The Adventures of Cathy - Chapter 9 - The Ugly AmericanIt was cold and misty as I stepped onto the deck of the ferry heading from Port Angles Washington to Victoria B.C. We were on our way to hike a legendary trail of world renowned. With over an hour to kill I pulled out a book I had picked up at a used bookstore in town. It was one of Jonathan Kellerman's mystery novels, "Silent Partner". A friend of mine had recommended him to me as an easy and enjoyable read. After finishing it I have to disagree. His later stuff is much better.
The fog still encased us as we drove off the ferry an onto Vancouver Island. The Canadian customs greeted us and we were forbidden to bring fruit into the country. Little did they know I had the sacred orange seed of death hidden in the car. Not even the most sensitive hound could smell it out. I was able to pass by with my innocent looks. They never suspected my plan of planting an orchard and wiping out the entire population of British Columbia with my tainted orange seed. I said a quick "God save the Queen" and in minutes we were off to the coast.
A slight chill and sunny sky awaited us at the Pacific Rim National Park Hikers Registration office. I was handed a slew of information on the trail and we were signed up to start the trail the next day at 900am. During the orientation video we were guaranteed to fall down a minimum of 3 times. I thought of my previous adventures and multiplied that number by 10. As we read through the pamphlet I was amazed, "Hikers must understand that hiking this trail is not without personal risk. Accidents and injuries are common." That will be $70.00 please. Only 52 people are allowed to start the trail each day. 26 from each end. I felt elated and luck to be one of the few to have the privilege to make myself miserable for a week.
We headed into the town of Port Renfrew to park the car while we were hiking. This town could easily be used in a Coen Bros. film. It has a population of 250. Stan and June let hikers park on their lot for $2.00 a night. Stan came out to greet us in a thin greasy white shirt and blue holy sweat pants with the band folded over a few times by way of his ample belly. He had about 4 teeth missing and several yellow ones glowed at us. They had a few rabbits, all named George hopping about. He told a story of how cougars came and got a few, "used to have 15 ya know." I learned the tricks of speaking Canadian. All one needs to do is start every sentence with, "Ya" and end it with, "okey dokey", "well allrighty then", or "did ja now". Up the road at a store for hikers I encountered a chubby little girl of about 5 with huge hair. She reminded me of a troll. The only words I heard her say were, "well that little bastard" Ahhh how cute. The character of troll children and yellow toothed men made me realize what an ugly American I am. Trouncing about the country relying on others hard work and service oriented attitude to make my life easier.
We caught the ferry with 11 others to take us to the trail head. We had to use a line to get all of the backpacks off with out getting all wet. There was no dock at this end. As the ferry pulled away we could only go forward. The trail headed up and up and up, over mud more mud and more mud. Most of the time you had to use both hands to hop 4 feet down onto tree roots and mud. It was a roller coaster. The had installed ladders to help us out, over 50. Some with descents or accents of over 150 ft. They also gave us over 135 bridges to cross. This does not include the makeshift fallen tree trucks that conveniently fell over a gorge to supply an easier crossing. We had planned on going 14 kilometers the first day. We ended up only going 6. We were going a rapid pace of under 1K an hour. The metric system is such a pain. I actually had to use my brain a few time to calculate kilometers into miles.
Our first night camping on the beach was great. We checked the tide charts and set up as far back as possible. The tide still came up with in 5 feet of the tent. The park had supplied us with an outhouses in the recommended camp sites, but unbeknownst to us we were to bring our own T.P. oooops. Another little qwirk happened to me too. My Aunt Flo decided to join me. I thought she may be there the last day, but she came early and I was not prepared. I made nice with some other hikers and they were able to give me a pillow for her, not my choice, but better than nothing. The trail crosses Indian Reservations and on one they have set up a hamburger stand. The helpful hikers told me I could purchase Flo some products there. It was still at least a 2 or 3 days away, but we didn't have to turn around. That morning a man walked up to us with a roll of TP and said, "word is your guys need this." What a cool thing. Happy for the help but somewhat disturbed our toileting dilemmas had made their way across camp.
The second day only doing 8k, well below our imagined pace, we climbed up and down boulders right on the coast. Out on a point we came to sea caves that were just amazing had to wait 2 hours for the tide to get low enough for us to cross. They had set up cable cars over 5 or 6 creeks. They just had enough space for two people and their packs. The cable rusty and the pulleys rusty it took some effort to pull yourself across. We made it into the next sight and I saw two grey whales spouting and playing about in the ocean. That day I also saw a mink and a bald eagle. I have never seen so many seagulls. Over 200 of them sat on the beach just being birds. I went out on a wing and chased them. They all circled around me yelling at me with their foul language. I hoped they wouldn't drop on me. I'd bill them for the cleaning feather or not it was my fault. It was a bird brained thing to do. It did take gull to act like that.
One of the lighthouses, Carmanah Point, we passed let hikers roam around their area. The family had been their for 11 years. The wife came out when she saw me perusing her garden, which was amazing. She ran over and I thought I was going to get yelled at, but instead she told us to pick some of the raspberries. She had to many and couldn't keep up with them. We filled a baggie and had fresh fruit. Yum. The place was very zen. Somewhat of an oasis in the muck of the rain forest.
The next days provided more hard hiking, ladders, bridges, mud, tree roots, etc. I had my first fall an landed splat in the middle of a mud pit. Pearls to swine. That night we managed to camp where only one other set of hikers were. Feeling icky and oh so natural I stripped down to bath in the freezing river. Half way done I turn around a two teenage boys and their father had arrived to camp. I imagine the boys were embarrassed because they kept looking at me and giggling. OH well. I put my fleese jacket on, but the rest of my clothes were soaked from my attempts at washing them out. I went to our tent and sat on a log to wait for the new arrivals to settle before I finished. The dad walks over to get firewood and starts a conversation with me. I was a bit shocked, but tried to pretend speaking with strangers and not having pants on was normal. He had a thick German accent and I tried not to ask how the moon was tonight. We hadn't seen sun for a few days and I didn't want to confuse him. Do they have that cliche in Germany?
We also met a group from Alberta. One of them was doing an Ironman competition in a month. I am proud to say I faired better than him in the fall, cuts and bruises category. The last half of the trail was much less strenuous, not as many ladders or mud, but you still could not go very quickly. The coast is proud to boast over 50 shipwrecks. When we could walk the beach we came across the remains of several ships that had failed to navigate the area. This trail is world renowned for its difficulty and hikers from South Africa, Australia, Europe, Japan, etc. make this their vacation spot. The multi cultural pain and discomfort made me bond that could maybe inspire world peace.
Sorry this is so long. I have left a lot out. This was the hardest and most amazing hike yet. I would do it again and recommend it to anyone who enjoys the challenge and has good knees - mine still aren't healed from that hike. Next up is Idaho, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and much much more.
Happy Trails -
Copyright (C) 1998-2008 Cathy Cutler