My Adventure on the West Coast Trail

Author Jim Hamlin

For more West Coast Trail info, check out the ClubTread West Coast Trail page

My Adventure on the West Coast Trail
June 22nd to June 29th, 2002

Pre-hiking Day (June 22nd, 2002)

We made it to the ferry terminal and relaxed on the boat. Our packs were all checked prior to leaving and had everything as it should be. Our packs were full of all our essentials including gear, food, and an assortment of other items we probably didn't need to drag along. I have a rather large pack, and being on my back the top of the pack was almost 8 feet in the air.


Unpacking at the terminal
This made it difficult to navigate in the ferry. I ended up having to take it off and carry it in front of me; the other less desirable option was to crawl on the floor. We headed over to the hot food area of the boat and enjoyed a little White Spot as the trip was commencing. We chatted with a few people in the line, one of whom has spent a lot of time in Port Renfrew and warned of us the unpredictable storms that can roll in.

While on the ferry I headed over to the PCL Bus line booth. I arranged our tickets to get us from the ferry to downtown Victoria. That is definitely the way I would do it in the future as well. We had investigated doing the city bus but we have heard that they have issues with oversize bags and luggage - a category our packs would have fit. The PCL bus was $10 to get to our destination and the city bus is $2.50 so the decision was an easy one.

Our total bus ride to downtown was to be 40 minutes. I managed to get some rest on the bus and was feeling a lot more refreshed when we arrived. We made it to downtown Victoria at about 4pm and headed over to our hotel. We checked in at the Strathcona and managed to snare the 3rd floor non-smoking.


Typical tourist humour


The previous night when I tried frantically to book a place I was finding that everyone was sold out. Lesson learned - don't wait till the night before to book a room for a Saturday night.

We were able to drop the packs and went for a long walk around the city. We did the touristy thing for the afternoon. Later that evening we found ourselves at Milestones to have the last "real" dinner we would have for the next week. Later in the room we reviewed the map and discussed our first couple days, the tides, and which campsites we should attempt. We decided that we should do Thrasher the first night and then do Camper the second night. We'll approach Camper from the shelf at Owen point since the tides are the lowest of the month.


Hiking Day 1 (June 23rd, 2002) - Port Renfrew to Thrasher

I'm writing the days notes as I sit by the campfire we built a short while ago. It is nice and warm and takes the nip from the air being blown in by the ocean. We're in for a really high tide tonight given that the full moon is upon us. The waves are coming in. My hunch is that our fire will be underwater in a couple hours. We're actually looking at some people who pitched their homes over in the distance. We're hoping they will be okay, but I suspect some of them will have to relocate.

Our day started out quite early. We were up at 5:30am. I slept alright considering all the noise other guests were making. Just our luck where we stayed was a party hotel. We had packed most our stuff up last night so it wasn't too much of a rush this morning. We walked down to McDonalds for a quick breakfast. Last night we had scoped out all the other restaurants but none that are in walking distance open until 7am.


Loading up at the bus in Victoria
We made our way back to the hotel after breakfast and checked out. On our way back to the hotel we saw the Trail Bus drive by so we knew we had to make haste. The bus station was just down the street so it was a quick walk. When we got there, there was a bus and a van. I think we were the last to arrive even though we were 5 minutes early. After checking in with the driver and packing our gear on the bus, we rolled on. Our driver was supposed to pick up a couple, but there was some confusion as to where they would be picked up. So the couple was missed and we continued on our way to the trailhead.


Unpacking at the Point Renfrew Trailhead Info

On the way, we dropped one couple off at the start of the Juan de Fuca trail. We then pressed on to the trailhead to begin our journey with the trail orientation. The orientation was about an hour and a half and included a video, a walk through of the tides, and the noting of various trail points and cautions. I took notes from the presentation and have included them below:

Specific Trail Information:

  • Ladder #33 @ k73 and bridge #36 @ k18. Cross one at a time. (South of Billy Goat Creek).

  • The ladder #33 is a rope now with knots.

  • Owen point. Boulders for first part to point (about 1/2 way). Sandstone from point to last beach access.

  • There have been cougar sightings between Gordon River and Nininat.

  • If you get screwed, it is all covered. Use the 24 hour emergency phone number. It is 250-726-8035. Don't call 911 as us coast guard is dispatched and you will have to pay.

  • Don't eat the shellfish. Risk of red tide - psp. Crabs and fish are okay.

  • There is an exit point. Nininat is a possible exit. The ferry is $25 to the village from which you can arrange accommodations and transport.

  • Don't attempt to cross Adrenaline surge.

  • If you are hurt, don't go to the village. No med facilities there and comfortable ride on gravel roads.

  • Nininat Lake and Cheewat river. Do not collect water. Nininat is salt water. Cheewat is just plain gross.

  • There are composting toilets at various campsites. Cover poop with some wood chips. Warden will periodically compost it.

  • Red tide doesn't affect crab. No mussels or anything shellfish.

  • At the lighthouse, if they invite you in you can take you in. Otherwise respect private property.

  • Respect native lands and stay on the trail.

  • Be wary of mice as well. No food in tents.

  • Bear bangers are going off at the Cheewat River. Resident is setting them off to try and scare off a bear. Don't be afraid of the noise.

  • Food caches (bear boxes) are at Camper, Thrasher, Walbran, Darling, Michigan, and Tsocowis.

Evacuation Stats as of June 23rd, 2002:

  • 1998 - 86 evacuations

  • 1999 - 49 evacuations

  • 2000 - 102 evacuations

  • 2001 - 75 evacuations

  • 2002 - To date 16 evacuations


Boarding the ferry at Port Renfrew

Once the orientation was complete, we hurried down the road to where the ferry was to take us across. We found out at the orientation that the ferry service is now regulated. BC Parks now handles the money for both the first ferry and Nininat narrows. The cost is $12.50 per person for each crossing for a total of $25.


