West Coast Trail

September 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Distance: 75km

Total Time: 101 hours

Participants: Patrick Latter, Jimmy Quigley, Carlyn Stilling, Michelle Wong

Background Information on the Trail: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Coast_Trail

We arrived in Port Renfrew on Sunday and camped in a nearby campground for the night. It was right on the beach and had a great view of the bay.

The next day we made our way to the orientation office, which is just a short drive/walk from the campground. We met the other hikers that were starting that morning in the small building. On the wall they had the number of evacuations to date for the year.

When we reached the office at the end of trail in Bamfield 4 days later this number had already climbed to 53. After the orientation, we started to get our gear together before the boat takes you across the small channel to the trail head. We brought 36 Cliff bars for snacks…. we should have brought 72.

Once on the trail it didn’t take long until we reached our first ladder. There are as many as 70 ladders, 130 bridges and 4 cable cars on the trail. The ladders seemed fun at first but you soon began to dread seeing them.

We reached the first camp site 5km and 4 hours into the trail. Although it was only 1pm, we decided to stay at ‘Thrashers Cove” because with the current state of the tides we would have to wait until morning to make it to the sea caves safely. After setting up camp we spent the next few hours exploring the beach and surrounding area. There was a large bird in the area that would circle above and occasionally skim the water looking for food.

There was a fantastic sunset that night on the beach and it would be our last of the trip, as we spent the next 4 days in permanent overcast skies and fog.

The next morning we made our way over giant boulders and huge pieces of drift wood along the coast. We learned quickly to never step on the brown spots on the rocks as the brown algae was extremely slippery. We made it just in time to the sea caves to still make it through before the tide came up too high.

Along the coast the low tide exposed many isolated mini islands that towered above us as we walked by.

We came across our first waterfall that day as well.  It was only 50 meters from the shore, right on the beach.
We stopped for lunch just after this in a small isolated bay. Any food that we brought that wasn’t a snack was a dehydrated meal. To cook them we would boil water over a small camping stove and then pour the specified amount in the bag and wait 13 minutes. While they can taste a little salty they are actually some of the best food I’ve had camping. Jimmy nearly cooked his shame while trying to light the stove.

While hiking in the interior parts of the trail can beautiful, the natural mudbogs and winding path can make it very slow going. The second you did not give the trail 100% of your attention was when you fell. At one point Michelle fell completely forward and with the weight of her back pack, she couldn’t even get up.  Luckily for her, Carlyn was right behind and saved her from drowning face down in a mud bog.

I did not know what hunger was until doing the west coast trail. We arrived at our camp site late that night and all four of us were starving to the point that Carlyn was shaking coming down the last set of ladders. We decided to make one of the large pastas we had brought and the ‘Wicked Awesome Brownies’ dehydrated meal. We had not read the directions in the store.  After reading the brownie package, it turned out that after pouring the water in, we had to ‘Upper Bake’ them….. Upper bake?!?! What is that? So…. we just ate the brownie mix… and it was AMAZING.

The next day we did our first cable car as we left the camp-site. Each car seats two and your momentum carries you 2/3rds of the way, while you use the rope to take the remaining distance.

While walking along the coast we spotted a Bald Eagle perched on rock right near the water. I managed to get pretty close before startling him.

Once we reached our camp site for the night, we setup our tents and I walked down the beach with Jimmy to take some photos. The fog was especially dense that night, and the longer we got into our walk the darker and more eerie it became. At one point we thought something was running towards us.. turns out it was just a bear shaped log.

At some points in the trail there would be rope left over from other hikers used to repel down rock faces.

For lunch that day we made it to the crab shack that is run by the same guy that does the ferry crossing needed for one section of the trail. While it was expensive, it was probably the best meal of crab I have ever had. They even had a small puppy that played with us while we waited for our food.

The crab was caught fresh and cooked right in front of you.

We barely made it to the famous ‘Hole in the wall’ before the tide became too high and we would have to cut through the interior instead.

We reached our final camp-site of the trip just as the sun was going down. This was the quietest site we had been to the whole trip, with only one other group of kayakers sharing the beach with us. We had a small fire with the drift wood that was nearby before going to bed.

While most the trip we had only seen dead crabs, this last stretch of coast had TONS of live crabs running around. One in particular wanted to fight Jimmy.

All accesses to the beach were marked by brightly coloured buoys that were hung on the trees.

We finished the trail in just over 4 days at 101 hours. Normally, you take a bus back from Bamfield to Port Renfrew where your car is parked but we had not reserved a spot and the bus was full. We found out there was also a guy that takes people by boat. While this was a little more expensive, it was definitely worth it, as we got to see the trail from a unique perspective. He also took us right up to the sea lion colonies and whales.