|Subject: West Coast Trail Travel Journal-Part 1 (Long)|
During 7 days in early August, I and 5 friends tackled the very challenging West Coast Trail. This 47-mile (75 km) trail follows the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia over the most rugged terrain I have ever encountered. Six months of pouring over books, maps and websites did little to prepare us for what was ahead, we had nothing in our collective 100+ years of backpacking and mountaineering to draw from. With gear carefully selected for weight and need, we shouldered our packs and headed out, naive to what lay ahead.
Years of backpacking have taught me that physical and mental pain fade away, usually replaced with good memories. One month after the hike, I am still waiting for the memories to soften. This trail is unlike any other and earns it's international reputation of one of the top 5 most challenging!
My condensed backpacking journal will be posted to TheTravelzine through a couple of emails (over a couple of weeks). I hope you enjoy the journey through this remarkable place situated on very edge of western Canada! I will post some photos on the web by my next email.
A short history of the trail: The West Coast Trail has been in existence for over 100 years. First cut into the wilderness 1n the late 1800's to connect a telegraph line between Victoria and Bamfield, in the early 1900's, the trail became an escape route for survivors of ship wrecks along the coast. In 1954 the trail was abandoned by the federal government and in 1960, "rediscovered" by the Sierra Club. Over a period of years, the federal government was lobbied to designate the trail as a national park. Trail improvements were made and in 1993, the trail was established as the West Coast Trail Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve...a real jewel for Canada's incredible park system.
Day 1-Gordon River to Thrasher Cove 3.7-miles (6 km)
3.7 miles, now just how hard can that be? We entered the trail on the south end, just outside the tiny village of Port Renfrew. A 5 minute ferry ride across the Gordon River brought us face to face with an incredible challenge. But armed with naivety and excitement, we couldn't wait to get started.
Immediately the trail began to show us her war chest...sections of roots thicker than a man's leg snaked across the ground. Intertwined with smaller roots, the mass formed an undulating terrain that dared us to misstep and tumble. Over and over we crossed sections of roots, pulling ourselves up with our hands and pushing ourselves over and onward with our legs. This process took a toll on our mood and stamina as the day wore on.
Mud greeted us on the rootless sections, a thick, boot sucking mess that threatened to swallow our boots and cause us to fall. We fell into a quiet rhythm as we pressed forward, eyes glued to the ground, always looking for the next obstacle.
Our trekking guide indicated that the 1st day's hike should take about 4.5 hours. After 3 hours, we reached the halfway point, a donkey engine discarded by loggers and left to rust. We double checked our watches...3 hours to hike 1.9 miles, oh my!
We grabbed the opportunity to lunch and rest on downed Sitka spruce logs. This was our first real opportunity to study the forest and we were wow'd!! The 2nd growth Sitka forest was a wilderness cathedral. Lush emerald green ferns covered the ground, deep green Sitka needles filled the air, all showcased against a backdrop of rich browns in the earth and tree trunks. Sun filtered through the trees casting a contrast of shades and long streams of light. We were speechless. The site of this maritime forest will remain vivid in our memories for a very long time.
All too soon we were back on the trail and another 3 hours of root climbing, puddle slogging and bridge crossings. We also had our first taste of ladders but more on that on a later day. Six hours from the time we first set foot on the West Coast Trail, we completed our 3.7 mile section, arriving at Thasher Cove on the shores of the Juan de Fuca Strait.
We were ready to collapse on the sand and do little else but fortunately the need to survival kicked in. We set up our tents, got water, changed into warm, dry clothes and settled in to rest and cook dinner.
Thrasher Cove is an important site. For most hikers traveling south to north, it is the 1st night's stop, for hikers traveling north to south, the last night's stop. About 50 trekkers from around the world were camped here on this evening. We shared our day's tale with others and gleaned as much information as we could about what lay ahead. We had a difficult 6 days to go.
Beverly Knoxville, TN