Jim on one of the many ladders

For the initial trip across, the ferry is operated by either Gord or Butch; Butch was taking us across today. After we unloaded from the boat on the other side, we prepared for our trek. Overall the trail itself was relatively uneventful for the first day. It was mainly just a grunt and getting accustomed to carrying the pack again. We kept a pretty decent pace considering the weight of our packs. Mine was 84 lbs. Jim's was around 75 lbs.


Me standing on one of the structures

There were a fair number of ups and downs - that made for a lot of work. Also, many areas are very slow moving due to the terrain. The first section was roots and various climbs. We had a handful of ladders - some fairly long. The ones down to the camp were the longest of the bunch. It is about 1KM from where you leave the trail to Thrasher. One of the ladders was gone so we had to use the ropes provided. It wasn't all that bad, but definitely more challenging.

Along the way we saw a point up in the woods that could have been used for camping. We found out later that a number of people doing it the other direction use that spot as an overnighter before they leave. It basically saves them the grunt in and out of Thrasher. It is at KM72. I wouldn't count on having that spot open, but it is an alternative.


Derilic donkey engine

We saw the donkey engine and then pushed on to the highest point on the West Coast Trail. The high point wasn't really all that interesting - at least we didn't think so. We deduced the highest point from the positioning of the cables from the donkey engine and the lay of the land.

We arrived at the campsite and quickly scouted for a place to set up camp. We ended up doing this leg of the trail in 5 hrs. We started at 11 and arrived at camp shortly after 4.


Descending to Thrasher Cove
We've talked again about what the plan is for tomorrow. We're thinking that we are going to try and do the beach access around Owen Point tomorrow. The tide is supposed to be at its lowest. We're going to go to camper creek at minimum but we might try for Cullite. We'll decide tomorrow after we see how the hike in the morning is.


Campsite at Thrasher

A little time has passed and we watch the water continue to rise up the beach. We went over and talked to a few people in the risky area below the tide line and extended our offer to help them move camp if they need it. As the night progressed our fire was extinguished and the tide got closer to our tents.

We stayed up and were ready to move our stuff. The tide eventually did stop and it came within 2 feet of my tent. Over the past several hours we've been helping people move theirs and clear space. It's quite light out - clear sky for the most part and a full moon. All in all, this provides for some entertainment and some excitement for the first day.

Despite it shrinking away during the high tides, it is a pretty decent campsite for the most part. There is a bear cache, but it's not very big. It also has a compost toilet. After our experience with the tides, we've decided to only go as far as camper tomorrow. We have heard that Camper is known for flooding and we want to make sure we have a really high spot and arrive early. The tide tomorrow will be as high as this one. Trying for Cullite isn't going to happen. I've been hearing that it is a small campsite and we would be arriving late if we tried for it. The tide put a real damper on the sleep. I was hoping to hit the hay early tonight but we waited until 12:30am when we knew the tide was retreating. We should arrive early at camp tomorrow so I'll probably have an afternoon nap.


Full moon view from Thrasher

This evening we didn't ever get around to setting up our stoves and having a warm dinner. We feasted on our bounty of various snacks - with the hopes that it knocked a pound off the weight of our packs.

Over the course of the day we met an assortment of new people on the bus and at the campsite. There was a group of four - a husband and wife and her two sisters. We found out that the group was originally 6 but the two who were missed earlier were to come later. They appeared to be a really nice group of people. The couple that missed the bus is from Victoria, one is from the outskirts of BC, and the remaining three are from Alberta. They too are planning on doing the shelf tomorrow.

On the way here we passed a guy that was moving pretty good. He was an older guy with a pretty small pack. He was finishing the trail in 5 days. He jokingly said that he would think of us roughing it while he has a beer later that evening. There is also a small group just next to us. They did me a huge favor. While Jim and I were at the creek getting water a damn crow stole my cup. The people chased it down and the crow dropped it. That was really nice of them - it would have been unpleasant not having a coffee cup for the duration of the trip. We also met a father and son from Ontario. We met them at the creek while we were getting water. They're over in BC just to do the trail and are shooting to do it in 6 days.

Hiking Day 2 (June 24th, 2002) - Thrasher to Camper


Packing up to head out

Our day started out fairly early, although we didn't leave camp until about 7:30. I got up at about 5:45. Jim and I both had a hot breakfast. Apple oatmeal for me. Jim was up a little earlier than me and when he finished up his packing, ventured off to the creek to collect some water for the day. He filled up my water bottle as well which was appreciated as I was trying to get all my gear in order. We then headed off to do the beach portion of the hike. Normally people climb back out of Thrasher and do the inland trail. We were fortunate enough to have low tides in our favor to take the beach route around Owen Point. We were leaving a little later than we had originally planned. Low tide was at 7:30 - the time we started. That was constantly in the back of our minds.


Rocky terrain heading for Owen Point

We were told by others who had taken that route previously that the rock portion takes about 1.5 hrs. We also heard the shelf is quicker and is about an hour and change. As we started towards the first headland of boulders we needed to get over we came up to the party of 6. They ended up splitting while it was discussed on the route. Two of them pressed on and the remaining four contemplated going or taking the inland route. The rocks didn't look all that good and I could see that it would be pretty tricky in places. The remaining four decided to bail and make their way back down the beach and towards the inland route. The rocky area that was before us didn't look all that good. Obviously not representative of the whole leg of the journey, but certainly portions of it. Even with the tricky areas, there was no way I wanted to slog back out of Thrasher to the main trail inland.

