Flashback Hike: West Coast Trail August 2010

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!

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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!

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Okay, so I was a little damp too.

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.

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Dana loaded up!

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 pantsApproximately 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.

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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.

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Day 3

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.

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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.

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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?

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Flashback: That time Dana wanted to hike the West Coast Trail

Also known as:

  1. How to test your very new engagement 101
  2. Do you really want to spend your life with that person?
  3. You should actually like backpacking before attempting an epic 7 day backpack trip
  4. The true meaning of “soaked to the bone”
  5. When “they” say you can get evacuated, it isn’t what you pictured.

As I wrote about in Dana and I’s long-winded romantic tale, we’ve been together pretty much our whole lives for about 10 years.  Dana, being a geologist, has always had a soft spot for mountains, hiking, and adventure.  Someone had told Dana about the epic West Coast Trail (my sources tell me this person was none other than Ron Clarke) and he was dying to go hike it.

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Dana has always been a mountain man, along with his fellow geologist buddies Paul and Scott.

In spring 2010, Dana had completed his geology degree and started his first legit adult job. This naturally means a lot of things, but the important thing is that he now had disposable income since he was still somehow technically living at home.

For me, his then-girlfriend of four years, that meant an engagement ring and a proposal. I had the ring picked out and everything.  For Dana, disposable income meant buying all the backpacking gear a man could possibly ever want (okay, and maybe a secret ring too) and planning his dream West Coast Trail trip.

(After writing about all of our hiking adventures over the past couple summers, the next portion of my story seems funny, but I’ll tell it anyways.)

Since people who care about each other at least try out each other’s hobbies (in theory), I went on a few introductory hikes with Dana.  One was Yamnuska, a K-Country classic.

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Another one that I always chuckle about was the Ink Pots hike , as I recall being immensely sweaty, wearing my Ropers (horseback riding boots) as hiking boots, and thinking a checkered button-up was suitable hiking apparel.  I hated every minute.

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Look at my perfectly styled hair!  Ah, we were so young!

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We did the Crypt Lake hike in 2009 – clearly I was overjoyed.

We also attempted a lovely backpacking trip, Lake of the Hanging Glacier, as WCT practice. It’s 18 km round trip, 700 m elevation gain, which in 2016 seems like a normal day’s hike for us.  However, it was a beastly hot day, we got a late start, and the mosquitos were the worst I’ve seen in all my life.  As soon as the tent was set up, I hid inside (naked) with a pounding headache in the blazing heat and (again) resented Dana for making me go hiking.  The next morning, we hightailed it out of there as fast as we could.

I’m really selling myself, aren’t I?

So this brings us to the end of the summer in 2010 and our infamous West Coast Trail trip.  I was a chunkier person then and had hired a trainer three weeks before our departure, praying it would be enough to get me strong enough for the hike.

I did some stair climbing at the gym and some cable pulls, and called it a day.  I was ready to get engaged – er -I mean hike the WCT.

Finally, the day arrived to fly down to Victoria with our overstuffed hiking backpacks.  When we arrived, we dropped off our luggage at Ocean Island Inn and set out to explore.  I wasn’t certain if Dana had The Ring, but I was certainly praying he did.  Why else was I on this godforsaken trip?

To my massive enjoyment (and relief), Dana proposed in the rose gardens behind the Legislative buildings and we were ecstatically happy.  I momentarily forgot about the WCT and was just excited and in love.

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Tomorrow we leave for our 2016 WCT trip – tune in for another post and read about our infamous 2010 adventure!

 

Hike: Lower Elk Lake Backcountry Campground

I considered titling this post “Hike: Mystery Destination” and leaving the actual name out, as this hike is too good to be true.

On Saturday bright and early, we drove out to the Elk Pass parking lot out in Kananaskis, which is in the vicinity of the Upper Kananaskis Lakes parking lot. On the way out, we saw a grizzly feeding in the ditch!  Haley, Dana, and I were all packed for an overnight trip, but Megan and Wade came along just for the hike in to Elk Lake.


The first kilometer is a pretty good climb on an access road, which got our heart rates up. After that, it’s a reasonably easy 10 km hike through pretty scenery into the backcountry campsite.  Lots of board walks and roots along the path, which reminded Dana and I of the West Coast Trail (WCT). We saw a fair bit of bear scat along the way, but no actual bears thankfully.


Elk Lake campsites can’t be reserved – they are first come, first served – hence our early start time. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very quiet campground, with only a couple of neighbours who arrived later in the day.  The lake itself is absolutely stunning!


Meg and Wade stayed for lunch and some pictures, then headed back to their car. A 20 kilometer hike that day for them!  Not too shabby for Meg, who famously isn’t very fond of hiking.

After we got our camp set up and our food stowed away in the bear lockers, then Haley, Dana, and I set off to explore in the direction of the Upper Elk Lake. We took the under-contruction pathway which was in various shades of development.


When we reached the shoreline, we noticed a fisherman set up on the opposite shore of the lake, so crossed a log over the river, scrambled a bit along the mountainside, and had a little visit with him.


To get back to the campsite, we took the overgrown old pathway back. There were lots of huge logs to crawl over, and part of the path was overtaken by a flooded section.  Of course, instead of admitting defeat and heading back, we scampered across some fallen logs and then carried on our merry way.  Haley was only momentarily petrified.


Our little hiking adventure added 6 or 7 kms on to the day’s total, but we felt light as air without our packs on.

We prepared and ate our freeze-dried dinners, then played a few card games to pass the time. It rained on and off, but not too bad until close to 10.


Then we tidied up camp and headed to bed.  It was pretty cold when we got into bed – we could see our breath – so I slept with a toque and long-sleeve on.  Poor Haley nearly froze, so she had a rough sleep.

Somehow, Dana and I slept until 8:30. Dana tried his best to start a morning campfire, but everything was too wet.  We all felt better though with some warm oatmeal and coffee/tea/hot chocolate in our bellies.


Our hike out was pretty uneventful. The hike out is pretty uphill initially so it helped us all get warmed up.  With the mud and tree roots, again we were reminded of the WCT!  A bit of a cold breeze was blowing as we got closer to the car, so we made good time as we speedily hiked out.

I carried about 25 lbs in my pack and it felt pretty good, other than something in my pack bruised my back pretty badly. Going to figure out how to avoid that issue, because I don’t need anything to complain about next week on the WCT!


I can’t say enough good things about Lower Elk Lake and the campground’s facilities. The backpack trip was a ton of fun!  I know we will go back soon!