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WEST COAST TRAIL JOURNAL

Journal and photography by ...
TERRY    and                 MICHAEL 



 JULY 10

Sherrie, Michael & Terry caught the 8:30 AM ferry at Horseshoe Bay for Nanaimo and then proceeded to drive to the Bamfield area (on the west coast of Vancouver Island) where the northern (or western) trailhead for the West Coast Trail (WCT) is located. Our plan was to attend the obligatory orientation session at 3:30 this afternoon and start out on the trail in the morning.

Arrived at West Coast Trail Information Centre shortly after 2 PM, checked into the Pachena Beach Campgrounds where we would spend the night, and said goodbye to Sherrie, who we hoped to see again on July 17 in Port Renfrew at the southern end/entrance of the Trail.

West Coast Trail Information Centre at "North End" - Bamfield

Found the orientation session (conducted by Nelson from Parks Canada) to be most informative.

Via slides and words, Nelson walked us through what to expect over the next 7 days, camping etiquette, environmental sensitivity and answered numerous questions from those present. He informed us of a resident, non-aggressive bear at Darling River (where we planned to camp our first night out), a more aggressive bear south of Klanawa River, daily bear sightings at Nitnat Narrows and a cougar sighting a few days ago a little further south. A board in the office shows 42 emergency evacuations (this year) since the trail opened on May 1. Nelson reviewed what to do in case of an emergency and gave each of us an Evacuation Information Form.

 Following our orientation session we hiked over to the campgrounds and made camp. We toasted our pending adventure with a beer. Our dinner was re-hydrated Teriyaki Turkey with snow peas  ...  Michael got the pea ... which didn’t fill us up so we followed it with a muffin pancake (which Terry couldn’t turn over in the pan).
Pachena Beach Campgrounds We built a camp fire and played three games of crib ...  (Terry 2, Michael 1), followed by a bit of Texas Hold’em.
Michael Terry 
 
 We retired about 9:45 PM and read our novels in the tent (the headlamps worked great). Lights out and starting to settle down when a pickup pulled into the site next to us and two noisy couples set up camp complete with a campfire that made reading in our tent possible, without using our headlamps.
    
               
JULY 11 - WCT DAY 1        
 

Started to stir around 5:20 AM but didn’t get up until 8:30 AM. It had rained a little during the night.

High overcast cloud had us feeling very positive. We elected to wear shorts right off. We started with a coffee followed by a breakfast of instant oatmeal (not bad) and split an apple and a nectarine. 

 

Broke camp, Michael called his wife, Tracey, on the camp pay phone and we were underway about 10:25 am.

  Michael had his digital camera so started the picture taking right away.

 Within the first hour, we met 11 hikers (in small groups) who were coming to the end of their WCT experience. Some who had done it before but mostly first timers. As the closest campsite is 12 km from the north trailhead, it meant they all broke camp very early this morning.
 
Bridge 1 Bridge 5   Km 1  

At about the 2 km mark, Terry was experiencing pain in his right shoulder and a "tingle" in his left arm and thumb. Terry thought his chest strap was too tight but Michael felt it was the shoulder straps. Terry loosened the shoulder straps - almost instant relief (as he was worried).
 
 
Crossed numerous bridges in the first 4km (there are 108 total along the trail) and a number of ladders. Terry took the only tumble of the day falling off a log from which he was attempting to step down.

 
 Bridge 13
 Bridge 13
Map courtesy of Parks Canada 
     
 
 Both quickly agreed that collapsible walking sticks and gaiters are a must.
 
 As we were planning to camp at Darling River on night #1, we decided we would stop at the Pachena Point lighthouse [10km] for lunch which we did and talked with 2 groups there who were also heading south.


One fellow in the group of four from Calgary was hiking the trail for the 10th time - he had started back in the 70's.   Both groups indicated they were going to stop at the Orange Juice Creek campgrounds (1½ km south of Darling River) as it was a much nicer beach.
       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Signs left by man include park "caution" signs as well as bathrooms at camp locations decorated by debris found washed up on beaches. 

 
 
 
After lunch we hiked to Michigan Creek [12 km mark] and experienced walking along the beach for the first time. Walking on the sand is tiring but along the rock shelf is fairly easy going. The walking sticks worked great on the kelp, seaweed and slime.
 

  

Walked out and took a picture of the "Michigan" boiler near the spot where it sank in January 1893.

            

   

 
 
 
 Pushed on to the Darling River campground (no campers) and decided to continue on to Orange Juice Creek (arriving around 4:30 pm) and glad we did. 