We made our way along rocks, often we found ourselves doing a little rock climbing. I must say that portions of it were a challenge, especially with that much weight on my back. As we went, we were well aware that we had to keep motoring or we'd be caught by the tide. This added an element of danger that made it that much more exciting.


Sea stacks at Owen Point

As we proceeded, we observed a number of surge channels. A couple of the narrow ones we were able to hop across, the others we had to get around. We continued over rocks and boulders until we reached a small sandy part. We thought we were heading for Owen Point, but when we arrived at what we thought was the point, we found that the true point we still had to reach, as it was hidden from our view.

There was one surge channel that went across the whole shelf. We were required to go up on the edge of the drop off and hold a rope going around the embankment. It was a little daunting at first, but then we got used to it. We took it slow because it was a very slippery surface. We needed to lean back on an angle to keep the force perpendicular to the rock to avoid slipping. I'm glad the rope held!


One of the many surge channels along this route
I had a couple of pretty good spills over the course of the day. The first spill was the worst of the bunch. On the rocky part of the headlands we were coming through some boulders that were very slippery. One of my feet gave out and I went forwards. With my pack on my back, there was no way I was going to be able to stop. I went down and slid a bit, but tried not to make too many blunt hits. I smoked my left arm and my left shin pretty hard on the rocks, and ended up almost upside down. I called Jim to help me as I used my free right hand to undo my various buckles on my pack. I was quite lucky as I didn't break anything or worse. That spill could have been an evacuation for sure if luck hadn't been on my side - especially considering our location between the headlands. I ended up with a large goose egg on my left arm and on my left knee and shin.


Cable car at Camper that I should have taken
The second good tumble happened on our way to camper. It was actually right at Camper Creek. Instead of using the cable car, I tried to rock hop across the creek on rocks. Needless to say that was one of my more stupid ideas. I was 3/4 of the way across when I hit a really slippery rock, took a spill, and ended up in the creek. That was not cool. I had a decent audience at the cable car as well. I think Jim was a little annoyed that I had suggested it and he turned back before he bailed out. There was a guy on the platform that apparently caught it on video - he said he would send me the footage. I lost one of my poles in the creek, but managed to get it back after venturing back into the creek. The water basically soaked me and there were several ounces of water in my boots when I took them off.


Sea caves just past Owen Point

Going back to the beach route... We didn't find it as fantastic as what everyone says. It was a good experience though. We ended up going around Owen Point. Something we wouldn't have seen otherwise. There was a very large sea stack at Owen point and we also got to check out some cool sea caves. They were quite large and as we stood in them and talked our voices echoed.

There was another surge channel we'd need to cross but we didn't want to risk it and ventured inland instead. There were also a few more ladders that led into camp. It wasn't a huge deal as we are starting to get used to them by that point. The section of the trail that we did in the bush had numerous boardwalks. The mud wasn't too bad, or the boardwalks either, since they weather had been pretty good to that point.

We ended up staying at Camper Creek for the night. We got there early and scored a good campsite. We wanted to rest up for the next day - which was expected to be challenging because of all the ladders, some of them being really long. One of the people we talked to at Thrasher said that there were about 3 sets of ladders - 3 up and 3 down. The most ladders on the whole trail are supposed to be between Camper and Cullite and from Cullite to Walbran. Our plan was to take them all the next day and camp at Walbran.


Making notes at our Camper Creek campsite

The crows at this campsite were pretty bold. They try and grab what they can so you need to keep an eye on them. When we had most of our camp set up one of the natives came over to chat. His name was Richard. They are in for 4 days to do trail improvements in the area. He told us numerous stories of things he has seen over the past years. It was interesting to hear how he and others helped construct boardwalks by slogging gravel and wood to the points.

The group of 4 arrived about 2 hours after we did. We ran into them when we were getting water at the creek. They actually opted to go past Camper and stay at Cullite. That isn't something that I would find particularly enjoyable, but they have their plans as well. I expected that given their pace, they wouldn't have reached camp until at least 8pm. While at the creek I ended up loosing my check valve in the creek for my water filter. I guess bad things happen in three's after all.

Hiking Day 3 (June 25th, 2002) - Camper to Walbran

We awoke at a reasonably early hour and began to get our gear together. I tried to take a little time to lick my wounds. The arm felt a little better as did my leg, but both were still a little tender. I was wondering what sort of effect that would have on the trek up and down the ladders. I also got a touch of sunburn, especially on my feet as I was wearing sandals. I should have pulled out the sunscreen, but I got lazy.

The boots seemed a little snugger, after having had to dry them by the fire. I kept them a ways away from it but they still seemed to shrink a little or something.


Me crossing one of the many log bridges

Last night I slept okay, but woke up a lot more than previous nights. We packed up the remaining gear and got ready to start our next leg of the journey. One of the native women encouraged people to take the beach route, which a lot of people did. It is supposed to be really easy walking except for a couple surge channels that you need to climb into and then climb back out. We had had enough of the beach for a little while and opted to take the inland route. A German and French couple that we had met at the camp also decided to take the inland route.


Descending ladders to Cullite

The native woman gave us the scoop on the things that we had in store for us ahead. Basically whenever there is a creek, you can expect a series of ladders. On our way, we found that the terrain wasn't overly bad. The first set of ladders we encountered was getting out of Camper. From there, the terrain was reasonably level. Mainly just lots of bush, roots, and mud - this did make it a little more slow moving though. We made our way towards the next area where we would encounter more ups and downs.


