West Coast Trail: Day 2

Day 2: Thrasher Cove -> Cullite Cove = 12 KM

Unrecommended journey. In fact, as I write two weeks after the day, I struggle remembering it. That post-traumatic stress you know…it makes you forget things.

We left Thrasher Cove early that morning after a somewhat sleepless night for myself. I had to get up at 3 am and pee in the dark of the beach, 15 steps away from the tent, wildly swivelling my head with my headlight clenched in my teeth. Watching too many horror movies will do this to you.

7:50 am we left onto the beach in an attempt to reach Owen’s Point before the tide was too high to visit the caves. From what I remember we walked on some beach shelf which was my favorite. Small tidal pools everywhere, filled with anemones, barnacles, snails, hermit crabs, and small fish. I can’t remember what came first, the balancing and hiking across hundreds of gigantic beached and sun-bleached trees, or the boulders. I fell behind quickly, as I tried to choose my footholds wisely, and the one pole I was using probably saved my life a couple times. I’m kind of a slow-poke when it comes to hiking, but with a residual of about 65 km ahead of me, I wasn’t about to rush. Besides, a guy I talked to in the summer hiked this trail and witnessed a guy breaking his leg on the boulders. That ain’t happening to me, nuh uh. Any attempt to keep up with my friends resulted in many slips, ankle twisting, and balance problems; my backpack was as big as me!

We weren’t sure what our hiking plan would be for the day, but our tentative goal for the day was to make it to Camper Creek and re-evaluate from there. Once again, with a slow pace I stayed at the back, as this day was much harder than the day before. Once we passed the beached trees and the boulders, we arrived finally at Owen’s Point. It was beautiful, and made for some good pictures. We explored the caves just bit, but the tide had started to come back and we weren’t able to go around the point. The only choice was up the rocky point via some knotted ropes left there by past hikers (NOT Parks Canada).

After Bonnie climbed up and took our backpacks, hauling them up with the rope, we climbed up after. Oh and don’t look down please. We came back down on the beach for a bit and walked on what looked like the surface of the moon. Pocketed rock everywhere. Erika stayed up top by the trees to check out a possible crossing while Bonnie and I walked below. There was a steep and VERY shiny looking ramp of rock that ended in boulders below. Erika read the sign posted. “This says DANGEROUS SLOPE: DO NOT CROSS” she called. “Oh,” I said, and after a long pause “you gonna do it?”. Word to the wise, never jokingly dare your friends, especially if they are a mother of four. She got three steps over the slope, and was holding onto a tree for dear life, precariously sitting half on her side. Long story short Bonnie dropped her pack and went up to help her across. Nothing like a little life-and-death experience to wake you up in the morning. We ate lunch at the Beach Access in the forest. The power bar and beef jerky left my jaw sore and tired. Bonnie went for a walk for a little while down to the beach, and came back saying “look who I found!”.The three husbands had crossed the beach all the way to the impassable surge channel, so she “redirected” them to the beach access. The whole morning we had been passing people who were saying Camper Creek was crowded and not as nice as Cullite, a campground four kilometres further. Apparently it was a two and a half hour hike, which doesn’t sound so bad, in theory, and when you’ve heard it at the beginning of the morning. After almost six hours of ladders, roots, and whatnot, we finally got to the Camper Creek campground, and it was beautiful. My only complaint is that it was covered in those river rocks, so every step you take is at risk to your ankles. While my friends discussed somewhere by the trees, I napped at the creek, exhausted. It was 2:30pm and the ole hip was hurting. Here, I don’t enjoy the view of a beautiful place…I sleep in it!

At one point while I napped I heard splashing, cracked open an eye to see a naked woman bathing in the creek. Ok, that’s weird, I thought, and continued to nap. The three husbands were staying here the night, and it would be the only night the entire trip we wouldn’t see them. The bad news walked over in the form of Bonnie, who said this campground was too crowded and if Cullite is only two and a half hours later then it would be a better bet. Oh, if ONLY it had been two and half hours.

 Four and half hours later, I was wondering how my body even hiked a 10-11 hour day through some of the biggest ladders I’ve ever climbed, pack or no pack. I got so tired at the ladders going up and down into Cullite that I started categorizing them by how many times I’d have to stop on the way up.

“Oh man…this is a three-break ladder guys.” A happy camper that day I was not.

