September 1, 2016

Obstacle Course continues on the West Coast Trail Day 2

Parks Canada allows only 65 hikers a day to head out on the trail and today is our lucky day. Sun is shining as Butch ferries us across the Gordon River Inlet to begin our hike on the West Coast Trail.

Backpacks on , one last check to make sure they are secure and we land in front of one of more than 80 ladders that we will encounter on this very technical trail. You soon learn that you don't get to see the West Coast Trail but that you do The West Coast Trail.  I always wondered why there were not alot of pictures of the trail. There is no way to take pictures and be present at the same time. Eyes on trail at all times.

Ok Lets do this.
Ladder One right off the bat. Learning to climb with a 37 lb backpack is emminent.

Todays hike will take us inland to the highest point on the the trail, thru forest and old growth trees. Final destination Thrashers Cove. Did I mention mounds and mounds of roots. It will take 6 hours to hike 6km.
Lesson number 1 - Be the first up the ladders - you get a rest at the top while the others ascend.
We were excited but the trailmates were quiet with anticipation and for me the shear terror that we are climbing all day.
Thank god for our guides who let us know there would be pack off breaks and boots off lunch. We shared carrying parts of lunch and dinner and the negotiations began early to eat everything cuz it was going back in your pack.
 After 3.5 hrs of mud pits, roots and ladders, we have completed merely 3 km (no wonder we had only planned for 6 km for the day) when we came to  the rusty donkey machine (km 72). Used by loggers to haul heavy logs, the machine rusted in quiet idleness since logging ceased in the 70's, and became a trail monument.

 We stopped in the moss-covered forest for lunch (bagels with cream cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers). Boots off and refill of water which there was plenty of on the trail.

We are quickly learning and laughing with our new found hiker buddies and finding out we need to rely on each other to get over some very precarious slippery sections and even get our water bottles out of our packs.
After a great lunch, we resumed our hike. While we were making slow progress (1 km/hr) due to all the obstacles, the slow pace actually kept us from getting tired. Mark and Tessa kept the pace doable and for that I am thankful.

We made our way to km 70 - counting backwards cuz we are doing the hard part first we turned to leave the forest and head to the sea by a side trail.

We found ourselves at the top of a long series of ladders, 50 storeys high. I, coffee could not tell how tall the ladders were; they just went on and on.  At the bottom of the ladders was a small beach where we would camp for the night. We had arrived at Thrasher Cove
 Brenda , Steph, Chris and Shari checking out the Park ranger who was waiting on the rocks to be picked up for an evacuation call - Thankfully the hikers were found and walked into camp a few minutes later. But Ranger Rick became a story line throughout our trip.

Dinner , campfire and a few of our mates checking out the Park Ranger became an everyday ritual. Pesto Pasta,coffee,tea and many laughs ended today with a good night to our tent mates and lights out for an early morning wake up call to continue our adventure.

August 31, 2016

West Coast Trail 2016 Beginnings

It has been a week since I have gotten off trail and had time to reflect on an amazing but very difficult 8 day hike on the West Coast Trail. I gifted this experience to myself for my 60th birthday and yes, there were days when perhaps a nice purse would of been a good choice but definitely not as rewarding. The West Coast Trail, known as the Graveyard of the Pacific , is sited as the Best Hike in North America but also has a difficulty rating of high - 63 evacuated already in 2016. I was about to see why!!

My trailmates and I set out on Aug 17 from Anacortes on the ferry to Victoria to meet up the next day with Sea To Sky Expeditions and meet the rest of our group. Nina, Kay and I were anxiously excited to begin our adventure. Spending a day picking up last minute items and spending time with Diane - one of our many trail angels-(more about them later.) A last night sleep in a bed and a great cup of coffee in the morning and we were off.

Day One
We meet up with Mark and Tessa, our amazingly patient and knowledgeable guides and 5 other hikers that we were going to get to know, laugh, cry and share with for the next 8 days. We made our way to Port Renfrew with 5 minutes to spare to attend a mandatory 2 pm Orientation by Parks Canada. This ensured we could start the hike first thing in morning. Permits and information was invaluable for a safe hike.
We were camping out our first night, repacking and getting rid of excess weight in packs.
The campground was on First Nations Land , as is the entire trail - This particular stretch of the trail was run by the Pacheedaht First Nations. We have decided that the weather will be good and so we ditch our tents and just take our tent poles, footprint and rain fly. Open air camping is a first- How will the critters stay out?

