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.)