Here's an overview of our trip, with photos to go along. I met up with my hiking partner/research participant last Monday in Victoria and drove up to Port Renfrew. We attended our hiker orientation that day in order to get an early start the next morning. Amongst periodic rain showers we set up our tent at the Pacheedaht First Nation campground, hoping that the weather on the trail would be in our favour. However, when we took the ferry over the next morning, it poured rain. An ominous beginning to the most difficult portion of the trail. Most people know that the southernmost end of the trail is the most difficult section. Not many people comprehend just how difficult it actually is. I know I didn't when I first hiked it, and we were barely able to make it out on time to make the shuttle bus. To those like me who come to backpacking via alpine experiences, trail difficulty is usually measured through elevation gain, loss, and incline. These are not ways to accurately measure the difficulty of the West Coast Trail. The most difficult southern section appear, at least on the map, to have what to a seasoned mountain 'packer was insignificant topographic variation. Not so. When the trail is covered with logs, roots, and rocks and every step is a balancing act, elevation is not a good guide to difficulty.
Day 1: LOG DAY
It took us ten and a half hours to hike the thirteen kilometres to Camper's Bay. We decided to skip the first campground at Thrasher's Cove because it adds a one kilometre descent and morning ascent to the trail. This meant we hiked from around 8:30 am until 7:00 pm, with very few stops. I'm sure others, like the two men ahead of us, could hike it faster, but we chose slow and steady because much of the terrain was replete with precarious footing and quite frankly, dangerous, obstacles. Also, our short legs had trouble with some of what we came to call 'man-steps', obstacles that required us to do trail-yoga style lunges as we lacked the long legs of the steps the trail-builders seemed to have built for. This is the portion of the trail where many people are injured. Here are some photos to give you an idea, and remember all of the wooden obstacles are wet and slick as ice.
|Crawling under logs|
|Tromping through knee deep mud bogs with buried obstacles|
|Balancing precariously on slippery log bridges|
|Taking 'man-steps' over gnarly roots|
Day 2: LADDER DAY
|Ladders on cliffs|
|Slippery rain-soaked ladders|
|Ladders that don't seem to end|
|Logan creek suspension bridge|
|Cullite Creek cable car|
|I think they're fun, even if some people don't|
|Last campground at Michigan|