On the West Coast Trail: A Personal Perspective
Ray Siemens (c)
[Foreword] [Port Renfew] [Thrasher Cove] [Camper Creek] [Logan Creek]
[Carmanah Point] [Cheewat River] [Lord Knows Where]
Photographers typically prefer to capture dramatic images, travel writers wish to document adventures in heroic terms, and writers of back-country trail guides work towards proffering the precise details of a specific hike. Though I take pictures, I am no photographer; George Allen is, as well as being a fine writer, and his book Timeless Shore should be essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in the West Coast Trail. While I write, I am no travel writer; those wishing such a foray can turn to one of many stories containing elements of the trail, most notably the recently published photo-logue Hiking on the Edge. And though I consider myself an avid hiker with a healthy interest in trail guides, I could not put one together; an excellent guide to the West Coast Trail is offered by the Sierra Club, as well as by the authors of Blisters and Bliss.
That said, I also know the type of monologue that I've written here is a dime a dozen -- but I remain happy to have the chance here to get in my bit of change. With this in mind, this piece is an attempt at a simple rendering of one person's perspective of a walk through an area that has a world-wide reputation, a walk which truly deserves to be held as the badge of honour that it is among those who have taken the time to enjoy it.
My short work has come about in response to the many people who answered my query about the West Coast Trail posted to the rec.backcountry news group in July of 1995. Thanks are due to Eric and Uwe, with whom I carried on pleasant exchanges about the hike, and especially to Lynne (who understood my wanting to leave civilization behind in this manner), Rich (my hiking partner), Cam (who drove us to the trail head and laughed at us in the pouring rain as we began our hike), and Craig (who supplied us with considerable incentive) -- longtime friends and more, all.
August 12, 1995.
My friend Richard and I are by no means purists, and while purists would question the first few decisions made in our trek, these decisions were the right ones for us. We had only decided to hike the West Coast Trail a few weeks before we actually set out; consequently, we set out without having reserved spots. It had been the rainiest August in many people's memory, though, and we were sure that there wouldn't be much trouble simply registering as walk-ons. Luckily for us, we were right, and the most difficult part of getting on the trail was getting to the south trail head -- and this was only because of car-sickness on the winding last leg of the road from Victoria to the town of Port Renfrew.
The afternoon we arrived at the trail head saw one of the few sunny breaks in weeks, and we felt somehow like we had cheated the elements being so fortunate with the weather. To celebrate our good luck, we decided to head out the following day and to spend the better part of the afternoon and evening which lay ahead of us roaming the pier (which took all of a half hour before we'd exhausted ourselves) and enjoying our last chance for beer (or so we thought) for a week. By 8:00 or so, I remember looking outside the town's only watering-hole and thinking out loud that we really weren't in Vancouver anymore -- it was the 30 foot high tree stump set in the rising tide in a small inlet just behind the hotel that was my first clue, I suppose. By about 10:30, we'd had enough refreshment to decide that we were going to carry beer with us, and so we bought some as we left the pub. An hour or so later, after we'd worked through some of our hiking supply at our campsite, we turned in for the evening to the sound of several of our new-found drinking mates fighting among themselves just outside the pub. Yes, this was going to be an adventure.
August 13, 1995.
The morning started much the same haphazard way, except we awoke with the remnants of the evening before weighing heavily on our heads and the sound of fighting replaced with the sound of heavy rain. Much of our gear, which we'd left outside in the starlight evening, was quite soaked. Around our campsite, the short trails had turned to slippery mud. Our friend Cam, who had driven up with us the day before and spent some time telling us how envious he was that Rich and I were heading out for the hike, seemed, now, much more at ease with his decision to stay behind; he even chuckled a few times as we put our gear together, slipped into our goretex, struggled with our overstuffed packs, and began our walk down to the dock to get the early water-taxi to the trail head.
At the time, though, wide heads and Cam's chuckling were put out of our minds. The chuckling was soon replaced by other concerns; Cam, who had left his car lights on overnight, was looking around for a boost, and for us all other worries were superseded by that of the weather. We spent some time chatting with a couple from Cambridge, UK, who were in the process of deciding that they wouldn't attempt the trail because of the heavy rain. Curiously enough, shortly after their decision was made, a package of British Hobnob cookies mysteriously appeared in my pack; little did I know then that they would make up the bulk of my lunch that day . . . .
