We are old. Not really old but old enough to have to work constantly so we can touch our toes and on a good day the floor. It used to be that if one of my friends said ‘Let’s go hike Jonas Shoulder next weekend.’ we spent the week doing what we did and packed on Thursday night. We left late, and started the trail on Friday morning, hiked long distances, finished a 3 day hike in 2, and headed home. The next week we were a little stiff but it was of little consequence. We did have life to live, you know.
Early in the year a friend said to Debbie and me; “Do you want to do the West Coast Trail?” This was cause for a great amount of discussion. The reputation of the hike is that it is a hike that will test your moxie. Could we do it? Of course. Do we want to do it? It has been on the minor bucket list since I was about 20, so sure. We came to the conclusion that if we do not do it now we would never do it. So we are in.
The West Coast Trail is one of the iconic hikes in the world; it is in Canada and is amazingly close to where we live. We travel the world to see what other countries have to offer so we had better make use of what there is in Canada. Most of Canada we will be able to travel when we are even older and even less mobile so that is to come, but for the West Coast Trail the time is now.
Back to this old thing. I turned 60 the other day and I am still very physically active but there are things that are quickly getting out of reach. It’s like the day you realize you will never set a world record in the 100 yd dash only a lot more pedestrian – like touching your toes on first try.
This being the case we set out a “West Coast Trail Training Schedule” and follow it religiously.
Ten weeks before we are to leave we start walking. Sometimes just Debbie and me and sometimes our soon to be trail companions join us. At this point we do not look or feel too strange, we are packless and only wear hiking boots (feet must be broken in too) which might be considered only slightly out of the ordinary. We start with a 5 km. walk and come home only a little worse for wear. Over the next couple of weeks we extend the walks to 12 kms. walking on Tues. and Thurs. and sometimes a third day in the week.
After 2 weeks the packs come out. We spend some time trying to remember how to fit the pack each time it is donned and we start to become a neighbourhood spectacle wandering around with a backpacking backpack on our backs swinging hiking poles as we walk. We live about 5 blocks from the river valley and the relative seclusion of the parks. Anyway, we add a few pounds to the pack and start to do our walks with weight. On Tuesday we do 8 km. and on Thursday we do 10 km., if we have time we do a third day in the week.
Each week we add a few kilos (pounds) (more in my pack as I will end up with more weight for the hike) and try to do our Tues/Thurs walks. The extra weight is not really that noticeable until the week I reach 20kgs. and Debbie is doing 15 kg. It is then we know we were going about our training schedule for a reason. Our legs tell us about every incline and we are much more fatigued when we get home.
We spend two weeks walking in and out of the river valley twice or three times each week. Now it’s time to test our gear and our training. On Thursday June 20, the day of the torrential rains in southern Alberta, we head for Canmore helping R & D move. The next two days Debbie and I are scheduled for a trip in to the back country. We will walk in on Friday and out on Saturday. Back to back days with full packs and eating our dehydrated food for fuel. The RCMP stop us ½ way between Calgary and Canmore and turn us back to Calgary, the road to Canmore is washed out and there will be no access there for sometime. Three days rest at Debbie’s cousin’s place in Calgary and on to Plan B.
Then next week back home we load our two packs and do the back to back days in our river valley. We survive quite handily. Tired but functioning as per normal. The plan now is to head to the hinterland in one week. That leaves us 4 weeks till we start the trail for real.
There are only a few trails in Banff or Jasper that are in good shape after the rains and floods. We narrow it to one called Glacier Lake. That is our destination. The start and end elevations are about equal, the only elevation change is not much so it is a good trail for our test trip. The trail is 9 km. long and has a nice campground setting at the end and the weather looks good. Again it looks as though we are approaching the in run to the trek properly as the walk goes without a hitch.
We talk about another trip to the mountains and op for back to back to back days in town. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the days. Full packs and 10 or 12 km. walks. Results: tired again but all in one piece.
We are convinced that the 7 day hike is possible and we are ready to do it. We do hear the trail is tough and we can only deal with that on an instance by instance basis when we arrive.
From here we taper. Just like for an athletic endeavour we will start to back off the duration of our training walks (less mileage) but keep up the intensity (same weight and same fast pace).
We will walk Tuesday and Thursday of the coming week and Tuesday of the next week before we jump into the car and head west to the coast on Wednesday.
We should arrive at the trail head on Sunday in shape and well rested. I do not expect to have any troubles on the conditioning side of the equation. If our mental toughness and focus are up to snuff we should arrive at the end of the trail unscathed and have experienced one of those amazing interludes in life. Tick West Coast Trail off the list.