Don’t do the West Coast Trail in a couple days. Take 5 or 6 or 7. It’s such a gorgeous spot with lots of friendly people and flying whales – it definitely deserves your full attention for as long as you can give it.
That said, I ran into a little time crunch after I booked my reservation on the trail. I realized I could leave Monday afternoon around 3pm, but would have to be off the trail Wednesday by mid day so I could catch the ferry to civilization so I could get on a compulsory call for my nutrition course. I decided I was up for the challenge and left my tent, sleeping bag, large backpack, clothes, most food, etc, in storage and instead took out my running backpack and filled it with water, a tarp, 12 Probars, long underwear, extra socks, a rain jacket, shorts, my silk sleeping bag liner, an emergency blanket, headlamp, and a bandana. I set off after a comedy-filled orientation from park officers and started running. It was beautiful, definitely worthy of a slow walk, but I had a schedule to keep. Unfortunately a fuzzy aura set in the centre of my eyes (yes, I see auras!), causing my vision to be impaired and my senses to numb, and I knew a migraine would hit. I was able to get a good chunk of ground under me before I had to walk though, and I made it to Tsusiat Falls around 8:45pm that evening. I set up my tarp on the beach with a ground cover and tried to sleep amongst the throngs of tents. Sadly, I hadn’t considered the fact that a tarp is not closed to the ground so lots of little creatures (crabs and mice) were able to scurry around – and over – me. I woke up in the night feeling something poking my cheek. I like to think it was a beach crab claw… not a mouse snout.
The next morning I headed out around 8am and caught the first ferry on its first trip after a short wait. Luckily my headache had dissipated and I was feeling pretty decent. The ferry operators have a fish shack where they sell salmon, halibut and crab, but since it was only 10am I kept moving. Instead I stopped for the most expensive burger of my life ($22) at Chez Monique’s, located on a nice stretch of sand just south of Carmanah Point Lighthouse. I met 4 guys from Vancouver who had taken a week off together to leisurely hike the WCT and drink wine at the campfires in the evenings… I envied them! That night I camped at Cullite Cove, a beautiful campsite set back from the trail with the option of rocky beach camping or packed soil amongst trees. This night I opted for the trees and soft(er) ground since I didn’t have a sleeping pad and I was hoping the crabs might not find me farther away from the water. I looked out over the water as I ate another Probar and relished the peace of the place. Going back to my campsite I met about 10 other people camping closeby, all of whom thought I was crazy. Two guys were on their third WCT thru-hike, another was from Utrecht, Netherlands, a guy from the south of France, and a young couple from Vancouver were happy to share their fire. In the morning I set off around 7am, getting to Owen’s Point to explore the sea caves undisturbed at low tide. Along the way I met a group of four who handed me a rescue message – another hiker had twisted his knee on the way in, and was stranded at a campsite. It was a sobering reminder that 1% of all hikers require rescue on the WCT. Turning the corner around Owen’s Point I met about 20 other hikers coming from the opposite direction. The small pack was a blessing compared to the heavy ones other hikers wore – I was able to rock-hop up the coast to Camper’s Cove easily, then continued on to Thrasher’s Cove. Again, I was lucky that the beach was empty and took the chance to take a dip in the ocean before getting back on the trail to finish the last 5km to the final ferry dock.
Finishing the hike at Port Renfrew was bittersweet. All I wanted was to stay on the trail and enjoy another ocean view sunset, but the trip ended on a runner’s high on a sunny day on the west coast. Not much can be better than that.