It had been pouring for some time quite heavily, and showed no signs of letting up if our inability to see across the Port San Juan inlet was any indication; we really couldn't see the other shore! And so we had a decision to make: to be hiking purists (even though we already had already lost that title, having beer and Hobnobs in our packs) and slog along the trail from its very soggy beginning, or to proceed as a few wet hikers coming off the trail the day before suggested and take the water taxi to Thrasher Cove, saving some five kilometres at the cost of having to climb what had been described to us as a never-ending series of ladders in order to join the main trail.
After about two seconds of intense debate, during which we carefully weighed the pros and cons of each options, we opted to go to Thrasher Cove. Purists we were not.
The water taxi driver was the same man who'd helped jump start Cam's car an hour or so ago, though he'd since put on what looked like a marine survival suit. It really was raining. By the time we'd climbed down, via a ladder next to the dock, onto the rock where we boarded the boat, we were thoroughly soaked. As we crossed the inlet on the choppy water, we became more soaked. The extent of our conversation with the driver was his asking us if we'd thought to bring a large tarp. We had thought of it, but (in a move that I would regret for the next few days) I'd argued against bringing one because of the extra weight; at this point, though, I would have gladly exchanged all the beer in my pack, as well as the small ham, the bacon, the pancake mix, and all the other slightly heavy luxuries we'd brought -- all just for a small tarp; the cookies, however, were staying. And as we landed on-shore, jumping off the bow of the boat onto a slippery rock, it seemed we were even more soggy.
There were a few people waiting for the taxi in Thrasher Cove, taking down camp. With our saddest faces put on (which were only too natural, and nicely matched our sadly soaked exteriors), we negotiated with the first people we saw for their groundsheet. We gave whatever they asked and, with a quick look back at them as they prepared to board the boat, we headed up the ladders to join the main trail. The ladders were a good experience, in that they taught us that we actually had been a wee bit dry under our rain gear. By the time we reached the top, we'd soaked ourselves from the inside out with sweat at least as much as the rain had soaked us from the outside in.
We spent the first while simply accustoming ourselves to the trail, which itself was more stream and puddle, log and root than actual trail. The brush was dense and, when we could discern mud and gravel, the trail winded narrowly to and fro among trees tall enough to break the effect of the hard falling rain. At several points, we considered taking the beach route to Owen point -- which is a popular one when the tide is low and the weather clear -- but a large slide, caused by the rains of the weeks before, had made the route impassable. We did, nonetheless, peek out of the brush at the several beach access points to see what we were missing. After a few kilometres of hiking, which had actually taken us a few hours, we had lunch right on the trail, using our newly- acquired groundsheet as the tarp we'd intended it to be.
No matter how tired and wet we felt, though, we both agreed that we were in much better shape than most of the few groups of people we met coming in the opposite direction. We still had smiles; these folks had been on the trail for as many as eight days, and their smiles and curiosity about their surroundings in all but a few cases had turned to serious looks and an attitude geared more towards moving forward than to enjoying the sights. Nonetheless, we got trail updates and had some nice chats about what to expect -- especially, to our surprise, news of a small stand near the Carmanah lighthouse which sold food and drink. This, and our lunch, helped our spirits, as did the agreement that we'd take a break in two hours again.
The break came sooner than we thought, and within a kilometre or so we came across what must have been a campground in the bush which had been out of use for a few years. It took little convincing for us to have a seat and start in on our precious beer supply; "besides," I remember Rich saying (or maybe it was me), "if we keep carrying it, it'll just slow us down." Much against our reasoning, even in our stomachs the drink slowed us down. Still, we pushed on, but only after we d both hit our supplies of roll-your-own.
Later in the afternoon, and with the better part of our day s hike behind us, we began to comment on what was nice about hiking in the rain. The trees had a certain sound as they moved, wet, back and forth in the breeze. The ocean's roar was muffled by this noise, but the ebb and flow of the tide was always a low undertone added to any other sounds we might hear, to be itself augmented by the occasional soprano of a stream. And the smells were fantastic. At one point, we stopped on the trail to rest our backs and were overcome with the smell of cedar. It was an overwhelming scent which we couldn't (and didn't want to) escape. Twenty yards down the trail, we came across the freshly- cut blown down cedar that was responsible.