Logan Creek suspension bridge

What can I say? Ladders, ladders, and more ladders. By far the most ladders that we encountered were right at Cullite. In the direction we were going, there were 8 ladders down and 6 ladders up. We made our way through Cullite and proceeded along the trail. The next eventful area came at Logan Creek where the suspension bridge is. This is a narrow bridge that crosses the canyon. It then leads up to the longest ladder in the trail - connected to the suspension bridge. I tried counting the rungs. I think I had counted 62 rungs but I may have that wrong.


Ladders leading from
Logan Creek suspension bridge

The ladders that we climbed were at varying angles depending on the terrain. There were obvious perfect angles where it was not too steep and not too flat. After Logan, there was quite a bit of new boardwalk. It was a welcome relief and made for some easy travel. This allowed us to pick up some time we had lost climbing and descending the ladders.


Signing our name in the mud

Also along the trail in varying areas were small log bridges that spanned creek beds and other elevations. These were a little crazy at times as they sometimes were as high as or higher than 10 feet.

Our eventual destination would be Walbran, where we would spend the rest of our evening. We took about 8 hours total between the two points. We left at about 10am and arrived at Walbran at 6pm. Upon coming into Walbran we tried to find a short inland route to the beach. This proved to be a little messy as we needed to bushwhack a little. We later found out that other groups made their way to the creek and then followed it down to the beach.


Our campsite at Walbran

When we arrived at Walbran, we found that many of the groups grabbed campsites facing the ocean. We ended up taking on that faced towards the creek. In my opinion we had a much more interesting and scenic campground than the others. We looked out over the creek, which was really wide at this point, and across to the caves on the other side. The site itself was reasonably well equipped. There was a standard outhouse close by and also a bear cache.


Sea caves at Walbran

We ended up staying beside a small group that was heading in the other direction. En route they ended up coming across a salmon that was trying to get upstream. They ended up catching the salmon and cooked it for their dinner that night. Jim ended up going for a swim after seeing a few others do the same. While he was swimming, I had the fortune to watch a pod of gray whales go by along the ocean. I followed suit a little while later and went for a swim so I could get cleaned up as well.

Our plan for the next day was to wade across Walbran creek and take mostly the beach. We plan to stop at Chez Moniques, visit the Carmanah Lighthouse, and head towards Cribbs Creek for our camp. We were told that there is a second creek that we would need to wade across as we got closer to Chez Moniques. We don't know how deep it is yet, but we'll be able to better assess when we get there.

Hiking Day 4 (June 26th, 2002) - Walbran to Cribs

Last night I didn't sleep overly well. Noises kept waking me up. I went for a walk on the beach at around 4am to clear my head and try to tire myself out. I returned to bed at 4:30am and managed to fall into a deep sleep. However, that was short lived as we had to be up at 6am to get prepared for our day. In some ways I wish we had slept in more, but it was good to get going.


Wading Walbran Creek

We got up early so we could make an early start on the trail for 8am. That didn't go exactly as planned and we ended up leaving closer to 9am. There is a long cable car at Walbran that takes you to a round about inland route. We opted to avoid the cable car and waded across the creek in sandals. On the other side we dried off, booted up, and were on our way.

We made our way along the beach. The sand was really tough to walk on as it had a good angle to it and was quite soft. Every step we took felt as if it was caving in and stealing our energy. There were times that we were able to make our way on to the shelf, but often the seaweed and small tidal pools slowed that down as well. The shelf and rocks were quite slippery at times and Jim even fell once. The shelf was beaming with sea life. We saw so many little crabs - too many to count. As we walked past they would either scurry away or make a stance brandishing their pinchers at us.

As we made our way along the beach, the sand density changed from time to time. There were times that it had more give, and times that it was almost as hard as the shelf itself. This made for a welcome relief when we hit the harder packed sand.


One of the many shipwrecks along the coast

There were numerous things to see along the way. There were numerous sea stacks, none as big as the one at Owen Point, but all still very interesting. The waves at Bonilla Point were fabulous. They were among some of the biggest waves we had seen on our trip. We continued along the beach heading for Carmanah. Along this stretch we hit a few nice patches of harder sand and were able to pick up speed. Off in the distance we could see the lighthouse and also were able to spot a little white dot that we assumed was Chez Moniques.


Crossing Carmanah on the cable car
We figured we would make reasonable time to Moniques but then we came to the Carmanah Creek. This was the area that others' had told us that you need to wade across. We opted instead to take the cable car across so we could leave our boots on. By the sounds of it, a lot of people opt to remove the boots and wade. I don't know that it is any faster one way or the other, but it was definitely more convenient not to have to dry the feet, put on the boots, etc. The cable car ride itself was fairly long - it almost looked like one of the longer ones on the trail; certainly the longest that we used. It was a bit of a grunt pulling your partner along once the gravity part of the ride is over.


Taking a load off and chatting with other hikers

We ended up getting to Chez Moniques at around 12:30pm. We met Monique and her husband Peter. Monique is from Quebec and Peter is native. Monique is a funny woman and comes across very rough around the edges. Even though she is known around the world by the hiking community, she gets a little ticked when people joke that she's a celebrity. When we asked her how it felt to be famous, she snarled a little and said, "Whatever!"


Monique caught holding the buns
I had a beef burger with cheese and bacon. It was damn good. After that I had a crab burger. Jim and I actually lucked out and got the last 2. I also had a beer and a coke. That was heaven to our taste buds. At lunch we met some people from all over the world. It is truly amazing the number of people that come from all over to do the hike. So far we've met people from Canada, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.


