Thursday, May 31, 2007

The West Coast Trail

I didn't actually catch her name. The conversation began pondering the possibility of volunteering at next year's Fun Run, and then we were talking about the West Coast Trail. She wasn't at the Fun Run last year because she was spending her 50th birthday walking the West Coast Trail. And she wants to do it again, because she didn't finish. Next year.

This isn't my first conversation about the West Coast Trail. And it certainly isn't the first time that I perked up my ears at the thought.

The West Coast Trail sounds like a good idea, sort of like living in the Arctic on December 21st. An adventure. Something new and completely different. A novelty. That has the potential of just wanting to get the hell out of there.

In a fanciful way, I can see myself walking along a path, the ocean on one side and old growth forest on the other. I imagined myself coming home and impressing my friends with, "I hiked the West Coast Trail." (I can see there is a t-shirt business in there somewhere.)

My imagination came to a screaming halt when I saw some facts. For one thing, it is 75 kilometers. The "trail" has cables, and suspension bridges and ladders. Ladders? On a trail?

How long does it take to hike 75 kms? Prepare for 7 days is what the prep guide says. What I have learned since I moved to BC is that I cannot really trust what official guides told me. I do not believe anymore when it says "easy." And when it says "strenuous," I go to the beach.

The first time I hiked up to Pulpit Rock, the book said it would take 25 minutes. It took me one hour. Looking at the math, that would be more than twice as long as what I was told.

And using the equivalent algebraic equation, my time on the West Coast Trail would equal 15.8 days. What the heck, I figure, might as well stay another night. That would be 16 days without a latte, shower, internet or the new yogurt I just discovered. It means shitting in the woods about 16 times and bathing in either the salty ocean or a cold creek (or maybe just not at all which has a certain appeal given the choices).

It also means carrying your sleeping gear, food, water and garbage on your back. (How much toilet paper do you need for 16 days?) From my conversation at the Fun Run, I was told that you only have to carry enough water to get to the next water pump. Where is the next pump? The placement of the pumps was not determined by Starbucks planners - as in being strategic or plentiful - the distance between one set is 18 kms. Given the water situation, setting up a campsite near the water is clever. Except. 18 kms means that is what you walk in one day. ONE DAY! This is 30% more than the annual Bloomsday Run. 30% more than people do ONCE a YEAR!

And what about food?? What to bring? Yesterday, I had Pad Thai - that would be out! How much broccoli do you bring for 16 days? I can see that this is no picnic. No fridges. Potato salad - nope.

Now, as I am pondering this adventure, I am wondering what would motivate someone to get out of their rocking chairs, to spend their already limited vacation days strenuously hiking through a forest; actually that would be rain forest (emphasis on rain)?? Taking down and setting up a new home every night? Getting mosquito bites on places that don't usually see daylight? And hauling around as much toilet paper as you started with?

Me? I want the t-shirt.


Anonymous said...

Actually, it does sound like an interesting thing to do, although like you, I never believe it when a book or pamphlet says "easy". I've been hooked on that a couple of times on getting to fishing sights in the Bitterroots.

Wanna try it?


Patricia said...

I am wondering what part of this blog entry lead you to think that I was keen on this notion??

And... have you actually read the 12 page pre-guide? That is 12 pages of instructions, cautions and descriptions of what to expect.

I am not sure you really comprehend...

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not...I did read it. And assuming I was in better shape, I'm thinking it could be done in three days....but I'm not so more time would be necessary.

Of course I could go and then when I'm done, you could still have the T-shirt. Afterall, there still needs to be some way to get back where one started (two vehicles are definitely better than One in this case)


Patricia said...

Three days, huh? If the guide says allow 5 to 7 days, I wouldn't argue with them.

Also, though it may seem feasible to go 25 kms in each of 3 days, some of those kms are doing things like climbing 200 feet on ladders. And walking across suspension bridges. And stopping to eat. How about enjoying the scenery???

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the scenery...what a concept! Maybe even take a few pictures? To be honest, I have envied those who have the time to do things like that. We have a similar thing in the US, you know, but it doesn't follow the coast line, unless you consider the ridges and peaks of the Rockies following the coastline. That particular trail takes a few months to complete, but it seems to me a peaceful thing as well as a way to discover some of one's own physical limits.

And while I am naturally indolent (perhaps just plain lazy would be better), I do have a few ambitions and things I wouldn't mind trying.