Monday, May 21, 2012

West Coast Trail - Pacific Rim National Park

The West Coast Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island, Canada, is surely one of the most remarkable trails in North America. It was built as a rescue trail for stranded sailors after the wreck of the SS Valencia in 1906 (which wasn't the only ship that stranded on the cliffs off the coast) as the 'Dominion Lifesaving Trail', following already by Natives established trails through the woods and along the coast.

The nominal distance one has to hike today is about 75 km, but it gets more depending on the route chosen (approx 80k). The trail is usually hiked within 5-9 days, we hiked it in 7 which was very nice since we had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and relax at the beach after a day of strenuous hiking. And strenuous is the word... infamous as one of the scariest hikes of the world, the WCT is definitely nothing for backpacking beginners. The trail is very wet, very, very muddy and extremely slippery on most stretches - you have to hike over wet and muddy roots, logs and wooden bridges, climb up and down over more than a hundred ladders, climb over slippery boulders and sandstone cliffs on the beach below the tide line, through deep and soft sand and through challenging weather conditions. In addition, wolves, black bears and cougars roam the area - we've encountered a black bear and seen tracks of wolves and cougars, so they are definitely around.

Despite the hardship of the hiking (remember: you not only have this challenging terrain, you have to carry a pack of >25 kg with a week's food supply over it), it's an outstanding trail in an astounding scenery: beautiful beaches, waterfalls, creeks and this wonderful rainforest with up to 800 year old cedar trees! It's another wonderland and worth the effort. See the pictures.

Owen Point can only be passed if tides are below a certain level, otherwise you end up swimming (well, there is sort of a rescue rope somewhere but I wouldn't want to try climbing up there).

Day 2 - Owen PointOwen Point can only be passed if the tide is quite low.

Endless kilometers of muddy, wet, slimy green and slippery boardwalks (it doesn't get any better than this - you can consider this as best case!).

Day 6 - Still fighting with slippery, wet and muddy boardwalks in the woods.

Bernhard on the trail.

Day 1 - That's how the trail looks like.

Near the trailhead.

Just to make it clear: this is NOT a river crossing. It's just the trail.

On the Coast.

Day 2 - camping at Camper Bay, trying to dry socks and to warm ourselves at the fire.

Endless ladders up and down...

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