Just over one year ago I hiked the West Coast Trail along the west coast of Vancouver Island with my friend Kelly and his two teenage sons. I am not so much a hiker as a canoeist, so in the months leading up to our July 1 start, Kristin and I did less canoeing and far more hiking than usual. I often carried a pack full of heavy books and some lead weight.
The day came, the hike started, and since we were going north to south, the trail began deceptively well groomed and easy to walk on. Just as we were about to leave the trail head a group that included and 80 year old lady was finishing up. “This should be easy!” we thought.
But then we hit some ladders, and the day was hot, and there was no water refill for the first 12 km, and then when we finally hit the beach it wasn’t the nice hard-packed pavement-like beach that there is at Long Beach near Tofino. It was soft and loose and slanted and exhausting. We went to the campsite at Darling River which made for a 14 km day. We were all a little dehydrated and surprisingly tired given how nice the trail had been for the most part.
Then came the mud and roots. When I think of the WCT, and the thing they really don’t talk about in the promo material, it’s the mud and roots. Miles of it. Every now and then we would convince ourselves that the next kilometer marker must be missing since “For sure we’ve gone more than a click since the last one!” Invariably another 200 or 300 meters and there it would be. We started to refer to them as “West Coast Kilometers” because they seemed so much longer than any other kilometers we’d ever seen.