This week’s guest post is from Emily Kydd of See Her Travel. She is a Canadian travel blogger who has been all over Europe, Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean. When asked for what you can find on her blog she said, “I love the outdoors, and frequently write about trekking, scuba diving, and extreme sports. Travel is also cultural, I like to write about the everyday nuance that I discover to be so different all over the globe, those details that make a travelling a constant source of wonder. I believe travel is a truly important part of life and for me, it’s all about the people, the journey, the land, the views, the smells, and those bumpy bus rides. I love to blog about my travels and my experiences.” Give her blog a peek and check out some of the fantastic things she’s written about.
And now, for Emily’s experience hiking the West Coast Trail in Canada:
Growing up in British Columbia, Canada, I had wanted to hike the West Coast Trail, a 77km route skirting Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park. It always seemed daunting, like something hardcore hikers did. After years of travelling the world and hiking in outdoors rich countries like Nepal, New Zealand, and Peru, I started to feel slightly ashamed I had yet to hike my own homeland’s crowning glory. And that just maybe I was actually hardcore enough to complete the famous West Coast Trail.
After weeks of preparation, which mainly consisted of dehydrating food and lifting a backpack that seemed to get heavier by the second, I travelled to Pachena Bay on Vancouver Island’s west coast. Pachena Bay beach marks the Northern start point for the West Coast Trail: my end point was 77km due south. The evening before I started the seven day hike I met up with a group of 5 other hikers, who quickly took me into their team as we sat on the beach watching a pod of grey whales play.
The first day of the West Coast Trail was an introduction to climbing ladders, negotiating rotting boardwalks, and navigating the sandy beaches all while carrying a 50lb backpack. I may think I’m hardcore, but I could have used a bit more cross-training.
While watching a large family of sea lions basking in the sun during a break on day 2, I was sore, but completely at peace. The West Coast Trail takes you entirely out of the civilization that we have all become so used to. There was no sound except that which nature itself was making (and sea lions know how to make noise!). The West Coast scenery of the Pacific Ocean is exceptional, with towering cedar trees, rocky headlands, breaking waves, and the constant possibility of spotting whales in the water.
I was even more in love with the West Coast Trail upon arriving at my night 2 campsite, Tsusiat Falls. Camping on the coastal beaches is unique enough, but where the Tsusiat River comes over the headlands, there is a pristine swimming hole of refreshing cool water meant for a good soak. Sleeping within earshot of the thunder of the falls and the crashing of the Pacific waves is enough to make you give up city life forever.
But remember, this was the West Coast… Shaking me back to reality, the rain that night fell on my tent almost as a test: “Emily, you had an amazing day yesterday, here is a curveball for you!” The rain was still coming the next morning when I set out with the group, straddling over soaked driftwood and scrambling up slippery ladders. Soon enough, my hiking buddy took a tumble off the trail, and between the two of us a rescue involving a true feat of strength ensued. Shaking off both the tumble and the rain, we explored Hole Point, a coastal oddity that gave great, if not foggy, views of the coastline both north and south.
The rain only added to the difficulty of day 3. Despite a delectable feast of salmon and a baked potato at a pop-up crab shack in one of the Native reserves, day 3 was my longest, toughest day. 17km of hiking in the rain is rough, but in surviving it and making it to my tent that night, I felt like a hardcore trekking rock star! A soaked, exhausted, blistered rock star, but a rock star nonetheless.
Thankfully the next day was dry, and we made it to the highly anticipated Chez Monique’s burger shack for lunch. Monique has hosted hikers with delicious burgers, cold beer, and sage trail advice for 27 years now, and at the mid-way point of the trail, she is an institution of hope for the trail weary.
Energized by ground beef and alcohol, the beach walking of the rest of the day seemed downright pleasurable. By the time the group made it to our next campsite at Walbran Creek, we had completely forgotten the trauma of the previous day as we sat around the fire roasting marshmallows purchased from Monique.
To be honest, days 5 and 6 were a blur. I remember beautiful campsites on the ocean, ladders, and thinking I was going to break my ankle with every step. At many points, the West Coast Trail’s difficulty is not about ascent or descent, but about mud, roots, and logs blocking your way and forcing tricky footing, leaps of faith, and hoping that branch holds your weight.
By our last night on the trail, I was in a bizarre state of bliss. I was craving decent food, I had weird bruises, and my blisters were a form of silent torture, but I had hiked 70 km and while enjoying the tranquility of Thrasher’s Cove, I felt ecstatic. With only a few more kilometers to go with my new family I was sorry to say goodbye to them and the Trail, but also relieved it was almost over.
My seven days on the West Coast Trail showed me that my mental strength can get me through anything physical, and that even in a province I have always called home, there is always more to explore. The beauty of Vancouver Island is truly unrivaled and must be experienced, preferably by foot covered in mud and sweat, to be understood.
My last morning in camp I saw a marmot. I took it as a sign: whales on the first night, a marmot on the last morning. The last 6 kilometers of the trail are very difficult. You have to wonder about doing all of that work to only get injured at the very end. Luckily, we all made it to the last ladder, a virtually straight up 50-rung ladder that would take us to the Gordon River beach. We were there! We all flung our hiking poles to the bottom, and carefully descended to our finish line. High fives for all and beers at the Port Renfrew Pub were a fitting end to my West Coast Trail experience.
For a more in-depth look at Emily’s experience hiking the West Coast trail, check out this post she wrote about it.