The original plan was to do the West Coast Trail, however as our child minding plans fell through we had to find something a little more kid friendly for 7 and 11 year olds. Cape Scott was also on our to do list, doing it on short notice just required scrounging up some extra gear for the 2 little people. As a result my carefully planned 37lb pack for 7 days on the West Coast Trail ended up in the 55lb+ range for 5 days at Cape Scott.
From Port Hardy, Cape Scott is 90+ minutes on logging roads. Fortunately they are in good shape that cars have no problems, and we didn't see any active haulers, though there was one crazy van speeding hidden in the dust cloud of the pickup in front of him.
After a late start and a 5 hour drive, we got to the trailhead after 2pm. Getting ready and loaded up took a bit, and we were finally rolling at 3. Our goal for the first day was Fisherman's River, a mere 9.3km away. While it isn't listed as a campsite on many maps and doesn't have a bear bin, it does have 2 tent pads and an outhouse, and is considered the best water source for 6km+ in either direction. The water was only slightly coloured, later sources it would turn a much darker brown. We got camp set up before dark, so all went well. The park maps do list estimate hiking times to the different destinations, and I found between little people and big packs if I added 1/3 plus breaks, I could estimate how long something would take.
Tent in the back is a roomy 3lb Tarptent Stratospire 2 with 2 doors and large vestibules, tent in the front is a cramped (unless you are a kid) 6lb older North Face tent with a small vestibule that we borrowed. When rain is to be expected, weight becomes secondary to shedding water, or we'd have taken a 4lb bargain bin tent for the kids.
After a slow start, we were underway by 11. Lunch found us at a crossroad where we saw some old remains from the failed Danish colony, and then by 4 we made it to our camp at Nels Bight, 7+ km away. The kids suddenly had tons of energy, and got to enjoy some nice sunshine at the beach. Water here was a much darker brown than Fisherman's River, but the taste wasn't super bad... We weren't using any filters (except maybe a silk scarf), and used chlorine drops or boiling on anything we drank. We decided that it would be best to stay here for 3 days and eat lots of food so that our packs could get a bit lighter for the trip home.
Lots of people build camp sites out of driftwood, and because the season ended we got our pick of sites. There are also camp sites just in the tree line in case of high winter tides.
Our food had some extra flavour, as we found a few Chanterelle mushrooms and a perfect King Bolete. We weren't expecting them as the rains hadn't really started, but it's so damp here year round that we lucked out.
I did notice the waves were happy to see us, as they 'waved' at us.
The weather was still nice and sunny, so we took a day trip out to the lighthouse. Late starts seemed to be the theme of the week, so we were rolling by noon and at the lighthouse by 3. We didn't carry much water and figured we'd fill up at a different water point half-way there, hoping for better water... no such luck.
Our primary goal was to get there by low tide so we could see the sea caves. Low tide was posted as 2:20, but my observations showed actual low tide was about 40 minutes behind the charts. Still, a 1.6m low tide meant I had to get creative and build a bridge for everyone else to get to the actual caves, and we couldn't stay too long.
This was a rest day, mostly spent exploring. While we had a bit of rain overnight, the morning and early afternoon were nice and sunny. We'd also seen tarps stashed at pretty much every campsite, so we scoured the woods until we found a nice big one in one of the bear bins.
We checked out the new Ranger's cabin, which had just been officially finished the day before.
It even had a shower, with an old float on a pulley that you can pour water in and then use to shower.
The lighthouse keeper had warned us about rain and wind due, so when the squalls started to hit late afternoon, we decided to pack up and move into the cabin. The rangers had left for the winter, so with the exception of 2 small rooms, the cabin was open and accessible to hikers. I figured a day in the dry would help lighten our load for the next day and make packing up much easier. The cabin also has a cistern, and while it's labeled as non-potable, we treated it and thought it was the best water all hike.
After a windy night of torrential rains, we were greeted by blue skies and sunny weather once again. Which was great, as we had a 16.5km hike back to the car. We managed it in 8 hours including breaks, and were very happy to see the car again.
The weather was exceptional, especially for this time of year. Cape Scott rivals Tofino for rain, and is easily one of the wettest places in North America. On the other hand, everyone I talk to seems to experience nice weather there as well.
This is definitely a place I'll return to, kids included, though I'm making plans to sew a lightweight tent (for solo trips for myself, or as a 2nd tent for the kids). I figure I can shave off 4lbs just with that, and as the kids get older they can carry more and more.