An hour or so later, we struggled down the ladders and sailed on the cable car across Camper Creek into the campground. We were exhausted. We'd been on the trail for some eight hours and, for our first day out, the whopping number of kilometres we'd covered was only eight as well -- an average of one kilometre per hour! In what was then again and still the pouring rain, we slowly set up our tent, and crawled inside with our candle lantern (lit for heat) in a weak attempt to dry out and warm up before we faced the task of making dinner. Soon enough, we were a bit refreshed, in dryer clothes, and joking with a few of our camp mates -- of which there were at least thirty -- as we cooked our meal. Someone had managed to get a fire going, which was blazing, and in the fire's warmth and under the cover of a large tarp brought by five large men (with particularly bad feet, as they were proud to display) we had a surreal dinner. Ten minutes after finishing, we were asleep like babies.
August 14, 1995.
We were awake long enough on our first evening on the trail to be teased a bit a true trail veteran, George, and his hiking companion about theweight of the beer we were carrying and our choice of trail food (which was for the first day a small cured ham, so we truly deserved the chiding). Pleasantly enough, my first sight the next morning was of George, a photographer by trade, with all his camera gear, worth at least twice the beer and ham in weight; with teasing aptly returned, we chatted a bit before the others awoke about what was ahead for the day's hike. There was no chance of walking the beach, we deduced, and with the rain the night before there would be no pleasant walking on the trail either.
Later, with Rich awake, and with breakfast and packing behind us, we put Camper Creek behind us as well and pushed on, and on, and on through much the same conditions as the day before: gnarly roots, wet log bridges, and streams which passed during dry spells as trail.
When we reached the falls at Sandstone Creek, the sunshine came out; consequently, so did our smiles, some soup, a drink, and a rest break with hands dry and warm enough to roll a cigarette. With lifted spirits, we resumed our walk, trekking up the ladders at Cullite Cove and over cedar stumps at the top of muddy embankments -- one in particular was chiefly responsible for our motto of the day to be changed from an adrenaline-filled war whoop to a discouraged "aw, f$#@ it." Though there was some sun out, our feet were soaked, our boots weighed five times their original weight and, though we'd done our best to solve our packs weight problem by eating as much ham as possible as well as taking care of the better part of the beer, our packs had taken on a fair bit of water.
So, when we reached Logan Creek, we decided to set up camp and enjoy some of the sunny afternoon. We also set up what looked like a yard sale to dry out our gear and, after several hours of dry weather (and, in the case of a few wool socks and cotton t-shirts, some well-applied fire heat) we were completely dry and felt cheery enough to be social, enjoying the company again of George and his companion, a scuba- diving club from Calgary that was taking a different group vacation this year, and a man and his young boy from Minnesota who were on the second hike of what they hoped would become a yearly trek. Enjoying a early evening coffee with the latter group, who had set up camp just over the big log from our tent, I was reminded of the pleasures of a simple visit and the relaxing effect of casual conversation. Vancouver and Toronto were a million miles away, and could stay there for as long as they liked.
August 15, 1995.
Morning came all too quickly, with the sound of rain beating on our tent and the rushing of creek water much louder than the night before. I remember thinking that the water sounded almost as if it were lapping up a foot or two from my head, which itself (because Rich and I were sharing a tent, and we are both over 6 feet tall) was pressed right against the tent wall. After a few minutes of checking to ensure that all my limbs were appropriately sore from the pervious days' hiking, I poked my head out of the tent to realize that not only did the water sound like it was lapping a few feet from the tent, it actually was trickling that close to us, and was drawing closer with every passing second. This being my first experience with flash-flooding of sorts, and being a slow study at the best of times, I took a few minutes to determine that the best plan of action was to get Rich up and out of the tent, and to warn the others who were camped in the same formerly-dry creek bed. After a few frantic minutes of packing up, we crossed the newly formed creek channel which threatened to wash away our camp and put our packs down under a cluster of trees near the trail. Others did the same and, because Rich and I had far too much breakfast mix with us, we made pancakes for the group; we ate as we watched our old camp spot disappear under several feet of rushing, brown creek water.
We felt lucky as we climbed up the broken ladder to the trail proper, and crossed the suspension bridge which crossed the creek. The bridge provided a nice perspective on our former camp -- one that stayed with us for the next few kilometres as we hacked our way through more mud and guck until, finally, emerging at Walbran Creek. Before that, however, we had to ford the body of water that becomes one with the ocean at the Adrenaline surge channel. We had considered taking the shore route the previous night but, realising that our timing with the tides would be tight and awakening to the rainstorm as we did, it was an easy decision to face more tired trail. In the end, Adrenaline Creek had at least doubled in size, forcing us to rope to each other as we crossed over the normal creek bed on a hewn log, over the new flood passage on fallen trunks and, more disconcerting, right through rushing water well above our knees in places. We were too tired and beat to even think of taking pictures.
