Moto Adventures

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The West Coast Trail

The four happy hikers Me, Rose Julian and Ron

Right off the start we are faced with a set of ladders to warm up on.

Picking our way across the ocean shelf.

Cable cars are supplied to carry you and your gear across the larger rivers. No motors on these babies, it's all overhand drive.

Some of the ladders up cliffs, others steep banks where you wonder how the trees even hang on.

A trip isn't complete without a little flora and fauna.

Winding boardwalks meander through the ferns and century old growth cedars.

Rose and Julian enjoy a R & R under the waterfalls.

The coastline is made up of many different terrains; shelves, beaches, cliffs, rocks and boulders.

Every once in a while you just have to take a look up from watching your step to enjoy and appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer.

Beaches where sometimes you think yours are the only footprints around, beaches that go on and on.

One days supply of food for 4 people. Granola for breakfast, trail mix for a high energy snack, humus and crackers for lunch and soup and bulgar or couscous for dinner. Rose and I even snuck drip coffee in for the mornings.

The Logan suspension bridge, everything feels a little different when you are carrying a heavy pack on your back. We're just a swingin'

Buoys mark the beach and trail accesses.

Sometimes Mother Nature supplies her own ladder of roots you have to pick your way down.

More boardwalk, steady as she goes, the planks get slipperier as they get wetter.

There is no disguising what you are doing in here!

Setting up camp amongst the driftwood at Carmanah Creek, cable car in the background.

Things start to get a little muddier and slipperier.

Km 75 the end of the trail where the boat picks you up to take you back to Port Renfrew is just over the hill.

There it is, I can cross off another off my "top things to do in this lifetime" and I can honestly say it was well worth the sweat, and tired muscles. After the first 2-3 days I just hoped I would make it to the end of the trail , I honestly don't think I have ever been that tired in my life...and we started at the EASY end by Banfield!
Having donned my 45 lb backpack for the first time (someone even lifted it into the vehicle before we left) I wasn't quite sure what I had got myself into, but Ron, Rose, Julian and myself set out after waiting standby to get on the trail until 2:30. We hiked 12 km to the Michigan camp site the first day, I was exhausted, the first ladder was only 1/4 km into the hike and muscles that I wasn't quite sure I had were crying for help. The second day we hiked another 13 km to Tsusiat waterfalls where we decided to spend 2 nights, thank God! Now everything hurt, it even hurt to think about it! The falls were refreshing but warm enough to jump into to clean off the sweat and grime. Not bad 1/3 of the trail done and we still had 8 of our 10 days to go, little did I know what was to come, remember we started from the easy end of the trail.

Night 4 was spent free camping on the beach around km37, who really reads those signs warning of bear and cougar in the area? While the first part of the trip was flattish, with lots of beach walking (not easy in itself) and not many ladders the second part quickly became increasingly difficult with many ladders, the highest being 204 rungs ( I counted every one), and lots of wet and slippery roots, walkways and bogs (and I repeat the word wet as mother nature decided to make our trip a little more challenging by adding a little rain and morning mist.

Day 5 found us trudging along in the rain for 9km to Carmanah camp, we hiked a little inland and trudged through a lot of sand on the beach , past by a wonderful lighthouse and shortly there after we were tempted to stop for a $20.00 burger at Chez Monique's but we decided we would rather eat the food in our packs (extra weight) than carry it out.