Made camp right beside one group and will share a campfire with them tonight. After two large mugs of ice tea (Terry must consume more water throughout the day) we wolfed down a dinner of Kraft Dinner (very good).

Not a cloud in the sky, warm and plenty of Grey whales moving north just off shore. Also curious seals right in close.
 
 
As Orange Juice Creek doesn’t have a bear box to secure our food, Terry climbs a tree and fed a rope over one of it’s branches while Michael fashioned a "mouse guard" from a piece of heavy plastic found on the beach.
We’ll hoist our food into the tree before we retire (we’re considering a 2nd dinner before then) and hope it works.   
 
 
 
 
 
 Decide on a second dinner around 8:15 PM - Oriental Sweet & Sour - much better than the Teriyaki Turkey of last night. We hoisted our food sacks and by 10:15 Terry was in bed and Michael followed about a half hour later after sitting on the beach reading and watching the whales. At 11 PM Terry was up for the first of two bathroom breaks - not a cloud in the sky, the heavens aflame with a blaze of stars and two brightly lit cruise ships a mile or two off shore.   

Surreal.
     
 
 
JULY 12 - WCT DAY 2
Dawn showed clear skies and when we emerged from our tent at 8:30 AM the sun came over the treetops and the air heated up noticeably.  The other two groups were getting ready to leave; we had our coffee, apple cinnamon pancakes and hit the trail about 11 AM.

Yesterday we covered 15 km in about 5½ hours so felt the 10 km to Tsusiat Falls would be accomplished in shorter time.

The ocean is alive with whales and we’re seeing more seals.

The number of fathers and sons on the Trail is heartening and we are impressed at the high number of females.


Beach walking from Orange Juice Creek to Tsocowis Creek is relatively easy on the rock shelf but very tiring over sand and gravel.
First trouble of the day occurs about an hour out as Terry breaks his sunglasses in half (and not a cloud in the sky behind which the sun can seek refuge).

Headed inland and stop with others for a break at Valencia Bluffs off which the steamer "Valencia" with 160 on board out of San Francisco bound for Victoria in January 1906, sank with the loss of 133 lives.
    
We pass several rusting relics (a derelict grader and donkey engine) from a bygone era and re-emerge onto the beach at Trestle Creek where a couple from Red Deer awaits us with a pair of sunglasses they have found on the trail. Alas, they are prescription (sorry for the person who needs them) and of no use to Terry.
 
    
  
 
 
 
 
We continue along the beach, tiring with each step. 
Our first cable car at Klanawa River. What a hoot!  We assist others across and are in turn helped.
Second setback of the day strikes Terry after crossing the river when one of his walking sticks will not lock in the appropriate position.
The sticks are invaluable and are used almost constantly; this would be a blow but we are able to lock it about a foot shorter than desired ... so all is not lost.
Fatigue is setting in.

The ladders are taking their toll.


We finally arrive at Tsusiat Falls, our camp site for the night, at about 4:30 PM.


We are exhausted. 10 km in 5½ hours, the same amount of time it took us to cover 15 km yesterday.
Tsusiat Falls is the most popular campground on the Trail and we arrive to a friendly transient community of approximately sixty.

Michael heads off for a swim in the pool under the falls and does some laundry.
Terry is thankful he has shed his pack for the day and is less ambitious. It’s too hot to eat, so we decide to postpone dinner until around 8 PM. We leave our packs unattended for several minutes and return to find that a raven has skilfully removed a chocolate bar from the mesh pocket on Terry’s pack leaving nothing but the paper wrapper.

We plan on getting to bed a little earlier tonight as it will be a long day tomorrow to the campgrounds at Cribs Creek - 16½ km away. We know the operators  of the ferry service at Nitnat Narrows have cold beer for sale and many at camp tonight consider them the most popular people within 100 km.

We dine on Pasta Primavera (the best dinner so far) and along with others hang our food in a nearby tree, to discourage the bears, as there are no bear boxes at this location.

It is very warm in our tent and Terry struggles with sleep until around 4 am.
                    
JULY 13 - WCT DAY 3        
Dawn breaks shrouded in a heavy fog and we roll out of our tent at 7:30 AM.
  Clearly we are again the late risers as some have already left and most others are breaking down and getting ready to move. We have our usual morning coffee followed by scrambled eggs followed by good old oatmeal.

We speed up our morning activities as we have a lot of ground to cover today and leave Tsusiat Falls at 10 AM ahead of only two.
 Hike along the beach towards "Hole-In-The-Wall" and our arrival coincides with high tide so we are unable to pass through it as planned but must rather hike over it and return to the beach on the "Hole’s" south side.
 