Our arrival, then, at Walbran Creek was, in addition to being a blessing, a good opportunity for a lunch break. The sun came out for a few seconds, our packs and rain gear came off, and we heated up some dehydrated soup ("nectar of the gods," I remember thinking as we ate). The campground here would have been much more suited to the rain of the night before, for there was much more room for tents just below the winter high tide mark and away from potentially expanding creek beds. But the water was exceptionally high; so, vowing not to set foot in the woods for as long as possible, we pushed forward on the beach route, having (again) to rope up to cross the creek, even at its wide mouth.
Being out of the trees and exposed to the elements was a very different feeling for both of us. In the woods the trail was bad and the feeling, at times, claustrophobic, but we were protected from the direct forces of the harsher elements. The shore provided spectacular views, when the fog lifted, and offered us hard (if not dangerously slippery) rock shelf and occasionally tide-pounded sand upon which to walk; in exchange, we felt the full brunt of the foul weather. But the drawbacks of hiking on the shoreline didn't keep our smiles down any, and we enjoyed the change of scenery, pondering to gaze at the run off, the crashing waters (if you look very closely just right of centre in the picture with the crashing waters, you can just make out the head of the sea lion that was bobbing in the waves to check us out), crashed boats, newformed waterfalls, and a sea stack.
At Walbran we had been teased with a few minutes of nice weather, only to be haunted by several hours of more downpour, and as we neared Carmanah Creek we feared the same taunting. The weather ahead seemed to break. Sun was streaming on the other side of the Carmanah, illuminating what initially appeared to be two nearly naked women on the other side of the creek; I say appeared because I didn't think I was tired enough to be hallucinating. But, lo and behold, as we drew nearer, Rich confirmed my suspicions -- there really were two scantily-clad females on the sunny side of the creek. I remember reaching the creek, after what seemed like an hour puzzling about the likelihood of this situation, and jumping down its banks, wading across slow-moving water up to my waist until I reached to other side, only to collapse and unfasten my pack. Rich did the same. And then we greeted the ladies, who as it turned out had taken off most of their clothes as well as their hiking boots in order to cross the creek while getting wet as little as possible.
Having already given up any hope of staying dry, we stuck out our elbows and escorted the ladies through the water in, what was for us, the most ironically out of place event of our whole hike. It was also the most talked about bit of our adventure, second only to what the next hour would bring. We were so taken by the experience, we forgot to take a picture! (On second thought, it might not have been the best idea to have taken a picture of this.)
We took a much needed break and, as relieved as we were for the rest, our smiles vanished as we watched the ladies depart towards the south and our sun move northwards. The rain didn't set in, as we thought it might, so we counted our remaining blessings and suited up to continue for a few more kilometres. These turned out to be spectacular. The sun came back, and we walked up the crescent of white sand and surf that leads to Carmanah Point. But we didn't reach the point that night.
Nothing really prepared us for the view which was to greet us at the end of the beach. We had known that there was a person who had a confection stand on the beach near the Carmanah Lighthouse, but we didn't realize that, on our approach to the stand, we would be greeted by the most unlikely of west coast animals -- the beach pig -- and yet there they were, rutting in all their magnificence, sand-darkened snoots and all! With such a greeting to what we had heard was referred to as Chez Monique, we unburdened ourselves of our packs and settled onto the bench in front of the beach front cafe in time to order a few beverages and chat with Monique about everything from the whales just off the point to the state of provincial politics.
Her hospitality was wonderful -- but to be expected, as we learned when we bumped into an acquaintance of hers at the Bamfield trail head. We began to feel rejuvenated but, though we felt better on the inside, we were wet and dirty outside, and her offer of a place to dry out for the night was accepted immediately. The evening passed playing tag and cards with her children and grandchildren, warming ourselves by the wood stove in the cabin in which Monique allowed us to stay, and chatting with a few relatives who had arrived just as we were preparing to collapse into sleep.
All in all, it had been a remarkable day.
August 16, 1995.
Waking the next day, I'd expected to be tired, wet, cold and, perhaps, potentially in the path of a surging creek. Luckily, nothing could have been further from the truth. I was dry, rested, and warm; instead of rushing from a stream, Rich and I leisurely strolled to Chez Monique's for a delicious and large breakfast of eggs, hash browns, toast, strong coffee, and some bacon (which I pretended not to be closely related to the two beach animals we'd seen on our arrival). Before we knew it, though, it was noon, so we packed our nely dried clothing and other accessories into our packs and began a nice stroll onwards on our way.
