Wednesday, September 23, 2009

West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail continues for 75 km. along the west coast of Vancouver Island through coastal temperate rainforest. It is part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

We had friends who had previously hiked the West Coast Trail.  As well, Alicia and Chris are avid backpackers and for these reasons  we had made plans to walk the trail six nights/seven days commencing September 6th. Though in good shape we truly did not know how difficult the trail would be especially after rains and the ensuing mud. On Sunday morning we took the West Coast Trail bus from Port Renfrew to Pachena Trailhead, a four hour physically jarring ride over mainly woods roads. We started at the easier (ha ha) end of the trail. After completing the mandatory orientation; warning us about injuries, evacuation, tsunamis, tides, wolves, bears, and cougars, we set out mid-afternoon in the rain and mud to complete twelve kms to our first campsite at Michigan Creek. As we approached the nine km. mark, although walking inland,  we could hear the barking sea lions before we reached the viewpoint. 

The next morning being inexperienced it took us three hours to break camp. By the last day in our enthusiasm to finish we had this task down to one hour. This day started off in wet clothes. It gave us our first experience of beach walking, suspension bridges, and lots, and lots of ladders. As well we had our first cable car ride or also referred to as "Canada's Wonderland for Adults" ride. We arrived at Tsusiat Falls by mid-afternoon with enough time to dry out our wet equipment and clothes. 

We set our two tents up in a cave in case it rained again that night.

Day 3 was our longest hike, 16 kms., to Cribbs Creek.  Due to the excess weight of our low tech equipment, and the extra water which had to be carried that day, this proved to be Don's hardest day as he was carrying about 50 lbs. This is when Alicia and Chris' youth and high tech equipment became apparent.  The day did provide an opportunity for a cold beer sold to us by the ferry operator at Nitinet Narrows at the end of the ferry ride. 

Wednesday started off raining again which increased the mud experience for the rest of the week. We did get a respite from the weather at Chez Monique's where we ate burgers and coucous salad well worth the $15. each. As good as the free refills of hot coffee were, we had to push on.  Most of the day was beach walking on slippery kelp covered rock and climbing over boulders and tree trunks interrupted by two cable car rides. This 12 kms. took us to our campsite at  Walbran Creek.

The fifth day was only 9 kms., but all inland through diifficult mud, swamp and roots. It felt more like 90 kms. We met a family from Seattle up to their knees in mud totally unprepared for the experience but the mother still managed a big smile. It was Charlene's most difficult day with several falls. Upon arrival at our campsite, Camper Creek, an evacuation was occurring of an injured woman and momentarily Charlene was ready to join the departing group on the boat. Gatorade, hot chicken soup and a good night of sleep made her ready to complete the final two days.

Our second last day was almost all beach walking but not all easy. We had to rush in the am to get to and around Owen Point at low tide where we had only a 15 minute window. In our enthusiasm we arrived early but took the opportunity to remove our wet boots from all the streams we crossed. Chris made coffee and we enjoyed watching more sea lions on Owen Island. This was followed by two kms. of extremely difficult boulder climbing and gigantic tree trunk straddling. We camped at Thrasher Cove where a high tide greater than expected came within feet of our tents that evening. Chris and Alicia moved their tent three times to avoid the approaching waves.

Our final day started with a one km. climb up from Thrasher Cove to the main trail. From there it was all up and down with tricky footing until the 75 km. mark. Alicia and Chris had gone ahead and when we finished the ferry ride we found out they had to walk another four kms. on the road to retrieve the car. On our way to get the ferry back to Vancouver we stopped at a quaint  100 year old pub for local pints and fish and chips.

The West Coast Trail is difficult to do but great to have done!

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