When a friend sent me a text back in March asking if I wanted to hike the West Coast Trail I had no idea what it was. He told me it was was one of the top ten hikes in the world and that we had to book that day. So I agreed. I was planning on quitting my corporate job anyways so I figured I would have some time on my hands. This trail was one of the truly memorable trips of my life. If you have a chance to go, take it! I thought I would share my experience to help those who want to tackle this trail in the future. Here are my takeaways after spending 5 nights and 6 days on the trail:
I'm not gonna lie, it's a tough hike. The first two or three days can be really grueling. If you start on the south end you can get the toughest parts out of the way while you are fresh. The first two days you are in the rain forest. It's slippery, muddy, and rarely will you have sure footing. Mentally the trail is challenging. You have to watch every step because it's almost always uneven. You can also expect to encounter lots of these:
Ladders are a common occurrence on the trail. Make sure you have gloves in case it's wet. There's around 70 of these things, so get used to it. The first day we did around 13km, which took us around nine hours to complete. The view is totally worth it:
Day two is another 9km through the forest. By now you are starting to feel the fatigue of going up and down ladders, balancing on fallen trees, and navigating large root systems. At this point in the trail I wished I had packed about 10 pounds lighter than I did. The heaviest category in your pack is usually food. Here's a pro tip: DO NOT BRING 30 PROTEIN BARS!!!! If you want to bring some, maybe do 1/day max. The rest of your food should be dehydrated packages that just require boiling water. It's so much lighter and easier to deal with. I ended up ditching a lot of my food along the way by donating to other hikers just to shed weight. As you've probably heard, there is a place to buy burgers halfway through. There's also a box where hikers donate food there. You can probably find some extra dehydrated meals. It's no guarantee, but it's likely. It might not be worth the risk of not bringing enough of your own. If I do it again, I'll risk it. But that's just me. Other ways to save weight: Share tents and stoves, pack only two outfits, use water filtration tablets instead of bulky filters, lose ten pounds before you go :) Here's what my gear looked like:
I don't know what I was thinking. Just go as minimalist as you are comfortable going. You'll thank me later. I'll do a packing list in another post.
I highly recommend taking a good pair of poles. I used them heavily the first three days when terrain and distance were tough. There were times I don't think I could have pushed myself over another obstacle without them. Once we did more beach walking I used them less, but I'm REALLY glad I had them in the forest.
Some of the most refreshing, rewarding swims of my life happened on the West Coast Trail. Bring a swimsuit and travel towel. I just swam in my hiking shorts, but there were times I wished I had a suit. Also, bring a good pair of sandals to wear around water and in camp. The water is cold, but it feels amazing after eight hours of hiking. You'll get the chance to swim in both fresh water pools and waterfalls, as well as the ocean if you are brave enough for a quick dip. I lasted about 15 seconds.
Make sure you take waterproof boots with high ankle support. I can't stress this enough. The terrain in the forest is really uneven. There's also a lot of water and mud. Bring gaiters that are easy to take on and off. I used the Merrill Pulsate Mid Waterproof and like them OK. A little big on my feet, but ultimately got the job done.
We did this in five nights and six days. The last three days were not too difficult and gave us time to really enjoy the experience. Some hikers wanted to do it in four days, and I never understood it. This is some of the most beautiful terrain on the planet. You will want to soak it in and relax, and have some downtime. If you hurry, you might miss this:
Trailhead transportation: www.trailbus.com (pretty much your only option if you don't want to juggle cars)
Accomodations in Victoria: www.airbnb.com (we found cheap places that were nice)
More Reading Material: Blisters and Bliss (This is a MUST HAVE on the trail)
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The Seven Pass Route: Iceberg Lake To Bremner Mine by Mike Francis