Juan De Fuca Trail Nov 9-11, 2011 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 11:11 AM Thread Starter
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Default Juan De Fuca Trail Nov 9-11, 2011

I haven't written a TR for awhile, so here's a local one.

I had a pretty long chunk of days off this week so I decided to hit up the Juan De Fuca trail. I took the bus from Victoria to Sooke, sat down on the side of the road and stuck my thumb out. After about an hour and a half a couple of guys in a pickup stopped and said I could ride in the back, so I did. It was a bit <s>chilly</s> refreshing, and I had a short nap. Before I knew it I was in Jordan River, heading down to China Beach to get this show on the trail. I started hiking at about 2:30 with the hope of getting to Bear Beach before dark.

It was overcast with a very slight sprinkle, and the two km to Mystic flew by with minimal mud and easy trails. Gaitoring up at Mystic, I pushed on to Bear Beach with about 7km to go and an hour and a half of usable light. Not much to say about the trail here, relatively easy with not a ton of mud. (That will have changed by now, but more on that later). I reached Bear during late dusk, and there's a relatively quiet creek immediately prior to the campsite that one must cross or ford. Fording wouldn't be a problem but I still had dry feet and wanted to keep them that way. So, I elected to shimmy across a fallen tree (very narrow, perhaps 10cm diameter) and slippery. I hadn't brought poles on this trip so I poked around, looking for a stick to use as a balance aid – no dice. Eventually I remembered my tripod and unlimbered that to the maximum, locked it into place, and leaning on it like Gandalf in Edoras I made my way across the <s>raging river</s> burbling brook.


Post-sunset at Bear

I went to set up my tarp when I realized I had forgotten two things. One: I forgot my food caching and A-frame cross rope, and two: I had forgotten my water filter. There were food caches at every site so that was okay, but without the A frame I had a less than sheltered couple of nights. Fortunately I keep a 4m rope tied to each corner of my siltarp when I put it away, so I was still able to rig a roof, suspended from trees and stakes. By the time I had set up, cooked, eaten dinner, etc I figured it must have been almost time for bed. After taking a glance at my watch I saw it was only 6:20! Ugh. I read my book for two hours, and then figured that maybe I could sleep from 8:30 to 6:30. If I was lucky.

Somehow I slept until nearly 7 the next day, when first light woke me up. It was a gorgeous sunrise and I managed to snap a photo while tearing down camp and ‘cooking' oatmeal. (Does dumping a packet of oatmeal into boiling water constitute cooking?)



I was off hiking by 8:15 and the goal for today was to get to Parkinson (Km37) or Payzant (40) campsite, as I wanted to finish by noon Friday due to the weather forecast I had seen. The first section, from Bear Beach to Chin beach is the most difficult section of the entire trail – up and down and up and down and up and down ad nauseum, with a sort of pleasant ridgewalk thrown in there. I don't mind elevation gain/loss but I would like to enjoy whatever elevation I'm at for awhile. Not so much here! The most you can hope for is a meter of flat at the top of the uphills, and then the flattest part in the troughs is crossing the bridges over the innumerable streams. However, you just have to bear down and keep chin up and eventually you'll get there. The mud in this section was not as bad as I remember it being 4 years ago. Obviously weather dependent.

I had noted the high tide was at 11:30 today, and when I got to Chin:



So I couldn't collect 200$ and pass go – I was stuck by the tide, along with some other hikers whom I had caught up to. We hung out on a spit of land and watched the crashing waves (and they were huge waves!) geyser and splash, and played the time honoured game favoured by hitchhikers and those with time to kill: “Hit that rock with this rock”.


Wave geysers.


Marooned by the tide.

Eventually two hours passed (Along with a potential 8-10km of distance travelled : ( ) and I decided that the waves had subsided enough that if I timed it carefully, I could make it around a headland and back into the forest. After watching the pattern for a couple of minutes, I had figured I had it figured, so I made my break for it. About 5 feet from jumping up a sandstone wall a big wave came in and I saw I wasn't going to beat it, so I stood there like a sleeping duck and raised one leg (no point getting both feet wet) and let the wave hit me. Soaked me up to my knees roughly. After waiting through a few wave cycles like that they finally receeded enough for me to go onwards and wring out my boot and sock.


