I shook off yesterday as best I could. Today was Sunday. Not that days of the week really meant anything. But I had been counting sleeps.
In fact, counting sleeps is something I do not only for the anticipation of Santa, but also when backpacking. No matter where I am, or who I’m with, or what day I’m on, I mentally take quiet notes of how many sleeps down, and how many to go. I often think about my husband, knowing exactly where he’ll be at 8:00 pm every night (the bath). And the cats, where they hang out (end of the couch and in Oliver’s room). And it’s with a certain longing I recall the lovely, civilized routines of emptying the dishwasher, drawing the curtains at bedtime…
And I woke up today knowing there was only one more sleep on the trail. Huzzah.
M. and P. were up and at ’em at a decent hour. I think they’d done their chores and started packing up before I could even haul my sorry self out of the tent. Camper Bay was still jammed with backpackers. At least a dozen tents huddled together on the sand strip, a rowdy mash-up of hikers from each direction, everyone in a different stage: cleanliness, happiness, denial, exhaustion, etc. And of all these characters, I quite enjoyed the little crowd that had formed around P.
P. was a social butterfly. He didn’t even have to look for a party, the party had come to him. It was a fairly large group of, oh, “middle-aged women” I guess would be the fairest assumption, who were hiking south to north. He held court as they flitted back and forth, chatting him up as they noisily gathered their gear. From the snippets of conversation amongst themselves and with others, I figured if I had to hike with these women, they’d drive me nuts with their regimented plans and know-it-all attitudes; but if I was in a pinch, they’d always take care of me.
I sat on my driftwood bench sipping a cup of coffee (which, btw, was courtesy of P. who had shared his cruise ship collection of instant coffee with us) and watched the ladies warily, from a distance, dote over P. The French couple lounged nearby at their fire pit, Converse-clad feet up on logs, making no move to get going at all. Mathieu caught my eye and raised his sunglasses. “These women, they’re like BIRDS. Squawk, squawk, squawk. So LOUD.” He slipped his sunglasses back over his eyes and jammed his hat down over his ears. Even Anne, normally full of humour in the mornings, agreed. “Thank God they’re hiking the other way.”
Eventually, the ladies wrapped up and wished P. the best, and headed northwards along the trail. M. and P. also wanted to get an early start on the day and, shouldering their packs, made their way towards the cable car.
Hugh finally poked his head of his little yellow tent in the newfound silence. “What the heck was going on out here?? What a racket!” He disappeared, and started shoving his pack out from inside of his tent. However, in forcing his pack through the fly, which was still fastened at the bottom, we suddenly heard a sharp CRACK and his tent buckled. It was just a broken pole. Not a big deal, we’d figured we’d duct tape it tonight. Better Day 6 than Day 1.
With most of the campground mostly deserted, with the exception of Mathieu and Anne, we savoured the peace. It was a blessing to gather one’s thoughts and set intentions for the day. Live, love, happiness – let’s roll!
I pulled on my wet socks, laced my boots and headed to Camper Creek with Hugh. We skipped the cable car and jumped stone to stone across the creek instead. The water was low enough that it was safe to traverse. At most, your feet might get wet. And, CHECK.! they were already wet, so no harm no foul. We scrambled along the forest paths to catch up to M. and P.
Today’s hike was Camper Bay to Thrasher Cove (8 km + 1 km off trail to the camping beach). We had a choice today to hike along the beach around Owen Point at low tide (it is impassable at high tide), where there was some serious bouldering and cool caves to explore OR take the forest route along boardwalks and tree bridges. Because the tides this time of year were higher, and the hiking window along this stretch of beach was tight, we opted for the forest route as the safer alternative for our group.
Hugh and I met up with M. and P. on the trail and travelled with them for a bit before pushing on ahead.
Today’s hike turned out pretty amazing. Our route made points of contact at two beach entrances for the Owen Point route, but otherwise it was deep in the old growth forest with mud pits, boardwalks, ginormous cedars and my favourite part, the log bridges high above the forest floor. The “bridges” were simply fallen logs needed to traverse mucky ground or small gullies. The logs could be fat or thin, mossy or slimy. At least they were chiseled along the top and notched for a bit of boot-grip. At one point, we travelled about 10 feet off the ground along a linked log path, with 90 degree angles at the junction points, six foot high brush overgrown all around us. “Marco!!” I’d yell before dancing across from log to log. If I heard a “Polo!” I’d pause on a log junction until a north-bound hiker appeared and could safely pass.