Carmanah Lighthouse and Coast Guard chopper
When we left Moniques, we made our way up, up, up to the Carmanah Lighthouse. Once up to the headland we had some amazing panoramic views of the surrounding area including the direction from which we came. The area in and around the lighthouse were pretty cool. There are a couple houses there that are residences of the people and familiar who keep the lighthouse manned. When walking around the lighthouse we observed how supplies are brought in. Basically a ship is down in the ocean below and there is a giant cable that brings stuff up. At the site there is also a helipad for the Coast Guard choppers.


Sign pointing us in the right direction
We made our way from the lighthouse back on to the wooded trail. We opted to avoid the beach so we could avoid possible impassible headlands. There is supposed to be a sea lion rock where they all congregate but we didn't really want to wait for the tides to cooperate. We stayed on the trail past the first Beach Access point but by the second we were ready to try the beach. The trail wasn't traveled that much and was in a lot of disrepair. That's were Jim had his second spill. He slipped, fell, and almost rolled into a gulley. Luckily the ferns saved his butt.


Coast Guard chopper making a flyby
The beach for the last stretch was pretty good. We made decent time and got into camp at 4pm. Cribs Creek is a nice campground. And the waves... They are amazing! There is a long stretch of rock that is further out that the waves crash into. You can actually go out there and stand on the rocks. It is quite amazing to be standing so close to such powerful waves.

We met a group of people who are hiking in the opposite direction. They were a pretty cool group of guys. For one of the guys, David, this was actually his 15th time on the trail. We got some good info off of him about the rest of the trip, what to expect, and the best places to go. He had also done the Chilkoot twice - he filled us up with lots of good stories. We talked about various things that have changed on the trail over the years. He noted how creeks flow differently and how the structures come and go. I told him about my backpack and he just had to see it. It became somewhat of a showcase looking at the mutant size backpack. Another of the guys, Jeremy, is a scout leader. Damn he knew how to make a good fire. We collaborated with them to fetch firewood and have a larger group fire.


Our camp at Cribs Creek

It's funny, when they were rigging up a rope for their cache it looked like they were having difficulty. Jim went over to help them with the knots. He's been playing with knots lately. I told one of the other guys from their group that Jim had boned up on his knots. The guy jokingly said that it will be interesting because the guy Jim was helping, Jeremy, was a knot junkie and knew at least a hundred knots if not more. The guy ended up saying that he had to use his knot because of the type of rope he is using. He came over later to show Jim a few knots.

One of the interesting stories that David told us about was the Adrenaline surge channel. He noted that this is where he has heard the most deaths occur on the trail. He explained to us how it is normally crossed - he noted that he has crossed it a few times. Apparently you need at least 3 people. It is very risky and involves some good rock climbing. Apparently one guy would have to hop down to a boulder. He would then hop to the edge of the channel and rock climb up to the other side. This person needs to be a strong climber. They would have a rope that would be used to get the packs up. He would take it with him. The next person would hop down to the boulder and stay there. The person left on the other side would toss packs to the boulder person. The boulder person would tie them to the rope and the rock climber would pull them up. The person on the boulder should be a strong swimmer because apparently the rock can be slippery and you can end up in the water when the packs are being tossed down. Then the person on the boulder would use the rope to get up. The last person would hop down and do the same. As I previously noted, apparently this is where most of the deaths on the trail occur. The most injuries are supposedly around Owen Point - I'll attest to that...


Looking out towards the rocks and the ocean at Cribs

There has been a mist and light rain in the air. I was hoping that it would clear for the next day, but with the unpredictable whether you can only guess. The next leg of the journey will be a longer one as we planned to get to Tsusiat Falls, which is approximately 17km away. We've heard that it is reasonably fast hiking, but I've heard that a lot already. We've heard that it isn't uncommon to do the trip in 6 to 8 hours, including the time on the ferry. After getting some advice, the plan is to take the beach to Dare Point, and then make our way to the inland trail. We've heard that there is a lot of boardwalk and that it improves greatly as you approach the ferry.

The falls is supposed to be one of the premier campsites. One guy who has camped all along the coast told us this was his favorite spot. A lot of groups, including the one we talked to today, spend a couple days at Tsusiat just for the heck of it and to kick back. We were told that often people will shower in the falls and that there is a nice swimming hole. We have also heard that there is no issue with bears because they cannot get around the headlands and also haven't figured out how to climb ladders. Additionally, we heard that mice can be a problem at Tsusiat, so we should stow our food safely from the mice.

With the weather changing, I'm sure glad we're doing it in this direction. I couldn't imagine some of those ladders and log bridges in bad weather. Some were scary as is when dry. If it rains for the rest of the trip I won't be crushed. It would be nice to some nice weather. But I am counting myself lucky about the weather we have had thus far.

Hiking Day 5 (June 27th, 2002) - Cribs to Tsusiat

We're up at 6am today. I had a really good sleep and I only remember waking up twice. Some of the birds in the area decided to start chatting away at 5am but eventually went somewhere else so I could get an hour of rest. It has been lightly raining all night and continues on into the morning. This is more of the weather that I had been expecting the whole trip given the nature of the area. By only having light rain the first day and overcast to sunny the remaining days I count myself very lucky. Some of the group we talked to last night have been packing their gear as well and are making their way to their next campsite. We've packed up our gear and are now heading out.


Setting out from Cribs

Our day started out by going down our beach in the Cribs area and then doing a climb up to the upper bush area in order to make it over the headland route. At the top of the headland there was a relatively unmarked route back to the beach. We opted to stay on the trail. The trail was slow moving with lots of roots and mud. We took advantage of the next opportunity we had to take a beach access. We somewhat regretted our decision as the stretch of beach we took was on a very slippery shelf. The terrain in places was a little risky as well considering the rain. There were a few places where we had to hop across some surge channels - that was a little scary at times. There were numerous tidal pools full of sea life. We saw lots and lots of little crabs all over the shelf.


