A 75km Break from Calories

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I’m going to try and make this long story short, because the last time I tried to document this hike with my girlfriends, I ended up getting the days mixed up and never finishing because it was just too detailed. West Coast Trail Hike #2 is going to fit into one post indeed.

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Two years ago, September 2012 I completed the trail pretty dang overweight. I had just finished a stressful year of EMT school, then went to a childrens camp and ate crappy food all summer. The picture on the left definitely reflects that. The picture on the right is two weeks ago and 23 pounds lighter. The trail was about 90% easier and more enjoyable than the first time just because I’m in shape and working out consistently. My girlfriends and I finished it in 7 days. Cory and I did it in 6 this time. I definitely think I could do it in 5 next time.

In case you’ve never seen it, the West Coast Trail is 75km of amazing scenery.

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Cory and I managed to make it to Victoria without killing each other after taking the ferry from Vancouver. I was SUPER grumpy on the ferry and the bus ride because I had just finished nightshift 3 days earlier, and still wasn’t sleeping properly. I *insisted* we sit down and take a break outside MEC downtown.

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We had our last civilized meal at the Azuma sushi restaurant, and went to sleep early after packing it all. At 515am we paid a cab driver to take us to Tim Hortons for the last cup of good coffee before dropping us off at the bus. Along with a few other tired backpackers, the West Coast Trail Express picked us up and took us 2 hours to Port Renfrew where he dropped us off for orientation. With 12 other people, we were orientated, with our papers, waiting to catch our first ferry across Gordon River to the starting point.

The first day isn’t much to talk about. The first 5km to Thrasher’s Cove is pretty rooty and tedious. Even so, we still busted through in 2.5 hours, and made it to camp. We met a few people there, but most were finishing and turned in to bed early. There was one other somewhat young couple, Jason and Jenna, that started same day and we leap-frogged them the rest of the trip. We watched sea otters playing with each other on the rocks and basked in one of the few sunsets we got to see.

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The first morning getting up was a doozy since I woke up constantly because nightshift wrecks everything about sleep. This was our slowest morning getting packed up for the first time, but we still made it out of camp by 8am to make the tides to see Owen’s Point. Annnnnnnd we played on some trees along the way…

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Then after just an hour or two, we hit Owen’s Point and were lucky enough to get Jason and Jenna to take a pic of us!

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Cory also got extremely camera happy and took some AMAZING pictures of a hermit crab!

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Anyways, the second day was the longest day by far. I’m talking it’s so long, it feels like they didn’t measure the kilometer signs properly. 12 of the longest kilometers of your life. I distinctly remember also feeling this way the first time I did the trail.

We got into Cullite Cove that night, and ate BEFORE we set up camp. That’s how hungry we were. There was a super nice older couple from Duncan staying there, a single guy, and then far later four french guys showed up. Once we cleaned ourselves in the stream, we joined everyone at the fire with our Rolo hot chocolate. Then, just as it was getting dark, in disbelief we watched as a kayak pulled into the cove. We all thought that was so cool…until we realized he was a bit crazy.

Shay: “Hey guys, my names Shay, the story is I’ve been kayaking around Vancouver Island for 79 days by myself…”
He went on explaining his story. He had to ship himself food to different spots and find places to camp regularly. He told us all this as he set up his single man tent nearby.

I leaned in and said politely, “soo…when are you done?”

Picture this, the guy is wearing a headlamp in pitch blackness close to a fire, rolling a joint and in a crazy cartoon voice while shaking his head answers “it doesn’t MATTER when I’m done…its…about the JOURNEY…not the destination.” Ok…no more questions. Did I mention this guy was from Salt Spring Island? The man from Duncan told us they are all like that.

The next morning we were off to pass through Walbran and go on to Cribs Creek after stopping at Chez Monique’s burger bar. There are some giant ladders to climb in order to get out of the campground…hello morning cardio. It was also while we were climbing these, that up above where the ladders led up to, and to the left, we heard very heavy steps. Like really heavy. Like bear heavy. Needless to say, we both got a little freaked out and started yelling at the top of our lungs. It was 630am…no way that was a person.

This is Logan Creek Suspension bridge…it is so awesome.

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Shortly after this bridge, before Walbran, Cory found a shoe! A brand new, orange men’s Salomon shoe. We touched it and it was dry. The carabeener was broken, and must have fallen from a pack either this morning or the night before. I suggested we carry it…most likely the person was going the same way we were. We talked to some hikers an hour later passing us from the other direction, and one guy by himself recognized it. He passed on the information that it was probably a family of seven that had dropped it. He heard them talking at the fire last night at Walbran, and they were heading to Cribs. Excellent! We will meet up with them today then.

We passed through Walbran, and after a tedious afternoon, made it to Chez Monique’s. As we approached, we saw the backpack with the other shoe! They’re here!

We dropped our packs, and walked up to the beach-cafe (with solar powered freezers). The “family of seven” was finishing their gourmet burgers, and when I held up the shoe asking if anyone lost it, they all burst out into cheers. It was the older dad’s shoe, for wearing at the campgrounds. They were really upset about it, and had even sent one person to backtrack and look for it. The massage therapist of the group bought me a beer as thanks, and then that dad sneaked around when I wasn’t looking and paid for $10 on our bill. They were all from Calgary, which was exciting. We immediately became friends and agreed we would be at their fire tonight.

