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.
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…)
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.
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