WCT Day 5 – #pissedoff

0410 hrs, Camper Bay

Awake. In the dead of night. Drained from frustration.  Dirt under my fingernails – again. Stinking like a latrine.  An angry, sticky, stinging red rash on the inside of my thigh.

OMG. Why am I awake at this hour? It’s been a crap sleep following a crap day.  I’m a prisoner of my own mind.

Where do I start describing this past day’s adventures?  If I was to pull out my journal, you wouldn’t read a thing about the splendid suspension bridge at Logan Creek and the towering sets of ladders at either end. You wouldn’t know that we skidded along slick, moss-covered, broken boardwalks, some at crazy, rollercoaster angles. You wouldn’t see how we crossed a bog filled with mud pits and stunted trees, or traversed elevated log bridges suspended over a blanket of ferns.  You wouldn’t have even thought I was on the WCT. You would’ve thought I was pitching a fit in, say, traffic, or because my Starbucks order was wrong.

Day 5 grumpy kat

There just wasn’t a lot of joy on this day.

First, the spiralling-out-of-control hygiene issue. I think Bill Bryson captured it best from A Walk in the Woods:

You go through a series of staged transformations – a kind of gentle descent into squalor… At the end of the first day you feel mildly, self consciously grubby; by the second day, disgustingly so; by the third, you are beyond caring; by the fourth, you have forgotten what is like not to be like this.

And let me tell you, by the fifth day you can truly not even stand the chunky tang of yourself.  You catch a whiff of that juicy pong emanating from some unknown crevice and your head spins.  How, HOW in this modern world could I possibly not smell like fresh eucalyptus or baby powder?  I came to adore my tiny bottle of hand sanitizer because it had a faint after-scent of an orange orchard. I would often walk, just smelling my fingers, in order to feel human.

Second, there was pace.  We all have different gaits, and I was not in my groove.  At all.  Day 5 was our very first short day: Walbran Creek to Camper Bay (9 km), and also our first day hiking on the technical side of WCT.  Well, that 9 km hike took us 11.5 hours.  ELEVEN AND A HALF HOURS. I almost lost my mind. Admittedly, it came down to expectations. I didn’t realize it would take the four of us that long to complete this section.  They say the WCT is 30% physical and 70% mental. Well – I hadn’t budgeted mentally to be on the trail an additional three to four hours than anticipated that day. Nor did I set aside enough trail food for that length of time (read = hangry).

Third, pain.  While the true battle raged on in my beady little brain, after about eight hours on the trail, the body started to fight back as well.  I developed a long chafing rash on the inside of my thigh.  Hugh’s feet began to ache – as if on cue – and he was suffering terribly the last few hours. We were both pretty damn miserable.

If I had had the courage, I would have talked about how I felt with my hiking companions, or split up and hiked alone for a bit. To walk it out. To decompress. But I didn’t. And that probably added to my total vexation…not knowing how to be honest with myself or the group.  M. was silent. P. barked at us for jumping on the suspension bridge. Hugh bitched about his feet every 15 minutes. I was seething.  Good times, no?

We arrived together at Camper Bay sometime around 8:30 pm, the sun long gone.  All of our usual travel buddies had pitched camp between 3:30 – 5:00 pm which reconfirmed my crazy exasperation at how long we took.

To boot, the beach was NOT the utopia promised by hikers we’d met who’d travelled from the south, raving about the wonders of Camper Bay. Little did they know, the best was yet to come in terms of beach camping, and quite frankly, Camper Bay was a crowded, over-run, shanty town of tents squeezed onto a strip of sand behind a natural beach/rock wall so that you never really had easy access to the ocean. The water source was a stream and a pool (oh yes, guaranteed someone washed their stinky arse in that drinking water).  The best sites, of course, were already taken.  (Ummmm, mind you, I was so damn grumpy by this point, I may kinda have had a corrupted view on Camper Bay…)

Day 5 shantytown

We threw our packs down near our hiker buddies, avoiding one area of beach that apparently regularly got pummeled with rocks from the nearby cliff.  The French hikers, with great kindness, welcomed us to share their fire and offered up their large bag of filtered water so we could refill our bottles and prepare supper right away. Hugh and I gratefully accepted their generosity. We popped up our tents and ate, chatting back and forth with the friends from Montreal.  Hugh disappeared to bed after dinner and after taking some Advil for his bruised feet, and was out for the count.

After that, I just moved in slow motion. I’d caught one or two where-had-the-sun-gone snaps before it got too dark, just after we arrived. Otherwise, night was closing in.

Day 6 last of the sun

I still had to put the food away, visit the loo and all sort of other chores that seemed to take forever.  I hadn’t even taken my boots off.  I tried to shake off the day. Instead of the have-nots (no bathing, no post-hiking down time, no patience, no courage) I had to concentrate on the haves (alive, breathing, injury-free, kindness of fellow hikers, food and water in my belly).

It was 10:30 pm, sitting in the darkness by the driftwood campfire of the Calgary girls, when I finally peeled off my boots and my wretched, soaked socks. They stoked up the fire so I could hang my socks on sticks to dry. (Which truly is all aesthetics – nothing really ever dries on the WCT. ) I just sat and stared at the flames while they told stories of their day. When I finally rolled into my bed, or rather, on top of my bed, trying to air out my horrible rash, I could barely stand the smell of myself (how is it that I reek like an outhouse???) and I was exhausted by the ramblings and battles of my own mind.

Holy, I need to CHILL OUT.  A new day is about to dawn in two hours…

Tomorrow – Camper Bay to Thrasher Cove

WCT Day 4 – #keelykeelykeely

I was deep in another world.

