Monday, 29 April 2013

Hiking the Juan de Fuca tomorrow

So, I'm setting off on my first backpack of the season tomorrow. However, it is not the West Coast Trail. Rather, I'm starting out on the Juan De Fuca tomorrow. Known somewhat as the West Coast Trail's less onerous sibling, the Juan De Fuca stretches a mere 45 km along the southern west coast of Vancouver Island.

I've decided to wet my feet with this one for two reasons 1)I've never hiked it 2)I'm hiking with someone who has never backpacked before. She wants to hike the WCT, but I told her I would never recommend hiking the WCT as a first backpack, and would not take someone on the trail as a companion (Doctor Who style, I'm the wannabe doctor of course....) who has never hiked with a big pack before. Note: The WCT should NEVER be attempted as ones first backpack. EVER. This is not because it is the most difficult hike in Canada, it is rather because once you are on it there are no exit routes except by emergency evacuation. Once you're on it, you're on it for all 75 km and you can't get off it. So that means what you bring in, you bring out. And everyone, I mean, EVERYONE, makes the rookies mistake on their first backpack of bringing too much stuff and/or the wrong stuff. No matter how much you research backpacking, study packing guides etc. you don't know what YOU need and don't need on a backpack until you pack it. Also, no matter how in or out of shape you are, carrying a pack is, as one of the participants in my previous study on the Canadian Rockies phrased it, "a beast unto itself". So yeah, no first-timers allowed on the trail under my watch. I could rant on and on, and I probably will rant more on this topic in the future (in fact, I'll probably devote several blog posts to it), but I'll let it go for now. Although, if anyone out there has any good first-time hiking mistakes please share them. Maybe I'll do a future post on what NOT to bring.

So yes, Juan de Fuca tomorrow, 4 days, 3 nights, hiked with the first willing victim....I mean 'participant' of my research project. Unlike the WCT, the Juan de Fuca has several exit and entrance points. This means that backpackers share the trail with day-hikers, surfers and sun-bathers at certain points along it. However it does mean that in the event of something going slighly off (sprained ankle, thoroughly rain-soaked gear, fatigue, realizing you forgot the stove etc.) there's a way out. It's also cheaper, with hikers only having to pay a small camping fee without the hassle of reservations (another future blog post will be on why the WCT costs what it does to hike, the reasons are more complex than many think). Check it out the trail info here:

I am also excited about the first hiking season tomorrow because it will be the first opportunity for me to try out my experimentations with a home dehydrator. Commercial dehydrator meals are expensive, especially on my meagre student budget. So, my wonderful yet ever-practical parents gave me a dehydrator for Christmas, so I would be able to create my own nutritious dried meals, rather than relying on Lipton's Sidekicks forever. Recipes to be tried on this trip: "Delux" Tuna Casserole, Curry Chickpeas and Couscous, and 'Inverted' Shepherds Pie. If these work (and they better, we'll be hungry) I will post these recipes for your viewing pleasure. In fact, I will likely have several posts on the topic of food, as it is an important subject which hikers tend to discuss in detail with much relish around the campfire.

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