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.
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.
Unpacking at the terminal
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
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
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
Be wary of mice as well. No food in
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:
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.