The day was dominated by a pleasant mood -- due in a large part to our pleasant visit to Monique's -- and we sauntered along the shelf and shore past surf, the spectacular Cribs at Dare Beach (and through the hordes of sea gulls that habituate the shore on the beach side of the Cribs, and so on, relaxing every now and again to take in the sights and sounds all around us on what was, unarguably, the best day of weather on our hike.
By the time we had arrived at the long beach which lies to the east side of the Cheewat River, some 3 hours had passed, but we had walked a full 6 kilometres -- not much distance, we knew, but our pace was double of the first day, and we felt quite lazy.
So, we sat down at the edge of the water to enjoy the view and the sun for a long lunch. Which turned into a longer lunch. Which turned into a sun tanning session, which turned into a nap, which then turned into our place to camp for the night. After our nap, our dinner, our quest for water and to find a secure place for our food, the clouds started to roll in; they didn't quite beat the sunset in full, though, and before we settled in to our tent we settled in to watch the best show going that day.
August 17, 1995.
Again, the sleep was good, but we were woken up by the sound of one of two German hikers who had arrived late the night before and had explained to us that they were going to reach the Bamfield trail head (some 35 kilometres ahead) by the evening of the day that was just breaking. The sound soon stopped, and when I finally got out of the tent I had assumed that all that would remain of them was the footprint in the sand left by their tent; it seems, though, that they had gone back to sleep. For the remainder of our trip, Rich and I fully expected them to catch up to us and pass us on the trail, but we never saw them again.
Except for packing up our things -- save for cooking supplies and our breakfast -- in a hurry to avoid their dampening by what we though was impending downpour, we took our time getting on the trail. We chatted a bit with the other campers (something which was a pleasure at every camp stop) and learned that one of the larger groups had lost a member to a broken collar bone but, even though the man who had been injured had two of his young sons with him, his sons had watched their father be carried away in a coast guard helicopter and had resolved to finish the hike with the rest of the group. Aside from being inspired by the sense of perseverance possessed by these two boys, I think we both felt a bit of guilt that we had been whining so much about the oppressive weather and trail conditions of the first few days.
With this taste fresh in our mouths, and the unsweet smell of the Cheewat in our noses (it isn't called the "river of urine" by the native Dididahts without reason), we set out on what started as the easiest section of trail than we had yet to see. Paths were wide and enough flat enough for a car to drive on, and boardwalks, while slippery in places, were in better repair than we were used to.
Soon, the weather we had expected at any moment set in and, though we enjoyed a respite for our crossing of the Nitinat Narrows, we were soon under barrage by the heaviest storming of the trip. There was respite enough to take the odd shot -- such as this one, with Rich approaching the hole-in-the-wall at Tsusiat Point -- but the rest of our day was spent cursing the rain that poured freely over our heads, down our backs, and even into our packs as we did our best to push forward. It rained so hard at Tsusiat Falls that we couldn't distinguish the falls from the rain, so "why bother looking," we felt; all other points of interest were treated the same way. This was, perhaps, the wrong way to think about our day, but we were miserable. That said, we did cover 19 kilometres -- our longest day of the hike.
At the 17 kilometre marker, after a creek which may have resembled something on our map, we slid down a steep, mud-greased trail to the shore, and found a spot for our tent under the protection of a large tree and a place for dinner behind a gigantic turned stump as tall in its fallen height as either Rich or I standing straight up. But we didn't set up camp immediately. We'd hardly eaten all day.
We were soaked. We were chilled to the bone. And, we were dead tired. As miserable as we were, the first priority for us was the sea. We'd picked our potential camp spot just below the winter high tide mark (the same spot as where a small cliff descended) and noted on our tide table chart that, as we arrived, the sea should have just been reaching its summer high tide mark. The waves were phenomenal to watch; sheets of water rose up out of the sea and split, breaking in opposite directions, only to be driven back together by the force of the wind being driven back seaward from the cliffs which rose behind our site. Spectacular as they were, they were supposed to be retreating, and yet they were not. So, we gathered wood in the storm as we watched the sea rise further and further. We spent a half hour, and a half litre or so of stove fuel, starting our fire -- all the while watching the tide continue to rise. We prepared and ate our dinner, all the while nervously glancing out at the sea. As we finished dinner, and after having in a strained way discussed our various options if the sea became more of a menace to our camp spot, we noticed that the water level had abated slightly.