Tidal pool with sea life

At the next beach access, we hopped back on to the inland trail. Again, there was plenty of mud. We continued on this path for a while and then ventured back to the beach. By this time, the beach was primarily sand. The sand was soft at times, but it was nicer than going in and around the mud. We followed the trail on the sand until we approached an impassible headland with a beach access shortly before. There were a number of footsteps in the sand that we followed. This was nice as we knew we were probably taking the best route.


Jim next to a tribal land sign
After getting back to the inland route, the terrain got a fair bit better as we crossed through the tribal land. Often the trail was very well maintained in those areas. We also crossed a nice suspension bridge over the Cheewat.


Crossing the suspension bridge at Cheewat

We continued along the inland route towards the ferry. The route took us up above on the headlands. The trail was supposed to get better the closer we got to the ferry. This seemed to take a while, longer than we had expected.


Anchor on shelf - can you spot it?
We kept and eye out for the big beached anchor - which we eventually saw on the third or fourth viewpoint to the shelf below. Blink and you'll miss it. We finally hit some boardwalk. The boardwalk was fairly slippery and Jim had a spill there. The boardwalk did eventually improve as we got closer to the ferry. The hike to the ferry seemed to take forever. I don't know if it was the anticipation of relaxing for a few moments or of the fresh crab we planned to purchase at the ferry from the ferry operator.


At the Nininat Narrows ferry

Upon arriving at the ferry we talked to the guys for a while and ordered a crab each. The ferry operator didn't have any crabs there so he hopped in his boat and darted across the water to get a couple more. He prepared and cooked the crabs right there at the dock. Can't get any fresher than that. He said the trick to cooking the crab is to boil them in salt water for 7 minutes. Damn, they were good. They provided nutcrackers so we could crack the shells. While at the dock, we chatted by the barrel fire stove. It was nice to sit by the warmth of the stove - you get cooled off pretty quick when you stop moving. We met a couple of the native guys who do trail maintenance. Their names were Pat and Dart. We got to know them fairly well and talked about hooking up later at Tsusiat.


View from the boat of
our driver and crab chef

We then took the boat across and made our way for the second half. Again lots of mud, and lots of ups and downs too. We eventually saw a beach access point and decided to check it out. We didn't really feel like more beaches, but had a look anyway. I tested the sand and it seemed quite firm. I called Jim over and we proceeded down the beach. It was a long haul up the beach, but we were thankful we did it. We got really excited when we saw the "hole in the wall" in the distance. I have heard of numerous people taking the inland route and missing it.


The hole in the wall

After more beach hiking we finally made it to the hole in the wall. The tide was just starting to go out when we got there. We climbed over and stood under it. We guessed we were about an hour or two from being able to pass fully through it. After looking around a bit, we retraced our steps and made our way over the headland and then back to the beach. The last stretch was to the Tsusiat camping area. By this time I was really starting to get tired and was dragging my butt.


View of Tsusiat Falls

We eventually rounded the last corner and saw the magnificent falls. We saw the group of 6 that we had camped with at Thrasher. They had chosen a number of different campsites than we had. After a brief conversation, we removed our boots and waded across the creek. The previous night, David recommended that we cross the creek and stay on the other side. He said the campsites are better and that the washroom is on that side. The only disadvantage is that the trail out of the campsite, that we would travel tomorrow morning, is on the other side from where we'd be camping. We decided to heed his advice and crossed the creek. We basically had the whole side to ourselves and I would say that the sites were definitely better. We set up our tents, made sure everything would remain dry, and then set up the tarp.


Taking a few moments to relax
Before setting up camp

It has been a long day - we left Cribs at 9am and didn't arrive to Tsusiat until 6pm. We also saved a track on our GPS. This leg of the hike was supposed to be 17km. The GPS reported 20km. I would suspect that the beach routes are longer, but faster to hike. A short while later, Pat and Dart arrived and stayed on the same side as us. They set up an elaborate campsite behind ours.

Jim started a fire but it didn't last long. The rain began again and put the fire out within a couple hours. We're hoping that the rain pulls back in the morning so we're not hiking through it. Tomorrow we plan to head off to our last campsite of the trail at Michigan Creek. It is supposed to be about 12km away from our current location. 25km total to go until we get to the end of the trail. We should be finishing the trail on Saturday morning as planned. Tomorrow shouldn't be as big of a grunt as today - at least we hope!

Hiking Day 6 (June 28th, 2002) - Tsusiat to Bamfield


Shot of Jim climbing his way out of camp

We're up this morning at 6:30. Slept reasonably well, again only waking a couple of times throughout the night. It has rained all night and continues to rain. I fussed around packing up my gear while attempting to remain reasonably dry. I'm feeling really grumpy this morning, probably not a real pleasant person to be around. I think the number of consecutive days of camping combined with the rain over the past couple days is getting to me. Things are starting to get damp even though I am taking great care to keep things as dry as possible. I was pretty worn after yesterday as well - that really showed as I dragged my butt for the last 2km of yesterday's hike.

After packing up camp, Pat and Dart invited us over to their tarp area for coffee. They told us lots of good stories. It was actually very uplifting for me emotionally. It was an hour well spent. Made some new friends and got to relax. This was a turnaround for my morning. Even though the rain didn't lift, my spirits did. This is further proof that socializing with some of the people on the trail really does make the trip. Dart is planning on coming over to Vancouver in a couple weeks - we talked about meeting up for sushi while he is over here.


Doh! There goes my hip

All the rain has made the trail quite slippery - especially on the boardwalks. I actually bailed once today on a boardwalk on the bluffs beyond the falls and 'smoked' my hip. I now have a goose egg on my hip to match the ones on arm and leg. I also bent one of my Leki hiking poles trying to slow the fall.

