Hello again from the west coast of Canada – the Juan de Fuca Strait. I was going to use the term extreme west coast, but did not since it is technically possible to go a little further west than our present location on the southwest side of Vancouver Island.
As readers know, our backcountry hike did not go as planned. However, in many ways the unfortunate knee injury I referred to last week actually made our experience better. Since we could not keep pace with our daughter and son-in-law, we agreed to part company and they surged ahead in hopes of completing the hike on time and at the agreed upon completion point. Despite the delay that we caused, Amanda and Kelly completed the 47-km hike on time and literally popped out of bush 20 minutes before our oldest son arrived to pick them up.
After reaching the half-way point in the trail (Sombrio Beach), Angela and I hiked an additional two kilometres up an access road in hopes of finding cell service. That was a futile exercise, so I then ascended an abandoned logging road in hopes of reaching the highest ground in the area. When the road ran out, I climbed an adjacent hill, stood on a tree stump and held the phone as high as possible. As I grabbed a nearby tree to steady myself, I noticed an ornament hanging on a branch. It was a stained-glass tribute to someone’s mother and had a verse written on it. What it was doing there in the middle of nowhere remains to be answered.
Our attempts to contact our pick-up man by cell phone were appreciated by a park employee who explained even their satellite phones do not perform reliably at that particular area. He offered to phone our son and relay a message when he returned to an area that had phone service.
To our surprise, our son received our message but did not heed the instructions. Instead of arriving later as per the message, he felt an urgency to follow the original timetable which worked out perfectly.
I should explain that the trail has primitive camping spots only at specific locations. If hikers fail to make it to the camps, there are only three choices: try to hike to a camp in the dark, sleep on the narrow trail or find an open area or animal trail wide enough to pitch a tent.
Amanda and Kelly found themselves stuck between campsites when high tide prevented them from following the route along the ocean shoreline. After exploring the area they were fortunate to find a great camping spot that was not on the map. The only downfall was all their food had to be hoisted as high as possible from a tree branch in case a hungry bear smelled their provisions.
While this action was going on without our knowledge, we were carefully making our way toward the half-way spot of the rain forest trail. Ferns and moss grow everywhere and giant trees literally block the noon-day sun so the forest floor is cool and comfortable on a hot day. Tall stands of cedar and fir that are hundreds of years old give way to dense bush that is impossible to get through without getting scratched to ribbons. Other memorable aspects of the trail include huge trees that have fallen and now form pathways for hikers to walk on, suspension bridges and natural challenges such as mazes of tree roots, uphill grades that require a rope to ascend and bog holes big enough to swallow an annoying spouse. Without notice the trail will open up to incredible views of the ocean, ships passing, beautiful beaches and waves crashing on massive rocks.
We met a couple of hikers who mentioned a mystical waterfall at the east end of Sombrio Beach (our destination) and said it was worth visiting. After reaching the popular camping area, we set up our tent and decided to hike to the stream in order to refill our water bottles. We had no idea how long it would take to reach the site or if it actually existed since it was not indicated on the official map. Furthermore, our son and daughter-in-law had hiked the trail a few years ago and never saw the waterfall.
After a 20-minute hike along the shoreline, we came to a small creek and followed it into the trees. After only a couple of minutes, a cave came into view. It was actually a ravine that was eroded by rushing water over hundreds or thousands of years. The top of the canyon was overgrown with thick vegetation so it appeared like a cave. As we followed the stream and entered the dark world ahead, a waterfall came into view. It was surrounded by smooth, circular rock walls covered in green moss. It was like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. The water that cascaded 30 feet down was bathed in sunlight and was accompanied by an unrelenting rush of cool air. It was refreshing to simply stand there and look at the spectacle.
With no one else around other than my wife, I climbed into the incredible shower and let the rush of cold water strip away three days of grime. Angela was more conservative and washed downstream. Since none of the campsites have treated water sources, I wondered if anyone below was collecting drinking water while I was showering. As we emerged from the darkness my question was answered.
While we did not complete the hike, we had an awesome time and went on to enjoy four more days with our children and grandchildren at Ucluelet and Tofino – surf central.