 Morning came early - first breakfast of oatmeal, not my favorite but I'd get used to it and coffee. Tents packed, new friends made and it is time to begin out journey. Off to Parks Canada to weigh our packs and get a ride across the Gordon River Inlet from Butch.
How did my pack get so heavy - I started the hike with 37 lbs on my back - How was this going to work?
 We are hiking South to North getting the hardest parts out of the way in the first 3 days, according to me - they were all hard but this is the best way. I could not imagine doing it the other way.

To be Continued 

August 10, 2016

7 days and Counting -Packing List for West Coast Trail

7 days to go and time to pack my wearable closet,kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, otherwise know as my Backpack (I call her Betty) and head to the West Coast Trail.

Do you know how much this weighs? That has become the most asked question as I do my final preps for my hike on the West Coast Trail. What does one take for 8 days/7 nights as I realize that what ever I take - I carry on my back for the same amount of time.

My fall shopping used to consist of a few trips to the Nordsrom’s sale and Kate Spade for that new bag but this year my priorities changed.My frequent trips are now between REI and Duluth Packing Company. The features become more about function and of course a little style thrown in. Don’t get me wrong-a girl can still be stylish while hiking . Color scheme Aqua and Red - Yes I really did come up with a color scheme as I bought functional but fun items to wear and use.

My favorite hip functional outdoor store is FjallRaven - where I got my hiking shorts and they also carry my Hanwag Hiking Boots. Amazing boots if you happen to have foot issues , seriously, can we talk bunions ?

The plan is to carry less than 30 lbs  including food so I became obsessed with weight. 

The Final List for clothes on the West Coast Trail
Remember that cotton is not my friend on this trip- everything has a purpose, is technical in fabric and functional from Bottom to Top

Hanwag Hiking Boots -  Leather and Gortex is the key to these.They are made with a last especially for bunions and the fit is amazing. Don’t forget to trick your boots out with a splash of color in your laces 

3 pair wool socks - My favorite are Darn Tough and they are made in the USA. The colors will just make you smile even though you are walking miles.  1pair on/1 pair drying/1pair clean

2 pairs of hiking shorts  1 pair Fjall Raven Red, of course. These are especially functional because of the wax cloth bum, great for boulder sliding and the inevitable Turtle fall that will happen. Google It 

Lululemon Tights 

2 tops:  One base layer smart wool and one short sleeved technical fabric for “Sweaty Betty” 

_ That might have to be my trail name - Folks it is not going to smell pretty after a few days

Gortex Rain Jacket, Northface fleece and a good ole Toque (canadian slang for stocking cap) for added warmth and keeping the bugs out of my hair when I sleep.

Underwear you ask - A good Canadian girl would go commando but just in case I need them I did pack 2 pairs of exoffico wonderunders and a sports bra.

Camp shoes and long johns round out the 7 night /8 day packing with a purpose list 

I am excitedly nervous and yes, I have had moments where I wonder what I am doing but at least I'll look good doing it.

What woud you pack for a wilderness trek?

June 26, 2016

If you go out in the woods today- Lessons learned on the trail

As I walk out the door, I realize my pack is alittle heavy and I may need to rethink the important things and not the luxury items but then that is what this little solo hiking, camping trip is for. 
A practice run for my up coming trek on the West Coast Trail. (WCT). 

I am heading to Lake Superior to do a training day hike along the Superior Hiking Trail
Bear Bell 
Bug Spray 
And of course a 6 pack of Bent Paddle Beer on ice.

Who doesn't like a road trip on the day of summer Solstice.
The sky is blue and the clouds are floating across the sky like marshmallows. 
 I am looking forward to camping under the stars on this full moon night but first things first. 

The drive and hike: 

The best part of a roadtrip is finding what cool things are along the way. Today was no different. A place to get gas. Normal right. No. I found the cutest station that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is the only one of its kind in the USA. Bonus. It is full service 

A stop a Northern Smokehaus for some delicious smoked salmon- More about this later, and a stop
 at Duluth Pack for last minute needs or should I say wants.