We've been hammering out the trail at a reasonably good rate and have been feeling pretty good. At about 7km's in, I suggested to Jim that we should hike our way completely out. People have told me that Michigan isn't on the beach and I'm fantasizing about staying in a warm bed at a hotel. He wasn't too keen on the idea at first, but I tried my best to persuade him. Got him thinking about a warm bed, warm food, beer.... He got to thinking and agreed that camping in the woods in the rain wasn't as appealing as the alternative. 25km that day would be a long hike, but the payoff would be there.

We took a cable car at Klanawa. It was one of the few cable cars that we took that covered a lot of water underneath of the cable. It was a little messy as water from the cable and rope sprayed as the car moved.

We continued to motor along and hit the shelf again as per Pat's suggestion. He gave us some good information on the best route to take to get to Michigan Creek. The route he suggested allowed us to make very good time for about 4km. He basically suggested that we take the beach from Klanawa River to Trestle Creek. They incidentally took the same route along the shelf as they were heading to clear some blow down with their chainsaw shortly past the beach access point at Trestle Creek. Both Pat and Dart moved quite quickly on the shelf. They caught up to us and we met up with them at the beach access point, had a short rest, and enjoyed some Clif Bars for lunch to recharge our batteries.

When we got to Darling River, the cable car was out. By that time we had already made up our minds that we were pushing through to the end so we didn't worry about our boots. We waded into the creek with our boots on. The water got just above my knee level. Once across we tried to find the trail. This proved to be a bit of a challenge. We searched around the cable car and couldn't find a trail we could connect to. When making our way back down after not finding a good trail, I lost my footing and the root I was holding on to broke. I ended up sliding on my belly down a 14ft embankment. Lucky Jim had already cleared.


Abandoned outlook post

We decided that taking an inland route wasn't going to be feasible so we opted to take the beach. Later we looked at the map and saw that the map indicated we should have taken the beach. Lesson learned - when you're unsure, look at the map. We pressed on along the rocky beach. We eventually rounded a couple corners and reached what looked like a beach access point back into the inland trail. We reached the Michigan campground and had a chance to change our mind. We opted to stick to our new plans and hike our way out. We continued from Michigan up the hill till we reached a level area. At this point we took a 10 minute break and had a few more cliff bars. What a day this has been so far, and quite a change to our original plan.

The last stretch of the trail was somewhat uneventful. Lots and lots of mud puddles - some looked like mud lakes! We came across a number of people that were coming on to the trail as their first leg of the journey. It was amusing to see a lot of them carefully dodging the puddles as we went right through the middle of them. Some of the mud was pretty deep. One puddle was half way up my quadriceps - high considering I am 6'10". I'm surprised that step didn't knock me down into the puddle - but my momentum and hiking poles kept me going through.

As we pressed on, it continued to rain and fog was coming in. We approached the Pachena Lighthouse. We could hear its low bellowing horn as we got closer. I can see why people at Michigan campground hear it throughout the night. We got to a junction where you could go check out the lighthouse. We luckily saw some hikers that were heading in the opposite direction coming out of the side trail. They said that they couldn't really see anything through the rain and fog. We opted to pass on the lighthouse and continue on.

It continued to rain harder and harder. The fog lifted, or appeared to lift. Most of the trail we walked on became runoff streams. There were too many puddles to count - we were lucky that we weren't making any attempts to avoid them. I think it would have added a good hour or two to our trip back if we had tried.


Native patrol cabin

The trail seemed never ending. I'm not sure if it was our fatigue, or the lack of mileage markers at this part of the trail. Near the end the only ones I saw were 11 and 6. That is really unfortunate when you're trying to count down your km to the end. It also makes it hard to tell where you are sometimes. We didn't have our GPS's on, and doubt they would have worked in the bush anyway. I guess the only way to describe our last 13KM was that it was a grunt. We kept waiting for the "3 lane highway" that is rumored. Don't buy into that rumor as no highway exists. There were places that had wider trails but they would come and go.

On our way back at about km 3.5 we were passed by a couple guys. I had turned around to say something to Jim when I noticed someone behind him. We paused and talked to them for a moment. We noticed that they had pretty small packs and asked them where they started from. We were shocked to hear the beginning!!! They had taken a small rowboat across at Port Renfrew at 4am and abandoned it. They had 16lb packs and were wearing trail running gear. It was unreal. Before they pressed on past us, I asked them to hold the cab and that we wouldn't be too far behind. The timing worked out great. They called the cab when they hit the trailhead. The cab arrived about 5 minutes after we got there. We got in at 8pm. They arrived at about 7:40pm. So they took about 15.5hrs to complete the whole trail. In the cab ride on the way back, the driver said that he heard that the record was 13 hours but he had never actually talked to the people who did it. In talking with those two guys further, we found out that this was actually their 3rd time doing it in a single day. The prior two times they didn't actually have a rowboat and had swum across prior to doing the trail. We asked them what possessed them to do the trail in one day. They basically said that one day they were talking about how fast one could do the trail. They said, "probably 4... Actually how about 3, that's feasible... You know 2 is possible. You know, I bet you could it in 1." It's quite funny and I'm glad we had a chance to run into those guys - it made for some great stories at the bar a little later.


Jim and I a couple minutes after finishing

So we ended up finishing the trail at 8pm. We logged 25km today and 20km yesterday. 45km in two days seems like a really good grunt to finish the trail. It made for some achy body parts that needed some good rest and relaxation. We ended up leaving camp this morning at 10:15am, arrived at Michigan Creek at 4pm, and finished at the end at about 8pm. If we hadn't been going right through puddles, creeks, etc., I'm sure we would have finished at about 9:30-10pm. All in all, we ended up finishing in 6 days. I'm glad we did. The thoughts of a warm bed and food is all to appealing after all the rain we have had today.


