Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Interest: Adventure travel
North Coast Trail 13-19 Sept 2021
I guess it was a matter of time before we were caught in a wet fall on Vancouver Island. September had been a favourite time to travel and hike the island; not crowded, a bit chilly but dry. Not this time; it was wet, wet, wet for most of the four weeks we spent on the road, and if not raining it was threatening to rain. Still, as a prairie boy, there is a certain magic in the cedar and sitka forests when the atmosphere is so brooding.
We drove to the Island via a more northerly route, through Clearwater to 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and crossed via ferry from Bella Coola.
The main purpose of our travel was to hike the 58km North Coast Trail. We've done that "other" trail on the west coast many times and were intrigued to discover this more rustic route across the top of Vancouver Island. It typically begins with a water taxi from Port Hardy to the start at Shushartie Bay where we immediately experienced the relentless three: roots, rocks and rain!
The trail pops in and out of the forest between pocket beaches; sometimes mild and sometimes wild. Although a few ladders and bridges have been added over the years, simple ropes far outnumber these conveniences.
On day three we enjoyed our only dry day so the camera experienced a bit more use. Bear tracks were common, and wolf tracks on one stretch, but we only encountered bruins hanging around one campsite. Thankfully they were preoccupied with the kelp more than the campers.
Campsites and trail entrances along the beaches are marked with hanging floats. It was helpful to note their locations because tides must always be accounted for, especially at Cape Sutil where a surge channel is impassible at all but low tides. We made it through by a mere 30 minutes after wasting more than an hour following a false trail. Take note, these "detours" are pretty common and practically everyone we encountered had been caught somewhere. A couple that started ahead of us one morning were utterly astonished to find us walking towards them on the trail. They had unknowingly made a complete circle and were heading back!
Rare stretches of boardwalk were welcome but very slippery when wet and often just dropped you off in a swamp anyway. We used the tent platforms on two occasions but they were also super greasy and I took a flyer off one on the last night but thankfully landed in the soft mud.
We reached the finish line and our waiting shuttle bus back to Port Hardy. John the driver gave us a very interesting historic tour on the way back, stopping in the logging town of Holberg to stock up on Czech beer at the grocery store.
For a couple of 60+ adventurers this was a challenging hike; some days averaging not much more than 1km an hour. It was also the fulfillment of a long-standing desire since hearing about this fabled route years ago. Worth it? You betcha!
"Retired but not yet tired"
Last edited by zeljkok; 10-19-2021 at 04:28 AM.