The tides rule today’s hike on the West Coast Trail and low tide matches our goals to a tee. We have a very hard hike in the morning and should reach Owen Pt at noon when the tide is at its lowest.
Up at 6am. It takes us two hours to eat, pack up and get on the trail. Again the WCT does not provide us with time to warm up and within the first 100M we encounter the first pile of boulders. The rocks are the size of small cars and houses. With a pole in one hand for that third point of balance and one hand free to grab any handhold available, we make our way over, under and around the massive fixtures. It takes us about an hour to cover the next 100M. I have done things similar but not with a 45lb pack. Debbie has never done anything like this and proves herself to be quite strong, agile and flexible. She is still very cautious but we progress and our 12 o’clock goal is always within reach.
Others, that have left Thrasher later than we did, catch up to us and as they pass, I notice how each person finds their own route through the maze. Upon reflection of this idea I realize that of the thousands and thousands of people that have walked the West Coast Trail over the last 100 years no two people have ever taken the exact same route. Debbie and I continue over logs, along logs, between boulders, over boulders, sliding down driftwood, occasionally removing our packs to toss them ahead and get ourselves up or down the next obstacle.
Hiking this stretch of beach carries a similar phenomena as hiking in the mountains. When hiking in the alpine towards a summit there are numerous ‘false summits’ that must be passed over before one gets to the ultimate goal. While hiking this beach we can see Owen Pt from a long way off and it looks as though the next set of boulders is the last one to negotiate but as we climb down from the gigantic pile of rocks and place both feet on the flat stretch of beach we look up and see one more ominous pile ahead. This happens several times before we can see a clear path to the goal we had set a very long 2 km prior.
It is noon and we reach Owen Pt at exactly the right time, the water is as far away as it is going to get this day and we have time to explore a little, take some pictures and have lunch. As we eat we watch the seals on the rocks just off shore flop in and out of the water and how they play once they are able to get into the ocean – their medium of choice.
The water has sculpted the rock and made for some very sensuous and interesting forms leaving tidal pools full of small sea creatures, anemones, mussels, crabs, all waiting for high tide’s water to return and the opportunity to move to a different location.
The next few kms are along the beach. It is on this stretch we run into surge channels. The ocean water surges up these worn sections of sandstone and washes out with great force. Not a safe place to bathe. The first couple are too wide to get across so we head to the forest end of the channel and go up and around gnarly little detours and we are safely by the obstacles. The last one is quite narrow, we are able to step across without much difficulty.
The beach is also our first experience with “green stuff” and the advice from one of the blogs I had read is “don’t step on the green stuff”. Very good advice, twice I look up to find a route across the shelf, step on the ‘green stuff’ and fall so fast I do not even have time to cushion the landing. We intend to exit the beach at kilometre 65 and think we have found the proper beach access but when we arrive on the forest trail we realize we are not as far as we thought and exited at kilometre 66. (We are going backwards to the counting of kms on the map and on the trail.)
The forest trail from here to Campers is easier than the previous day but still requires complete focus. There is one log bridge about 30M long and 3 to 4M above the ground. I do not know how you would recover if you slipped here. As they were the previous day the boardwalks are in complete disrepair. This is also a section where we are introduced to what we coin ‘sucky mud’. Debbie places her right foot in a patch of soft soupy mud and she is not sure if it is going to let her have her boot back. The mud gods are kind and we are able to continue on our way. After a day and a half of covering less that 1km/hr, we pick up speed and are able to cover the last 4km in 3hrs. If things improve we will be able to finish the hike as planned. We cover the entire 8km this day in 8 ½ hours.
Again we arrive at Camper Creek campground before the crowd and are able to have some choice as to where we stay this night. There are a few sites in the woods just off the beach but these are taken up with a group of trail maintenance workers and there are a couple of forest type sites facing the creek which are really quite private. There is a nice space behind a piece of giant driftwood allowing for some relief from the wind and we pitch our tent on the sand. Again we expect to see hoards of people but there are only 5 or 6 tents this night. We start to wonder where all the hikers are??
The site is very nice with the cove defined by very high steep walls on both sides, no visual access to the ocean but we hear the waves crashing just beyond the rocky beach piled in front of us. The creek provides a good source of water. The serenity is captivating.
Today is our first interface with the ocean and beach hiking. Much more rewarding than yesterday, albeit more physically demanding. The walking still takes complete and entire concentration and commitment but we had a lot more fun today than in the woods. The beauty of the West Coast Trail is revealing itself a little at a time.