July 8, 2016

Going wild on the West Coast Trail

When we moved out to Vancouver last year, it was sad business saying goodbye to Ben and Ali in Toronto. Days after landing here, my brother sent a group email around about this hike on Vancouver Island called the West Coast Trail. It was something he had always wanted to do during his time at the University of Lethbridge, but never did. When registration opened in early January, we jumped at the chance to hike the legendary trail for a summer adventure together.

The West Coast Trail is a beautiful 75 kilometre hike on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Originally built in 1907 as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors, the trail is part of Pacific Rim National Park and widely considered one of the world’s best hikes.

This trail has something for everyone: wildlife, difficult terrain, forest, beach, ladders, bridges, cable cars, surge channels, quirky hikers, mud, slugs, birds, solitude, scenic lookouts and culture.

The Trail Life

The weather was on our side through the week and we experienced an extremely rare rain-free hike. In advance of the hike, we waterproofed everything in our 40lb packs and mentally prepared for rain (at least I'd like to think we did, though we'll never really know). 

We ate hearty dehydrated meals from MEC that were easy to prepare for breakfast and dinner (often mixed with coconut milk and dried mushrooms for taste). For snacks we ate a variety of energy bars, chocolate, nuts, cheese and canned tuna. There are two spots to grab lunch along the trail; Chez Monique serves up burgers for a cool $25, and Nitinat Narrows Crab Shack (where you cross the water by ferry) serves up crab pulled right from the water you cross. These stops were highlights for our turtle four-pack, and essential in ensuring we had enough sustenance. By the last step on the trail, we had only a few nuts, dates and raisins left over.

The backpacking life is built on roles, repetition and routine. Pack bag. Filter water. Fill water bottles. Set up tent. Set up hammock. Set up tarp. Blow up mattresses. Roll out sleeping bags. Set up stove. Prepare food. Build fire. Clean dishes. Put food in the bear bin. Relax. Sleep. Wake up to Ben playing the flute. Hike. Repeat.

The Plan

  • Catch ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo @ 6:20 a.m.
  • Catch shuttle to Pachena Bay Trailhead* @ 8:20 a.m.
  • Arrive @ Pachena Bay @ 12:30 p.m.
  • Orientation @ 2 p.m. + Hike - Day 1 to 12km
  • Hike - Day 2 to 26 km
  • Hike - Day 3 to 42 km
  • Hike - Day 4 to 56 km
  • Hike - Day 5 to 70 km
  • Hike - Day 6 to 75 km
  • Celebrate Canada Day in Port Renfrew (aka Resort Night)
  • Catch shuttle from Gordon River @ 9:15 a.m.
  • Catch ferry to Horseshoe Bay from Nanaimo @ 12:15 p.m.
  • Celebrate again!

*Hikers have the option of starting north from Pachena Bay (this is what we did) and heading south or starting at Port Renfrew in the south and heading north.

West Coast Trail Resources

Letting the many steps blend together, and the scenery speak for itself, a brief look at our incredible week on the West Coast Trail.