Thursday, September 25, 2014

West Coast Trail

"There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more."  Lord Byron

September 11, 2014

After a bit of a struggle with our trailer hitch luggage carrier, DaNae and I picked up Jess and we started for the Oakland airport to pick up Rachel.  Then our foursome was complete.  We began the long drive to Canada.  We all switched off with the driving and with the help of some snacks we drove through the night. 

September 12, 2014

Sometime early in the morning we arrived in Port Angeles, Washington, where we had a reservation for the Cohos Ferry to take us to Victoria, B.C..  We met a few colorful people on the ferry, like a women who paints on silk, a group of Appalachian musicians who started an impromptu in-passage yoga sit-in, and a solo gentleman hiker who was planning on doing the West Coast Trail from south to north. 
As soon as we docked we were on our way to Port Renfrew.  We made a quick stop in Sooke to brush our teeth at a public park where we met Robert Acreman, who claimed to be the only relative still living in Sooke of the first white settler of that town.  He directed us to Buffy’s Diner where we had our second to the last meal before our departure.
At this point we were in a bit of a rush to make it to the Parks Canada Headquarters in Port Renfrew where we were due to have our orientation.  All hikers of the West Coast Trail must attend an Orientation before they can go on the trail.  So, when our trailer hitch luggage carrier started virtually dragging on the road behind us only an hour away from our destination we were not pleased.  A local woman near where we stopped tried to help with some tools.  We were impressed by her endearing Canadian accent, but in the end were forced to cram the packs in the backseat and drive on, only barely making it in time to our orientation.
The orientation was designed to inform and prepare.  Clearly, Parks Canada does not want to be rescuing a bunch of unprepared or inexperienced hikers. They handed out maps and explained trail etiquette, but they also made sure you knew what to do in case of a cougar attack or in case of personal injury.  Basically, unless you are dying, once you are on the trail it is nearly impossible to get off it, so suck it up and finish. 

We were all exhausted from our two days which felt like one big day (i.e. driving through the night), so after the orientation we checked out some tide pools and then left our car in the Hiker’s car lot.  We got a ride to some campers cabins and we were able to rent a room with two queen beds and our own bathroom.  It was nice to have one more chance to get organized in relative comfort.

September 13, 2014

We met Brian at the pier at 6:15am.  He was our water taxi/whale watching tour guide and captain.  He would be taking us from the south end of the trail up to the north end where we would begin, conveniently ending where our car was parked.  Along with us four there were four other men on the boat that were beginning the trail that day.   There was a father and son, Ted and Jessie, from Canada, a single hiker who was planning on doing the trail in a quick 3-4 days, and another single hiker, Chris, who was from Seattle. 
Brian was not only a water taxi driver, he was a marine researcher as well, so our ride up to Bamfield was also a bit of a tour.  He pointed out parts of the trail that we would be hiking as we motored northwest.  We saw the lighthouses, the falls, the cliffs, and the caves.  He stopped so we could take pictures of sea lions and gray whales.  Those grays are so big they almost looked like sea serpents because their bodies took forever to pass through the arch of their dive.

When we got close to Bamfield, Brian got a call on the radio from one of his colleagues saying that there was a family pod of Orca killer whales north of Bamfield we might be able to see.  So he drove us up.  It was amazing to see.  I’ve seen whales at Marine World before, but this was nothing like that.  They were hunting and socializing.  There was a mother and a few children of varying ages.  Brian talked about the whales like they were old friends.  He understood their habits and their tendencies.  On one of their final passes they swam right off the rear of the boat and I could literally look down through the water and see their eyes looking up at me. 

After getting dropped off in Bamfield we took another taxi service (this time a van) to the trailhead.  We weighed our packs.  Mine was about 42 pounds. 

The trail was fairly dry but there were a few muddy spots.  We met a few groups from Germany and Switzerland and a bunch of groups from Canada.  There was a lighthouse (Pachena Lighthouse) at about 10km in that was a nice stop. 

I was having a lot of trouble feeling comfortable with my pack.  I just need to do a better job packing it properly.  We camped at Darling Creek.  The weather was absolutely beautiful.  Our campsite was on the beach and we left the fly off so we could see the stars. 

Just as it was getting dark and we were done with our dinner, we were sitting around the campfire and we had a treat.  We saw an extremely low shooting star – never seen anything like it before.  It shot across the sky with a blazing tail.  I guess you could have called it a comet.  It was truly amazing.  Everyone who saw it was amazed.  People we saw on the trail days later even commented on it.

September 14, 2014

We left Darling Creek at just after 10 o’clock and started hiking along the beach.  That was really nice for a change since yesterday we were mostly in the trees.  We did a bunch of ladders and even a cable car today.  It was really fun, but lots of work!

  The weather is still amazing.  My left knee was hurting.  My right knee, the one I have a brace for, was actually doing pretty well.  And I finally got my pack adjusted.  Each day we have prayed for strong bodies.  So far Heavenly Father has blessed us.
We got to Tsusiuat Creek/Falls around 6:00.  We actually did a little swimming and cleaning of ourselves and our clothes.  The camp sites have generally been used and improved by many people before us, so there are places to hang our packs to keep them out of reach of the mice, as well as to hang up our drying clothes and such.  The campgrounds have bathrooms and bear lockers, so the nightly ritual is to separate out all the food, put it in the bear locker, and use the bathroom before climbing in the tent for the night. 

