Like any town, Victoria has a number of urban legends that a person is exposed to while growing up. One such myth is, of course, the mythical tunnels which run beneath the city streets (a large part of these are likely part of the city’s old storm drain network) while another is that of a secret cave which exists within Mt Doug park. A UER.ca thread had cracked the first urban myth of the secret tunnels, so I figured it was time to investigate this other long standing urban legend.
Mt Doug park is a large 188 hectare urban park. The park exists within the municipality of Saanich and is a unique example of a forest within the suburbs. In addition to the forest the park boasts a beach, some great hiking trails and a mountain with spectacular views of the city. On one of these mountain hiking trails there was supposed to be a cave – for anyone brave enough to attempt the tiny opening!
While I was prepared to start my search by sifting through loads of online information and analyzing hiking maps and satellite imagery, I was able to bypass all that – an old friend of mine reportedly knew the exact location having visited it as a kid. Finally, a break! We took advantage of a beautiful Saturday afternoon to head into the park and retrace my friend’s steps from many years ago.
The hike up the mountain was challenging, but not the most difficult hike I had been on. The park is a popular hiking spot and there are many different trails that cris-cross the area. Following the trip I examined hiking maps of the park and discovered that our chosen path was actually one of the most difficult trails in the system. I had a lot of fun on this trip and will be making a return to this unique park, and it’s good to know I had already tackled the worst it had to offer.
Our journey up the mountain to our first stop took around 10 minutes. As I mentioned, the going was tough, but not impossibly so. The broken rocks underfoot made for treacherous walking, and at times the climb was fairly steep. After being under the tree canopy for a while, it was a surprise when we emerged from the forest onto the rock face of the mountain and the views were spectacular! We paused here for a few minutes to rest at a conveniently placed bench and take it all in; from one coast to another we could see the entire city unfold below us!
Once we had our fill of the view we turned back to the trail and descended back into the tree canopy.
The next part of our journey was much easier, the rocks were stable and the going much gentler. While the trail itself was difficult to find at times, we made quick progress and before long found ourselves gazing towards two trees which my friend insisted marked a clearing where the cave could be found. We turned back to the trail and wound our way towards the trees eager to proceed to the cave’s entrance.
Before too long our trail opened up into a clearing where some kids were playing a hide and seek game. While I was looking around, trying to get my bearings, I heard my friend talking to one of the adults; “are you guys here for the cave?” It was with quite some surprise that I turned around and saw it – a tiny opening in the ground! If it wasn’t for my friend I would have walked right past it! While the other group was definitely not interested in the cave, the same could not be said for ourselves. I took my backpack off and and rolled up my sleeves to see what we were dealing with.
Throughout my various draining adventures I have found myself in some pretty small spaces, however, none of them compared to the tight opening of this cave. While I can crawl through a 900mm drain, the opening to this cave was smaller – I estimated it was probably only about 700mm high – too small for me to crawl into, which meant it was time to get on my belly and slide!
I was glad I brought knee pads on this trip, and regretted not bringing elbow pads. I found the best way of pulling myself through the opening was to lie on my stomach and use my elbows and knees to propel myself into the inky blackness. The entrance passage was about 20ft long after which the cave opened up significantly. It still wasnt tall enough to stand, but I could squat with comfort.
The cave continued on for another 50 or so feet before terminating in a flat wall. The shape was somewhat rectangular and definitely didn’t look to be naturally occurring. Follow-up research after the fact indicated this was the entrance to an old copper mine, long since decommissioned and sealed off.
I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of graffiti and garbage inside the shaft. While it’s easy to miss and somewhat difficult to access, the fact that it was so well known meant it was surely frequented by teens and kids who are not known for their respect of their surroundings. We hung out in the tunnel for about 5 minutes, finding a couple of larger rocks to sit on. Afterwards, we decided to head out and began the belly crawl back to the outside.
While the cave at Mt Doug isn’t terribly exciting, it’s still a cave, which in my books makes it worthwhile to see. As long a claustrophobia isn’t an issue the relative accessibility means it’s a trip worth taking!