It was vaguely post-apocalyptic, and sort of Waterworld (without Kevin Costner) but civilization had mostly ended and scattered populations floated upon the ocean. Hugh and I had sailed to the aircraft carrier that was now Great Britain and were to make contact with his Internet friends he’d met while gaming online for hours on end. They were going to help us “…because it’s raining out, but it’s not as bad as it sounds when you’re in the tent.”

It was M.’s voice blended with the rapid pitter-patter of rain on my tent fly. I struggled to pull myself out of such a deep sleep to comprehend what he was even saying. “…tides…leave by eight-thirty.”

“Right! Yes! Okay!” I tried to act like I was lucid. I shook myself awake.

Rain. Crap.

Yes, it’s the WCT, and rain is really the norm. We’d been blessed with our mild weather and gorgeous sunsets. If you want to talk Achilles heels, mine are not mud, heavy packs or long distances… mine would be dealing with group dynamics, and me/my gear being wet and being cold.  Now I’m sitting in my tent, strategizing how to pack up my stuff while keeping it as dry as possible.

We’d literally pitched camp where we fell last night right out in the open on the beach. No extra tarp cover. No forest cover. Just rain.  I typically pack up everything outside my tent, so I needed to switch up my method. I changed into my hiking clothes (always an awkward dance inside the tent), and started packing my sleeping bag, mat, camp pillow and clothes.  I tucked away my book, and because I didn’t know what to expect on my first day of rain, I also packed my camera (I’d just pull out my iPod for quick snaps).  I unzipped my tent screen and awkwardly put on my hiking boots in the vestibule.

Taking a deep breath, I unzipped the tent fly… it was grey out there.  A totally faded morning with drizzle from the sky.  M. was right – the rain was not as bad as it sounded from inside the tent.  I crawled out onto the wet sand, then propped my pack up on a log and threw my pack cover over it.  I trotted over to Hugh’s tent for a wake up call and gave him the morning weather report and timeline to get on the trail.  Time was important today for the tides.

With orientation for the WCT, each hiker is given a map with the tide tables – to match our hiking dates – taped inside. Some of the beaches are impassable when the tides are high, and it’s not worth getting stranded for hours on end, or wet.  Or in a worst case scenario – drown.  Today we were heading from Cribs Creek to Walbran Creek (11km) mostly along the beaches.

I wasn’t too excited about the rain.  It wasn’t hurting me, of course. But even though I had a waterproof coat and pants, I have this annoyance with being wet and cold, and today had the potential to suck.   I did my best to seem cheerful to Hugh, and he was keen to get up and get moving.

We both finished packing up in fairly good spirits but that fine sand stuck to everything it came in contact with…it was a total pain to fold up a wet, sandy tent that weighed a whole lot more now.   We ate a cold breakfast of trail mix and granola bars, not wanted to fuss with the stove and doing dishes in the drizzle. M. and P. are a solid pair, and took their time to prep a hot meal.  I didn’t have that patience.

Day 4 IG shots

We left Cribs in the cool drizzle, walking along the beach. It was wet and slow-going. I found the shifting sand combined with a snail’s pace to be frustrating. By the time we reached the short segment of forest leading to the Carmanah Point lighthouse, Hugh and P. were ready for a break. They parked it at the fork in the road while M. and I went to check out the lighthouse.  Just like Pachena Bay’s lighthouse, it was like entering the compound of the Others, from Lost. Manicured lawns, flowers, fuel tanks, a house, a swing set; general neat, tidy organization in the chaotic world of the WCT. Oddly enough, it held no appeal to stop and stay. We were barely at the start of our day – time to keep moving.

I was already wet. The raincoat was waterproof but my sweat created a cold layer against my skin. When we emerged from the forest onto the beach, I was thrilled to see Chez Monique’s, the second food stop along the WCT, and its spiral of smoke from the roof of the tarp shack. Hallelujah – a wood stove! I was freaking freezing. We sped up to cross the crescent of sand, eying up the handful of small boats clustered in the sheltered bay – always a back-up escape plan in mind…

It was still a little while before lunch, so the options were breakfast or burgers, and then anything from the extended convenience-store style menu.  We grabbed a free table, and set our wet packs off to the side. Hugh and I went to the kitchen and ordered hot vegetable soup, fully-loaded burgers and a handful of treats including Power-Ade, chocolate bars, butter tarts and gummy worms. I paid.  We spent about $70 there. Seriously.

I peeled off my raincoat and hung it over the back of the plastic lawn furniture. I went over and stood by the stove, which was outfitted with a dryer hose as a chimney.  There was a minor fire while we were there…and a conversation about a new shipment of supplies coming in soon.

Like the last stop, kids were taking orders and delivering food. But Chez Monique’s had a decidedly different feel than the crab shack.  Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the vibe… The kitchen was the happiest area of the place. Monique was there taking orders and managing her folks.  The remaining cluster of shacks had a very communal feel, complete with a roaming barefooted toddler sporting dirty curls and a bearded drifter who was one day short of his two-week commitment to Monique, and didn’t hold back in sharing that he couldn’t wait to get off the trail. It was a place that could be more oppressive than idyllic if one was to stay longer than just for lunch.

The highlight – the absolute highlight – of Chez Monique’s was a young Aboriginal boy with the clearest blue eyes and the most delightful confidence that only a grade 5er could carry off. That perfect moment in time, that quintessential 11 year old boy archetype – confident, free, innocent and unabashed. Clad in boarder shorts and a sleeveless Hawaiian t-shirt with palm trees, despite the cooler weather, he was a busy little employee, running to and from the kitchen, answering questions and visiting as he went.  He wouldn’t let you take the burgers from his hands, but insisted upon placing the food down in front of you.

