One of my favorite things about my friends is that none of us feels pressured to keep up with the hard-cores… we just decide what we want to do, for our own enjoyment, and then we go out and do it. And thumb our noses at any raised eyebrows or mockery from the folks who think if you’re not torturing yourself to prove something to the world, it’s not worth doing.
This summer, nine of us went out to do a West Coast Trail South-Ender. The West Coast Trail is a 75-km backpack, done, on average, over seven days because the terrain is just that challenging. I did the West Coast Trail five years ago, and vowed I would never do it again. I am spoiled by the Rocky Mountains. I’m used to getting this much “wow” for this much effort (imagine left hand at mid-height and right hand slightly lower than mid-height), and THIS much “wow” for this much effort (imagine left hand high in the air and right hand in between mid-height and high in the air). When I did the West Coast Trail before, I found it to be this much “wow” for this much effort (imagine left hand slightly below mid-height and right hand way up in the air). The wow/effort ratio just didn’t add up.
My friend, Marg, had eschewed joining us on that trip, not wanting to do the whole thing. She asked me if I would do an out-and-back sometime just on one end of the trail. My hike companions at the time weren’t interested in that, and I was kind of caught up in the idea that if you’re going to go that far, and pay that much, to do the trail, you ought to do the whole thing.
After about three years of Marg cajoling me to return to the West Coast Trail to do an out-and-back, I finally relented two summers ago. I told her I would go back if we did the south end, at a time when the tides were favorable for going to the sea caves at Owen Point on Day 2.
The south end is the harder end of the trail, according to common knowledge. But, because it is also the oldest growth rainforest, I find it to be the most beautiful. And I missed out on seeing those darned amazing caves the first time because I was worried about my ability to get around the point on time to beat the tides in the amount of time we had that day.
So, I chose the route, and I chose the dates based on some tide table analysis to make sure we’d have the most time for Owen Point on Day 2. We would hike in from Port Renfrew on Day 1 to Thrasher Cove, do an out-and-back day hike to Owen Point on Day 2, and then hike out to Port Renfrew on Day 3. Seven more folks signed on for the trip and we were a whopping group of 9.
It was so exciting for me, driving into Victoria and then Port Renfrew, to see the group start to materialize as well. Everyone had their own agenda, some folks had their families in tow, and some folks carpooled out to Vancouver Island. Everyone arrived at Port Renfrew in plenty of time for our orientation at 3PM on the day before we were to begin.
Well in advance of the trip, I chose some photos from my previous trip to share with the group to make sure they had a clear idea of what they were getting into. The West Coast Trail terrain is just so much more rugged and challenging than anything we get in Banff and Kananaskis where we do the majority of our frolicking. I didn’t want anyone to have any nasty surprises once we got out there. I carefully chose photos depicting us climbing over enormous, tricky root systems… tromping through deep mucky bogs… climbing and descending rickety ladders that really do make your blood run cold. I shared my photos and everyone commented with great merriment in the months leading up to the trip.
And yet… we were still surprised by the ruggedness and the challenge of the trail. Even me, to be honest. We got off the boat and took our obligatory “before” photo and set off up the trail. Within moments, we were in the thick of the climb through the rainforest. Roots. Bogs. Ladders. Just like in my photos. We climbed, we navigated, we descended, we took photos, and we got our muck on. When the reality was all around us, that's when my friends told me they'd just assumed I'd selected the really crazy pictures to impress them with... they hadn't thought that the WHOLE TRAIL would be like that.
A little more than two hours into the hike, we reached a kilometer marker. It said 74. A quick bit of math told me that we’d already hiked three of our six kilometers for the day. Yay! Then, I remembered that my math was faulty… when I had done the trail before, I hiked a total of 78km because of extra kilometers here and there, particularly the extra kilometer down to Thrasher Cove and then back to the main trail. The trail is actually 75km long.
We had gone ONE KILOMETER. In terror, I looked around at my companions and briefly considered suggesting that we just turn the h-e-double-hockey-sticks around and head back to the boat. At the rate we were going, we would reach Thrasher Cove by… oh… 9PM if we were lucky. I stuffed my inner sissy back down into my stomach and pressed on. We all did. A few of us confessed to each other later that we had all had that same thought at Km 74. But continue on we did, and we reached Thrasher Cove, covering the six kilometers, in nine hours from the time we started.
On Day 2, half the group made it to Owen Point and the other half turned back because of the boulder clambering involved. I was one of the turn-arounds. I guess it’s just not in the cards for me to see the sea caves at Owen Point in person – I’ll have to live vicariously through other people’s photos. I’m ok with that, and my friends who turned back with me are ok with that too. On Day 3, we hiked out from Thrasher Cove to Port Renfrew in seven hours – an improvement of two hours over the first day. I believe that’s partly because we were practiced up, and I believe it’s partly because we split up a bit instead of having the whole group waiting around for their turn every time we had an up or a down ladder.
It makes me sad when people feel that they can’t do certain things because they can’t do the WHOLE crazy hard-core thing. Whatever the whole crazy hard-core thing is. And it makes me mad when other people try to make me feel like I am inferior when I don't do the whole crazy hard-core thing. I love choosing things within my ability and having wonderful friends to share them with who are happy to do them.
Thank you, my wonderful un-hard-core friends!