The Wet Coast is the Best Coast, Pt V

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Day 7

Cullite Creek wasn’t a particularly nice spot. It was a beautiful location, but we arrived at the end of Day 6 with the wind sweeping through the cove and up and creek making it less than ideal. We immediately erected our giant tarp as a wind shelter, but we also weren’t located in the best camping spot. When we arrived on Day 6, we were so hungry that we ate two meals for dinner—having already planned to exit the trail on Day 8 instead of Day 10.

We broke camp rather quickly in the morning, knowing full well that the ground we had to cover to get to Thrasher Creek would all be overland. In order to make it around Owen Point—which was the beach route—we would have had to beat the tide and hop larger-than-life boulders as well. Julia had done this part of the trail before. This time we were going to skip it. It’s supposed to be an amazing part of the hike, but very challenging. We figured the overland trail would be less technical. You’d think after seven days on the trail we’d not have been so naïve.

At this point in our trip, we were taking on the most challenging portion of the West Coast Trail, a full 13 km worth. We were tired, we were hungry, and the weather wasn’t particularly nice—overcast and always with the threat of rain. I would say that Day 7 and the beginning of Day 8 marked the lowest point of our trip, in terms of emotion and exhaustion. We were reaching our limits and most of our discussion (what little of it there was) during the walking parts of our days turned to nachos and beer.

(Me, after hauling ass across Camper Creek in a cable car)

Day 7 was challenging, frustrating, and de-motivating. Already tired, we were forced to hoist ourselves and our packs over massive fallen trees, balance on those same trees, move around uprooted plants… This was some of the slowest going on the trail. And by the time we arrived at the 70 km point, which marked the fork in the road to continue to the end of the trail (at the 75 km mark) or head down to the beach at Thrasher Creek, we still had a minimum of one km to hike.

We stopped briefly at the 70 km sign and applied a lot of bug spray. The air was still, the sun blocked by the forest canopy, and the mosquitoes were plentiful. At this fork in the trail we met a trio of hikers—a elderly guy, probably in his 60s, hiking with his grown sons. As we applied our spray and watered our dry mouths, they proceeded up the one km switchback trail to Thrasher, a trail soaked by tiny streams of water, flat, slippery stones, and hidden roots.

We followed and pass the two sons soon enough, crested the trail and began our descent toward the ladders that would eventually take us down to the beach. As we approached the ladders, we watch the elderly guy take a spill, which seemed like not such a big deal. As we approached to assist him, he was breathing through his teeth and rubbing his left knee.

“I’m OK,” he told us, though the expression on his face belied his words.

“Are you sure you don’t need a hand,” we asked him.

“No, no, I just need to catch my breath, stretch out my knee and walk it off,” he said. He wished him luck, mentioned that we saw his sons not too far behind us, and started our descent.

I wish there was something we could have done to help the man, but he seemed fine. He’d just need to tread lightly the next few days so he did exacerbate this injury. He climbed down (more bloody) ladders, and found our friends Sandy and Kat again. They warned us that the tide liked to creep right up to the camp site here at Thrasher, and Kat then showed us their second-choice campsite right next to the creek just off the beach. We appreciated that our few-days-old friends were so eager to help us. We setup, ate, and crashed. We were exhausted and eager to exit the trail. After Night 7, only 5 km to go.

Day 8 – The Final Haul

Sunlight, and a strong desire to leave the trail grip us in the morning. I get up first, and make for the composting toilet, picking up our food from the bear locker after I’m done. Who do I see limping down the beach but the elderly guy who took the fall the previous day. In that condition it’s doubtful he’ll be able to continue the hike. He’s not just limping a little, he’s limping A LOT.

We ate a quick breakfast, both agreed it was time to leave, and out to hike the last six km of the trip, and some of the toughest as well. This portion of the trail was a CONSTANTLY up and down. Consequently there was no fast-moving, easy walk. This was a HIKE and the kilometre markers seems much further than 1 km apart.

I don’t recall talking very much at this point except to snap at each other. A bit. We took very few pictures, as the goal was just to get ‘er done.

Around the 73 km mark, we started seeing fresh, new, clean hikers arriving on the trail. They were very encouraging to us. Lots of “You guys are almost done,” and “Great job!” was heard. I being the grouchy dude I was (am?) thought about how funny it would be to tackle each of those people, sit on them, and then shout at them about how hard the trail is while I force them to sniff my armpits.

But I didn’t do that. Because I’m BETTER than that.

By the time we reached the end of the 6 km, we were bagged. We photographed our dirty boots, called the ferry driver, and checked in at the trailhead office. There, we discovered the elderly dude who was limping around actually had to be EVACed from the trail. He and his sons were fetched from Thrasher by a zodiac, and they were being brought back to the office. The man’s wife and presumably one of his daughters was on-hand and we had a chance to tell them about how we witnessed his little fall.

Apparently, they were going to keep going, slowly, and hike the trail anyhow. But the guy aggravated the injury when he went to fetch water from the creek. It was pretty sad, actually. He became, I think, the 22nd person at that point in the season to be taken off the trail. It definitely made me feel fortunate that I didn’t take a bad step. I probably fell over a few times because I was tired and carrying a heavy pack, but nothing serious. It made the triumphant end of the hike a little more somber. At least he was going to be OK.

And who has time for somber anyway, when there’s a pub in Port Renfrew waiting for us. A pub with hamburgers and, you know, food that isn’t freeze-dried.

The warden in the Parks office called us a cab. And by cab, I mean a dude with a pick-up truck who apparently shuttles hikers back and forth between the town and the trailhead office. He kindly dropped us right in front of the pub, where we spent the next four hours drinking and waiting for the bus back to Victoria. Kat and Sandy were in the same spot as us, so we said our goodbyes.

At around 4pm on July 3, 2008, we left Port Renfrew, and bid the West Coast Trail farewell. We were stuffed (from the pub), buzzed (from the pub), and exhausted (from everything else). We slept the entire ride back to Vic, and would spend the next three days reintegrating with society at or near the Inner Harbour. As the days from the end of our hike increased in number, the vow we shared to not return for a long time seemed more and more ridiculous. Personally, I will be back on the WCT inside of five years. This trail, this section of VanIsle is probably some of the most beautiful, powerful scenery in all of Canada. If you’re thinking about hiking the WCT, stop thinking and start planning.

And yes, the nachos taste so much sweeter when you’ve had to haul ass through 75 km of beach and forest wilderness with your home and all your belongings on your back.

-fin-

>> the rest of the trip:

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