(Be sure to read part 1 of my West Coast Trail story before reading the following)
We are the only people in camp when we return from our walk to the Carmanah Giant, everyone else has walked the 30 mins to the Indian Reservation where a burger can be bought for $15 and beer for $7. We watch a couple of whales surfacing out in the bay until the sun goes down, completely happy with our de-hydrated hiking food. It occurs to us that we are not tempted by the burgers and beer because we are not sacrificing anything to be here. If we wanted to be eating burgers and drinking beer, we’d be sitting on a couch doing that.
The next morning we set out to hike around the point below the Carmanah Lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper tells us that many people turn back from the seaweed covered cliff, which makes us all the more determined.
At one point the going gets so hairy we all assess the situation and give the OK before we move forward as a group. Rock climbing with a pack tuns out to be quite the challenge and I don’t move a muscle when a wave comes in while my foot is on a low rock, perfectly happy to get a soaked boot instead of scrambling and maybe slipping into the waves.
We continue along the beach, rock shelf and finally move inland again. We are dumbfounded by the state of disrepair the boardwalks are in. Broken and rotting boards are everywhere, the entire structures are slanted in all directions, they move under our feet, have rusty nails sticking out all over and are extremely slippery. None of us has ever seen a trail in such a state of decay and agree it would be much safer to just remove the rotting boardwalks altogether. It is becoming very clear why there is almost one rescue per day on this trail.
We arrive at the Nitnat Narrows ferry to see hikers eating salmon, crab and drinking expensive beer. This is another place the natives have found their captive audience and are making a killing. The Nitnat Narrows are a tidal inlet that feed a lake and as such have massive incoming and outgoing currents as the water lags behind the tides. We heard a story of one guy swimming across, but it’s not something we are about to try.
The official trail map has one interesting bullet point we discuss at length:
- Assume all surfaces are slippery
We decide the word ‘assume’ could safely be removed after we all take a fall or two. My best effort was while walking along the ocean side rock shelf, in about two or three centimeters of water. After slipping a couple of times and slowing down, I completely loose it and land on my butt and pack in the shallow water getting completely soaked and putting a big dent in my pride. When Mike sees me he bursts out laughing and the three of us are instantly in hysterics. Roger loves that our first reaction is to burst out laughing at each other, then ask if the fallen party is injured.
We continue inland and on the beaches to Tsusiat Falls, our campsite for the night after 21 km. We’ve been told the falls can be very spectacular during a high rainfall year, but they are not much more than slightly impressive during our visit. Mike declares he has a cold and puts himself to bed the minute I get the tent set up. At first, he won’t even get out of bed to eat dinner – but I finally manage to convince him to eat something and he’s happier for it.
It rains overnight and into the morning, but me manage to pack-up in a brief respite and after an hour of walking we can see the day will be clear. We only have 13 km to walk for the day and really enjoy ourselves – relaxing into the hiking routines and taking our time at lunch. Sitting around the campfire at Michigan Creek that night all the northbound hikers are in high spirits – we have only one short day to hike.
Our fifth and final day we wake to seriously heavy rain and try to keep our spirits high by saying it wouldn’t be an authentic West Coast Trail Experience™ without some solid rain. By the time we cook breakfast and pack-up we are completely soaked, though knowing we have only 12 km to finish gets us going.
The trail here is all inland and although it’s not as difficult as the other end of the trail, all of the mud patches are deeper, the surfaces are slipperier and most times a small creek runs down the trail. It makes us all realize how different the hike would be if it rained solidly for five days – we are covered in mud and it’s next to impossible to keep everything dry. Passing hikers walking in the other direction I notice how clean they look and how nice they smell. Is that makeup I see?
I smile ear to ear as it occurs to me I am now the guy that reeks of campfire.