Well, we are back! And we are home one and a half days early…why do you ask? Well, let me start from the beginning.
Friday morning Warren and I woke up at 3:00am to get ready for the big hike. Tanya met us at the house at 4:00am and we headed off to
China Beach. As we drove along the sky was fairly clear and the harvest moon was shining bright. It was beautiful and I was happy to see it. I had been having trouble to sleep because I was excited about the trip and I was thinking about what the weather that was ahead of us. I am an optimist most of the time but with the weather network calling for so much rain I was picturing Warren dropping us off and it would just be belting down.
We left Tanya’s car at China Beach because that is where we planned to end our hike. Warren then took us to Botanical Beach where we started from and on our way we came across four elk. Now, that was pretty exciting because Warren has lived on the Vancouver Island for 40 years and has never once seen an elk. Whenever we drive to Courtenay, up island in the other direction; and he sees the sign cautioning you to watch for elk he will always say “There are no elk on the island. Why have that sign up?” Well, the island has proved him and I guess they just need to move the sign to Port Renfrew.
We arrived a little before 6:00am and it was still dark out but the air was fairly warm and there wasn’t any rain. YAY! I was in my happy place and I am pretty sure Tanya was too. We put our head lamps on, or head torches as Tanya calls them, said goodbye to Warren and we were off. It was 6:07am when we hit the trail but not long after we started Tanya made the suggestion that we get the bear banger out just in case my talking didn’t scare them away.
Tanya lead the way and she did for most of the hike. Just as it was starting to get light out and as I was leading through the trail we saw a black bear. It was about 50 feet away from us and it stopped to check us out but then ran off. It was more afraid of us then we were of it but it was neat to see it.
Along the way there are many creeks that are marked with signs letting you know which creek it is and there are also kilometer markers so you can track how fast or slow you are going. Our starting kilometer marker was 47 and counted down from there. Every time we would see a creek or a kilometer marker I
would check our time and see if we were keeping a good pace. We weren’t out to sprint the hike but we did have to make it to East Sombrio Beach which was 20km from our starting point.
Our first creek was Tom Baird Creek who I read from a sign, was a pioneer of Port Renfrew in the late 1800’s. He married Annie Soule in 1902 and they had seven children, six boys and a girl. Soule Creek was the next creek that we came to and if you think like a romantic, it is like they will always be side by side. When we reached Soule Creek we were near the 43km marker and it was 7:32am. We felt we were making good time because when we first planned the trip we figured we would average around 2km per hour.
At 9:00am, we were between Payzant Creek and Parkinson Creek; we were feeling good and it was just starting to spit rain. We didn’t need our poncho’s just yet but about an hour later we stopped and put them on. Next came the first suspension bridge of two that we went over on our way to Sombrio. They were quite neat to see and when it was my turn to have my picture taken on it I jumped up and down on it. I don’t have that picture yet but I am sure they will make us smile looking back at it.
After 5 hours straight I felt we needed a break. I had been snacking on the way every hour and a half or so which was helping me get more energy as I would start to feel like I was dragging along but Tanya had only eaten a sandwich in that time. She said that when hiking she doesn’t really feel hungry or eat a lot. But as we got closer to 11:00am and we hadn’t yet stopped, I could tell my legs needed a break because I was slipping in areas that I probably shouldn’t have been.
I had a close call one time stepping up on a bridge and thankfully there was a railing there and I was able to grab on to it as I fell. I have some bruising under my arm and on my side but better that than over the edge. It was not long after that when I told Tanya that I needed to sit and just have some lunch but I could wait until Kuitsche Creek to stop. We hiked for another 40 minutes and rested.
We met some hikers who were solo hiking, there were groups of two or three and then there were big groups of 8-12 people. Both of us said we wouldn’t want to do the hike solo. As the rain came down the mud got slicker and the water got deeper in the puddles that formed. We were slowing down our pace when we got to these parts but East Sombrio Beach wasn’t too far where we would be setting up camp for the night.
At one point we got off the track because I saw an arch that looked really neat and I wanted Tanya to stand under it so I could get a picture. The trail looked like it continued on past the arch and we spent close to 20 minutes trying to find where the trail went. We decided to go back to the arch where we lost the trail and we then came across where we should have gone. My “shiny object syndrome” got us into trouble but it looked like I was not the only one in the past who has been taken in by the arch due to all the trails we found. It ended up being good that we got lost for a little bit because we had to sit and wait for the tide to go out so we could cross along the beach. We were there for about 45 minutes and we were lucky that the rain had stopped. There were surfers out in the water so we took the time to relax and watch them while the tide went out.
We did a lot of up and down through the trail. Sometimes we were near the water and could smell the ocean and hear the waves crashing against the shore while other times we were more in the wooded and sheltered area. Sometimes you couldn`t see very far in front of you or around the corner because the bushes had grown so thick and deep. We saw a “bush fairy” as Ann calls them and it made me laugh because she and I have talked about being bush fairies at Thetis Lake when we run.