I discovered I have cell coverage on the beach so I can make calls if I want to or need to.  We had a little Sunday Fireside discussion and prayer and then went to sleep. 

September 15 ,2014

This was a VERY long and difficult day.  We hiked some of the hardest part of the trail thus far for 17km.  We were told it gets harder.  There was a section of the trail that they claim you can’t get water at as well as a section with high wildlife activity where you are not suppose to camp.  And so there is a long stretch that you have to get through.  

Today we saw a lot of bear tracks and bear poop.  We even saw cougar tracks.  The highlight of the day was our stop at the Nitinat Narrows.  Hippie Doug picked us up on one side and delivered us to the other side where we were able to enjoy a fresh seafood meal.  We joined up with our friend Chris from the water Taxi and ordered a bunch of meals that we shared.  We had fresh crab, salmon, and halibut with potatoes.  

 Most of us had nothing left to give as we rolled into camp at Cribbs Creek in the dark at close to 9:00 at night with our headlamps on.


September 16, 2014

We made it to Carmanah Lighthouse first thing in the morning.  Both lighthouses have a huge cable and winch that run down to the water for deliveries by sea.  I keep feeling like I have walked in on the set of a movie about Pirates in some tropical island rainforest. 

We ate lunch at Monique’s near Carmanah Creek.  Apparently her husband’s family had been kicked off their ancestral land, but one day he decided to go back.  They started feeding hikers hamburgers and organic vegetables and now they have carved out a little place for themselves.  Every year they seem to have problems with Parks Canada but they are still hanging on. 

We did a lot of beach hiking this day.  All beach hiking is not created equal.  You have your wet hard sand hiking, your picking through the tide pools hiking, your soft, deep, slogging through the sand hiking, and your climbing over the log jam hiking. 

We camped at Walburn this night.  I probably got my best night of sleep.  We found a nice spot tucked in the trees.   We made popcorn.  Our next day will be only 9km but hard hiking and rain will be coming soon.  Too bad everything is already dirty and/or damp.

September 17, 2014

Well, we were awakened by a seagull alarm clock this morning.  Apparently Walburn Creek is a favorite of the Seagulls – lots of feathers and poop.  You’ve got to go up-stream to filter your water.  We started the day out with some drizzle but no heavy rain.  We all decided we were totally okay with that.  The high point of the day was the walking suspension bridge at Logan Creek.  There were a gazillion ladders down and two gazillion ladders up.  My mother would have a heart attack if she saw it. 

This is the most rugged trail I have ever been on.  There is an obstacle at every turn.  If you are not climbing over rocks or slogging through mud then you are likely scaling the roots of a tree on a precipice or descending by slippery moss covered ladders. 

This day was not as bad as day three, but my left knee was very sad by the time I limped into camp.  It is the going down that kills me.  We camped at Camper Creek.  Unfortunately there was also a work crew of some kind camping there at the same time and they were actually playing music out loud.  It is amazing how annoying that can be when you have become use to the relative silence of nature.  I have been wearing the same shorts for the whole trip so far.  They are disgusting.  They can almost stand up by themselves – between the sweat, dirt, sap, and fire smoke.  I hand washed the socks I wore the first day and they are only mostly dry today.  Tomorrow is an 8km day and the next is a 5 km day and then we are done.  The only thing is that the terrain on those days is supposed to be the worst yet.  And the rain comes!

September 18, 2014

Great hike in the rain today!  We started out with a light drizzle so we were able to get organized, which was helpful.  Then it developed into some full-fledged rain.  Pretty soon we were all drenched – even though we had rain gear.  If we had put it on first we probably would have been okay but we were wet before – oh well, lucky it wasn’t cold.  So we hiked all day – wet.  I did well until the end when something gave out in my knee.  Pain shot up and down my leg and I had to grit my teeth with every step into camp. 

Instead of going down into Thrasher Cove to the camp, we were able to find a spot south of the junction near a creek with enough space for our four women tent.  We were able to set up a tarp to provide some coverage from the continuous rain.  And the fire savy members of our group were able to start a fire with wet wood. We had to hang our food because there wasn't a bear locker available.

 We are all very excited that we are hiking out in only 5km tomorrow.  We have a condo in Victoria reserved with a hot tub.  That sounds like heaven when you are sitting in a tent with filthy clothes, wet socks, and rain pattering on.  As much as we are excited to be done – this has been an amazing experience – a once in a lifetime, brag about it kind of thing.  I have birthed six children, and …. Hiked the West Coast Trail. 

September 19, 2014

Last night we heard a wolf.  It was a haunting sound in the middle of the night.  There is no doubt that we are in the middle of nowhere.  We hiked 5km out today.  We did it.  Because of all our wet gear, when we weighed our packs, they weighed almost what they did when we left. 

At the end of the trail, we raised a buoy and a Parks Canada Ferry came to pick us up and deposited us on the other side of Port San Juan Bay at Port Renfrew where we had left our car.  We had an awesome lunch at the Coastal Kitchen and then headed to Victoria.  I have a profound admiration and respect for all three of the amazing women that accomplished this trek with me.  We were four strong women working together for a common goal.  We stink and all our gear stinks but we are satisfied.  We did it!