Going home. Going. Home.
Last day on the trail. I hate to say it, but I was ready, which meant I was done. Day 7. Let’s go.
After a night of intermittent sleep, I was up early and ready to hit the trail. Hugh was the same. We cheerfully and efficiently stuffed our gear into our packs, so old hat at this point. Everything fit so well. We could do this with our eyes closed.
P. awesomely shared some of his snack packs: plump Ziplocs filled with GORP, along with a Clif bar and tiny pouch of jerky nestled on top. This totally made our day knowing we’d have good fuel for the hike out. And even more so, someone else’s food looked so much more appealing than the dregs of our supply.
M. and I had had a conversation a few nights ago about the WCT, and the possibility of hiking it again. The words NEVER and HUH-UH and YEAH, I DON’T THINK SO came up. Neither of us took many photos of the south end compared to the north, and I have to wonder if it was just exhaustion and not lack of beauty that made that happen. I was still of the same mindset on our last day. Done with this. Don’t need to ever do it again. Not interested especially in ever doing the south end of this trail.*
Most of our cohort was up and gone from the beach at Thrasher’s Cove quite early, intent on hitting the river shore and flagging down the ferry at a reasonable hour. Some had bus reservations at the trailhead back into Victoria, some really just wanted a hot shower. We faced the music of that steep, 1 kilometre climb back out of the beach and up onto the ridgeline running through the forest. Holy sweaty start to the day, Batman. OMG. Such a wake up call. I think I got a wee bit grumpy at that start. P. and M. breezed up the incline with no problem. I was just cuh-ranky.
Once at the top, this was it – – – > Thrasher Cove to Gordon River (5 km). ONLY 5 km. Only.
Thus began an undulating trail through the old growth forest. I think there’s some trail psychology to the last day of a long hike. IS the end of every hike really, truly horrible? Or is it the anticipation of wrapping up a hike conflicting with the actual timing that makes it just endless? Five kilmetres seemed fairly long on this fine morning.
Ultimately, we climbed up to the highest point on the trail – near the derelict donkey engine abandoned in the middle of the forest – and then we lost elevation for the remainder of the hike, but in a very slow and roundabout way. The trail had plenty of ups and downs to keep you on your toes. At one point Hugh and I followed Mathieu and Anne down a steep embankment, only to discover we were totally off trail and had to painfully pull ourselves back up.
We started meeting up with little groups of hikers fresh off the ferry: pairs, groups, families. Everyone smelled delightfully clean, and I stared in envy at some brand new clear water bottles strapped to another hiker’s pack. City water. Shiny gear. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed hikers. No one wanted to stop and talk, everyone was keen to keep moving and getting on to Thrasher or Camper Bay for the night.
We could always hear the ocean along this portion of the trail, but could no longer see it. Our entire 5 km was in the trees. The route was a actually quite pleasant, and if you didn’t have a huge pack strapped to your back, it would be a nice little jaunt through the woods. Of course, I say that having already spent a previous six days on the trail. To those just starting out at Gordon River, the trail would undoubtedly appear rugged, steep, muddy, rooty, and full of broken bridges, boardwalks and ladders, with a couple of monster-like uprooted trees and an assortment of banana slugs hanging out along the path, not to mention the lovely fern beds and mossy bits along the way – something I just didn’t “see” anymore. A few markers did appear to be missing, though, or we just didn’t notice them, and kilometres 71, 72 and 73 seemed to take a very long time to get through.
Marker 75. Epic. We took the obligatory photos and walked the last few steps onto the small, rocky beach where the ferry would cross the river to collect us. We sat. We waited. I thought I would feel a lot more accomplished. Instead, I felt that while the hiking was done, something else was still undone… incomplete. A very odd feeling. Our last day took us about 1 km per hour for those last 5 km.
We crossed the river on the ferry and were at the other side in minutes. We disembarked and took the time to weigh our packs. Mine was only down by about 5 lbs despite all the food I’d eaten. M. slid our permits into the Parks Canada box, and P. went to fetch the truck, which he’d left in the care of the Pacheedaht Campground.
Over. Done. (But undone).
** Of course, sitting here on a cool October morning, trying to recall this last day on the trail from July, there is a glimmer. There is a “what if” and “maybe I should…” going through my head. Never say never.