In my continuing attempt to hike as much of the west coast of Vancouver Island as possible, I organized a trip to trek the Hesquiat Peninsula Trail this summer. This trail is also known as the Escalante Trail since it commences near Escalante Point on the west side of the peninsula. I have also heard it described as the mid Island Coastal route. I would rate the hike as one of the best on the coast with respect to wilderness experience. It was not difficult to do but there are some tedious stretches.
Access to the trail will involve either float plane out of Gold River or water taxi from Gold River or Tofino. If you take a water taxi from Tofino the cost will be fairly high. We took Air Nootka from Gold River for both entry and exit from the trail. I have used their service in the past and find them very competent and reliable.
The trail commences near Escalante Point. After getting dropped off by Air Nootka pilot Ron in a small bay at low tide under some threatening skies, we headed down the deserted beach to a small stream and our first camp site.
The rains hit over night and we set out the next morning in a steady down pour.
we were stimied by a high tide and a tricky surge channel just north of Split Cape so decided to retreat to some caves to dry out and wait for low tide to get across the channel the next day. The weather front blew out so next morning we set out with a renewed sense of optimism.
When we got to the surge channel the sea which was splashing over the rock in the middle of the channel was gone and we were able to scramble across and then pass our packs across it.
In a few more hours of walking we reached Barchester Bay a beautiful stretch of sand. Like all of the beaches we encountered on this trip, we found it completely deserted and free of human footprints. There were plenty of wolf and bear tracks however. There is a great place to camp on the south end of this beach across a large stream. We found crossing the stream a ways up from the mouth was easier in the rain flooded channel. We had originally planned on camping here but decided to push on to Homais Cove.
Much of the walking along this stretch was over a ridged shelf that lies exposed at low tide. At high tide the hiking would be more tedious since you would get pushed up against the tall grass near the margin of the forest.
Homais Cove is picturesque spot. Lots of wildlife around with sea lions just off the coast on small islets.
The next day we took off and hiked around Escalante Point with its great lighthouse.
The light house keepers were friendly and invited us in for coffee and cookies. We spent a pleasant couple of hours conversing and reading old newspaper reports of the Japanese shelling of Escalante Lighthouse and Point during WW II. There are also various conspiracy theories about who actually did the shelling back then. Some attribute the firing to US or Canadian vessels as an attempt to get Canada to enter the war in the Pacific. As a result of thie shelling Canadian war bonds sold at a great rate and a few months later Canada committed troops to the war effort in the Pacific.
Past the lighthouse we started along a beach that we called BBB-Billion Boulder Beach. We found the going tedious across boulders of varying sizes. This stretch is about 7 k's long and there are no camping areas until one get close to Matlahaw Point on the SE corner of the Peninsula. There is camping at Smokehouse Bay and a small stream provided for a water source near there. We treated all water sources by filtering.
We pushed on past the point and camped at the site of Hesquiat village. This used to be home to close to 5,000 First Nations people. We had read the story of Father Brabant's mission to Hesquiat so we wanted to explore the area. There are now only 3 full time residents on the reserve-David and Diane Ignace and family live in the first house on the left hand side. We stopped in for tea and paid them a reasonable fee for camping on the reserve ($10 per night per tent). We explored around but the only reminder from the mission days from the 1870's was the mission bell in the building that was meant to be a museum.
Purdon Creek at the north end of the reserve can be waded or more easily crossed on the bridge a bit upstream from the mouth.
The stretch from Hesquiat to Teamit beach was some of the best hiking on incredible beautiful sandy beaches. Out from Hesquiat the beaches were mostly small rocks or pebbles until about 1 km past Anton's Spit. We camped at the last creek, Bwan'as Creek just before LeClair Point.
Although it is possible to round the Point at high tide by scrambling along the small cliffs, we found the going to be easier at low tide. There are a few headlands along the way to Boat Basin that necessitate leaving the coast and walking along some well defined by pass trails though the forest.
The remaining section to Boat Basin is fairly easy hiking along rock, sandy and pebble beaches.
We toured Cougar Annie's garden by arranging to meet up with Peter Buckland through e-mail before the trip. The site for it is here:
We found the tour and the gardens as well as Peter's vision for the area to be well worth the visit.
The next day we hiked along the logging road for a few kms to Hesquiat Lake where Air Nootka picked us up.
We spent 4 and a half days on the trail. Most days were easy to moderate walking with the one day from Homais COve to Hesquiat being hard. The total length of the trek was about 47 km. Aside from two other hikers who we passed near Homais Cove we saw no other hikers the entire time that we were there. Saw a few bear and lots of sign of wolf and cougar.
Well worth the effort and expense associated with the access.