So, with my rain gear still on, I marked the water line with a stick and while Rich gathered some more firewood. He stoked the fire, we shed our gear, and I set up the tent. With this done, we prepared to attempt to lift our spirits by drying out -- socks, boots, and all -- and we whined, lied, and told jokes to one another while sitting close enough to the fire that I was sure the hair on my legs got a bit of a singe. After an hour or so of this, we checked the water line again (and it had receded!), and went into our tent with the feeling of having tackled more than we set out to accomplish that day and, for myself at least, with the same odd feeling of having cheated mother nature that I'd started the trip with (only to realize, of course, that I hadn't).
Lord Knows Where
August 18, 1995.
The next day, we awoke after dawn; at least I think we did. The air was so dense with fog that it could have been midday when we awoke for all my watch said (the face had misted up and was unreadable); there was as much light when we rose as there had been when we turned in the night before. Within a few minutes, thought, the fog lifted in areas and revealed behind and above it some blue skies, and the eastern sun soon poured through the trees with the same intensity as the rain of the night before. It was elating.
Yet again, we took some time to dry out -- and for the last time, we hoped, as it was only 17 kilometres to the Bamfield trail head, and we planned to cover that ground within the day. The trail from here on, we'd heard, was like paved highway. Even so, we were not anxious to leave. Our gear, until it dried out, would be weighed down with water, and the sunshine removed any sense of the imperative for our start.
We decided to settle in for a leisurely breakfast, and we went to retrieve our food backpack from its perch about 30 feet from our campsite and about 10 feet above the ground. We were not, however, the first creatures to have been interested in our food that morning. In the beach sand, overtop of the prints left by the rain, we noticed impressions of another sort; as it turned out, these were footprints the size of our fists from a cat. Realising this, we followed the path of the prints. They led, first, to a stream a small distance from our campsite, and then right back to the area where the food was stored, beyond the area, into our campfire spot (about 5 feet from our tent), and then out again onto the beach. Neither of us had heard it, and I suspect it was because we had slept like the dead the night before.
Even this was not enough to get us moving quickly, and we continued to mill around, having three extra cups of coffee, a few extra pancakes, a cigarette or two, and the like. We also explored the area a little bit, and found that to continue our way forward we had to either climb the 150 metre mud slide that we'd descended the night before or wade through knee deep water over a gravel-covered rock shelf to get around a small rock outcropping that blocked us from the main beach (onto which we should have descended the night before, except that I was too exhausted to read the trail map properly). There was no way I was even about to suggest climbing up to the main trail; yet the tide was high. Instead of this being a potential point of debate, waiting for the tide to carry out its cycle added some much needed pluck to our desire for idling around a bit longer: problem solved.
Time passed, our gear dried, and we ran out -- much sooner than I'd expected -- of ideas to keep us from hiking. We had yet to put on our boots; instead, we tied them to our packs and waded through the water around the small point to the beach we needed to reach in order to push forward. Reaching the other side, we attempted to change our footwear, only to be surprised that each of our boots was a size or so smaller, having shrunk by the fire's heat of the night before. Luckily, mine were cheap boots, and were easily convinced by a stick to stretch back out. Rich was not so lucky, and had to perform surgery with his knife on the toe of each boot in order for his foot to fit in them properly; live and learn!
With feet in boots, and packs on backs, we trudged forward, joking every now and again, but in the full understanding of what must have been going through the minds of those hikers we saw nearing the end of the trail on the same day that we began it. The roles, it seemed, were reversed. Instead of asking people for trail advice -- as we had every day until today -- we were the ones who were being asked. And it was only by seeing how fresh, shaven, and clean this new crop of hikers were that we realised how worn, bristled, and dirty we had become.
So, with this new knowledge of our personal condition, we headed forward, past barges wreck during previous storms, past the beautiful flats at Michigan Creek, past the welcome signs at Pachena Point lighthouse, past the last tea coloured creek we'd see for some months, and onto the Bamfield trail head where, too exhausted (I think) to take a picture, we talked like fools to the first two people we encountered as we came off the trail. They were gracious and became friends, something for which I was glad and yet at the same time sorry, for meeting new people in this way meant leaving the trail behind, and also my time hiking in God's country with a good friend.
On the West Coast Trail: A Personal Perspective. [Full Stride Publications, Trail Head / Footpath 1]. Ray Siemens.
Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998- by the author, all rights reserved, and may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Archiving and redistribution for profit, or republication of this text in any medium, requires the consent of the author and Full Stride Publications.
[Updated: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999.]
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