 At last, at 7:15pm we were rolling, er, limping into Cullite. It was pretty…but we didn’t get to see much of it that night since the sun was setting by the time we got there. There were quite a few people in that campground. A crazy German guy, who was reminiscent of this guy Klaus I once worked with, invited us to this fire he was building for everyone. My quads were dying, and squatting or bending down was torture.  After set up, and a delicious Chicken Vindaloo, we made tea and joined the people at the fire. We met a group of four Canadian girls travelling south to north as we were, two of them were archaeologists, one a kayak instructor, and the other was comic relief I think. There were also two Swiss couples, but only one of them was going our way. Roland and Ursula were fit, but the Canadian girls leaked to us that on the ladders, Ursula was so tired that her husband would climb the ladder, drop his pack off at the top, come down, take hers, and take it to the top. And many ladders were done like that. Unreal! Good husband.

Sleeping was much better the second night, partly from utter exhaustion, but it was comforting that we were in the company of so many people. NO BLISTERS YET!

Day 3 tomorrow…

Sierra

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West Coast Trail: Day 1

Pre-Game:

It was an early morning rising from our married friends’ place in Chemainus in order to be driven to Port Renfrew. I begged for one last stop at Tim Hortons because it was imperative I have one more good taste of alertness before plunging into oblivion, and we were on our way.  The little Toyota Camry fared well on the logging roads as we made progress, but a good number of logging trucks on the road were aggressive on corners with full loads. Normal to me, worrisome perhaps for other passengers.
We used the bathroom at the campground (where I stole an unidentified amount of toilet paper), said goodbyes to our lovely friend, and in we went to our orientation.
The Parks Canada official took our $32 each to pay for the ferries during the hike. Three older guys came in after us, two young guys were leaving the trail on the bus, and apparently they were expecting two more people to start but they didn’t show. We and the three guys started the orientation complete with slideshow the PC official headed up. Side note: I don’t do well during orientations. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve worked oilfield and you get orientated 30 times a season and it’s all the same stuff, therefore you acquire the acute ability to tune out. She was French as well, which is all fine and dandy, but she bashed Harper a bit, which always puts me off, and didn’t aid her in keeping my attention.  She also said something about girls having a harder time on the trail keeping warm or something to that extent. LISTEN LADY, WE HIKED 43 KM IN 3 DAYS OVER A FLIPPIN’ GLACIER ON THE SKYLINE TRAIL IN RUNNING SHOES, A BACKPACK FROM 1981, AND ZERO WATERPROOF GEAR OR A JACKET…IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT WAS A HORRIBLE, DEBILITATING AND UNPREPARED JOURNEY, I THINK WE CAN HANDLE A 7 DAY WALK ON THE BEACH. I brought actual hiking shoes this time.

“Now between Km (blah) and km (blah) there is no camping because of a very active food-conditioned black bear, and you can’t camp at the campground called (blah blah) because there’s no water between Km (blah) and Km (blah) therefore you need to go all the way to campground (blah blah blah)…”

Snore. I’m already bored. This feels like too much to remember. I half-listened and marked X’s on some parts, drew lines on my map, and wrote a schedule time on a part for which later I could not remember why.  Clearly I am the youngest of my group.

Once orientation was complete, we hopped on the 2-minute ferry ride across to the starting point. The three men wanted a picture of them starting the trail with their camera, and they took one of us with theirs. There was a comment about what their wives would ask about who took the picture we heard, and it was a good laugh.

Day 1: Gordon River -> Thrasher Cove = 6km

Well, after Skyline Trail we learned our lesson that the pace needed to be set by the slowest hiker so as not to incur injury to her. Standing at 5’3”, I definitely have some small steps going. The trail was covered in roots and started with some good incline, but I was comforted by Erika, who knew everything about the trail, that on this first day we would be hitting the highest elevation today and then it wouldn’t be so bad. I had both poles out, and Bonnie started with a pole as well, but soon after put it away. Erika has mile long legs, so no poled were necessary. Injuring my hip flexor via Skyline has left me pretty afraid to hurt it again, so the poles the first day definitely helped me get up some steep steps. At one point in time the trail disappeared into a rock face that stood in the way, and had a jagged crack running up and over it. The guys footprints stopped at the rock face…they must have gone up. So crawl up and over it we went. We also had a taste of some of the ladders on the trail. They weren’t so bad…but this was also the first day.

The trail was very dry. Apparently they had not had any rain since sometime in August, and here it was the 12th of September. We stopped and ate lunch at the donkey engine a ways into hiking. Today would be the only day I really enjoyed the taste of the power bar, beef jerky, and trail mix. Conversation between my two friends consisted of sports bras and uniboobs, but I had no input because I cared what mine looked like and brought only Lu Lu Lemon “Ta Ta Tamers” to hike in.

