Juan de Fuca Pacific Marine Trail
08.07.2012 - 10.07.2012 15 °C
Before we left Ontario in April, we knew we wanted to conquer an overnight back packing trek at some point during the summer. We discovered the West Coast Trail which seems to be more popular, but requires an entry fee and booking a spot in advance....which just isn’t in the cards for us. So instead, we decided to tackle the Juan de Fuca, a close neighbour to the West Coast Trail, minus the fee and extra nonsense.
The Juan de Fuca trail is a total of 47km, stretching along the Pacific ocean between Sooke and Port Renfrew. It typically takes people three or four nights to complete, but because we are pressed for time, we committed ourselves to only two nights. We read many blogs and information about the trail to familiarize ourselves with the details about the terrain, etc. We learned that there would be a wide range of difficulties, and many obstacles....our egos must be getting big because we had no concerns about this prior to the hike.
Ready to go!
The reward for the end!
On Sunday morning, we stuffed our packs with our tent, sleeping bags / pads, a pair of P.J.s, and enough food for the next two days...equally about 50lbs each. We left Gerry at China Beach (the first trail head) and began to hike north bound. The first 5km were easy, we hardly noticed our packs and the terrain seemed to be fairly flat and shady in the forest. Once the trail led us to the ocean front, we started to get into some rock hopping and climbing throughout driftwood, using a bit more muscle but still keeping a consistent pace. Things began to get frustrating when we got lost for the first time, it didn’t take us long to realize that the trail wasn’t marked very clearly and to make matters worse, we were racing against the tide. Our goal for the first day of hiking was to reach the 27km mark to get the bulk of the hike out of the way while we were well rested. That plan got kiboshed when we got trapped on the beach because of the incoming tide....we set up camp for the first night at Chin Beach, only 20km in. A failed attempt at making a fire didn’t help our irritable, tired moods...so we went to sleep early after a dinner consisting of bagels, beef jerky, and trail mix.
Beside the fact that we had awful sleeps, the morning of the second day started terribly when we discovered that our food supply had been broken into by rodents- leaving us with only oranges, apples, and the remains of our trail mix. To contribute to the disaster, all of our stuff was damp and our shoulders / hips were tender from our heavy packs...great. Despite the discomforts, we set the bar high again and decided to aim for another 20km....that way we would only have to hike 7km on the morning of the third day.
The second day of hiking was very difficult- there were tons of mud pits, vertical climbs, bum drops, and extreme temperature changes. We got seriously lost on two different occasions, forcing us to do some intense bush wacking (not fun considering we had empty stomachs and tired bodies). After a solid nine hours of hiking, we reached the 40th km at Payzant Beach. We hardly had enough energy to hang up our stuff, let alone set up the tent and plan for the next day. We ate whatever we had left for dinner, saving one orange to split for the next morning....and a candy bar that we promised we would have as a reward for when we reached the end. With swollen knees, bruised shoulders, and dysfunctional hips, we trudged through the last 7km the next morning to Botanical Beach. We assumed the shuttle bus would be waiting to take us back to our car at China Beach, this is where our story goes from bad to worse. We came upon a family in the parking lot at Botanical Beach, who told us that the shuttle costs $60, and only picks hikers up in Port Renfrew (another 7km away)- not at the end of the trail. At this point we had no other option than to hike into town, we fought back tears, struggled with gastrointestinal issues, and heavy duty colds...not to mention our grumbling stomachs and sore muscles.
We hiked into town, staying about 100ft away from each other because we just seemed to piss one another off even more. We argued about how we shouldn’t have planned to do the trail in two nights, and we blamed each other for even trying to attempt the hike in the first place. At around 10:00am when we finally reached the pick up stop, we received more terrible news- the shuttle doesn’t come until 5:00pm. We decided that we would try calling Morgon for a lift, considering we were headed to Duncan to help him with a cow show starting later that evening, however....it didn’t take us long to learn that Port Renfrew doesn’t have any cell phone service, and their land lines only call out to other local numbers. After a failed attempt at trying to call for help, we staggered into the closest cafe and cried during an overwhelming heap of breakfast. Although the food was delicious and made us feel a little better, we still felt defeated and stranded- we had no idea how we were going to make it back to the car, and we couldn’t wait until 5:00pm for the shuttle because we had a long drive ahead with no energy left to drive that late.
We think we may have been getting some sympathetic attention because the waitress offered us to bottomless coffee, and the table next to us (a party of six social workers) asked if we were alright. The conversation with the social workers turned into a ride all the way back to our car....around 55km away from Port Renfrew. This group of ladies were our angels sent from heaven. We both agreed that we have never been so close to death, and we truly felt defeated, stranded, exhausted, and hopeless. During the car ride back to Gerry, we talked about how we would never complain about anything again, we felt grateful for fresh water from a tap, warm food, clean clothes, and kind people willing to help. This was an all time low on our trip, but all it took was a single act of kindness to lift our spirits and get us back on our feet. Thank you to the ladies who took time out of their schedules to do us such a huge favour- we will pay it forward!
That evening we made it to Duncan for the Vancouver Island Holstein Show. It was so nice to be around Morgon- Emma M.’s brother and the rest of the farm crew after such a rough few days. We helped out with the show in return for a hotel room and food, and a little extra spending cash. BACK ON TOP BABY!