We hiked a bit with Ange and May, the Calgary girls, and were lapped by Mathieu and Anne, who were like antelope on the trail. We stopped for lunch and a couple of extended rest breaks but didn’t see M. and P. so we kept on moving forward, leaving our leaf faces now and then. By about 2:00 pm we’d reached the junction for Thrasher Cove. Here, I’m sure, many decisions have been made. The end of the trail was only 5 km south at the Gordon River ferry crossing. Many hikers buckle down and continue on to complete the trek on their final day. We knew Thrasher Cove was only 1 km away, and that was home for the night, so we took a right on the path towards the beach.
That last 1 km to Thrasher Cove took a looooong time. We began to lose elevation almost immediately, and it was with a sinking realization that we knew to get back to the junction would require a very steep hike first thing in the morning. The trail down to Thrasher was arduous, rooty and muddy. My knees creaked anytime I had to make really long steps down off rooty edges. The finale came in the form of several tall ladders, and then poof! we arrived blinking in the sunshine, feet on sand, dazzlingly happy.
Beach! Seriously! Awesome! I dropped my bag and walked straight into the ocean up to my knees. The cold water seeped through my boots and my socks, rejuvenating my feet and my mind. I splashed for a bit, washing off my boots and pant legs as well. Freedom.
The beach was already fairly clogged with tents, and the southern, sunnier end had filled up with brand new hikers who’d just started their adventures. We trudged north along the sand, crossing the trickle of freshwater, and pitched camp across the wee channel from Mathieu and Anne. They were already completely set up, and were sunning themselves down near the water’s edge. We threw hiking poles, Hugh’s tent fly and a few other bits of our stuff onto the sand near our spots to hold space for M. and P.’s tents. Hugh immediately went about organizing a campfire for M. and P.’s arrival, digging out an old fire ring, gathering driftwood and shaving kindling. He took about a dozen trips further north along the beach to procure all sizes of driftwood.
While Hugh prepped the fire, I washed out clothes, hung damp things to dry, set up the tent and re-organized my food bag. I’d budgeted fairly well for my food. For each day I’d rationed 1 bag of trail mix + 2 bars (ie. Clif Builder Bars, Luna bars, Kind bars) for the trail, and then 1 breakfast and 1 dinner. There was also a handful of trail/lunch extras like Moon Cheese and beef jerky. Hugh and I shared a lot of our trail food, so if I ran out he had more and vice versa – it just depended who had the easiest access to the snack when hunger struck. I had two dinners and two breakfasts left (I think I’d skipped a dinner somewhere along the way) and no trail mix/bars. Hugh had a bag of trail mix and some Ichiban noodles. We pooled our rations and planned on finishing up most of it tonight and tomorrow morning, leaving the trail mix for the walk out.
Hugh’s tent pole didn’t cooperate with our duct tape and stick splint ideas, so we decided he’d share with me tonight. My tent did sleep two, and was a palace for one, so there was no problem fitting him in.
M. and P. arrived at Thrasher Cove around supper, and it was fantastic to see them. We had the opportunity to sit around the fire for a bit and swap stories of our day. Supper didn’t take to long to make and consume, and Hugh continued to feed the campfire with driftwood.
It was both a relief and a sadness to be spending only one last night on the WCT. Home is a good place, you see.
I wandered the beach a bit, chatting with the south-bounders.
The hikers heading north all looked so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, not to mention, CLEAN. Yep, I wanted no part of that. Haha. As well, I had no desire to get on my soapbox…I wanted them to experience everything for themselves, no expectations. (And I’m also recalling all the “helpful” soapbox advice we received from passing hikers about the journey = 25% useful, 50% misguided, 25% grandstanding.)
We passed our last evening watching the tide creep in, to ensure our tents weren’t sucked into the ocean. P. and H. had both gone to sleep a little earlier, M. stayed up to take photos. After the all clear, I headed to bed.
Good night, WCT.
Tomorrow – Thrasher Cove to Gordon River