That mishap aside, the section from Chin to Sombrio was uneventful – more of the same soul destroying up and down, but not as intense as the prior section. After 8km of this, I finally made it to Sombrio. The section just south of Sombrio where walking above the thunderous surf on a cliff edge is quite impressive, with massive geysers of spray reaching up to you at times. I reached Sombrio East at about 4 with what looked like a beautiful sunset shaping up. I elected to forgo pushing on to Little Kuitshe for the night on the half remembered advice of a MEC staff member a few years ago; “Kuitshe is a horribly dark and damp campsite. Avoid it”. So I did, and set up at Sombrio East and spent half an hour of luxurious nothing in the late afternoon sun.



Even so, I had cooked and set up by 6 this time. As it was clear skies, I figured I'd try some star trail photography, which was an epic failure due to the full moon. And condensation on lens. As I was returning from stashing my stuff in the food cache, I saw two green eyes staring at me from right beside my tarp, perhaps 10 feet away from me. I was startled and made some noise and yelled at said eyes, and boosted the luminosity of my lamp to see what was there. Oh, just a bear. A very unafraid and apparently hungry bear. It was not intimidated at all by my yelling or rock throwing, and it only reluctantly moved away as I got closer and louder. It hung out around me for about an hour before finally wandering off. I can certainly vouch for the fact that bears do indeed have green tapeta lucida. Someone has been teaching the bears at Sombrio some very bad manners…


Dusk hues at Sombrio

In any case, it was a good way to kill time. After trying some photography by the light of the moon I turned in, not thinking that the perfectly clear skies would turn into a deluge. Incidentally, the rocks at Sombrio were the worst hazard of the entire trip – ridiculously slippery. A minor nuisance on such a beautiful night though.


Sombrio River by moonlight

At around 4am I was woken up by what sounded like hordes of insects pounding on my tarp with miniature hammers. I realized that it was raining… from every direction. After a couple of hours of listening to this deluge I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag, got my jacket on, and proceeded to pack up in the aerial flood. My pack gained 10 pounds of weight due to water weight. I got going in the dusk, anxious to beat the next high tide cutoff at Sombrio West West. The slippery rocks were a huge progress impendence, but I finally got past them while just barely beating the passable tide into the <s>forest</s> mud. From Sombrio to Little Kuitshe there was far more submerged trail than not-submerged trail, with a good portion of mud thrown in. To boot, the light barely penetrated the canopy and I was stumbling along like it was Mirkwood for a few kilometers. A few times I <s> freestyle boot skied </s> slipped screaming like a little girl down some relatively significant inclines. After awhile I did get to Little Kuitshe and the unnamed MEC staff member was right – what an ugly camp site. Never camp here if you have options.

In any case, Little Kuitshe Creek was now Big Angry Kuitshe on Steroids Creek. It was raging and very muddy. The bridge was pretty solid though, and so I passed on aiming to get to Parkinson Creek before I took a break (another 3km). The trail was more of the same (dark, dank, mud) with some overhanging branches and lakes on the trail. My umbrella that I brought on a whim really came in handy in this section, as there was minimal wind in the forest and a lot of veggies to push away, not to mention the ongoing 40 days of rain. Passing a couple of hikers on the trail (the only other through hikers I saw) and having to mostly jump a creek who's bridge was submerged, I reached Parkinson at about 10:30, where the rain intensified. I mowed down my lunch and pushed on, hoping to get to Botanical by noon in time to hitch hike back to Victoria. Shortly after Parkinson there is a creek with no bridge that requires fording – came up to mid shin. Since my boots were full of water already, it didn't matter to me. I wish I was a hobbit so I didn't have to wear boots. Bare feet dry so much more quickly.