I would totally hike the WCT again next summer just to see if that kid is still around. I would also make t-shirts and hats with his picture and wear them proudly. He was that cool. I will never forget his little voice, calling my name: “Keely! Burgers for Keely! Keely, Keely, Keely!”

We ate up and warmed up.  And then we left.

Hugh and I surged forward, fuelled and free. The next 8 or so kilometres were all on the beach. We walked at a comfortable pace, chatting amiably, stopping for rests and to reconvene with M. and P. every two kilometres or so, to ensure everyone was doing alright.  This pace worked so well for us, and really helped Hugh’s feet, and lifted our spirits on this dreary day.  We skipped the cable car, jumping across the stream on the beach. We rounded point after point, making our way to the evening’s camp. We walked on soft sand, hard sand, pebbles, rocks, boulders and tidal flats.  We saw beautiful rock formations exposed at low tide, with trees growing out of top; a handful of baby otters and an eagle; loads of sea urchin shells and pretty pale green, blue and white sea glass.  An unexpected journey, these beaches.

Day 4 going home

We arrived at Walbran Creek at a civilized hour, with the sun breaking through to give us two hours of complete and total humanity.  Hugh and I hung our gear out to dry on great driftwood logs before finally pitching our tents and setting up camp.

Day 4 beach life

The evening ablutions ran their course; water gathering and feeding took place. Hugh retired early, and P. and M. went about their own chores.  I did a lot of sitting and staring out at the ocean. I missed the grey whales from the past three days. The sun set once again, and I settled in to my little home, tent fly open to the ocean, to read.

Day 4 tent life

Day 4 Reflection 02Tomorrow – Walbran Creek to Camper’s Bay

WCT Day 3 – #deadmanwalking

I woke up.

No cramps. No vomiting. No pain.  No death in general.  Tah-dah!

Phew – I’m so glad that the shellfish didn’t kill me. WON’T be doing that again. For reals.

Turns out I slept so fitfully I didn’t even hear the chaos in the girls’ tent just over from mine. They’d left the screen unzipped about an inch, and in came da mouse…apparently it was an animated 5 minutes of mouse flinging to get it out.  The mice had left our camp mostly alone.  A net bag holding my stove and tea kettle over by the campfire got a nibble, but that was it.

Happy to be alive (and mouse-free), Day 3 looked promising, despite the face it was our longest scheduled distance on the trail (16 km) hiking between Tsusiat Falls and Cribs Creek. Day 3 foggy beach walk

The morning held an ethereal quality as we slowly made our way along the beach surrounded in fog, with the sun trying to shine through.  Hikers moved in quiet bunches, each finding their own pace. Eventually the fog engulfed the hikers in front of us and we were seemingly alone on the shifting sands.

That’s when we noticed figures on the massive rock formations in the sea.  Hugh didn’t bring his glasses on this trip, and was convinced that these were campers who’d found their way out to a rock during low tide. But upon closer inspection, the “campers” were actually large bald eagles!  Just hanging out.  I’ve never been that close to a bald eagle before!!Day 3 eagles are coming

Day 3 hole in the wallThe fog continued for a couple of kilometres along the beach, and at one point, just past the Hole in the Wall, I could swear – absolutely – that I could hear singing.  Hugh scoffed, and called me crazy. (And that’s a fair judgement – haha.)  But I swear… the voices rose and fell, like they were caught in a breeze and tossed to shore, then muffled again by the mist. My ears fought against the sound of the waves moving on the shore, trying to pick up the melody. I’d hear it, stop walking, then it would disappear. It was so beautiful. Haunting.  This continued on for about 20 minutes.

We took a rest break, leaning up against some rocks on the beach. (It’s all about finding the perfect rock or log that supports your butt and your pack at the same time. That way your whole body gets a break.)  Peering out to sea, I watched as the fog seemed to thin and fade directly in front of our stretch of beach, revealing a fishing boat and two – what appeared to be – traditional sea canoes.  For a brief moment, I could put bodies to the voices, this time talking and laughing, when the curtain of fog dropped as abruptly as it had lifted, and the boats were swallowed up again and all went silent. So magical…

The beach trail ended when we hit the official Ditidaht Indian Reserve lands, and we moved back onto the forest trail which curved inland to avoid the impassable headlands.  The trail began to get a little more technical with mud pits and root-y terrain. After we had just finished a particularly sticky climb, we met a group of hikers, one of which was wearing a pair of Crocs wrapped in duct tape.  Apparently his boots fell apart hiking through the mud on the South side, and this was his only solution – game on!Day 3 Nitinat Narrows

We reached the Nitinat Narrows just in time for lunch.  The Narrows is a tidal passage about 3 km long, and wide enough that hikers can’t cross without the use of the ferry.  The cost of the ferry is included in the hiking fees for the WCT, and M. (holder of the paperwork) had all of our receipts for passage.  I bribed Hugh with a mini Baby Ruth bar to get him to holler “Hey you guys!!!!!”  across the channel to catch their attention…not long after, the ferry chugged to life and came across to fetch us, bringing us to the other side.Day 3 crab shack

Et voila, our first “fast food” of the trail: the Crab Shack.  Locals serve up fresh crab (hauled right out of the water in front of you!) and salmon with a baked potato for $25.  As well, they have a cooler full of pop and beer, bags of crispy potato chips and cheezies, and chocolate bars.  Yuuuuum.  Hugh and I were on a bit of a budget, and we knew there was another food opportunity the next day, so we spent our pennies on pops and deliciously salty cheezies and chocolate.  I also gnawed on a protein bar to make sure I was getting enough fuel for the rest of the day.Day 3 Mr Crabs

We still had about 11 km left to go.

