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.
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!!
The 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!
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.
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.
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.
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