The first guy we passed on the trail said we smelled nice, but that’s because we had only been hiking an hour at that point. He said that’s what people had said to him when he first started, but that we shouldn’t get too close. Erika said she could smell the jasmine in my hair that would definitely not smell as nice a few days in. We passed MANY an attractive man hiking alone, and one point I heard Erika ahead of me say “how many men did we pass?” and I shouted “THREE!!!” loudly from the back. Clearly not only am I the youngest, but also the unmarried one of us three women.

We made it to the first campsite, Thrasher Cove around 5pm I believe. We started after our orientation at 1030-11am, so we had done about a km/hour. Legs were a bit sore, limping and stiffness were a little more pronounced in Bonnie and I. Erika and Bonnie then went to go visit the three  husbands who had gotten here before us starting a fire, but I took an ibuprofen for an unbelievable headache I’d developed that day, and was curled up in the sand half-napping.

We cooked our dinner, a Backpackers Country “Pad Thai” meal and mixed it with a “Sweet Thai Chili” sidekick. Packing up the food for the bear locker, I discovered cat food in Erika’s stuff. I inquired why, and the answer was that’d we’d eat it. I loudly opposed this idea grossed out by the thought, whether or not it was just dehydrated chicken breast, the fact that it came in a cat food bag made me gag. “Just don’t tell me when you are going to add it to one of our meals. It’s better I not know”. The Pad Thai fed us enough, and we washed our dishes with gritty sand in the ocean. As the sun began to set, we made our way over to the guys’ fire after setting up our tent and sleeping stuff. It would be the first of many fires with them.

We will call them “G”, “J”, and “T”. They were very welcoming with us, but we forgot to find some firewood to contribute. “J” was the one we’d heard shouting ahead of us on the trail, the line from a Ramones song, “Hey, Ho…Let’s Go!” in order to keep the bears away. We were not as ambitious. He had mountain man hair and a bit of a beard with a grey soul patch, and was only a few inches taller than me. He was the go-getter of his group.
“G” was a bartender in his town, dark grey hair, and of a more chill personality. Can’t ever imagine the guy getting worked up over anything, and he was hilarious. Quite obviously a people reader, and able to have a good time anywhere.
“T” was the baby of his group at 43 years old. But they poked fun at him as much as mine did me. He was quieter at first but then warmed up to us, and adored the little 6 year old princess waiting at home for him. Good guy.

After some conversation, “J” offered a shot choice of either Southern Comfort or Fireball. Whiskey is my worst wing man, so I took the Fireball as well as Erika, which was nice and made of cinnamon. Bonnie had the Southern Comfort and really liked it. Through conversation with them we discovered they had brought quite a bit of alcohol. Some mickeys of tequila, southern comfort, fireball, and God knows what else. Their packs, at least “G’s” pack weighed in at 52 lbs with alcohol, and they brought things like nutella, peanut butter, and hard cheese. I was indeed jealous. Erika schemed for the rest of the week what we could trade for the cheese, but that arrangement never developed.

We said thank you and goodnight to the boys, and with headlamps on we made our way back to the tent. Back at the campfire I kept thinking something had been crawling on me, but of course everyone thought I was crazy. I lie down in my sleeping bag and instantly felt something in my hair and on my face. I sat up fast making this panicking sound saying something was on my face. I am met with disbelief once again. I turn my headlamp on, swearing there was something on me, so I lift up the end of Bonnie’s sleeping bag next to me, and the biggest, nastiest spider I have seen (besides an orb weaver) crawls out, with a fat black body and brownish-red legs. I’m screaming the words “that was on my face!” as Bonnie admits it’s a pretty big spider, and then unceremoniously kills it with my Bible.

Guess who had trouble sleeping that night?

Day 2 will be posted tomorrow  (I realized there was no way to type this journey in one post…so it will take me as long as the hike did.)

Sierra

Cleaning and Cheating

It seems I enjoy both.

Since finishing practicum, and after winning a few days of work, I have been poorer than I know what to do with, and eating more than my jeans bandwidth…
My closet was a mess, and so was my truck, I still had blonde hair, I guess I was stuck.
I looked at the house, then at the scale, I`ll kill two with one stone, therefore I can`t fail!
First the closet, then the clothes, bottles to deposit, then who knows!