Hugh and P. had both expressed reservations about today’s hike simply based on length. And it was true test of endurance, especially with a heavy pack.  Exhaustion  impacts people in different ways.  I’ve been there on hikes in the past, and I get that…when you’re so beat that you can barely speak, you lose your appetite completely, and you adopt that 1000-mile stare at the end of the day.  I’ve had my friends almost force feed me my food to keep me fueled in order to boost strength in these situations.  It’s not pleasant, when the last thing you want to do is just be left alone to zone out. But it’s important.  No fuel in the tank, and your hiking days can turn into excruciatingly long treks through a wild blur.

Today’s food stop perked everyone up, and we moved forward refreshed and ready; however, fatigue caught up not long after and it was slow going through the rest of our day through all kinds of terrain.  There were plenty of stops.  A lot of stops.  So many, many stops. It’s a double-edged sword: the more you stop, you get a mini break, but the longer your day, and the longer you are on your feet with a heavy pack driving you into the ground. Choose your poison.Day last 11 km

We arrived at Cribs Creek, slogging along the last bit of beach to our destination – just around 41.5 km from where we started a few days ago.  We didn’t even bother seeking out prime real estate and ditched our bags closest to the last tent pitched on the North side of the beach.  Hugh had his tent set up and was inside before I could say Jack Daniels.

The beach was full of campers all eating dinner and settling in for the night.  I mostly remember the feeling of the cool, silky, superfine gray sand on my puckered feet, clomping across the beach to stash the food bags, use the loo,  and find more water, and setting up my tent near Hugh’s on a little sandbank. I may have eaten a cold meal that night…I know Hugh probably scarfed down crunchy Ichiban inside his tent, cougars and bears be damned.  With Hugh tucked away and fading into dreamland, and P. going about his nightly routine, I sat on a log with M. watching the night creep in.

Tomorrow – Cribs Creek to Walbran Creek


WCT Day 2 – #redtide

Day 2 reflectionIf I die tonight, tell my mother I love her and my father that he is a good dad.  Tell my brother he rocks. Tell my husband I chose him for the happiness he brings me. Tell Oliver he is a strong young man who can do anything he sets his mind to, and to not be so hard on himself. And tell Hugh that his is good and kind, and that he is going to do amazing things in this world and touch the hearts of many people.

I’m sitting in my tent at the end of day 2 silently freaking out.  Today I ate something I shouldn’t have and the consequences could be deadly.


Day 2’s agenda was to hike from Darling River through to Tsusiat Falls (14 km), and the morning started out beautifully with breakfast and a show thanks to the gray whales.  They were just offshore, as usual, and we watched as they dipped and dove through the water. And we even saw one whale breach three times!  Beautiful.Day 2 breakfast beach treasure

After eating breakfast and packing up our gear, checking in with each other for any miscellaneous aches and pains, we hit the trail.  The day was filled with beachwalking, ladder climbing, and strolls along mossy, slippery boardwalks.  We saw the whales quite a bit, and goggle-eyed sea lions watching us from the water as we walked, just their little heads poking up. Very curious little fellows.Day 2 trail shots

We passed the site where the 253 foot iron steamer Valencia sunk offshore in 1906, losing more than 125 lives.  Of the many vessels that sunk off this Graveyard of the Pacific, public outcry for the Valencia was the loudest, and helped push for the further development of the WCT and the building of the Pachena Lighthouse in 1907.

Why the fuss? Hard to imagine in this day and age of instant news and social media.  But reading the Valencia‘s account is bone-chilling, and apparently the wreck surpassed all but the sinking of the Titanic in terms of “sheer horror.”  The passenger ship became engulfed in fog, and the hull was pierced upon the jagged West Coast rocks. The captain chose to jam the ship into the rocks about 30 yards offshore rather than sink in the deep water.

Passengers were tossed overboard [by the pummelling waves] almost immediately. Women and children were lashed to rigging out of reach of the sea. ‘It was pitiful to see women, wearing only night dresses with bare feet on the frozen ratlines, trying to shield children in their arms from the icy wind and rain,’ writes freight clerk Frank Lehm.  Daybreak brought a grisly spectacle. ‘Bodies hung suspended from the rigging like flies in a web. Once rigor mortis had run its course they loosened their hold and tumbled into the water or onto the deck with a flaccid thud.  More corpses drifted between ship and shore, scoured of flesh and features as if by a giant cheese grater,’ Graham writes.  One lifeboat finally made it ashore and its crew soon found the telegraph trail, made it to the lineman’s cabin, and cabled Cape Beale.  Another vile night passed as rescuers struggled along the trail and ships sailed from Victoria to lend assistance. ~ Ian Gill, Hiking on the Edge

There were survivors, but not a single woman or child lived through the ordeal.  No remains of the Valencia can be see from the trail, although we did pass relics of other wrecks, including a boiler, and anchor and other bits and pieces.Day 2 more trail shots

It was actually at Trestle Creek, where we spotted the anchor on the beach, believed to be from the shipwreck Janet Cowan, where I made a really dumb choice.Day 2 Anchor