Night 6 found us at Walburn Creek visiting around a great fire with a family of aunt and uncle with 2 nieces, the company was great and it was a very nice finish to a beautiful day hiking along the sea shelves. Oh yes the sea shelves, they can be very deceiving...the ground is much harder and easier to walk on than the sand but the algae can be very slippery. It was on one of these sea shelves I found my self "turtled", a term I use to describe having your feet slip out from underneath you, landing on your pack which is strapped to your back and being unable to stand without first taking off you pack or gathering assistance from nearby hikers. I was lucky, I wasn't hurt and Ron was close enough that he was able to help me flounder to my feet! Not so gracefully! All the campgrounds on the West Coast Trail are on the beach with just a few sites in the trees, the site at Walburn had a cave on the opposite side of Walbran river from where the camping was located, as it turned out a single camper decided to spend the night in the cave without a tent. We all watched him as he set up his tent and went about his business building a fire and having dinner, it was almost like our own reality t.v. The tide was scheduled to come up quite high that evening and we all wondered if he would be found floating downstream in the morning (the tides flood the mouth of the river when they are really high). The afternoon cleared up nicely so Ron, Julian and I took a extra 4km hike down to adrenaline surge and back, a surge channel hikers used to attempt to cross hanging onto the rock sides or by jumping across, needless to say more than a few didn't make it and now know one is allowed to try. Personally, I got an adrenaline rush just imagining it. Sometime into the evening it started to rain (west coast goes on and on and on), Rose and I woke with a swimming pool at our feet and semi-soggy sleeping bags. A quick breakfast and we were on our way...the guy in the cave? he was gone by the time we got up but I'm sure he was fine and probably the only one dry.

Day 7 continued on drizzly but warm. I think maybe it was a good day to be hiking inland, the huge cedars sheltered us from some of the moisture and kept our mind on the trail. With the rain came the mud bogs and the every increasingly slipper boardwalks, you find yourself having to stop to look around and enjoy the scenery because you just can't walk and look at the same time, just too many obstacles. Even if I tried to be as careful as ever one of the boardwalks jumped up and tripped me and I ended up in the splits, again Ron to the rescue, you just can't move with that pack on your back. There were a lot of wind falls in this area due to a big storm they had a couple of years ago, huge trees you had walk around, over or if you where lucky the maintenance crew had cut the trail through. Nothing seemed to dry during the day and in fact Ron's sleeping bag got wetter, lucky for us when we arrived at Cullite campground the Flemings were already there and we proceeded to build and share another fire that night with all of us standing around trying to dry things out...their fire building skills were a life saver. By this time Rose and I had figured out situation and decided we needed to use our ground sheet, wimpy as it was, for a tarp over our door. The door was where the water was getting in and it needed to be stopped. We found a sheltered spot in the woods and kept warm and dry as we listened to the stormy waves pound into the cliffs and beaches around us. We found out later that the storm that blew through took a tent of two with it and kept lots of campers up half the night waiting for the waters to recede enough to put up a tent.

Big day, day 8...4 about 5 hours, we were in early enough to Camper creek again we attempted to dry out, this time with all our gear laid out over the beach. So why so slow you ask? It is slow going in the roots and climbing ladders, and ladders, and more ladders, some literally went vertical up a cliff. Did I mention that here you are in the midst of the difficult end of the trail, I can't imagine starting at this end and hiking these gnarly trails with a much heavier pack.

Day 9, still raining, and our spirits are a little wet as well. This trip is Rose and Ron's 5 th time on the trail and the first time with rain. Not to worry, we will survive! and actually, I was liking this end of the trail now that my body was a little more broken in to the pack and weight, I liked the technical aspect of the trail it always kept you thinking.

Night 9, the last night on the trail. Can you believe these people? they make you hike an extra 1km down into the campsite...more slippery boardwalk and ladders. Luckily, again we are the early hikers into camp(only because of our short km days) so we got a great sheltered spot off the beach away from the HIGH tide. Not so luckily, the rain continued all night and through our last day on the trail. I really could not believe people did this regularly in 6 or 7 days and some have done it in 2!!! The last day truly was the most challenging day, even though our packs were lighter than those carried by the hikers we met going in the opposite direction just starting out. Our muscles were tired, the trees we had to climb over were a little bigger, the roots a little slipperier and our footing just a little more questionable. About the time we caught the boat back to Port Renfrew the only thing we could think of was the drive that day back to Vancouver, drying out, a soft bed, and french fries with ketchup! Oh I guess the thought did cross my mind that this had been one of the best and most rewarding tests of my strength and endurance that I've ever done. Pretty cool. I think I really liked it, after the pain went away. I would probably do it again, just give me a little time to plan out all the details.