July 2, 2016
Tsusiat Falls ⇒ Cribs Creek (16 km) – AKA Hell Day
Dana had an epic sleep so wasn’t very keen to get moving. Me on the other hand… I’d been up since 4.
To beat the tide, we headed out to Hole-in-the-Wall around 8:45. As we hiked out of Tsusiat camground, we noticed a newer outhouse built on the south end of camp. Who was putting on her pack there? Sara, from the NWT/Banff trio! We hoofed it along with her to the Hole (Nate and Heather were ahead of us). Just before we reached the Hole, a little deer came out of the bush and curiously started to follow Nate and Heather. It even entered the Hole after them! We spooked it though and it ran off.
We quickly took some group photos before the tide crept up on us.
After that, the trio left us in the dust and headed off. Too speedy for us! It was hard going in the sand that morning and both Dana and I were feeling pretty wiped. At least the rain had stopped.
We were both relieved to head inland again to get some respite from the beach walking. Of course it was a muddy slog in there! Perks were that I found an outhouse to use along the way…
Day three turned out to be my least favorite day of our West Coast Trail trip. Loads of mud, and all I could think about was getting to Nitinat so I could get past my previous quitting point (back in 2010 where we got evacuated).
I had lots of internal discussions about whether or not I was actually fitter than I was six years ago. Did I have what it took to finish the Trail this time?
In the picture below, I’m tackling a muddy root-covered hill I distinctly recall from our 2010 trip. For a short girl who dislikes getting dirty, this hill is my living nightmare. Thank god I had my gators on as I can’t imagine tackling the WCT without them.
Dana got up the hill with relative ease and carried on around the corner. I had to stop and ponder how I would tackle the monster hill. A few attempts proved fruitless. I was feeling a bit desperate by the time Dana came back to help me up it. Once I’d given him my poles and could use my hands, I managed a bit better. Ugh, I never want to see that hill again!
You can imagine the relief on my face when the Nitinat Narrows came into view. Unfortunately, mentally I’d pinned the Narrows as some sort of finish line for the day which set me up for a bit of a hard hike after lunch. But first, lunch!
Dana had the very fresh crab, and I immensely enjoyed the salmon and baked potato. Amazing!
I also had a side of bear spray. Just as we disembarked the ferry, another passenger’s bear spray was hanging from her pack and accidentally hit the side of the ferry, causing a mist of bear spray to unleash on a few of us hikers standing in her vicinity. Immediately my eyes started crying, my nose was running, and I was desperately coughing and wheezing trying to get some oxygen even though every breath refilled my lungs with burning air. After a few minutes and a couple glugs of water, I managed to recover and seemed okay.
We ate lunch with another individual hiker, Max, who was planning to do the WCT in 10 days. How, you ask? North to south in five days, then south to north in five days. He was leaving food drops along the way for himself so he didn’t have to pack so much the entire time. #madmax
After our somewhat eventful lunch, Dana and I loaded up with our packs and got back to the trail. The first bit after the crab shack was some of the best boardwalk we saw on the entire trail! It was easy to move quickly here.
Some other kilometers seemed very much like the trails we’d see in Banff or Kananaskis. There were even some ridiculously flat “stroller paths” that I swear you could push a baby stroller on with no issue. We decided against beach walking as the inland trail was [quote] “so easy.” Funny not funny.
Things got a bit harder after that, and the kilometer markers did not seem like they’d been placed accurately. Time drug by, yet we didn’t seem to be making any progress. Kilometers 36 to 39.5 were pure hell for us. Especially as we could have taken the beach, but chose not to. I’d say I felt like crying, but I was past tears.
It was so muddy inland, my left boot was rubbing my Achilles like crazy, Dana’s pack was so heavy (60+ lbs), and the elevation gains and losses were adding up. We were both riding the struggle bus HARD.
Not a minute too soon, we got spit out onto the beach at kilometer 39 and a bit. We took a snack break and visited with a nice couple from Vancouver, Katie and Jon. They were in much better spirits despite shadowing us through the entire afternoon’s hike.
Dana and I trucked onward to Cribs Creek campground along the beach. Thankfully the sand was a good consistency and we made relatively good time (finally!). Dana was “bonking” hard so we played the alphabet game to pass time. Basically, you start at A, then your partner recalls your list, plus adds an item, and you work your way through the alphabet by memory. Our theme was “going to the grocery store”. I’m buying avocados, bananas, club soda, and so on.
We were so relieved when we finally came around the corner and saw Cribs in the distance. We made it to kilometer 41.5… barely.
After the usual set-up, we had dinner. I had the most amazing freeze-dried meal of the trip: Peanut Chicken Thai with Rice (can’t find online… maybe Backpacker’s Pantry?). It came with two packets of peanut butter plus actual peanuts! I inhaled it after bathing, gathering firewood (it was very sparse there), and other camp chores.
And then we hung out by the fire and attempted to dry out our various shoes/boots while drinking my tetra pack of wine. We deserved it after that grueling day of hiking, plus the pepper spray incident!
My last notes for the day in my journal are: Anyways, we’re praying tomorrow is a little kinder. Our egos are pretty bruised right now.
But what actually happened…
Despite being utterly exhausted from the day’s hike, I woke up at 12:55 AM gasping for air. I couldn’t get enough oxygen for the life of me. I was terrified I was going to die in my sleep.
I was worried I was getting pneumonia or bronchitis (or something!), but I’m almost certain my throat swelled up due to the pepper spray incident earlier in the day.
Although I was truly so, so tired, I tried my best to stay awake through the night as I didn’t want to stop breathing and die. I wheezed my way through the seemingly endless night, occasionally coughing but trying to be quiet so Dana and the neighbours could sleep.
The longest night ever ended around 6 AM when Dana awoke to me coughing. By this point, I was pretty panicked from (a) not breathing and (b) not sleeping through the night, so I promptly burst into tears and almost started hyper-ventilating. Dana calmed me down and coaxed me back to sleep for a little while.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the rest of the story!