Trestle Creek was a great spot to stop for a break, and many other hikers had the same idea. We bumped into folks from our camp last night, and then also a large contingent hiking from the South. As we snacked and people-watched, I observed that a bunch of Japanese hikers weren’t nibbling trail mix or protein bars; instead, they were full on cooking a meal, with their stoves out, pots bubbling, etc.  It seemed like a lot of work to me!  I usually save my cooking for mornings or evenings only while on the trail.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the menu was comprised of shellfish, which was undoubtedly harvested from the very beach upon which we were sitting.  The hikers coaxed the meat out of the shell using a gold safety pin and then dipped it in a sweet chili sauce they’d brought along. The side dish was steamed seaweed.Day 2 red tide

I couldn’t believe it. Didn’t they know about red tide? How the higher levels of neurotoxins in the algae could then cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in all the mussels, clams, etc?  This was a big deal at the WCT orientation – harvesting is off-limits and consumption could cause death.  But here they were, happily noshing on a free meal from the sea.

I poked Hugh.  “Check that out!  Don’t they know that’s not cool?”  And then when one of the ladies went to wash her dishes, she used the freshwater source as opposed to the preferred method in the WCT literature – the ocean.  “OMG – does no one read the WCT rules??”  I was high on my rule-book horse.  What kind of eco-monsters were they letting on the trail?? So many people disregarding the environment, etc.

But then I decided I wanted a photo of the shellfish (because the zoom on my camera wasn’t good enough), and went over to speak to the hikers. Oh man, they were soooooo nice and sooooo hospitable.  Really, really lovely people. They laughed and joked, and said sure I could take a photo as long as I didn’t work for Parks Canada.  They told me all about their hike, their cooking… and then they passed me the safety pin.


Even in my regular, at-home existence I don’t eat shellfish. With my father highly allergic to shellfish, we just never had it around the house growing up. In my adult years, I’ve tried out a variety of it (gagged through oysters, plugged my nose through mussels, etc) but it never really was my thing.  And here I was, taking photos of these nice people and trying to get to know them, and then boom!  I’ve got to partake.

They say going on the trail brings out things in your life that are forever present. Issues you need to deal with, reoccurring challenges, all of it is magnified.  And here I was: I just can’t say no. I didn’t want to be impolite, to offend anyone, to cause a situation of conflict. I politely declined once, twice, three times. They kept asking. Offering.  So, I just did it. I ate it. Regardless of the fact I could die. And the fact that this choice also made me a ginormous hypocrite.  Epic fail.

I mentally plugged my nose and scooted the tiny portion of meat to the back of my mouth, as to avoid any tastebud contact.  I chewed. It squidged about in my mouth. I chewed some more. They were all watching me so carefully.  I swallowed, and smiled. They smiled when I smiled.  I thanked them and complimented the food. One of the ladies brought over a new pot of seaweed, and they started feeding this to me as well, telling me it was sweet (it was). It was fine – I could eat however many pots of seaweed as necessary to get me through the rest of the conversation. But then one man said he was going to get me a “good one.”

No! Not another! Nooooo!  I politely declined, but of course the pin came my way, this time dunked in chili sauce. “Is good!” the man insisted.  Another death sentence down the hatch.  Then two more.  I wrapped up my visit and got back to my crew.  It was time to move on. But my head is spinning…What have I done?Day 2 cable car

Right after our break came our first cable car in order to cross the Klanawa River, which required all hands to be on deck.  We sent P. across, then M., and then Hugh and I together.  The 10-second thrill was quickly replaced by the need to start hauling oneself via rope, hand over hand, to reach the platform on the opposite side of the river.  I’m really glad all four of us worked together to get across the Klanawa! In retrospect, keeping it to one person and one bag per cable car is the best way to go.Day2 cliffs

Just two more kilometres through the rainforest along a cliff we caught glimpses of tonight’s home sweet home, Tsusiat Falls.  We scrambled down a set of ladders to the beach and scored a sweet set of spots all together in a little driftwood fortress, complete with a “living room” for our campfire.Day 2 fortress

The fresh water source for this beach was Tsusiat Falls themselves…lovely falls with a little “swimming hole” at the bottom (again, people were swimming, bathing, brushing their teeth and washing stuff in this small body of water…the same water we were filtering to drink. But post-shellfish-madness, I’d given up my fight on the subject and just had to let that go in my mind. After all, I could be dead tomorrow).

The beach was really spacious with lots of room for tents and campers. Hugh started the campfire. This particular beach was crazy good for driftwood, and Hugh made a great fire. Mind you, it did take a little patience. We quickly discovered that no matter how bone dry the wood felt, it didn’t burn easily and it took a while to build up strong, hot embers.Day 2 campfire

After dinner, I went for a wander up and down the beach, soaking my feet and legs in the water, letting the waves push and pull, push and pull.  It refreshed the body and the soul.  Bedtime came soon enough.Day 2 Tsusiat Falls campground beach

Day 2 beachDay 2 Tsusiat Falls


All I could think was that I was truly going to die. Tonight. Miserably.

I’m tucked away in my tent for the night, after a such an amazing day, and I keep going back to the shellfish.  What a stupid thing to do.

Part of me is like, HA! Sucker, give it up – you’re going to be fine. Stop playing the victim and love that you lived in the moment.

The other part  is whacking me in the face with a phone book – you just threw away your life because you avoided honesty in expressing your opinions and beliefs just to avoid a (possible) conflict, dumbass!!

Only time will tell.  I fall asleep to the setting sun and the melody of crashing waves.
Day 2 Tsusiat sunset
Tomorrow – Tsusiat Falls to Cribs Creek (if I live, of course.)

