It’s hard to leave a place you completely fall in love with. It’s hard, knowing you might not ever see a place again. That was my struggle to leave Tsusiat Falls the morning of our fourth day. We spent two days in this magical place, where a rush of fresh water tumbled into a small pool, which eventually meandered its way into the Pacific Ocean. But we had to leave. The reason for our journey wasn’t to stay, but to carry on and hike all 75 kilometresof the West Coast Trail.
We awoke at about 5am, the sun barely a glimmer on the horizon. The steady sound of the falls played us through our morning routine: a jump across Tsusiat creek to the other side of the beach, to the composting toilets. Wash up, pack the tent, roll up the sleeping bags, eat. We needed to leave before the tide climbed above 2.1 metres, otherwise we’d have to hike the overland trail and miss the incredible sight that is the Hole in the Wall at Tsusiat Point.
As we hiked out of the site, crouching beneath massive pieces of driftwood I cried, something I couldn’t believe I was doing. I cried because I knew it would be many many years before I would see this place again, wade through the cool, fresh water, sit on a rocky stump and watch the grey whales breach way off in the distance. Julia looked puzzled, but the glint in her eye told me she understood how I felt. In a perfect world, we’d have made our lives here, greeting hikers and saying goodbye to them as they passed through the campsite to conquer the trail.
We said goodbye to Tsusiat at about 6am and headed toward the Point, stepping past the footprints of three hikers who’d left earlier than we had.
The hike to the Hole in the Wall was about two kilometres, made easy by a soaked beach which supported us and the weight of our packs. We were treated to the sights of eagles perched on rocky outcroppings, and the zooming past of fishermen’s boats anchoring themselves off the shore and fishing for halibut in the cool, rough waters.
When we arrived at Hole in the Wall, we knew we’d made the right choice by suffering an early-morning wake up. We passed through a giant rock hole, around which the water lapped furiously into the sand and rock, splashing mist upon us. In the distance, a sentry eagle watched schools of unseen fish swim past. He was gathering his strength for the day’s hunt.
We walked fast through the overland trail after we left the beach, through damp forest and Aboriginal reserve land to a tidal lake called Nitinat. Nitinat Narrows are too deep to wade, the current too strong. We waited for a boat to come and take us to the other side. When it finally did, after only a fifteen minute wait, we managed a quick rest before we trudged through the bog on the other side. Boardwalks were half-buried and broken along the way, and our gaiters barely kept our socks dry. But the mud slowed and tired us. By the time we mounted a cliff overlooking the ocean, we were beat. And we still had another seven kilometres before we could stop.
On our way through the bog and up the dirt paths, we met a group of hikers being followed by a dog named Charlie Parker (we weren’t to discover his name until the next day, so we just called him Dexter). Charlie met up with us at the end of the day, at Cribs Creek campground. He spent much of the evening walking up the beach with us. When he grew bored, he set off further down the trail. We wouldn’t see Charlie again on our journey.
Another early morning on Day 5, as we attempted to beat the hot sun. This day, it wouldn’t matter as we would be covered by cloud with the threat of rain all day. This would be an easier day for us, though. Not covering 16 kilometres, like the previous day. This was a day of grace, not unlike our two-day stay at Tsusiat. But the eight kilometres we would cover this day wouldn’t be easy, as the lack of sun contributed to a subdued mood.
From Cribs Creek, we made our way about two kilometres to a point on the beach leading into the overland trail via a series of ladders, rather than concern ourselves with a great deal MORE stairs and ladders at the base of the Carmanah Point Lighthouse. This bit of forest hiking was damp, full of roots and technical stepping, which made for some exhausting going. When we arrived at Carmanah, we took a few photos, mused about what it must be like to live and work at a lighthouse on the trail (according to the board posted at the entrance to the lighthouse grounds, living there is nothing short of “awesome”) and kept going.
About one kilometre after the lighthouse, we found ourselves at Chez Monique, a makeshift home belonging to Monique, who’s lived on the trail for around 19 years. She’s argued long and hard with the government to stake her claim on the West Coast Trail, and she is appreciated by hikers wandering along the trail from both directions. She offers gourmet hamburgers and delicious breakfasts (including beer) for a hefty price. Julia and I could only afford a chocolate bar each.
It turns out Charlie Parker belonged to Monique. He wanders up and down the trail and only comes home when he gets hungry. This is complicated by the fact that hikers will often feed him (not us, though. We didn’t have a bit of food to spare). After a quick stop and a refresh of our supplies we continued down to Bonilla Point, home of a lovely waterfall and tiny campground. We arrived at about 1pm, and made camp. Then slept till dinner. We needed to catch up after so many early mornings. We met up with Sandy and Kat while we were there, but they were on their way further down the trail. So we used their tree branch to hang our food and provisions. Sleep. That was our priority.
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