There's not much to say for the trail from Parkinson to Payzant. An ugly salal-y and clearcut muddy mess, exposed to ocean winds but no ocean views. Payzant seemed like a nice enough forest campsite, and the rain seemed to be abating somewhat. From Payzant to Botanical the trail was in the best shape, with multiple boardwalks and staircases. There is a creek with no bridge on it that's too risky to jump, but by scrambling down to sea level there are a bunch of jagged rocks that you can hop on. This may be impossible with a very high tide, I'm not sure. Just keep it in mind if you get there.

With about 3km to go, I started seeing blue in the mud puddles. I was certain I was hallucinating and stopped to take a drink of water before actually looking up and seeing some blue sky. Miracle of miracles. By the time I got to Botanical it was mostly blue sky with an extremely stiff wind.

I walked another 4km through Port Renfrew and to the edge of town and proceeded to wait for someone to pick me up. This time it took only an hour, and I even got to ride in the cab of the truck this time. I felt bad for the driver as my boots stunk, but c'est la vie. Thanks for the pick up, John!

I had a delicious burger at the Fifth Street Grill back in Victoria, enjoyed a winter ale and a hot shower, relaxed. Unhappy with most of my pictures as always.

I worked out that I had spent 47 hours on the trail (47km trail, incidentally) with 16.5 hours of daylight and almost all of that spent hiking, minus the time stuck at Chin.

I have to say the JDFT has the worst effort to reward ratio of the coastal hikes I've done so far (NCT, Wild Side Trail, Hesquiat Trail). The north bit past Sombrio especially seemed pointless.

So go forth and enjoy the sensual mud spa for your feet as much as I did.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 11:26 AM
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sweet as bru!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 12:52 PM
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You are a brave man to try that trail at this time of year.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 01:03 PM
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Hmmmm.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 01:19 PM
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A good tale of the trail JD.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 02:14 PM
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Love that hit that rock with this rock game[8D]
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2011, 03:12 PM
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Thanks Jon.

Thoroughly enjoyed your epic tale of a tough trip.

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post #8 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 08:09 AM
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Good trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this one a few years back. Had the pleasure of watching a whale frolic in the waters just off of Bear beach.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 08:34 AM
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Nice work, especially for this time of the year. And a well told tale!

I agree - that stretch between Parkinson and Payzant is easily forgotten. I actually camped at Little Kuitshe once - other than spotting some sea otters offshore by bashing my way out to the cliffs, I wish I had kept going...
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 10:28 AM
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Once got hemmed in against the cliffwall at nearby Mystic Beach with some college girls...
A good trip except the waves killed our fire, that close!
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 11:13 AM
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I hope to solo the JDFT in early spring. You've definitely whet my appetite. Thanks for the thorough TR.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 11:27 AM
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That sounds like a very wet adventure. I don't think I would have fallen asleep with that bear right there.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 02:49 PM
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quote:Originally posted by DPM

Nice work, especially for this time of the year. And a well told tale!

I agree - that stretch between Parkinson and Payzant is easily forgotten. I actually camped at Little Kuitshe once - other than spotting some sea otters offshore by bashing my way out to the cliffs, I wish I had kept going...
On my first trip there many years ago trail running I also saw sea otters there; it was the only time I've ever seen them before or since save for the Van Aquarium. Around Parkinson I also saw a cougar high in a tree and later several bears at Botanical. It's a great trail for wildlife viewing
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by mick range

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by DPM

Nice work, especially for this time of the year. And a well told tale!

I agree - that stretch between Parkinson and Payzant is easily forgotten. I actually camped at Little Kuitshe once - other than spotting some sea otters offshore by bashing my way out to the cliffs, I wish I had kept going...
On my first trip there many years ago trail running I also saw sea otters there; it was the only time I've ever seen them before or since save for the Van Aquarium. Around Parkinson I also saw a cougar high in a tree and later several bears at Botanical. It's a great trail for wildlife viewing
Cool. Only place I've seen a (sea) otter was near Shuttleworth Bight on the NCT. Nice creatures... for their ecological effect AND looks. :P
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 11-13-2011, 05:49 PM
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Cool tale Jon. I loved the "why get both feet wet" part. When did you move to Victoria?
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