WCT Day 1 – #westcoastbestcoast

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Day 1 walkingGo West!  Cheesy but oh-so-accurate when it comes to the siren call of Vancouver Island. I decided to go on a little walk-about along the West Coast Trail (WCT).  This is how it happened, for reals.

History: The WCT is part of the ancient paths and paddling routes used for trade and travel by Aboriginal peoples.  The 75 km route was further developed in the 1900s to assist with the rescue of shipwreck survivors along the “graveyard of the Pacific.”

Why: Why not?  The WCT is reputedly one of those epic hikes that I’d tucked away in my brain for a rainy day. When my cousin M. said this was the summer he was going, I kinda hinted I’d love to come along, and he was cool with that.  He was bringing his dad, uncle P., and I added my son, Hugh, to the roster.

Trail stats: The trail is supposed to be a miserable grind through unruly roots and muddy bogs, along slippery boardwalks & bridges and precarious bridges & ladders. Black bears, cougars and wolves await around every corner and up each tree, waiting to pounce and eat you for dinner.  If nothing else fails, the hypothermia will get you and the mice will chew their way into your gear and nibble all your trail mix, pooping as they go.

So, yeah.  Sounds like an awesome challenge, right?Day 1 good luck dog

Day One

“Your pack is way too heavy.” Albert hoisted my pack back onto the picnic table. “Open it up, let’s see what you’ve got in there.”

I had no intention of taking out a single thing from my 52 lb pack for the West Coast Trail. I was, however, entertained by this marauding stranger with the pick up truck, the Chinese music blaring from the stereo and the feather in his hat.  He had stopped by the campsite next to ours at the Pachena Bay campground, and I figured he knew the campers.

I quickly discovered  Albert’s M.O. was to stop at any site with hikers that looked like they were heading out on the WCT, offer them tea, advice and conversation, and in return, ask for some boiling water (for the tea) and the open mind to accepting a resume for any future tour guide or construction needs. Some people were receptive, some were not. He was ousted from the neighbouring campsite.

“Sleeping bag – okay. Tent – yes. What’s this? Your food is a hundred pounds!  There’s way too much in here.” Albert pulled out my trail mix bag in particular. He pointed to the M&Ms.  “You don’t need this much chocolate. You should give some to me. I love chocolate.” When I laughed off his request, he moved over to visit with uncle P. and cousin M. for a bit.

“Who IS that guy??”  Hugh, my son, had stayed hidden in his tent during this exchange, and had just emerged to pack up his gear and scarf down some breakfast.

Albert was a good guy.  He told us stories of the trail, life on the island, and the lies Parks Canada tells about “red tide” and paralytic shellfish poisoning. “I eat shellfish all summer long and I’m fine. They don’t want you to harvesting anything, that’s all.”Day 1 leaving Pachena Bay

It was day one for the four of us on Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail.  We were hiking 75 km North to South from Pachena Bay to Gordon River with the intention of taking 6 nights and 7 days to work our way through the coastal temperate rainforest and sandy beaches. Hugh and I were pretty stoked to hit this trail.  I’d hiked with Hugh before, and also with M. I had a good idea of their capabilities and hiking styles.  It would be my first time with P.

Today’s plan was to hike 14 km from Pachena Bay to Darling River: an easy stroll on well-groomed, rolling trails through the rain forest.  We dutifully took and-we’re-off photos in front of the WCT sign near the Parks building where we’d received our maps/tide tables and had our mandatory orientation. Crossing Pachena Beach at low tide, we spotted the forest trail markers (floats/buoys) and headed into the trees to find the path.Day 1 Pachena Bay

This was my first hike ever through a cedar forest with towering trees, a fern-covered floor and a somewhat eerie stillness.  The dirt footpath muffled our footsteps, and the farther we got from the beach, the darker and quieter the forest became.  We often didn’t see or hear other hikers coming towards us until they were a few steps ahead.  In fact, the first wave of hikers coming from the South were fairly early in the day, making tracks to complete their journey on the WCT.

All the northbound walkers were in good spirits and a few ladies apologized for their smell.  I couldn’t smell anything but I totally get where they were coming from at the end of a long trek!  Mmm that greasy feeling. But the big news on the trail that morning was actually a yearling black bear – with no mama bear in sight – hanging out by a nearby creek.  We didn’t see it… And then another set of hikers reported on the same bear, that it was now up a tree.  We still didn’t see it… The anticipation of seeing a bear faded as we continued on.Day 1 through the forest

Throughout the day we crossed bridges, ascended and descended several short ladders, and had a few cool rest stops.  Giant fallen cedars with their intricate root systems exposed towered above us as we passed by, housing a whole plant walls and newly-created eco-systems.Day 1 sea lions

Before we saw them, we could smell them: the sea lion rock just offshore was home to mammoth, lolling sea lions barking away at each other.

