Hiking The Juan de Fuca TrailJun 26, 2017
There's a feeling...completion...mixed with please don't end this experience... :)
Let’s talk about perception. When someone says that one trail is easier than a very well known difficult trail, what runs through your mind? Barry knew it would be challenging, and reminded me a couple of times, but I figured a coastal trail on a relatively flat island couldn’t be that hard.
About 8 years ago we had hiked one section with our kids and all I could remember was the beauty of the forest. The large roots, enormous trees, smell of the ocean, and the feeling of being literally embraced by nature.
To prepare, I watched videos on youtube,and looked at everything I could find about the trail. There were the standard parks warnings, but most movies showed the rainbows and butterflies of the trail, and a grit. Going in, I was feeling like it was going to be more like a walk in the park than the High Rim Trail we did earlier this year.
We started at the China Beach trailhead - and wow am I ever glad we did it that way. Our first day was only 2km because the bottle of wine was so heavy. Actually we planned it that way. We unwound from our busy lives by sipping wine on Mystic beach watching a glorious sunset.
I remember it feeling quite weird to be shut off from the rest of the world. It didn’t take long to feel used to it though, and truly connect with the moment. We finished 5 days later at Botanical Beach. It was Barry's suggestion to go in that direction and I must add he is always right when it comes to the forest.
Going this direction meant we would get the most difficult sections over straight away. When the trail is labeled “most difficult” and “moderate” is feeling more difficult than most “moderate” trails I’ve been on, ...well I knew I was in for some tough terrain. I had planned to take a ton of video, and photos but Barry took the lead there thankfully. He has a steadier hand through the forest.
Barry spent the first 15 years of his career working in the bush; I think he was born with his own GPS system programmed in his head. Even though I can barely find my way out of a paper bag sometimes, getting lost is never an issue when I am with him. My fear is falling off a cliff. I’m not afraid of heights, it’s the looking down and falling that totally freak me out, give me vertigo, and at times actually paralyze my movement.
There was a lot of up and down on the trail. The roots were huge and plentiful. The steps were taller than my legs could reach. All the squats and lunges that I’ve done in my life trained me for this trail.
I have a tendency to trip over my feet, little twigs, leaves, a spec of dust, etc., so when I came to spots on the trail where it was goat trail hugging an embankment with the ocean crashing the rocks below, that’s where I slow, and if I have nothing to grab onto I might just crawl instead. It feels good in those moments to hold on to the earth with my hands and feet grounded.Throw in a little mud and it gets even more interesting.
Barry is the most loving, patient, trail husband a girl could ever ask for. Nothing slows him down either. He can blaze through anything at a steady pace. One day it took us about an hour and a half to pass a difficult km. I’ve improved upon my technical skills immensely in the last couple years I must add, but only because each time I face the fear and live through it by troubleshooting, focusing on what I need to do, and remaining calm. It gets easier. What was super hard before is now moderate in my fear meter.
The Horror Movie
Let’s take a walk through a night of theatrical fear.
I will start this story by painting a picture. It was day 2 on the trail, and we set off early so that we could have a long day to relax and enjoy the beach upon arrival. Someone with a sense of humour had been dropping a trail of leaves. Not just any leaves though. Each one had two eyes and a scary mouth ripped out. Thought it was a humorous reference to the difficulty of the trail. We arrived at camp nice and early.
Chin Beach was so beautiful! Complete with a starfish ornament in the sand someone created, plenty of seating, large trees, a rope swing and a hook. A hook??? Yes, a very large fishing hook that had washed up from the ocean was leaning against some driftwood in front of our site. No big deal right? Of course not...until it got dark.
The tide came in at night and that night the ocean was very LOUD. It sounded like a freight train. I woke up in the middle of the night hearing the roar and my mind started going back to all the horror movies I watched as a teenager. I started thinking about the hook, and how vulnerable we were in our tent in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t hear anyone approaching anyway because the ocean was so loud!!
I don’t see well in the dark. I wear contacts but have to take them out and night leaving me blind, so I reached for my glasses thinking I’d feel some comfort if I could see. Nope.
Then I started thinking about the leaves. What if it was a warning to get off the trail because we would be taken by the hook if we stayed? Well that was it! I had to wake Barry now because I was just too scared to stand myself.
Just as I did, someone turned a flashlight on our tent, so we could see the silouette of the waving branches above that looked like a big claw tearing at our tent. Suddenly a sharp bang, like a gunshot. My heart was beating soooo fast . Someone was just putting their food in the aluminum bear locker and dropped the lid.
Needless to say, the fear was manifested and grew into a storm in my head. We slept quite light that night, and I kept my glasses on for an extra security blanket. When we awoke, the hook was still there, and nothing was scary anymore.
The Morning With The Bear.
The setting was a beautiful morning on Sombrio Beach. We were starting our morning routine with a relaxing breakfast before packing up to set off for another day. Barry was boiling water for our oatmeal breakfast and I had everything laid out on the log in front of us.
We looked up and there he was. A beautiful bear. We think it was male. He was strong and lean and he seemed to float across the ocean rocks. His focus was primarily on the crabs he was feasting on. The tide was low, and he was shoving his face in tidepools. I wanted to grab my camera, but I was more focused on packing away the food and our stuff instead.
He knew we were there, and he didn’t want anything to do with us. We had trail companions down the beach that we grew concerned about as the bear started sauntering there way, but it just kept on going up into the woods after making it’s way by.
Our Switzerland friend Florian had never seen a bear before and was extremely delighted. I was not nearly as frightened as the night with the hook, but my heart had a pretty fast beat. It says a lot for the cleanliness and respect of humans on the trail. There was no food or garbage around, and it was clear the bear wanted crabs instead of our food. Smart
We met awesome people out there from all over the world. There was a common theme : Friendly, happy, grateful, and artistic. Trails like this bring an instant connection. We knew what we were facing each minute, each mile, and the human connection is pure and not distracted. We made friends that we have stayed connected with and really hope to see again.
Well, the delicious moment when you know there is a glass of wine and a big burger coming your way soon was nothing in comparison to feasting on wild blackberries while walking into town. Like another gift from Creator. The memories of the last 6 days like a flash photo spun through our minds. The bada$$ feeling that you know you haven’t bathed in a week, you are covered in mud and don’t smell great.
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Coming out I had mad respect for anyone that’s ever done the trail. I realized had we not done the High Rim, I may have not been mentally prepared. What a tremendously glorious experience.
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