“I don’t know how they can call this a trail.” This was the comment from one of my trek-mates in the first leg of the West Coast Trail last week. We started from the south end and did the first 13 K in 7 hours which is pretty good compared to some – the last 12 K took 3.5 hours which tells you the difference in difficulty from south to north.
If you are thinking about doing the West Coast Trail here are 5 simple steps:
1. Can you and do you want to do the West Coast Trail? If your answer is no then don’t do it. The southern end is challenging even in a dry year like 2015. Five out of six of us fell at least once on the trek and fortunately had only minor scrapes and bruises.
2. Have the right gear:
– must have: waterproof boots (again even in this drought year 2015 your feet will get wet and wet feet breed blisters), extra socks because once wet nothing dries even if it isn’t raining), pack covers for protecting pack and contents from rain and overnight dew, and of course the usual food, fuel, and toilet paper (one role per person per week is a good rule of thumb). And of course a sense of humor and a sense of adventure.
– optional: Gaiters probably would be a good idea in a year with more rainfall and were helpful even in this dry year to keep sand and water from pouring in over the tops of our boots. Poles are favored by some and considered a nuisance by others – I used the one pole method to keep one hand open to grab onto branches, roots, and anything else to help with balance. We broke one pole and bent another within the first day on the trail, so the down side was carrying the broken pole the rest of the trek. Camping pillows can help in getting a good night sleep.
– do not bring: Cell phone – contrary to reports we had no cell coverage anywhere including Port Renfrew, the entire trail, and all but the top of one hill in Bamfield so don’t bother bringing it. Hammocks are not helpful as an alternative to tents due to campsites being on the beach and no suitable place to hang them for most sites. Avoid down sleeping bags or vests as once wet they are not usable.
3. plan your itinerary:
– Our 5 night itinerary for West Coast Trail 2015 was: Campers Bay (7 hours from start and grueling), Walbran, Dare Beach, Tsusiat Falls, Michigan Creek
– plan to take more time then you think you will need in order to have some time to enjoy the scenery
– south to north worked well for our group in order to get the hardest part (first 2 days of the south end) out of the way and the packs didn’t get that much lighter by the end of the trek anyways.
– plan your water stops and if you have a bigger group be careful to plan for water stops so that the faster hikers do not leave the slower ones without water. Have lunch at a creek and fill up your water bottles before heading off again.
4. Take your time and watch your step as every step is potentially slippery and as soon as you relax you will slip and fall.
5. Decide how much cash you want to spend at Chez Moniques and the Crab Shack at the Ninat Narrows. Both have good food but pricey due to the location. You may also need cash for a cab ride at either end depending on your transportation plans.
And of course have fun!