If there was a day I was dreading, it was Day 3. I’d be obsessively tracking the weather prior to our departure, and every day looked okay except for Day 3, which called for rain, rain, and more rain.
Sure enough, I heard the rain pounding down in the night, and when we woke up in the morning, it was still coming down strong. We used teamwork! to take down the tents in the rain, with three of us holding the fly up as a roof so that the fourth could roll up the tent underneath it, without it getting soaked.
The tides worked in our favour today, and hiking in the rain wasn’t so bad when it was along the shores of the Pacific. The waves were angry and a lot of fun to watch. As we made our way down the beach and the sand got softer, the walking got a little harder. I was almost happy to jump into the forest by Tsuquadra Point.
I shouldn’t have been so happy – this section was muddy, muddy, muddy. We encountered (in my opinion) the most challenging part of the trail at this point: a short but steep uphill section so slick with mud, you needed to use ropes to make your way over. Think Shadow trying to climb out of the mud pit in Homeward Bound.
Luckily, things took a turn for the better shortly after. The trail opened up and we discovered we were at the Nitinat Narrows. This is the point where you have to catch a ferry to get across the narrows. A couple from Ottawa was already waiting at the dock when we arrived. They said they’d just missed the previous ferry, so we took off our packs and settled in while we waited. After a quarter of an hour, a man pulled up with a boat. Moments after we took off, someone pointed out a small bear pacing along the shore. We watched as it made its way to the dock we’d stood on moments before. This was my ideal bear sighting: we were close enough to see it really well, but we were also safe from it on the boat and heading to the opposite shore.
Waiting for us at the opposite shore was the infamous Crab Shack. It was everything I’d ever dreamed of, and more. The crackling wood burning stove was calling my name on this especially damp day. We hung our jackets around it and snuggled up next to the snooziest chocolate lab I’ve ever seen, waiting for our orders to be prepared.
The three boys ordered crab. At $30 a pop, it seemed expensive, but they noted that Dungeness crab in restaurants is never cheap, and it certainly is never as fresh as this one (which we’d watch the guy kill moments before). My salmon was also $30, but the serving was massive, the fish was fresh, and it came with a big old baked potato. We chatted with the people at the Crab Shack, and they were wonderfully friendly. I sampled the lady behind the counter’s baking (the banana bread and chocolate cookies are fantastic), and we chatted with her four year old son until he fell asleep beside the chocolate lab.
High on Omega-3 and donning a bone dry jacket, the section south of Nitinat Narrows felt like walking on sunshine. There was a huge stretch of impeccably maintained boardwalk here – we were practically skipping along it. Apparently, this section used to be notoriously awful. Judging by the state of the boardwalks, they are very new – and very awesome.
We slowed as we got to the Cheewhat River. A couple was waiting by the side of the suspension bridge. They told us they were waiting to be evacuated. The guy – otherwise appearing to be a fit and healthy dude – had tweaked something in his back and couldn’t bear the weight of the pack, so they had to tap out. That sobered us up a little bit.
From there, it was heads down until we made it to our campsite at Cribs Creek. By the time we arrived, the skies had cleared and you could see the sun trying to poke through the clouds.
It was a long day – arguably our toughest, looking back – but it had been as fun as it had been tough.
It was raining when I woke up on the fourth morning. I didn’t like that – the forecast had only called for one day of rain, and we were supposed to be past that.
It turns out that the West Coast Trail doesn’t care about what the forecast says. We’d see spurts of rain a few more times before we finished the trail. It never poured too hard and it never stuck around for more than a few hours. The result was that we were constantly damp, but never soaked*.
*Except for my feet. My feet definitely got soaked.
Cribs to Carmanah Point was a breezy walk on the beach. Books and blog posts had tried to spook us about the long climb up from the beach to the Carmanah Lighthouse, but it wasn’t bad in the least. We met a few of the lighthouse fellows up top and had a quick chat with them, then made our way towards the infamous Chez Monique’s.
Monique’s burger was good, but the Nanaimo bar was even better. I picked up a bag of sour keys, which I snacked on as we plodded on along the beach for the rest of the afternoon.
We caught a couple more cable cars (yaaaaay!) before making it to our fourth campsite at Walbran. You guessed it: another perfect set up right on the ocean. I tried to take a quick swim in Walbran Creek, but it was too cold to fully immerse myself. The boys had better luck.
We’d been leap frogging with two fellows from Calgary the entire trip; it turns out they had the exact same itinerary that we did. They joined us around the campfire that evening and shared some whisky and homemade beef jerky with us. Now that’s how you make friends on the West Coast Trail!