We visited the Pachena Bay lighthouse and chatted with the lighthouse keeper. He reckons he sees about 10,000 strangers a year walk through his white picket fence gate.Day 1 Pachena lighthouse

Getting  close to our destination for the night, we passed through the Michigan Beach camp, with loads of floats hanging in the trees. Day 1 Michigan Beach

Michigan Beach had a decidedly Bohemian feel. Talking to a couple of campers there, we learned that the gray whales were super active up and down the coast, and were particularly frisky today.  Almost immediately, we saw a whale exhale explosively through it’s blowhole right offshore, followed by the slow curve of it’s back and a showy little dorsal fin – spectacular!Day 1 Gray whales

We continued along the beach, with the sand constantly shifting beneath our feet.  Our pace slowed down a bit as we struggled to master walking in the soft sand. Two kilometres later, we arrived at Darling River, a lovely little camp area with a fresh water source fed by a small waterfall, and room in the forest and on the beach for tents.  Our very first night beach camping!  Hugh and I set up right on the beach with our tents, careful to watch for the hide tide markings (as not to be swept away unexpectedly in the middle of the night).Day 1 Darling River

Hugh hit the sack shortly after his tent was up. I wasn’t too surprised – it was an eventful first day with our very full packs.  I ate supper alongside our companions who each prepared their own dehydrated meals. It was neat to sit on large pieces of log driftwood, watching for the gray whales and listening to the ocean. The weather was warm without being hot, and Pacific smelled, well, like the sea.

M. kindly had brought back some filtered water for us all at supper, but as the sun set I needed to get more for the night and for tomorrow’s breakfast. It was dusk, and the “better” water was as close to the falls as possible.  Nobody was around the fresh water source anymore, and I kept thinking about our orientation session, where we were instructed to keep an eye out for the sneaky cougars… bending down or appearing small (ie. when one is busy filtering water) can lead to a potential cougar attacks as they’d view you as prey.

Boy, oh boy, I kept singing songs to those bears and cougars and I climbed over logs towards the waterfall.  I splashed my way across the stream to a gravelly sandbar, so that I could be out in the open and watch the forest on all sides.  It took forever to pump the water… the water on the North end of the WCT is a lot more silty, and requires frequent cleaning of the ceramic filter. And it never fails that when I go to get water, I somehow get covered in it as well. So, about 30 minutes later I singsonged my way back to camp, water splotches all over my pants, but unhindered by local predators.

As the sun finally dropped behind the distant outcropping, I sat in my tent, with the fly and the screen pulled back (no bugs!), sipping fresh water and contemplating the darkening sky. A good first day.Day 1 Darling River beach view

Tomorrow – Darling River to Tsusiat Falls




Race report – SeaWheeze 2015

For people who like bright shiny things, never-ending youth and quirky west coast vibes, SeaWheeze is the half-marathon for you.  With 10,016 registered (and in the end 7,640 participants who chipped their shoes and ran) this is the largest race I’ve ever been a part of. And it was fun.SeaWheeze 2015

Given the sheer size of SeaWheeze I was suitably impressed by the swift, smooth organization and bunches of happy volunteers. Registration for this race goes down almost a whole year in advance, and sells out in less than an hour after opening. Lulu keeps runners hooked with fun prep including a pair of Lululemon shorts in the mail (for training!) and an app that covers a half-marathon training program and other interactive goodies.

On the ground in Vancouver, sponsors included Saje and Kind, among others, and there was a lot free stuff given out pre-race through social media (gift cards) and even upon arrival (a few lucky participants randomly had their hotel paid for). Key Van City hotels had room blocks, and some kicked it up a notch by jumping on the SeaWheeze band wagon – Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for example, gave us a welcome card, Evian and house-made granola bars, plus a comp runner’s continental breakfast the morning of the race.

That’s right, folks. This isn’t just a run (aka half marathon) in the park, this is a full-on weekend festival with yoga sessions, shopping* and an after-party in Stanley Park. The day before the race, pick up your package at the expo and you could get your running up-do on, take in some yoga classes, brand yourself Lulu with a temp race tat, and get your nails done all SeaWheezical. You could even buy race beer, SeaWheeze’s own Curiosity Lager at the Sunset Festival or at select liquor stores across BC and Alberta.

The course was a 21-km delightful tour of downtown Vancouver, complete with a snazzy bridge (did you know bridges could go uphill?) and a loop of Stanley Park. Along the route there were any number of cheerful distractions from drag queens and mermaids, to pianists and scientists.

My run
Should you go into a half-marathon untrained?

Not advisable.

Did I do that?


And I will make no excuses. I was lazy. I’d booked so many hiking trips this summer that running really fell off my radar. And running a half marathon really should involve daily and weekly training commitments to prepare the body and mind for the actual event.  I was, however, tuned into my body, and knew what I was working with. Months of chiropractic visits for my knees and back, and deep tissue massages have been paying off in a number of different ways over the past few months.

Still, I was nervous. I considered cancelling the trip. But the Facebook SeaWheeze chat group was sooo encouraging and supportive that I got on that plane, husband in tow.  Once I arrived in Vancouver, I got cold feet again.  I even considered dressing for the race, going to Starbucks for a few hours, splashing some water on my face, then returning to the hotel to see my husband and telling him the race was great. And just not doing it at all.

In the end, I just sucked it up and went.

I seeded myself in the back. (I kind of knew there was no PR going down today.)  I was in the appropriate corral for a 2:45 pace, but for the life of me I couldn’t see the pace beavers among the throngs of people. I just shuffled along until about 7:30 am when my group was finally released onto the course.

It’s always a curious thing to run alone.  Just you there to slow you down, or encourage you on. Just you to blame if you don’t like how it’s working out. Or you to congratulate if you’re kicking ass.  So, I just … ran.

Right off the bat, I loved the little hills – pushing through on the ascent and flying down on the descent. Lots of active recovery time with hills.  I even ran the Burrard Street Bridge – exhilarating!  I’d found a comfortable pace, and planned having a GU gel about every three miles, and water whenever an aid station popped up.  I ran for 14 km before I took a walk break, and like breaking the seal on a boozy night out, that was the end of that.

