Written by: Cam Stacey; Photos by: Ron Segstro
Seated on a sun-warmed sandy beach, leaning back comfortably against a centuries old cedar trunk and watching another whale breach and send his plume of spray soaring.....just another beautiful evening on the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island...
In June of this year ten lucky Manitoba Nature members had the chance to savour this great adventure on Vancouver Island's rugged west coast for seven days.
For those who enjoy hiking and backpacking, the West Coast Trail is one of the bucket-list trips that you dream about doing. The trip involves hiking for 75km along the beaches and through the rainforests of Pacific Rim National Park. The trail was originally intended to aid shipwrecked survivors trying to make there way back to civilization after being washed up on the often treacherous coast. Now it is a spectacular and challenging trip for modern day adventurers - one that it is walked by travellers from around the world.
Our trip was spearheaded and organized by well-known Manitoba Nature trip leader Sean Worden. The area of the trail is relatively remote, and access is limited by Parks Canada, so a fair amount of logistical work and pre-planning is required. Luckily Sean was up to the job: arranging flights, hotels, shuttles to and from the trail heads, and obtaining the required trail and ferry passes. The rest of the band of intrepid explorers included Lesly Andrews, George Derwin, Debbie Doucette and son Jake, Linda Dreger, Andre Laberge, Denise Levesque, Ron Segstro, and Cam Stacey.
The area of the trail is well known for periods of less than ideal weather: it is a rain forest after all! The 2016 season had been relatively dry when we began the trail and we were blessed with remarkably settled weather with almost no rain, and mist that held off until the last of our seven days. Under sunny skies we were able to enjoy all the pleasures that the trail has to offer: deep rainforests full of towering old growth douglas fir, western cedar, and fern gullies, gorgeous sand and gravel beaches with crashing surf and occasional shipwreck remains, suspension bridges, cable-car river crossings, countless ladders both big and small to climb and descend cliffs and ravines, and every night beautiful campsites on the beach. The forest is also home to bears, cougars, eagles and other wildlife, in addition to impressive giant slugs and a variety of creatures in the tidal pools. And just offshore: seals, sealions, orcas, and lots of spouting whales!
To say that our group had an incredible trip would be an understatement. The scenery was beautiful and varied at every turn, the company was excellent, and the effort of travelling self-supported with packs each weighing at least 40 pounds meant sound sleeps every night. And it wasn't all roughing it....what other back country trip has a burger joint half way along in the middle of the wilderness.....even if the burgers did cost $25 each! And the next day on the trail: a crab and fish restaurant, just in time for lunch. This is one special trail!
So if you enjoy the Mantario Trail or other hiking trips and feel that maybe you need a new challenge, this is a trip you definitely should consider. The West Coast Trail will not disappoint you; the problem will be finding another trip afterwards to top it!