|Old growth Douglas-fir at Aylard Farm, East Sooke Park|
At one time a mysterious consortium of European investors owned much of the land in East Sooke. They had big visions of a private luxury resort and hunting preserve that would cater to the international jet set. Fortunately for nature lovers everywhere, the exclusive domain of the rich fell into a financial and legal morass, and the landowners were forced to sell some of their extensive East Sooke land holdings.
In 1970 the Victoria Capital Regional District purchased a significant piece from the stressed landowners. The purchase price was $520,000, and East Sooke Park was born. Now everyone is welcome to enjoy this rugged 3417 acre park and its native petroglyphs, rugged coastline, sandy beaches and magnificent forest.
|Aylard Farm's meadows of clover, wild rose, and blue-eyed grass|
East Sooke Park can be enjoyed via 50 km of trails, including the knee-punishing 10 km Coast Trail. The park's semi-wilderness has several entrances, including the Aylard Farm access point off of East Sooke Road via Becher Bay Road.
East Sooke lies in the Western Very Dry Maritime Coastal Western Hemlock Zone. Although the forests were selectively logged decades ago, and the sea harvested for its bounty, this remains a wild land. The park visitor is advised to watch small dogs and children as cougars and black bears still populate these coastal lands.
|Ocean glimpses through the trees invite the hiker to the sandy beach below|
Much of Aylard Farm and the rest of East Sooke Park is covered in second growth trees 60 - 100 years old. Because it was selectively logged, rather than clear cut, old growth trees of +250 years can still be seen.
Old growth forest near the Alyard park access can primarily be found at Creyke Point. The main forest consists of large Douglas-fir, Western hemlock, and closer to the ocean, Sitka spruce.
The coastal bluffs support upland ecosystems of Garry oak, Arbutus, and the twisted, tortured Shore pine. These trees are often small as they inhabit thin-soiled areas over bedrock and are exposed to harsh winter winds and storms.
East Sooke Park is 35 km west of Victoria. Allow about an hour to drive and be able to enjoy the ample scenery. A couple of different routes are possible.
Old Island Highway From Victoria
Take the Old Island Highway (#1A) to Sooke Road. Follow Sooke Road (#14) to Happy Valley Road, turn left and continue down Happy Valley. Turn right on Rocky Point Road, which veers right to become East Sooke Road, and leads to the park. The entrance at Aylard Farm is at the end of Becher Bay Road, and left hand turn off East Sooke Road.
Trans-Canada/Highway 1 From Victoria
Follow the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) from Victoria, and take the Colwood exit. Follow the Old Island Highway (#1A), which turns into Sooke Road (#14). From Sooke Road, turn left on Gillespie Road. Turn left on East Sooke Road, then right on Becher Bay Road to reach the park entrance.