View from our room of the bar

We ended up getting a hotel room in Bamfield at the Trails Motel. It is a fairly decent room. We had a chance to get a shower - that was nice. I had some dry clothes in my dry bag that I hadn't really worn on the trip. Once cleaned up, we made our way to the pub attached to the hotel. We enjoyed some fish and chips as well as a few beers. It was a nice time at the bar. We talked to a handful of people who hiked out. There were two couples, the guys who did it in one day, and the three guys we had nicknamed Snap, Crackle and Pop. There may have been others who pushed through and camped at the trailhead, although I didn't really see any campers. Also, I can't think of anyone who would want to not have a nice meal and bed after doing a long grunt.

As I lay in bed making notes I have a lot of mixed emotions. The trail challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some of my phobias about heights and ladders have been cured. I found that I could push myself hard and continue to push. I found a good sense of comradery between myself and Jim. We helped each other push to finish legs of our journey. Yesterday I was having a tough time, today it was his turn. He commented on how hard we push each other. I told him it was my turn to be the dickhead. We both laughed.


Snap, Crackle, and Pop
No fighting, you can't all be Snap!

The people that we met and talked to on the trail were all very interesting. Most of the people on the trail were hiking enthusiasts so it was great to share our experiences. One of the best things on the trail was the people that we met and shared some of our time with. I consider this past week to be a very valued experience that has changed my life. In my stay I really missed my wife Natalie as well. It was the longest we had been apart. I was able to call her each night from the beach by roaming on to AT&T. I was on analog, so I needed to keep my conversations to less than 15 minutes each time. It was tough telling her of all the adventures of the day in such a short period of time, but long enough to tell her that I was safe.

All tolled, I wiped out a number of times. A lot of my falls were nasty, but didn't result in any breakages. I just ended up with some lumps, bumps, bruises, scrapes, numerous bug bites, and some sunburn in places. In terms of equipment, I lost the check valve for my filter in the creek, bent one of my Leki hiking poles today, got a couple ember burns on my gortex jacket, and also trashed the bottoms of my gaitors.

To summarize, it was a kick-ass trip!

Post Hike Day (June 29th, 2002)

I was taking notes till about 1am and when I looked out the window and noted that it was still raining. I set my alarm for 8am (major sleeping in). If we had to have hiked today, we would have most likely got up at 5:30am. I peeked out of my room and it looks like Jim is still asleep so I'm not going to bug him. I checked out the window again and it looked like it has been raining all night and is still raining. Damn it was nice sleeping in a real bed and not in the rain.


Posing in front of the bus we didn't catch

Today we are going to wait for the West Coast Trail bus to pick us up. They are supposed to pick us up in Bamfield in front of the hotel at 1pm, and then go to the trailhead at 1:15pm. We're counting on going to the office and signing out while people pack at the bus.

The saga, I mean adventure, continues. We *were* supposed to catch the 1pm west coast trail bus to the ferry terminal. Slight change of plans however, for some reason they had us booked in for tomorrow. We talked to them about it. The driver brushed us off, said there was no room and was on his way. I found that he was a little rude and it left me somewhat unimpressed. The saga continued for that other couple that was originally missed as well. They had been knocked off the list even though they had paid. He told me that the response he got was that the guy booking was ticked off because he could have booked the seats. In my interactions with them I witnessed three screw-ups - makes me wonder how many there are per month?


Aboard the Frances Barkley

The couple made their way to Port Renfrew in hopes some neighbors of theirs from Victoria could pick them up. Jim didn't want to go that route as Port Renfrew was as isolated as Bamfield. It was a good call on his part. We managed to get on to the Frances Barkley (Lady Rose Marine Services). We got on a little after 2pm and lucky for us they were running late. The cost was $20 per person.


Unloading fish food at the farm
They also had some cargo that they needed to drop off at a salmon farm so they were 45 min behind their scheduled arrival in Port Alberni. We should hopefully be able to get there at 6:15pm. Later the captain, Raif Moss, assured us that we were on schedule and would arrive at 6:15pm. We can then plan to take a cab to the bus station. Before leaving Bamfield, I managed to find that Island Coach Lines have a run at 6:50pm to Departure Bay for Port Alberni. The bus would then arrive at the ferry terminal by 8:15pm or so. We think there is a ferry running at 9pm and that should bring us to the Horseshoe Bay terminal at 10:30. Basically, only 4 hours later than we would have originally been if we had been on the West Coast Trail Bus.


Lynn providing kitchen entertainment
It definitely made it more interesting. We took a very enjoyable ferry ride and met a few more people. The lady who runs the kitchen, Lynn Patterson, is real nice and even gave me a bowl of clam chowder. My experience on the lady rose was quite good. I'd recommend them to others in the future.


Yes! Made it on the bus

We arrived as planned and hopped in the cab. The cab cost us $10 including tip to get us to the bus station. The bus tickets to the ferry terminal were $13 each. We were finding that all the dominoes were falling in place and the chances were very good that we'd be home tonight. I jokingly commented that it reminded me of the Amazing Race on TV.


Yes! Made it to the ferry
Where's the application for the Amazing Race?
Our only other option was to spend another night in Bamfield and take the West Coast Trail Bus on Sunday. We did make it to the ferry and caught it to Horseshoe Bay. I'm glad we did make an attempt instead of staying put. To be honest, it added to the adventure and made the experience that much more memorable.