Once we arrived at Sombrio East Beach we were looking for actual camp sites for us to set up our tents but we never came across any. Tanya thought the sites would be like the campsites at French Beach but that wasn’t the case. After doing some wandering we set up for the night on the beach. We asked a surfer though if it would be ok to do so before we made that leap and he let us know how high the tide would go up the beach so we didn’t set up our tent in the wrong place.
Neither one of us had ever slept on the beach so it was another first for us. By the time we started to set up camp it was really coming down and it wasn’t fun. We worked together and finally everything was good to go. It was around 5:30pm and we were in dry clothes and our wet shoes and socks were off. Our feet looked like we had sat in a tub for a really long time because they were all wrinkly due to being wet for so long. My wool socks felt so good on my feet (Thanks Aunt Heather).
I needed some food because I hadn’t eaten for a few hours and I thought a hot meal would help me warm up from the inside out. We had picked up some freeze-dried food from Capital Iron before we left so I had a few choices to choose from. I decided to go with the Pad Thai and to my surprise it wasn’t that bad. It had some heat to it and quite flavorful. The only thing that I would do differently next time is have a longer spork so I can reach to the bottom of the bag better to stir it up.
We stayed in the tent for the rest of the night. It was warm and dry for the most part. The tent did start to leak in a few places and Tanya was certain that we would wake up soaked. To our surprise we didn’t but we were a bit damp. We had decided that since our shoes were soaked, mine had a new hole at the top that had formed while we were hiking, and because we had no way to dry any of our things that we would head home. We knew that the hardest section of the trail was ahead of us and we had 18km to do. That part wasn’t what stopped us but we knew with all the rain that had fallen the night and day before that the trail would just be a mess to get through and we already had wet shoes.
We were packed up and headed to the parking lot of Sombrio Beach around 8:30am. I knew where to go because I had been there a few years before with Warren. We had a long hill climb to get to the top and it was our punishment for not going on Tanya said at one point.
Before we left the site Tanya asked me how I felt about hitchhiking? I had let her know that because I was with her I was ok with it but it wouldn’t be something I would do alone. So, our plan was to either find a surfer who would take us to China Beach, where the car was parked or we were walking at least 25km to the car. We tried to see if a few people who were leaving could take us but their car was full with gear. As we made the climb up the hill and finally reached the road we had been walking for close to an hour.
Then for the first time ever I stuck out my thumb and hoped it would work. The car drove by and I said to Tanya “My first time trying to hitchhike and I was unsuccessful.” Then all of a sudden I heard voices and it was the lady and her son who had driven by. They were shouting to let us know that they had stopped and when we turned the corner we could see them. They drove us right to our car and we were happy for it because as we drove along the road we both were thinking “That would have been a long walk.”
I text Warren and Tony, Tanya’s husband, to let them both know that we were headed home when we got cell service. I received texts back letting us know that they looked forward to seeing us.
As I drove home and even yesterday once I was home I had mixed feelings about leaving. Why do you ask? Well, when we woke the sun was kind of out or at least it wasn’t raining, the air was still warm and I knew that both Tanya and I could make the 18km to get to Bear Beach. It wasn’t that we couldn’t physically do it because we are two women who can do anything we put our mind to. But what stopped us was the wet gear and the weather over all. We could tell it was going to rain again and we would be in the same boat again but worse because we didn’t have anything dry.
We both said though that we would do it again and we are already talking about doing it next year in July or August. We did plan this idea late in the summer and for two people who have never hiked with backpacks or slept on a beach; I think we did an amazing job and I am very proud of us both.
I thought taking my iPod would be something that I would need but the funny thing is that I actually forgot it in the car on our way there. I told that to Tanya on our way up from the beach to home and she asked if I would bring it next time? I told her “No”. I realized that for me hiking with Tanya was the right person for me to do something like this with. We worked together and she helped me get through the mud and muck because I followed where she went. She had also done her homework and knew what to do. I helped in different ways like helping her realize when her body needed a break and to rest. When times got hard I would sing and the song “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson or some other song that was sparked by something she said. We laughed and we got to know each other better. We shared stories about our past and our childhood, we talked about what we want to be when we grow up and I now know her favorite color. All random things but things that passed the time and we know have a first experience together.
Is there anything that I would change that I had control over?
Yes, I would make sure that the tent that we were going to sleep in was set up in a rain storm before we took it out on a backpacking adventure.
Is there anything that I would do next time differently?
Yes, plan ahead more than a few weeks. I would check the weather reports and make sure that the area was dry for a week or more before we went and then I would cross my fingers for a dry week the weekend we went.
I would get different shoes to hike in and something that kept the water out better. And I think I would invest in a backpack cover so I could set my backpack down without getting it all wet.
If you have gone hiking lately what are things that you would have done different or would you change anything?