September 12, 2005

West Coast Trail: Preamble

Jamie and I recently completed a 10-day hike of the West Coast Trail: a 75-kilometre stretch of beach and inland trail on the -- wait for it -- west coast of Vancouver Island. Inspired by the WCT Mudhounds, I thought I'd keep a daily journal and post each day to the blog upon my return. Photos will follow as soon as I can get a CD burned; Jamie's got almost 300 high res pictures on his digicam, but we haven't hooked up since we got back the day before Labour Day. Until I can get our ugly mugs online, check out this very well-done page of WCT photography: Blue Peak Travel Photography.

It was an amazing trek, one that I'd repeat in a heartbeat. Spectacular landscapes, from tide pools and wild sandstone sculpted by decades of the Pacific Ocean's constant pounding, to miles of mud and muck held together by knotted root systems to make Tolkien proud. Impressive manmade structures continually reminded us that the Trail isn't quite wilderness, from ingeniously designed ladders, swing bridges and cable cars to remnants of the nigh on 100 shipwrecks that have met a watery grave along this treacherous bit of coast.

I spent over $700 on my kit prior to going, as the last few jaunts I’ve made have involved borrowed gear and second-rate clothes. Still, I wasn’t happy with my preparation for the rain; I was lucky we only had four days of precip during our trek. It rained on six or seven of our ten nights, but Jamie's tent held out nicely. We agreed heartily, Mother Nature was welcome to piss on our tent fly any night she wanted as long as she stayed asleep during the day -- for most of the trip, she obliged kindly.

Obligatory warning: While it wasn’t exactly as hard as I’d anticipated, this was not an easy hike in the woods. I highly recommend anyone with an eye for scenery and an appreciation for Mother Nature consider doing the Trail. However, if you’re thinking of the WCT at all, please make sure you are in good physical condition and properly decked out in clothing, shelter, food and safety equipment.

We saw a lot of people who weren’t physically, psychologically, or logistically prepared for what they’d gotten themselves into. Between 70 and 130 emergency evacuations take place on the WCT every year, ranging in severity from a seriously sprained ankle to damaged vertebrae and broken necks. You will not find much sympathy for being cold, wet or blistered if you get yourself in over your head. Be prepared!

Within the next few days, I'll start posting my daily Trail diary. Hopefully there will be a few pictures in accompaniment, if not sooner, then later.

Until then, adieu!

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