We took the longest break in history at that burger bar – it was the best burger in the world. I had a beer, 2 bags of candy, a bag of chips, a HUGE burger with bacon/mushroom/cheese, and a tart. Did I mention not calorie-counting on this trip was my biggest enjoyment? How freeing to eat whatever you want knowing you are hiking between 12 and 17 kilometers a day. We stumbled out of there, and an hour later I was regretting that beer. Why oh why stomach must you have gotten so small from portion-control…

We arrived at Cribs that night, and set up camp. It was crowded, but there was room for us. We joined the family at the fire, and got to know them a bit. They were all extremely educated, for example, the parents Glenn and his wife, in their 60s, were semi-retired and still working. Their children, Drew and Alison, were an engineer and a doctor. Their family friends, a woman (also an engineer) and her son Nolan, the massage therapist. Then there was John…hiking by himself, but was “adopted” into the group on the first day, and going through a midlife crisis. We loved all of them and how amazing they were. Always treating each other so well and functioning as a team.

Also, there were these four pot-head guys that were absolutely hilarious. Upon showing up at Cribs, they were building this giant platform for them to sit on. They finished it before sunset.

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The next morning was a bit of a crappy morning. We ended up leaving late because the water filter had a problem (we fixed it later at Tsusiat Falls that night) but it ate up an extra hour that morning. We now heard that the mention of rain coming was true. Supposed to start tomorrow. We saw some awesome crabs on the beach shelf today.

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We had a good morning of hiking and made it to second ferry for lunch time. I had been dreaming about salmon and fresh crab all morning. When we arrived at the ferry, the family was there as well as the french guys.

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We made it to Tsusiat Falls that night and snagged a wicked camping spot. The waves at the beach were amazing.

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And thus ends the pictures up to this point…..why, you ask? Oh you know…just ALOT OF RAIN FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS!

After spending the night at Tsusiat having a frigid bath in the stream, we woke up to trickling rain on the tent. We packed as best we could trying to keep everything dry, but the tent was pretty wet and heavy. Wearing full rain gear, we started the day off again with ladders. There isn’t much to tell except that within minutes, you were soaked to the bone even with rain gear on. Rain gear doesn’t protect you from all the sweat and moisture building underneath. I took my rain hood off said screw it…I’m wet anyway.

We didn’t talk much that day because we were trying to go as fast as possible. We debated doing 25 km all the way to Pachena so that we didn’t miss the bus tomorrow, but the rain made short work of that. I ended up slipping on a log 2km from Michigan Creek, the last camp ground 12 km from the end of the trail. It was just a minor slip and didn’t hurt initially, but 100 feet later I was limping with a tearing pain behind my knee. Not good.

I managed to hobble to Michigan, and it was only 1pm. We did 14km in 5.5 hours which is some pretty good time. We decided to rest out the day for my leg as much as possible, and then get up super early and do the 12km to get to the bus. We napped for a couple hours after setting up the tent and gorging ourselves on the rest of the trail mix.

The rain stopped for the rest of the night. Enough for us to dry, I mean burn, our clothes by the fire. Because campfire smoke smells nicer than body odour.

Our last morning there is the most memorable for me. Probably because it was the last day, I was starting to get a bit of my humor back (and sleeping better too). The rain was heavy on the tent again, and the last thing I wanted to do was leave the tent.

“Why don’t we just stay here forever?” I mumbled at 430am. Cory agreed. We got up and started strategizing how we were going to pack up everything and reduce wetness on equipment.

“Cory, how are we going to light the stove for food? We are out of instant food and have to cook oatmeal.”
“I don’t know, Sierra.”
“Can we light it in the tent?”
“OMG NO!”
“Ok well…then there’s only one place we can light the stove that’s dry then. Under the outhouse.”

See, the outhouses are built on a platform you have to climb a ladder to get up to, and beneath is basically chicken wire fence with feces and cedar shavings in it to reduce the smell. There’s an overhang where it’s dry underneath…right next to the feces cage.

We ran there with the stove and food in our jackets, and lit the stove in the absolutely atrocious smell. All I could think about was how I needed food to make the 12 km. My leg felt much better too…but I palpated behind the knee and found a bulge. A tear at the bottom of a tendon needed to pick the leg up.

I made the oatmeal in the pitch black early morning with a headlamp on. I squeezed some almond butter in it, and just put the smell out of my mind. Cory could not. In fact, he was gagging the whole time.

“Sierra, I can’t do this…I’m gagging.”
“It’s just poop, Cory….THIS IS SURVIVAL”
“Ok well I’m gonna go SURVIVE in the rain…and eat my oatmeal out there.”
“Suit yourself…” and so he did.

So after another long 5.5 hour walk in the rain, scaring one bear along the way (we weren’t talking for awhile and got the sh!t scared out of us when we heard claws scrambling up a tree), we made it to Pachena Bay. Get this? Sunny and zero rain when we got there. We looked like hell, and worse. Some old, well-dressed lady and her husband felt so sorry for us, they gave us ALL their loonies so we could go to the coin-operated showers and clean ourselves. That was the most amazing shower of the week!

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This picture is obviously post-shower haha. We miss the Calgary people, the pot-heads and their endless conversation of Cheetos, and most of all we miss bouldering early in the morning while the sun is coming up. Both my times to WCT were wonderful…this one was just easier for me to enjoy everything without struggling through the physical part. Now, it’s back to the gym, calorie counting, and weightlifting.

Sorry about the long post…I warned you though.

S.

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One response to “A 75km Break from Calories

  1. Loved it. Makes me want to do it all again. I think it would be awesome for us to be a gaggle of 4 or 5 couples doing it together. Wouldn’t that be crazy?

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