We say “See you in a week!” to Murray’s cousin D and drive west out of Victoria towards Port Renfrew. The trip takes two hours with a couple of short stops to sight see. The road is winding and up and down, lined by very tall trees. A good road for a bike ride but a bit narrow, the traffic is light. It is a trail made for motorcycles they zoom past us are ‘pulling “Gs”’ on every corner. The drive is beautiful and we are not sure why we are hiking the trail as we seem to be able to see it all from where we sit in our vehicle.
We stop at French Beach Provincial Park. It’s a well laid out campground, comfortable sites and easy access to the beach. The beach is not for swimming but for walking, gazing and poking at washed up flotsam and jetsam.
We arrive in Port Renfrew, a quaint, very small town with a rec centre, fire hall, a few hotels and 3 eateries. The Tami closes at 5 pm so it is just a breakfast, coffee and lunch place, the Port Renfrew Hotel and the Coastal Kitchen look promising for supper.
It takes us a few wrong turns to find the West Coast Trail office, but we locate it, check in and chat with the lady manning it. She is very friendly and we quiz her about a few things concerning the trail. We tell her we will return for the orientation at 3:30.
We wander over to the small boat dock where the ferry that crosses the river is moored. We talk to Karl who operates the ferry on the weekends. He is originally from Tofino. He used to do trail maintenance, then drove the bus from Bamfield to Port Renfrew and now pilots the ferry. It is his opinion the trail is not being maintained the way it should be. The conversation returns to boats he says he tell us he is only supposed to make 5 scheduled trips a day. He is not supposed to make extra trips and if hikers get to the opposite side after 4:30 pm, they have to spend the night there. Sometimes fishermen will run hikers across – but for a price. Karl says that if it is raining and he sees the signal buoy go up, he will go get the hikers even if it is not scheduled, it is a safety thing and he doesn’t want hikers to get hypothermia in the wet and cold. Karl is friendly, calm and easy to chat to and we enjoy our half hour visit with him.
We stay at Pacheedaht Campground, spitting distance from the trail office. Zach, from Edmonton, manages the campground and is super friendly. He convinces us to park our vehicle in their lot for the week we are on the trail. He gives us the same price as the more well known parking guy – $30 for the week. We camp in Site #18 which is down the road abit but right on the river. We set up camp and watch the tide come in causing the river to rise. Seagulls lift off en masse. Crows squawk. It is time to take in nature and leave the city behind. The sun is warm, but the wind is cool.
The afternoon fog brings in a coolness and we take shelter in the tent. It is warm inside hidden away until it’s time to go to the WCT orientation. There are 20 people at the orientation. We learn a couple of items that we did not know. One important one was about a couple of unmarked surge channels it looks like we will have to cross on the second day.
After the orientation, we stop at the General Store to buy a newspaper. When we come out of the store, maybe 5 minutes later, two fellows come over to tell us a GMC truck had backed into our vehicle and driven away. Fortunately they both had gotten the license plate number. We spend the next half hour getting the details, taking pictures and phoning the police. We were able to file a report over the phone but cannot pursue it until after we get off the trail. This is the second time a vehicle of Debbie’s has been in an accident on the coast.
We sup at the Coastal Kitchen. We eat Fish and Chips for $14 (Halibut) and $13 (Salmon). The fish comes in either batter or grilled for those who need a no gluten alternative. The salad and fries are delicious.
Early to bed as we need to be up at 6:00 to catch the 8:20 ferry over to the Gordon River Trailhead.