Alright I`m done the Doctor Seuss lines, onward men! I DID in fact change my hair back to dark brown, and it was instantaneous relief. Why I had done it in the first place, I don’t know, but my hair is not it’s luscious liking anymore, still fried at the ends :(..but the color! it is just right 🙂 I’ve been cleaning the closet, and got rid of so much! I cleaned the house a bit for mom, and even touched on the backyard (and mom, if you’re reading this…I have no idea what else to do with the sandbox). Ahh, now we can relax, and study a bit before school next week.
Did I mention I’m doing the Master Cleanse? Look it up. For ten days all I drink is fresh squeezed lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. Wait, I know what you’re thinking. “But Sierra! That’s not healthy! You SURELY must eat SOMETHING?”. Nope, no I don’t. I drink 6-12 glasses of that (about every hour) for the next ten days. Today is Day 4, but I cheated last night 😦
My dad and my brothers came home, and their favorite awful eating habit showed up at the door in the hand of a delivery man. I ran from the house in terror. I could not bear the smell of it. It had been three whole days since I had any kind of food. I took refuge at a friends house only to find that pizza followed me there too. Sigh. I caved. I fell in the fight last night and had a couple pieces, but it disappointed me. It was not all it promised to be. The smell told me it would taste better than that lemonade I go home to every night. The lemonade that has not failed me yet. Nobody will ever know except you and I, and what you don’t know can’t hurt you, it beckoned me. It knew all the right things to say. Oh, but though my eyes (and stomach) coveted the pizza, it was not my true and faithful. It only left me feeling fat, and dirty inside. A true love would never do that.
But I’m right back at it today, and determined not to let this get me. Harp all you want, I have never felt better while I am cleansing!

Speaking of which…I’m gonna go make some of that spicy lemonade. Mexico’s coming baby.

Sierra

Life in a Uniform

The last five-six weeks have been a revelation of sorts. I started my ambulance practicum in a small town a few hours northeast of Edmonton, doing 24 hour shifts 4 on/4 off. Was I excited? If by ‘excited’ you mean I stressed myself out to the point of stomach aches, indigestion, acne, and insomnia…then indeed, was I ever excited.

I showed up at the hall the night before it started, met a couple of the medics and tried my best to sleep, but of course the insomnia wins again. I spent most of my first day pretty quiet (true story), met my preceptor, a 6’4″ guy my age, VERY nice and respectable. My first call with them was for a guy with incopacitating back pain. I was vibrating with anxiety, but somehow I managed to take an accurate blood pressure (be thankful for the small things, right?) and keep my wits about me on the call. After that, basically learned everything there was to know on a ambulance call.

After 5 tours (480 hours), I have come through with some fantastic calls, worked with some of the most patient staff in the field, and gained so much knowledge about people, the career, and the health care system.

As well as the fantastic calls, there have been strange ones, and funny ones. I have some examples from my favorite moments on calls, or in the ambulance…

The very first call they made me run was at 10pm at night, and my patient was a Hep C AND HIV positive, 6’7″ 300 lbs black (african-american? mmm not sure how to word that) guy in a jail cell. The RCMP opened the cell, and he immediately started cursing and swearing at me (and I’m so little for crying out loud!). I looked back at the paramedic, who motioned to me “ok, have at ‘er”. Gulp. He actually calmed down once I started talking to him, but as if nobody would be intimidated in that situation!

Then trying to do an IV in a patient while driving on a gravel road, who was going through alcohol withdrawals, he jumped when I tried to stick the needle in his hand (huge pansy) and so I nicked the vein, and blew through it. Sigh. His fault not mine. I put a bandage on it and put an IV with much less fuss in his other arm. When he tell me the first hand feels wet, I tell him he’s just imagining it, but I look down and what do you know…he has bled all over my pants and my boot. Patience, Sierra…remember to have patience.

The most disappointing thing I learned on the service is that no matter who your patient is, white, black, native, young, old…EVERYBODY LIES. Everybody’s only had one drink. Nobody has ever done drugs. Everybody always walks 25 km out of town to get home when they’ve been drinking (when really, they’ve rolled their car in a ditch a kilometer away, and think I don’t know what a seatbelt blemish looks like on their chest. Ya, ok buddy, I believe you.)

Funny story about THAT guy. Despite him lying, we spine-boarded him as a precaution, and loaded him into the ambulance, and started heading down the gravel road to town. A RCMP officer jumped into the back as well, behind the guy, in case he confessed about his car. Now, I had not practiced doing IV’s in a moving vehicle yet. Needless to say I was so nervous trying to start one on the guy with my preceptor AND a cop watching me. I poked him three times and couldn’t even start one! Frustration!! Well, once we wheeled him into the hospital, he confessed to drinking and driving. The cop was waiting in the hall with me and leaned over….

