Continued from yesterday’s post…
The next morning dawned on us early and we set off to catch the West Coast Trail Express bus to Bamfield. It’s a six hour drive, and although I’m not prone to motion sickness, I was painfully close to barfing the entire trip because of the windy logging roads. Our bus blew a tire at one point too. Thank God some kind soul had a Gravol to knock me out.
We sat through the mandatory info session at the WCT trailhead that day, then camped the night at the trailhead campground on the beach. It was beautiful! They warned us at the info session to keep our eyes peeled for (fresh) water and fill up whenever possible, as there was a shortage of water due to the month without rain. Joke’s on them!
Around 4 AM, we awoke to rain drops pitter-pattering on the tent. Dana hustled me along and got us packed up (dismantling a tent in the rain is now one of our specialties), then we headed out. It rained and it rained. We puddle-hopped as much as we could to preserve our dry-ish boots. My Ropers were quick to let in the dampness. All comedy aside, it was beautiful in the forest. We ran into quite a few people on their last day (you can hike the trail north to south or south to north), and they looked keen to leave the Trail behind. Not us – we were clean and pretty dry still!
It rained and rained some more. The previous bone-dry path soon filled with rain and became a little river for us to walk in. The creekbeds, which had been pretty much dry the day before, began to flood. We made it to Michigan Creek and there were several hikers who said others had turned back because it was too dangerous to cross. Not Dana and I. Not after we’d come that far. We undid the belts on our hiking packs, and crossed the surging river. The water came up past my waist and threatened to push me out to the hungry ocean.
Fortunately, we made it across and there was a campsite pretty close by. Ridiculously cold and soaked to the bone, we set up the tent and then I proceeded to climb inside and curl up naked and shivering in my sleeping bag. I could not get warm. Dana was more resourceful and worked on getting a fire started. He brought me something warm to drink. Eventually, the night ended while I dreamt of a glorious helicopter evacuation, and the next day began.
Day two of hiking was less rainy; however, the puddles and mud on the trail remained. Perhaps due to the puddle skipping on the first day or my poor choice in hiking footwear, my knees started to swell up and were incredibly sore.
Side story: one of my friends at the time had given Dana and I some WCT gifts before we headed off. The most hilarious item was one of those silicone funnels that allow women to pee standing up. I used it a few times on the trail on day one with great success. Imagine, peeing without having to take off your pack! At one point on the beach on day two, I was already past modesty and too tired to walk up to the tree line to pee. It was pretty warm on the beach and I’d been chugging water all morning. I asked Dana to turn his back and whipped out my handy funnel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t properly positioned and I proceeded to completely, uncontrollably pee my pants. Approximately 2 L of pee in one of my only two pairs of pants. I started sobbing hysterically.
At that moment, Dana turned out towards the ocean and considering walking in with his pack on.
To pass the time while hiking, I daydreamed about being evacuated and not having to hike anymore. My sparkly engagement ring only mildly distracted me from the pain in my knee. Our goal for the night was Tsusiat Falls, and although we made it there just fine (aside from the unfortunate pee incident), to descend to the beach level where the campsite is, you need to climb down three tall ladders. My one knee hurt so badly that I couldn’t bend it, so ladders were pretty darn impossible. Dana did two trips down the ladders – once with his pack, and then once with mine while I struggled down the ladders.
Tsusiat Falls is ridiculously beautiful – a popular spot right on the beach, with driftwood piled around campsites, and the falls providing fresh water to the camp. It was a sunny evening at least, and we had the good fortune to run into a paramedic who was able to tape up my knee the next day so we could carry on. Dana gave me some painkillers and I slept pretty dang soundly that night.
Day three started off early so we could time the tides to walk on the beach. It was a bit foggy to start, but very scenic as the sun was slowly rising. No rain, thankfully. My one knee was still terribly sore and I was hobbling pretty badly that day as we hiked. As the day progressed, the pain got worse and climbing over roots and disintegrating boards in the forest became almost impossible as my knee didn’t bend.
As we neared the Nitinat Narrows ferry crossing, we decided that we should ask to be evacuated. Knowing that the south end of the trail was more challenging – more ladders to scale and big roots to climb over – evacuation seemed wise, although I’m sure Dana just wanted me to stop complaining. The ferry operator told us he’d take us back to Nitinat when his shift was over, and so we enjoyed an unbelievably fresh crab lunch while we waited. We hopped in the boat again and he ferried us up the Narrows to the Nitinat Reserve. I was ecstatic to be finished the WCT. I couldn’t wait to get back to civilization.
To our shock, when the operator pulled up to the dock at the reserve, there was no formal evacuation procedure. As we looked around, we asked him what to do next. He advised us that some hikers camp or stay in the (shady) motel on the reserve, then hike or hitchhike out of the reserve to get out to the main road. This wasn’t the helicopter-to-Victoria evacuation I’d dreamed of!
In a bit of a daze, we walked up to the Nitinat general store and proceeded to get in line. Out the window of the store, I could see the motel doors eerily blowing in the wind. As Dana and I brainstormed what our plan would be, a little old lady behind us in line overheard and asked us where we needed to get to. She turned out to be our saving grace, and offered to drive us to Nanaimo (her home) if we’d buy her a pack of smokes. Next thing you know, we were in her car headed out of Nitinat. I was asleep in the backseat within minutes (so trusting, I know). Dana tried to visit, but also fell asleep as the car rumbled along on the gravel. We woke up in Nanaimo, and the kind lady fed us some fruit salad, then offered to drive us the rest of the way back to Victoria. We could have kissed her.
Of course we had no where in Victoria to stay, but she dropped us off at our original hostel and they offered us a rental house. That night, we had a celebration dinner of Delissio pizza and watched a Jackie Chan movie.
It felt so, so good to be back in civilization again.
As this post is published, we’re heading to the airport to fly to Victoria for our second attempt at the notorious West Coast Trail. This time around, I’m a hiker, a crossfitter, and (I think) a much stronger person in general. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this trip – a week in relative solitude, hiking, with my favorite person.
Keep your fingers crossed for relatively dry weather and don’t step on any spiders, okay?