Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver Island (Volume 1): Victoria to Nanaimo by Theo Dombrowski (Rocky Mountain Books $20)
Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver Island (Volume 2): Nanaimo North to Strathcona Park by Theo Dombrowski (Rocky Mountain Books $20)

Review by Christian Fink-Jensen, 2018

Taking the kids out for a walk in the woods can present a range of challenges. If you choose a hike that?s too taxing, parents can turn into donkeys, hauling the kids over hill and dale.

Take a walk that is too much the same and kids are likely to become bored or, worse, find ways to entertain themselves by fighting.
Theo Dombrowski has kept such considerations in mind for Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver Island, a two-part series.Volume One focuses on Victoria to Nanaimo; Volume Two continues north from Nanaimo to Strathcona Park.

The word ?Family? is the engine behind the books? conception.
?Adults can be perfectly pleased walking sedately along a path that does nothing more than wind amongst second growth forest,? he writes.
?Children often have a hard time feeling such pleasure. They want an element of fun, surprise, thrill or the extraordinary.?

With that in mind, the author pays particular attention to features of each hike that may interest kids?from waterfalls and cliff views, to pocket lakes and great picnic spots.

Just as knowing what attractions there are to look forward to is important, knowing exactly what kinds of challenges a hike presents is extremely useful information for parents. Future editions could possibly colour code the main area maps so that readers can quickly see which hikes are most suitable for very young children.

Family Walks and Hikes of Vancouver Island books cover all suitable park trails as well as an interesting selection of lesser known trails. The books don?t aim to be comprehensive or to present hikes that are already very popular (such as Thetis Lake in Langford) but, again, to highlight trails that have features of particular interest to younger trekkers.

Under each hike, you?ll find a short summary with highlights, a colour map and photographs, a description of the location, the hike?s distance, elevation gain, and difficulty.

Dombrowski?s writing is clear and often entertaining; we get the sense he is with readers on the trails, anticipating their questions and reactions. Also provided are recommendations about what times of year are best to go.
Sturdy laminated covers, rounded corners, and a compact size mean these guides will fit comfortably into a backpack and are likely to withstand many years of casual use.

A few of the photographs would have benefitted from some editing. In several instances (for example, in the Mt. Tzouhalem Cross Trail section) the shaded portions of the photographs are so dark it can be difficult to appreciate (or even make out) the points of interest we?re being shown. Not all the photographs have this problem, but enough of them that it?s worth mentioning.

On the whole, these are great guidebooks that fill a much-needed niche. Teaching our kids to appreciate and enjoy what our spectacular wild places can offer can only benefit future generations.

Previously Dombrowski produced a five-volume Secret Beaches series, Popular Day Hikes and Seaside Walks.

He donates 100% of the royalties from his books to registered charities. website:

Vol 1: 9781771602792; Vol 2: 9781771602815

Christian Fink-Jensen is the author of Aloha Wanderwell: The Border-Smashing, Record-Setting Life of the World?s Youngest Explorer (Goose Lane, 2016). In 2017 he was a judge for the CBC?s Nonfiction Literary Awards. He lives in Victoria.