The West Coast Trail is the penultimate journey and up to now we have only been rained on for maybe ½ an hour, but we have experienced a good amount of fog. These mist views have resulted in many missed views (I just had to write it, sorry). Today it is clear and sunny. It is the first day we have been able to spot and observe the giant grey whales bobbing up and down a couple of hundred meters off the shore. We marvel at how such large creatures are able to be so graceful.
Today’s hike is 13 km, short compared to yesterday and very doable. Our bodies are tired and Debbie’s knees are complaining, she recites her mantra, “core and glutes” all day. S’s ankle is getting rubbed raw and she finds it easier to walk on a solid surface so we trek most of the day in the forest. The soft footing on the beach just adds to her discomfort.
The beach is not just sand and sandstone shelf. There are many types of surfaces to walk on and we are always searching for the most solid substrate. Seaweed, although spongy when deep, is quite supportive if we walk along the edges of the piles. The smaller pebbles are not much better than the sand but make a cool rattling noise when we step on them. The pool ball sized rocks are hard to travel on, they roll against each other easily and we constantly adjusting our balance. The boulder sized and bigger rocks are good for making time but we are always on the alert for the ones that move or teeter. We use our forward momentum and keep an eye on the exit from our present step to glide from stone to stone trying not to remain atop any one too long.
Today brings a reunion. We are back in sync with the Toronto crew who started on the same ferry in Port Renfrew but went on ahead of us on day 3 when we walked short to wait for our friend’s who started a day behind us. Both of our groups expected to use 8 days to complete the journey. Their journey took them from Camper to Walbran to Cribs to Tsuisiat Pt to Klanawa to Michigan. These folks traveled a long way to get here and fully intend to enjoy the experience. They travel slow take in as much of the surroundings as possible and when they finish they have reservations on the water taxi for the return trip to Port Renfrew enabling them to relive the prior week from a completely different perspective. We spend some time walking, chatting and comparing experiences, just enjoying seeing one another again and relaxed in each other’s company.
We depart Tsusiat at 8:30 and arrive at Michigan Creek at 3:30. 13km in 7 hours including stops. Again we travel faster and now we know we will meet our bus tomorrow.
The campground is busy and we feel like old hands. All of the people arriving from the north, just starting out, are full of energy and enthusiasm, clean and smell of various odor masking fragrances. We on the other hand are really quite dirty, our finger nails are black with dirt, our clothing is filthy and even though it is not offensive to us we must smell a slight bit musty. The newbie’s are full of wonderment and expectation, we on the other hand know what lies ahead of them and are somewhat smug regarding the feat we have accomplished.
Just before supper a fellow comes running along the beach with news of a bear. A black bear has just emerged from the forest about a ½ km from the campground. The trail guardian has told someone the bear is often there and is not interested in ‘people food’ so is not likely to endanger any of us. Most of the people on the beach observe his movements from a very safe distance. It is the first bear we have encountered so we also watch with interest.
After supper Debbie reveals we will celebrate our last evening by indulging in a banana chip, peanut and melted chocolate desert. How come we do not get this stuff at home????
Our last night on the trail. We spend time a campfire chatting with S & L, and some new friends we have met along the way. N & G are from New Brunswick, they hiked the East Coast Trail last year and felt it only fitting to bracket the country by doing the West Coast Trail this year. I’m not sure how the connection works but G & C are traveling with N & G and are living in Vancouver. We all trade stories of present and past experiences and enjoy the last evening on the beach.
The people we meet along the way is another important part of the trail. As I have said, the West Coast Trail is far too crowded to be considered a true wilderness experience but the ‘crowds’ are of like mind and it is great to hook up with these temporary friends and learn about life from the perspective of others.
Anticipation of tomorrow’s trek back to civilization looms large and we are excited. We have to remember to remain vigilant and focus on every step. We really want to arrive at the end of the trail unscathed.