Don’t get me wrong Salt Spring is a great place to live but the West Coast Trail (WCT) is the ultimate rugged west coast hiking trail. Salt Spring is basically on the lee side of the mountains on Vancouver Island and in a rain shadow. We do not get the massive amount of rain that they get on the outer edge of North America. The West Coast trail is 75 km of the rugged, gnarly trail put in over 100 years ago to save people from shipwrecks. The ships would be blown off course in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and tossed on the rocks. The trail did save thousands of lives. Today it’s a park and one of the better hiking trails in Canada. It gives us a chance to walk in the footsteps of those that endured disaster and make it out safely.
This February my brother in Kansas called me to say his son Jack was coming out to Victoria in May to check out a program at Royal Roads University and asked if we could meet up with him and do something fun. Instantly I jumped on the idea of my nephew Jack hiking the WCT, I knew I could talk both of my sons Keith and Thomas into doing the trip with Jack and me. Keith and I did the trial in 2014. Keith also did the trail in 2016 by himself and was game to do it again. To my surprise, Thomas actually jumped at the chance to do it and so did my 62-year young brother-in-law Rob. Rob has lived on our farm for 6 years and is now a dedicated Saltspring farmer/artist and has a stall at the Saturday market with his sister my wife June.
Logistically planning a trip for 5 presented a few problems such as food and transportation to the trailhead. After working out all the different options of driving one car to Bamfield and leaving it there and other options we opted for the West Coast Trail bus to pick us up in Port Renfrew at the south end and drive us to the north end of the tail and so we could walk the trail from North to South. In 2014 Keith and I opted to go from South to North. It took me a bit of research to figure out the food for 5 for 6 days. It was not an option to just buy Mountain House freeze-dried food for the trip, which we did in 2014. The cost is about 10 per meal and $900 for meals seems like a lot. The parking fee for 5 was $800 plus $450 for the bus. We ended up with a pretty well-rounded 2500 calories per day per person of lightweight food. Three meals per day and 3 snacks with hot chocolate, tea, and coffee all per day. The rice sidekicks were a big hit. I had eaten a few before getting them and did not mind them too much. The term used on the trip was West Coast crunch as the pasta took a while to cook on the fire. Yes, we cooked on the fire not because we wanted to but because of my miscalculation on how much fuel the stove would take to cook for 5. It was a good thing we had one metal water bottle that we used for the entire trip. The fuel burn of a jet boil stove for two is about triple for 5. I did not want to be caught without any fuel if the weather turned rainy. We ended up bringing fuel home but only used the stove for coffee and breakfast in the a.m.
The actual walking of the trail is not that hard if you’re in shape. It’s only walking after all. The key is to have a light pack. Our packs were way, way lighter than almost everyone we met on the trail. My pack, which is a very small 30-litre MEC pack weighed in at 25 pounds at the start and 18 at the finish. I took no spare clothes only two pairs of extra socks that I washed out on the trail. I wore nonwaterproof trail running shoes and had wet feet the entire way but not one blister. The other groups we travelled with all wore big leather boots all had blisters and heavy soaked boots. The thing about running shoes is yes your feet get wet but the water just runs out as fast as it runs in and wool socks keep warm all day. The other thing I did was I did not take a tent and slept under a very lightweight tarp however due to fear of hantavirus because of the mice at a few of the campsites I did bunk in with the boys on a couple of nights. Especially after the mice were trying to get into my sleeping bag, I was not happy with them and did like having to keep waking up to show them off all night long.
The below photos tell the story of the trip. We walked miles and miles of sandy beaches and the muddy west coast trail. I would like to do it again and if anyone is thinking of it let me know. Next May would work for me.
Scott & June Simmons
The Salt Spring Team