 
 Finding faces in the rocks is part of beach walking.
 
 Continue along the beach for approximately 2½ km before being forced to the inland trail just north of IR2 (Indian Reserve) and ...
 
  A view break between root walking.
 
 
... continue this way to Nitinat Narrows which we cross by ferry boat to the cold beer, barbequed salmon and crab waiting for us on the dock.
What a great group of people hiking south on the WCT with us and as many of us stay at the same campsites each night, we get to visit a bit and talk about adventures of the day. People from Victoria, Hornby Island, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Seattle, Connecticut and so on.

Michael and Terry both have a beer at the Narrows. Art from Connecticut has BBQ’d salmon and the ladies (we later call "the nurses") from Hornby Island and Victoria decide to push on and save themselves for Chez Monique near Carmanah Point which we’ll pass tomorrow. Monique’s breakfasts are legendary as are her hamburgers with all the trimmings.
We join up with Art and pass through the tiny Indian Village at Clo-oose. Shortly after crossing over the suspension bridge at Cheewhat River, we return to the beach and pass an Indian family reunion. Quite a gathering (about 30-40 tents) with several children playing in the surf and at river’s edge.

The beach here is fantastic and we walk just above the water’s edge where the wet sand is compacted and the walking is by far the easiest we have experienced to date.
  
Bald Eagle sits atop a tree.
A surge channel forces us inland just past the 38 km marker and we return again to the beach a short time later.

The good sand is gone but the rock shelf hiking isn’t too difficult if you’re careful. The fog lifts a bit in the early afternoon but the sun never really breaks through.
We met our first Trail casualty. A young Swiss girl has fallen off a log ... no bones broken but her right arm is a dark purple from her elbow up and over her shoulder.
Arrive at Cribs Creek around 5:30 PM in good spirits – 16½ km in 7½ hours. We are not as fatigued as yesterday. This is a nice campground with toilet and bear box close at hand but not nearly as spectacular as Tsusiat Falls. We have about 20 camping neighbours tonight. We just get our camp set up and Terry starts preparing dinner (Minestrone Soup with instant potatoes) when Michael acknowledges that he is very cold.
He bundles up in layers of clothing but can’t get warm. We finish our soup, but Michael is still hungry so cook up a pot of Kraft Dinner. Michael, still cold, eats and then goes into the tent and gets into his sleeping bag. He may be suffering from dehydration. We had put electrolytes into our water before we started out this morning to boost our energy level and our water consumption was up today but maybe we have to up it even more.

Just before sunset the sun breaks through for about 3/4 hour and then it’s gone. With dusk the fog and overcast start to look a little threatening so who knows what the morning will bring.

Good news. Terry is able to repair his hiking stick. The tightening mechanism was jammed with dirt and pebbles. A clean out restores it to working order.

By 10 PM Michael is feeling much better.

                                          

JULY 14 - WCT DAY 4

Dawn breaks in fog, although not as heavy as yesterday morning. Another sleepless night for Terry.

Roll out of bed at 7:30. No breakfast this morning - only a coffee. The plan is to have breakfast at Chez Monique’s.

 Although we pick up the pace, we’re still the last ones to leave (just before 10 AM). We take to the beach and stay on it right to the Carmanah Point Lighthouse [44 km]. We pass a number of sea lions on their haul out rocks but the tide is in so pictures are taken at some distance.

At the lighthouse we are given a brief tour by a young man (11 or 12 years old) from Surrey who is spending part of his summer holidays at the lighthouse.  

He shows us the skeleton of a small humpback whale and points the way to Chez Monique. We are very impressed with the young people (10 to 20 years old) we are meeting along the Trail. Very outgoing, engaging and polite.
 

We head down the ladders and there it is on the beach – Chez Monique.
 
 
Everyone should get to visit this place. A large tent (600 sq ft) which encloses a small store, the ordering counter, containers of recycled cans, garbage, boxes of free "help yourself" food left by hikers who are packing way to much, fishing gear, and behind a partial wall "the kitchen". Tables are set up inside and outside between the logs. Some have umbrella’s. If the health inspector should visit, this place would be shut down in a cholesterol-clogged heart beat.  Most of "our group" is here and many are arriving from the south.  
We both settle on a mushroom cheese hamburger ($11 each) and a beer ($4 each). A small boat arrives and halibut and salmon are brought in. While waiting at the counter line-up ... can you believe it? – in the middle of nowhere! – a line up! ... we chat with a group of ten armed forces personal from Kingston, Ontario – one who’s aunt and uncle were good friends of Langley’s Mayor John Beales – a former colleague of Terry’s.
 