One more stop at Bettys Pies and I am on my way- a must stop on route 61. I did it just for you guys to tell you about it.

Now the adventure begins:

Ok I can't make this stuff up - The 4 things I learned while hiking Split Rock River Trail on SHT (Superior Hiking Trail)
The remainder of this blog is brought to you by Roots and Mud produced by Mother Nature

1. Sunny, hot days does not necessarily equate with dry trails- I made the rookie mistake of leaving my gaiters behind in the car. They provide coverage to keep your lower legs safe and dry, but I was being a weight Weenie and decided they were not needed and I could lighten my load in my pack
 _Big Mistake _Huge. Or not!!  Women do pay a lot of money for the mud bath I endured on this section.

2. Love is in the Air- Be curious and present on the trail. Finding a wood box nailed to a large birch tree. Curiosity, of course got to the lonely Hiker ( That's Me) and I discovered many well wishes and notes of encouragement for thru-hikers or just a place to acknowledge you were on the trail- Written in pen/pencil on birch wood.
It reminded me of the grace and goodness that is still out there. What a treat if someone wrote one for you to Carry On and Hike

#3- Be Prepared for Equipment failure- imagine rocks and roots covering the whole trail. The rushing Split Rock River gushing to the brim with mountain runoff right along side you. I decide to use my new trekking poles 
Strolling along, the roots were gnarly,deep pockets of mud - My hiking poles in rhythm with my boots until I hit a big mud puddle - I soon find myself sinking when the pole was to provide stability- Oh Yeah! mud wasn't that deep but my new poles were shrinking- Lesson #3 bring a tightening tool or maybe pay a little more for Trekking Poles - Another trip to REI for me.

#4 Don't take Salmon Bites into your campsite if you want to sleep peacefully. Remember I said I made a stop at Northern Smokehaus in Duluth to pick up camp dinner. It was delicious, almost sinful. I enjoyed them with a cold beer while setting up camp. wiping my hands on my camp pants while searching for a wet cloth. All is good till I thought about the bear warning in the area. Yes - Bears and salmon go together. Opps . I burned the evidence and crawled into my warm tent with the stars lighting up the night sky- Until 2:30 Am when something brushed by my tent.. I am sure it was a small rodent but in my mind it was a Bear- looking for my left overs-  I lay quietly and listened- Ok now my mind decided it was probably a moose and I wanted to see- Out comes flashlight and a frightened solo camper. I peer out and see nothing- but then I remember that book I used to read to my kids.
 The Teddy Bears Picnic .
If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

But I survived to hike another day and a little more inspired to continue to be adventureous.

June 8, 2016

What If...

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                                       What IF
What If:  I hiked the amazing 47 miles/
74 km of the  WEST COAST TRAIL to celebrate the gift of turning 60 ?
What If:  I found someone to go with or should I go alone?               
What If : I can't complete it
What If:  My aging feet- seriously just hurt to bad
What If:  I can do it 

Was I going to let these What If's begin to age me prematurely? What If I didn't set a new goal. What if I accomplished it - I needed to find out the answers.

So many questions began with What If. Many nights I spend on the computer looking up stories and reading others adventures on WCT. Many mornings, I would lay in bed as my 60 year old husband headed out the door to train for Ironman Triathlons at 5:30 Am. Although I am not an athlete, was I going to let life just happen or was I going to lead my self to experience the fear and excitement of testing,training and accomplishing something greater than my capabilities. 

There was just something that spoke to me about being in nature and challenging myself to accomplish rather than celebrate in the traditional way one would do turning 60.

So in 60 days I will be 60

In 74 days Nina and Kay and myself will adventure on to Vancouver Island to conquer the WCT. 

The West Coast Trail (WCT) is a mystical, hauntingly beautiful 47 mile/ 75 km backpacking trek on Vancouver Island. It winds thru rain forests, first nations land, thick bogs and ocean shelves. The trail was built in 1907 as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors along the Pacific Rim.
Yes it is considered to be the best hike in the world.

 I would love to have you follow this journey with my 2 soul sisters and myself as we blog, pack, train and experience this amazing feat in front of us- You can add your email at the bottom of this if you would like updates.

Because What If - we inspire you to find your What If