It’s been 3 weeks since my last post and I enjoyed the break. I also missed writing my blog. Anais Nin said that we write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. I suppose that why I write and I believe it shows up in my blogs. That’s why I missed writing because I am either in the moment or reminiscing when writing, and I love to reminisce. I live a very blessed life with much to be grateful for and to re-live moments is “to taste life twice”.
Lori and I were away on Vancouver Island to hike the West Coast Trail and then in Vancouver to recover from our trek. We definitely lived some extremes in the past two weeks especially from camping on the beach or in the woods to living large at The Westin Bayshore in Vancouver.
Here’s a Parks Canada video called Is The West Coast Trail For You?
I’ve wanted to hike the West Coast Trail for quite awhile. It’s probably been 25 years that I have imagined myself doing this trek and it had finally come to be thanks to my wife’s encouragement, involvement and participation. We arrived in Victoria, BC on July 13th and we were booked (permits) to hit the trail head at Pachena Bay on the 14th. The 13th allowed us some time to buy cooking fuel, some food and anything last minute we would require for our backpacking trek of 75 kilometers. We had done some good planning and that showed when the only things we needed to pick up in Victoria were food and fuel, which we had planned to do. We had everything else we would need. I had a restless sleep that night due to thinking too much about the trail the next day. I had heard stories about how tough it was and how remote and rugged the trail was. I had also heard it was beautiful. It was all of these things Lori and I hit the trail enthusiastically but naively on Thursday the 14th at 3 PM and we came off the trail, hardened veterans, on Tuesday the 19th at 11 AM. The trek was so many things packaged into one trail. As I have just mentioned it was beautiful, rugged, breathtaking and exhausting. The hike challenged my physical capacity both by the moments and for the endurance, by strength and by balance. It was an emotional challenge at times and a spiritual experience from start to finish. It amounts to doing a big hike every day for 6 days! I had some weary moments while hiking and an abundance of time in my own head. I had lots of time to do nothing but think, which can be good or bad, depending on the thoughts I choose. While hiking on the beach I could often see 2 kilometres ahead of me and it seemed like a real slog as my feet would sink 4 inches in the sand with every step and the sun would bear down on us for what seemed desert temperatures although I know they were mild, mid 20’s at the most. The beach was tough but it was also good because as much of a slog that it was, it was a consistent slog, a steady pace. Hiking in the rain forest (day 5) all day long can get very weary. Very weary! What about day 5 you ask? Well day 5 was all hiked in the forest where it was hot and muggy, so many mosquitos, very humid and the trail was so awful and almost invisible in spots, with a bog or a mud hole in the middle of the trail, or at times that was the trail. Day 5 took us 11 hours to hike 13 kilometers!! A couple of those kilometers took 70 minutes each to trudge. I don’t want to make the trail sound horrible because it wasn’t. It was far from it. It was a challenge and if it wasn’t a challenge everyone would do it and the reward wouldn’t be there. The gratification I felt when I put in another kilometer, another day and most of all, the satisfaction I had when we finished the trail is difficult to verbalize. I had a great feeling of pride for myself and I was very proud of my wife, Lori. This was a good trek for us as a married couple, good for our marriage to do this and accomplish this together. We both had roles to play and together we made a great team. It was a tough hike and I wouldn’t trade that week for anything. So don’t get me wrong, please. This trail is beautiful and it’s that beauty that brings people from all over the planet, to hike it. The breakers and ocean and whales and forest and creeks and rivers. Every second my eyes were open it was a photographic moment. This is a great hike in rugged territory and if anyone thinks they want to do it then I encourage you to get to it.
This is the trail
Nothing but beach to walk
Night 5 camp that Dave and Jes had found
We met lots of great people on the hike. People from all over the world. We met people from all parts of Canada and we met Carl Edgar and his family, who live on the Nitinat River, on more or less a dock. Carl’s son picked us up and ferried us across the Nitinat in their river boat. The Edgar family are First Nations and have been in this area for many generations. These people are far away from their community, which put them so far off the grid I don’t think I can begin to explain it. After they ferry you across the river they will sell you a crab or salmon meal and an ice cold cola or beer. This may not sound like a big deal but when you have been on the WCT for 3 or more days, and have been eating dehydrated meals, and you’re worn out and run ragged, this was like discovering an oasis. Carl is a real card too which helps all the weary hikers who have the fortune to meet him. We also met Harvey, who was celebrating his 75th birthday by hiking from Gordon River to Pachena Bay and then back. He was hiking 150 kilometers. He told us that he needs to challenge himself. Well he was certainly doing that and especially by hiking alone. Dave and Jes were two fabulous people who we also met. We ran into them on day one on the bus to the trailhead at Pachena Bay and then we ran into them again, on day 2, at Tsusiat Falls. From there we seemed to always meet them at camp in the evenings. We all seemed to be on the same route and timing. I’m 30 years older than them but on the trail that was just something that didn’t matter. The WCT is an equalizer. We were always behind their young legs but we would arrive at a camp for the night, and they would be there. Dave said to us that, on day 5, they were going to camp on the trail so they wouldn’t have to climb down to Thrasher Bay and then back up from Thrasher, to finish their trek on day 6. Lori had said to them,” save us a spot”. On Day 5, around 7 PM, when I seriously didn’t think I could walk another foot, when I was physically and emotionally drained, Lori pointed to a post. On that post was a crudely written note on a small piece of white paper, that read “Dave and Jes,200 m” with an arrow pointed to their direction. I needed that boost to finish my day and to make the final 5 kilometers the following day. Dave and Jes’ note was timelier than they could imagine. They had found a nice spot at a creek and we were able to squeeze our tent in next to theirs. They were awesome! The next day we finished the trail at Gordon River where we had to catch a boat across the river to the WCT registration shack and there we could check in and let the Parks Canada folks, we were off the trail. We didn’t have a vehicle and we would have had to wait 6 hours more for our bus back to the city. Dave and Jes were very kind and offered us a ride back to Victoria. It was a 2-hour drive and we arrived in Victoria around 230 PM. I showered (loved it) and shaved and before 4 I was sitting in front of huge, loaded plate of nachos and an ice cold coca- cola. I was fulfilling a vision I had had on the night of Day 4. As for Dave and Jes, we exchanged information and we became Facebook friends. I hope we see them again. They would always be welcome at our house.
The West Coast Trail is everything it is hyped up to be and more. It will not disappoint and as I said, if you are thinking of doing it then get it done. The satisfaction of the accomplishment and the beautiful hike is unrivaled and you’ll have memories that will last forever.
Before the summer is over I am going to blog on the hike itself concentrating on routes and camps and hiking the trail as an information piece, or reference for future hikers. If you have any questions about the West Coast Trail feel free to ask.
The song this week is from Charles Bradley , an American R&B and Soul singer. Bradley will be at the U of C on September 22 and tickets are only $35. This guy has been going strong since 1965! The song is called Changes
The quote this week is from Father Richard Rohr and it reminds me of how the 12 step community works.
“Transformed people, transform people”
Thanks for dropping by and reading as I greatly appreciate it…..I hope I’ll see you next week!