When I stopped to walk, all the familiar runners with whom I played tag for more than an hour now passed me, along with a slew of others I’d never seen before, and suddenly I was alone again in a new crowd by 15 km.  Gone was the girl in the tiger stripes who sang to herself and yelled at runners who weren’t looking where they were going; gone was the girl in the pink tank with YOGA RUN PARTY tattooed on her shoulder; gone was the girl with the black ponytail in the Lulu bug shorts; you get the picture.

In taking those couple of walk breaks my splits went from 36 min and 34 min, to 41 min and 50 min = blergh.  Lack of training was apparent in the latter part of the race for me. It’s certainly where I could’ve used that percussive hiss of BPM (I ran without music) or another hill for motivation. The flat flat flat flat flat seawall was my demise, the monotony only broken up by the occasional cheer team, DJ or mermaid strategically placed by SeaWheeze…!

The last kilometre was a tough one. I passed the final aid station, grabbing some water and eating half a banana.  Not long now!  I bopped through to the end, and the announcer called out my full name, my hometown, and told me I was looking good (awwwww). My time was 2:43:54.

After that it was confusion and shuffling: awarded a finisher’s medal shaped like a golden carrot, given a cool cloth for my face and a runner’s kit from Saje, a Kind bar thrust into my hand, a recovery blanket tossed over my shoulders, a Lulu hat perched on my head and then I was ejected back into the crowd where I found my husband cheering me on.

Thoroughly enjoyed the race, and kudos to Lululemon for the entire festival weekend and the hype they create around the event for the runners.

Goals for next time:
1) train – use the SeaWheeze app!!
2) plant self behind pace beaver at the race
3) arrive early to shop

The shopping, mind you, does deserve it’s own special mention…

Lovers of Lululemon are, quite simply and respectably put, fanatical. The exclusive SeaWheeze showcase store at the race makes fans go mental, lining up in the wee hours of the morning for the opportunity to buy gear. At full price. Most of the clothing goes home with the fans, but a fair portion of it appears online to the highest bidder at double and triple the original prices. It was assumed this was the mad masses of general public who ravaged the racks in past years.

This year, SeaWheeze organizers restricted the first few hours to runners-only shopping and limited the number of duplicate styles in varying sizes, but gear still appeared online within hours of the shop opening. Meaning, runners were selling gear, too.

In my Facebook SeaWheeze chat group, one runner justified herself by saying she’s paid a $128 registration fee, $590 in accommodation, $450 for a flight…if she can re-coup some of her travel costs off a few Lulu sales to fans who couldn’t make it to Vancouver, she will – with no regret. Well, when you put it that way….

Tips for hitting the store effectively, as told to me by successful owners of the bug patterned stuff and the green CRBs, etc:

  • Line up early (to get in first)
  • Work in packs (have a game plan, watch each other’s stuff etc)
  • Wear a sports bra (you can strip half decently to try on stuff on the spot)

I went in the afternoon, long after the shop had been deserted and pared down to what Lulu lifers were calling “junk”, “dregs,” “trash” etc. Each clothing size still did have an assortment of what I thought were nice enough items, but obviously not of the top sellers. My big purchase? A striped headband. Haha. Next time…

Focus, focus, focus (cheesecake) FOCUS

A little put off by back-in-time self who, in January, set a 50 lb weight loss goal for 2015 – seriously, what was she thinking???

Admittedly, I was tracking workouts and weight in the winter and spring months, but was never 100% with nutrition, and randomly went for 1-3 week spurts just doing nothing. So, yeah, my results over this time period were also…nothing.

There is no reason why I should be, at a height of 5’5″, over 200 lbs unless I’m planning on a heavyweight boxing career, which I’m not because I’d cry if I got hit in the face and my glasses got busted up.

I seem to falter around that 200 lb mark. I have gained and re-lost the same 10 lbs since last November, hovering between 210 – 200 lbs. But never truly dipping below 200 and staying there. I mean, imagine how much better it would be for my knees (the running, the hiking) if I was even another 20 lbs down?  I’m actually at the point where I can hear my knees grind.  Not fun.

Last week – thanks to back-in-time self’s goals – I decided I should rise to that occasion and give it the old college try. Again. What’s that old saying? If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up. Well, yeah. Here I am! Starting over! Haha.

What I did differently this week:
– chose a nutrition plan (21 Day Fix)
– chose a workout plan (also 21 Day Fix)
– thought about my choices (take the stairs, walk at lunchtime, plan meals/grocery shop in advance)
– kept active in my downtime (decluttering, gardening, household chores)
– kept my goal top of mind (I want this more than the cheesecake…)Week 1 update

Yep – all total dullsville BUT effective. I went back to the 21 Day Fix program because I’d done this last summer for 3 weeks and lost weight/inches. I know it works when you stick to it. When you do it half-assed, you don’t see the best results. I knew I had to get on board 100%.

Another really important thing I tried to identify were any cravings. I’ve kind of figured out I’m an emotional eater and all sorts of uncomfortable situations trigger my need to feed. Keeping on top of that!  I’m also working on the “just once won’t hurt” attitude (that’s what keeps me going back for more) because until I actually reach my goal (or get close!) the “just once” obliterates progress.

This week, my weekdays were good, but on the weekends I hadn’t planned meals. That created a little bit of mayhem.  (I figured I was “off duty” from meal prep, but that resulted in pizza on Saturday night…doh).  I hit 5 of my 7 scheduled workouts. I had four spoonfuls of cheesecake.  That’s the reality of it all.

Weigh-in time!
Mon, Aug  10 – 208.5
Mon, Aug 3 – 213 lbs