This is a long overdue blog however it is just in time! As I am in tapper week before marathon, it is time to reflect and appreciate the hard work that I did… During my training plan, I made some changes to the running schedule to include our hiking trip to Vancouver Island (British Columbia). What I did not consider was the fact that it would require a lot more from my body that I suspected... but I gain STRENGHT!
The West Coast trail is a 75k (47 miles) backpacking experience that I was on my bucket list for a few years. It is a very challenging trail, especially if you do it in only 4 nights like we did (most will do it in 6 or 7 days - evacuation is not uncommon and hikers have died on the West Coast Trail… and I can see why, some areas are really edgy!) Why do this? Because the scenery is spectacular and it is a guaranteed adventure : old growth forest, boulder walks, cliffs, river fording, ladders (38), ropes, suspension bridges, coves, cable cars and sleeping under a tent by the sea!
The trail was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast and it is often rate by hiking guides as one of world's top hiking trails! So here we go…
(Just minutes before our start!)
The first portion of the trail (from Port Renfrew heading North) is extremely rugged, in fact you almost have to guess where the trail is!
You are required to climb over fallen trees and balance very steep slopes - roots become steps and there is no easy way, going up or down equally required muscle power! My backpack was a bit heavy- 47 lbs (and I am ~110) (it is recommended to carry about 30% of your body weight! Told you I was building strength!!! - as a result at time my bag was dragging me in directions I wanted to avoid… like MUD! There is numerous patches of mud, and deep too! I know, I experienced it up to my knee!), making humid boardwalks even more slippery…
On our way we made a quick stop at the Donkey Engine - just for a picture!
We started our journey at 11:15hrs and we had 13k (8 miles) to cover that day. The guide at the start told us to expect an average of 1 mile/hour... There are just lots of obstacles and some of them are quite a challenge.
There was many ladders (my fitbit tracked 240 floors climbed that day!) (not sure what I preferred, going up or down? Up = your legs are pushing, down = my arms were basically holding me and my bag…) Some ladder structures are pretty impressive - over 200 feet… and between platforms I counted more than 60 lumbers
The good side of ladders is that you know where your foot will step and I was not likely to fall!
After Thrasher Cove (the first camp - 5 miles marker), we kept walking; in fact we did not take any break except for quick water and a trail mix (nuts and dried fruit)… I was following Jeff. My legs were shaking and I was trying to keep up the pace... I knew we wanted to get to Camper Camp (the second one - 8 miles marker) before the sunset but my endurance was starting to fade…
Jeff decided to go the marine route - over 1km of seaweed covered, ankle-twisting bouldering and rock formation. No kidding!
Slippery footing all along the path (inland or beach) causes almost everyone to trip or fall multiple times… See, I am clumsy on a sidewalk, so it is even worse in my case! I can’t recall how many times I tripped. I think I ended up like a turtle on it's back, not capable of getting up, at least 3 times! This portion of the trail will make this day memorable… First, to get down from the trail to the beach you have to find the access point and a rope! The way to the beach is a steep cliff with a rope laying on top… Jeff went first with not so much trouble. My way down was hazardous - my bag was pulling me sideways and I was really thrown off balance!
The leg between Thrasher & Owen Point made my first day memorable…
This green carpet - beautiful indeed - is very slippery and sharp!
I was moving very slowly, with caution… despite my efforts to remain on my feet, I slip and ended laying flat in a pothole. I was soaked from shoulders down… Not much damage except a few scratches (my hands had some good ones)... The positive: the water was not deep so the backpack (and all our clothing) was safe!
(just before climbing back to the trail... a last lookout before my camera completely gave up! … no more pictures for the rest of the trip!)
We had another 3km to the camp. We made it just at dusk. I was cold and wet, both of us thoroughly exhausted. We were too tired to gather wood and light a fire - so no hiking shoes for me the next day. We refueled our water supply, ate a warm dinner and joined a group of hikers who invited us to warm up by their fire pit… just enough to warm up before a well deserve sleep.
Day 1! - I was trying to keep positive too but I was seriously doubting that I could sustain that rhythm for 4 more days! I reached my limits a few times.
The lesson: sometimes a short distance is more than a challenge!!!
Often on my last run, especially doing hills, I reminded myself that I am STONG! A short running hill is nothing compare to 8 hours of intense outdoor Step-Master with a heavy backpack, like our first day hiking the WCT!
* Picture from Trimble Outdoors