 

Reluctantly we leave and quickly overtake many of our group along the beach who are searching in vain for one of the largest trees on Vancouver Island.  

We may be late starters but we can move – the second day was the most difficult from a fatigue point of view, yesterday was much better and today we are really motoring.
 
 
 
The plan is to camp at Walbran Creek tonight but we are thinking about continuing on to Logan Creek and have a shorter day tomorrow as the following morning we should be underway by 6-6:30 if we wish to hike around Owen Point which a favourable tide allows.  
 
Arrive at Walbran Creek approaching low-tide.  The creek is low, so rather than use the cable car, we cross on a log bridge which some of our group had just constructed. We drop our packs and while discussing the merits of pushing on to Logan Creek with others, it starts to rain – the first rain we have encountered on the Trail.  
No sooner do we get jackets on and rain shields on our packs, it stops.  Decide to go to Logan Creek. The Trail between Walbran and Logan is approx 3 km in length through a long section of bog.
 
More ladders ..... more root walking .... more root walking ... more log walking ... 55 km marker ... and more root walking ... more ladders .... and a suspension bridge.
 
 
We arrive at Logan Creek around 4:30 PM – approx 15½ km in 6½ hours. 

This is the current location of the Trail maintenance crew [3 men].  They are a nice group of guys and offer coffee and a rake to level our tent site.

Few of our group check in - almost all have stayed at Walbran Creek.
 
 
 
Michael builds a campfire (our first on the Trail) and surrounds it with seats. We settle in and have a meal of Chicken Gumbo (spicy) which Michael enjoys and Terry can barely get down. That and Chez Monique's burger play havoc with Terry’s stomach throughout the night. Michael gets into his Harry Potter novel and Terry updates his travel diary and by 9 PM the dense fog (which has settled back in) is like a light drizzle and we retreat to the tent.


 JULY 15 - WCT DAY 5
 

Up at 7:30 and after a cheese-mushroom omelette for breakfast (in Terry’s mind only marginally better than last night’s Chicken Gumbo), we begin to break camp and are on the trail at 10:10 – again the last to leave. We have a short 6 km to Camper Creek but we know it won’t be an easy 6 km with plenty of root walking, mud holes and ladders.

Immediately we are into a seven ladder accent which is difficult when the body is still cold.
 
 
 
 
 
 
No beach walking today. Ladders down to Cullite Creek and rather than use the cable car we walk across the creek and ladder up the other side. The going is the toughest to date but we’re feeling pretty good and arrive at Camper Creek in just under 4 hours.
 Camper Creek is a beautiful site and we are warned to pitch our tent above the log line as the incoming tide moves up the creek bed. We both do some laundry and wash our hair in the creek.

Quite a number of our group arrive, pitch tent and there is considerable washing of clothes and bathing in the creek.

We plan to be out of here between 6-6:30 in the morning so as well as supper tonight, Terry will make up a big batch of muffin pancakes to eat as we trek towards Owen Point. Many that we meet coming from the south encourage us to go around the point if we can time the tide so we must be away early.

We have turkey and gravy stirred into mashed potatoes (so-so) and once dinner is finished Terry cleans up the pots and starts in making muffin pancakes. The two boys (from the fathers and sons group from Alberta who are camped beside us tonight) went fishing in the ocean and returned with a rock cod to show their dads. They headed out again and came back with two more. They cleaned them and we donated tin foil and olive oil. They had fresh fish as part of their dinner.

In the late afternoon a large group going north, arrive and set camp. Of the approximately thirty in the group, many appear to be in their 50s and 60s and some are struggling but are in fine spirits. Around 9PM while Michael is walking through camp they are singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" and are having a meeting complete with a written agenda. "Amsterdam" is camped right next to them but have ear plugs so hopefully they will get some sleep as they plan to head out with us in the morning. One game of crib, a little reading and lights out around 9:45 PM.

JULY 16 - WCT DAY 6
The alarm goes off at 5 AM and we’re moving. Michael is off to retrieve our food from the bear box and wake "Red Deer" as promised - they’re already up - and Terry heats the water for our morning coffee.
On the trail by 6:20 AM and, again, rather than use the cable car, we walk the creek and start up the ladders – killers, to some of us, first thing in the morning.

The first 2 3/4 km are inland before we turn onto the beach access trail. It’s a beautiful bright morning with few clouds and no fog – feels like a warm day ahead. Low tide of .5m occurs at 7:20 AM so we’ve missed it by minutes. Great ... Owen Point is passable at tides below 1.8m so we’re in great shape.
 Quite quickly the footing becomes the most dangerous of the journey with slippery surfaces and the need to cross ever widening surge channels. Weather conditions are almost ideal, (dry, no wind, low tide), we can’t imagine doing this under wet, rainy conditions.  
 
