Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail

Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail

When I decided to hike Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail again this year, I had no idea it would be the driest summer since 2003. The WCT is known for torrential rain and mud bogs so deep you sink in past your knees. Those are the kind of conditions I encountered when I first hiked the trail in May 2013. This year the conditions couldn’t be more different. Seven days of perfectly dry weather, bright sunny skies, and barely enough mud to dirty your pant legs. We had short hiking days with lots of time to swim in the warm creeks and relax around campfires in the evening.

Day 1 – Gordon River to Thrasher Bay (south to north)
6 km, 2 hours

It all starts with a boat ride
It all starts with a boat ride

Just before starting the WCT we also hiked the Juan de Fuca trail. The unusually dry conditions made the risk of a forest fire exceptionally high, so there was a fire ban in place. When we arrived at the WCT information center we were excited to learn that the ban excluded the entire WCT. We couldn’t have been happier. Now, if only we’d brought something tasty to cook over the fire. Continue reading “Drought and Forest Fires on the West Coast Trail”

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Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike

Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike

Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is one of Canada’s most popular hikes, and deservedly so. It passes along sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, towering forests, sandstone sea caves, cliffs and tidal pools. You can see bald eagles, sea lions, seals and maybe even the odd black bear. I hiked the WCT two years ago over four rainy days in May. This year I wanted to come back and take a more leisurely pace, really soaking in the scenery, but also making it a bigger and longer hike by combining it with the Juan de Fuca trail. Together, the WCT and Juan de Fuca make a rugged 150-km coastal route.

Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead
Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead

You can hike both trails back-to-back, stopping for a night in Port Renfrew. Walking through Port Renfrew between trailheads adds about 10 km but there’s a good chance you can catch a ride. Continue reading “Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike”

Hiking the West Coast Trail in Spring

Hiking the West Coast Trail in Spring

Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is a 75 km-long rugged coastal route through mud bogs, over slippery boulders, under huge fallen trees, up 70 ladders, across 130 bridges, and zipping over rivers inside 4 cable cars. I hiked the trail in May, when it’s especially wet and muddy.

Day 1 (May 29, 2013)
Bamfield (Pachena Bay ranger station) to Tsocowis Creek Campground
Distance walked: 16 km
Wildlife seen: ravens, 2 black bears, hundreds of smelly seals
Hikers encountered (going opposite way as me): 7 (of these, 5 had just finished the trail)
Hikers encountered (going same way as me): 4
Lunch: fresh avocados with pork jerky, cashews, and chocolate

I wake up at 5:15am in my 6×10 foot hostel room. It’s a private room, but in a solitary-confinement sense. I eat half a dozen bananas then I’m out the door. It’s raining. Hard. I hide under the umbrella I plan to use on the trail. This 15 minute walk to the bus station is the only time I’ll use it for the entire trek, save 5 minutes under a big tree with pounding rain smashing through the upper leaves.

The 6am West Coast Trail "Express" bus departing from rainy Victoria - May 2013
The 6am West Coast Trail “Express” bus departing from rainy Victoria – May 2013

The bus departs at 6am sharp. Continue reading “Hiking the West Coast Trail in Spring”