiring message would still seem appropriate even now if you visited one of the most beautiful places in this area, that of south Vancouver Island’s Mystic Beach.
To those of you who have grown up around here, I apologize—you probably know everything I am about to say. But to those of you who are, like me, relatively new to Sooke and its surrounding areas, get ready. You are about to see and hear about a place of magic, of lush and beautiful surroundings and of a forest, trail and beach that are aptly named. They are truly mystic.
The parking lot at Mystic Beach is like any other. Mundane, crowded, a bit messy. The beginning of the trail has the usual signs, washrooms and muddy walkway. You begin a descent on a well-used trail and wonder at the wisdom of entering what looks like just another path. But then the mystic begins and the doubts go away. You have started an epic walk, a joyful hike and a really satisfying adventure. Welcome to Mystic Beach.
The trees are magnificent and their roots are something to treat with respect as you travel over them. The path meanders in different directions and it’s often easy to take the wrong turn. Up and over, higher and lower, left a bit, now to the right and always moving forward and down. Down goes the trail (and sometimes a little up) and you have the sinking feeling that the way back will be a tad more difficult. Probably even a little tough. You’re right.
But it’s worth it. Before long, you come to the most amazing suspension bridge. Not amazing to people like myself, but really cool to most people. I, however, need to take a deep breath, make sure no one else is on the bridge at the same time as me (after all, it can’t possibly hold more weight than that of one person at a time), and then scoot across with my hands at the ready on the railings (just in case this whole damn thing collapses like I KNOW it will). After getting across as quickly as possible and definitely not looking down at any point, I’m ready to continue this beautiful hike. But I digress.
And then you get across the bridge and carry on. The trail continues to lead you forward through absolutely majestic trees and forest glades for quite awhile. Looking to the left and right and seeing the sun highlight the foliage is a joy. The woods go on and on and soar above your head and all around you. And then you begin to hear a roar. You’re in the forest but there’s sound. And soon, the beginning of the wind. Roar and wind and sound that is not of forest-making. That’s right, it’s the ocean ahead. And glorious it is.
But getting what turns out to be a magnificent view of the ocean is not a free ride. Oh no, you have to work for it. And so, just as you are wondering when you are going to get to the beach itself, you arrive at the top. Yep, that’s right, at the top of approximately two hundred steps that will take you the rest of the way. They will take you down, down and more down. And remember, what goes down must come up (I know that’s backwards, but haha, not in this case). But worry about that later. There’s a beach to be seen. Let’s go.
Gingerly, you proceed. You travel across hand-hewn stairs, falling-apart steps and closer and closer to that roar. Just the rustic feel and precariousness of those steps is an experience. Then a final turn and OMIGOD. The view. The incredible view.
Finally down on the sand and close to the breath-taking waves, you have arrived at Mystic Beach. The waves and their resulting roar thunder through you and you realize this is a really beautiful place. There’s even a waterfall or two to make it all complete. And you are here and it’s time. It’s time to let your soul ….and your spirit…. fly into the mystic. Enjoy.
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