COP: “Psst..”
ME: “What’s up…?”
COP: “You know what my favorite part was? The part where you poked him…and then…you poked him again…and then you poked him again..”
ME: “ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME?!?!?”
COP: “No…I’m just saying…some of them need to be ‘poked’ a few times if you know what I mean…”

 

I think I’m gonna like this field 😉

Sierra

It’s the Little Things in Life

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Mmm! A spoonful of delicious, forbidden granola from the palace of the worksite. I’ve been there. It’s like a prison. The men call it Auschwitz, but it’s formally known as the “lodge”.
If you like the luxuries but you mind not having friends, this place is for you. There’s a mudman who works for the rigs I befriended. He smuggled two bags of the granola out of there. He’s pretty much my dealer for granola and Starbucks tea.

It’s truly the little things in life you come to treasure and appreciate here.
One of them being a toilet. Imagine having to go to the bathroom outside, whip your pants down, and pee before someone drives by. You learn tricks though. You come to learn how to pee in a bucket in the back of an MTC and when you discover that, it definitely FEELS like a luxury. There’s technique to be learned though. It only takes urinating on the seat of your own pants once and having to sit in it the rest of the day to teach you to make sure they are out of the way!
And going number 2? There is no woman who can take a graceful sh*t in the woods. After a long hike, it’s a “stop, squat, and plop”. And then you bury it like an animal, but with your eyes closed pretending it never happened. No, it was not that color, and no it did not just smell like that.

The worst part? You get into the habit of peeing outside your car door like its a normal thing. The first time in the city when you feel the urge and reach for the door handle, you realize you must make it to a bathroom. Quickly. How did you ever hold it long enough before? The memory eludes you, and you pee shamelessly in the darkness of the Calgary Zoo Parking lot anyways.

The end.

Sunday Morning

Most of us have been here, with a headache, nausea, and an adamant amount of regret. It’s generally on either a Saturday or a Sunday morning, with the past nights events a haze, the clues to what happened vary to where you wake up, bruises, and the appalling debit machine receipts in your pockets.

That’s my friend, Angie, currently sitting at a 4/10 hangover. Her next actions will be crucial.

And rewind…
Yesterday was my 24th birthday, and my day was spent doing my last shift on my hospital practicum. My preceptor was so amazing and let me leave early. I boogied home and commenced to go out with friends. I stopped for some rum, and went to Angie’s.

10:10: I show up at her house. I pull out the rum, pour two doubles with splashes of coke. I down one, gagging the whole way, Angie fights her heaving as I tell her there is only 15 minutes till the cab gets there.

10:11: I pour another double, with a little bit more coke, and have at it. Angie is just finishing her first, starting the second, whining “do I have to do this?”. I tell her she does. She’ll save her money.

10:30: The cab calls. He’s here. We run outside but forgot to change out of boots. The cab can’t make it down her 1/2 block long driveway. He wants us to hike. We start running through the foot and a half deep snow. Angie is yelling her boots are suede. I don’t care.

10:58: We arrive at the country bar. There is no line. Amazing. We get in. Ladies are free till midnight. Even better.

I went on to only have only maybe four more drinks (don’t quote me on that).
The next thing I know, it is 1:33am and we are grabbing a cab home. We get the driver to take us to McDonald’s and then take us home. We ate our meals, got home, and crawled into bed
Angie fell asleep right off the bat. I was going to be sick.
I hopped out of bed and proceeded to crawl across the floor, but decided the floor was much comfy-er.
Next thing you know, I’m waking up at 6:30am with a balled up pair of pajama pants for a pillow, wrapped in a dog blanket staring at my wretched face in a mirror. I groan, and crawl back into bed with Angela. My body definitely loosed two separate shotgun farts that were loud enough to wake me. Angela didn’t stir at all. Probably better she remain oblivious, or our friendship would never be the same.

When 11:15am rolled around we dragged our asses out of bed. Off to Denny’s we go.

Now Sunday mornings at Denny’s, there are two types of people generally eating: the hungover people, and the church people. It’s like a meeting of the light and the dark. Usually you can tell by sweaters. All the church people wear cardigans, and are neat and matchy. The hungover people are either wearing what they wore the night before with a sweater over top, or its hoodies galore.
Eggs Bennie brought me from a 4 to a 6 out of 10. I went to the bathroom to have my first of three eye-watering bowel movements. The girl in the stall next to me must be crying, but I have no shame.

Somehow by the end of breakfast we are bouncing back. We decide to go shopping. While standing in line at the GAP, Angela doubles over in pain and gives me the shirts she’s buying and her VISA. She says she’s going to the bathroom, it’s an emergency. I can’t stop laughing in the lineup for the GAP. It’s her first of two in the next 30 minutes.

She has to go on a date tonight. Baha.