 
 
 
Far left:  Surge channel with makeshift log crossing. Near left: Shelf walking.  Above: Walking around surge channel. 
 
Owen Point is spectacular with its caves and tunnelling. Lots of seals and a few otters. 
 

As we move beyond Owen Point the route becomes increasingly difficult with boulder after boulder to climb over.

Begin meeting people coming from Thrasher Cove and see several with cuts and scrapes. Our entire group of 13 makes it with only minor bumps and bruises.

Fathers & Sons = 4

Red Deer = 2

Amsterdam = 2

Tyler & Co = 3

Terry & Michael = 2
____________

"Our group" = 13
The beach at Thrasher Cove holds the best sand of the journey and there is plenty of shade. "Amsterdam" teases us that we have arrived at a time (9:55) that is before the time we usually leave camp. Our group rests, some have lunch and decisions are arrived at as to who is going to press on to Port Renfrew, which we can see across Port San Juan.

"Fathers and Sons" and "Red Deer" decide to hike out so after lunch we say our goodbyes.  We ask Tom to phone Sherrie to meet us around 3 pm tomorrow in Port Renfrew.

Spend a very restful afternoon sitting in the shade reading our books. More hikers arrive (from both directions) and the smallish camping area is very alive.
We finally pitch our tent around 6 PM and dine on "Savoury Italian Pasta something" - not bad - but Michael is still hungry so we make up a huge pot of "Black Beans and Rice Potage" – filling but not very appetizing. We can’t finish the pot but "Amsterdam" drops over for a "last-night-hot-chocolate" and he finishes it off.

After a bit of excitement when a young seal is discovered close to camp, we retire about 9:45 PM.

When Terry gets up around 1 AM the sky is clear (no fog) and alive with stars.
JULY 17 – WCT DAY 7

Haul out, as usual, at 7:30 AM. It’s going to be a bright, warm day – what luck – a total of about 10 minutes of rain in the past 7 days. We have come to appreciate how difficult the past week would have been under wet, rainy conditions.

This, however, is the morning Terry has been dreading for sometime – the 1km ladder hike up to the main trail. After coffee and breakfast of "Blueberry Cobbler" (not a favourite) we start packing up for the last time this trip.

    
Ladders ...
ladders ...
and more ladders ...
and the morning climb continues with ...
 root climbing ...
 
  
and more ladders ...
then a little easier root walking before climbing down one ladder just to climb up another. 
Bridge 108 ... the last bridge for us ... the first bridge for others.

In hindsight the climb up was a bit anticlimactic – it was tough but not the "ball-buster" Terry thought it would be.   We reach the main trail at the 70 km mark and continue to climb to the highest point on the trail just past the 71 km marker. The going is tough with lots of ups and downs and roots.  
As we near the finish we pass others just getting underway and hope each and every one will enjoy the experience as much as we have.

At the Gordon River Trailhead, we raise the orange buoy to signal our boat.
 

Across the water and passed the Indian Village, we checked out at the WCT Information Centre and receive our complimentary West Coast Trail T-shirts.
 
A $2 per person "taxi" ride delivered us to the Port Renfrew Hotel.    
 
 
After about an hour’s celebration with food and beer, Sherrie arrived just a couple of minutes after 3:00.

We stacked "Amsterdam" in the back seat and drove them to the General Store where we said "good byes".
 
 
We drove to Swartz Bay in time to catch the 7:00 ferry.

Home at about 10:00 PM and placed a check mark beside "The West Coast Trail" on our "Life’s Things To-Do List."
   
  
      
U
 

  
  
Another entry on their "Life's Things To-Do List" is "Climbing Kilimanjaro".
   

___________________________________________________________________________________
         
        
THOUGHTS (reflecting back)
U Collapsible hiking sticks – quickly became indispensable. They would be even more useful under wet and/or muddy conditions.
U Best piece of advise we can offer those planning to do the Trail. While on the Trail STOP walking before looking around – there’s just too many opportunities at foot for injury to take your eyes off where your feet are about to step.
U Water bladders were great. With water always "right there" one consumes more than they might otherwise from bottles.
U Talk to those who have done the Trail and/or read other accounts of the experience.
U Read and reserve through Canada Park's web site at www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/pacificrim

 
  
A READER'S NOTE:   
If you enjoyed this journal of the West Coast Trail hike with Terry & Michael, you may also enjoy their account of climbing  MOUNT KILIMANJARO, AFRICA. 
 

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