WCT Day 1 – Winnipeg to South Trail Head

Well it is Thursday night and I am at the 4 Points Sheraton hotel located across from the James Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg.   I have gone through my gear one more time to make sure that I don’t have anything in my pack that I really don’t need.  I don’t find anything that I can jettison at this point.

Up at 5 am to get over to meet Josh and Justin at the airport checkin.   We put our backpacks into very large Air Canada plastic bags and tied them up so there were no straps showing or hanging where they could get caught on something.   After getting our boarding passes, we took the bags to the oversize belt for inspection.  They were checked with no issue.

We got off to a late take-off and landed about 20 minutes late into Vancouver.  Walked through the airport to our next gate and were told the flight to Victoria was 15 minutes late (for those of you who fly frequently 15 minutes over the intercom really means 45 minutes in real time).  They are all real sorry of course for the delay, but there was no way to move things along faster.   Good thing the flight is only about 20 minutes to Victoria.

We arrive in Victoria after the short flight, pick up our car at National (Mazda 3 hatchback) and stuff our 3 packs (each weighing 50 pounds) into the car. Before leaving the airport we called ahead to let the Bamfield Orientation office know that we would not make the 1:00 pm orientation and because of that would be starting the hike the next day.  It is a 2 hour drive in good traffic but we needed to buy some supplies before we left Victoria.  They don’t allow stove fuel on planes you know, and our first nights meal is usually something fresh as opposed to our dehydrated meals that we prepared.  If you do not let them know that you will miss the orientation your spot will be given away and you could in fact lose your reservation.   Our plan was to do the orientation at 3:30 and camp at Bamfield (you can’t get on the trail at that end anyway at that time of day) and to catch the ferry across to start first thing the next morning.

We set our GPS for Vallhalla Pure Outfitters http://info.vpo.ca/index.php?fid=stores&sid=printresults&detailid=25&Anzahl=18&start=0  in Langford which is on Millsteam road just off the highway on the way to Bamfield, and stopped to pick up our fuel along with spiked overshoes in case of slippery logs or boardwalks

The West Coast Trail can be started from either the south trail head (Port Renfrew) or the north trail head (Bamfield).  It is purely a matter of whether you want to do the harder part of the trail (south end) first with a full pack, or start at the north end of the trail (easier walking for first day or two) and hit the south end with lighter packs.   We decided on starting at the south end.  Might as well get the full experience.

Highway 14 from Victoria to Port Renfrew is a pretty drive, althought very hilly, windy and bumpy.  Sitting for 1.5 hours in the back of a Mazda 3 is no treat.   There was a bad accident along the highway where a motorcycle missed a turn and went straight through the corner.  Don’t think he survived that.   We pulled up in front of the WCT orientation building to check in.  As we were early for the next orientation, we went back up the road a ways and grabbed a campsite right on the beach, set up camp and returned for our orientation session.

At Pacific Rim Office South Trailhead - Gordon River - Smiling and clean

The beach here is pretty cool.  It is a circular bay with hills all around.  Large and small driftwood litters the shore and the waves crash continously on the beach just below the tent.   It will be a good spot for a first nights’ sleep.

Ist nights campsite at Port Renfrew

During our session we were told the following;

  • One week ago, about 6″ of rain fell in a few hours, making very deep mud holes in some places.  As this is the rainforest and much of the inland trail is under trees, it takes a long time for it to dry out
  • The tide chart provided (was taped to the WCT mail they provided at orientation) required us to add one hour to the time on the chart to fit the area we were in
  • To make it around Owen Point, we have to leave Thrasher Cove no later than 6 am (which is an hour before low tide).  If we were to leave one hour after low tide, the timing would be dodgy to get around the point, and in all likelihood we would not make it – if we don’t figure we can do that then we should plan on going overland (which starts with a series of ladders that add up to about 200 rungs)
  • Camper Creek to Walbran is slippery
  • The remote sites don’t have bear boxes
  • Km 38 to 32 is off limits for camping due to bears
  • Cribs Creek is the last camp before Km 38 so should stay there or walk thru to next site
  • Once we cross over Nitinat Narrows it is OK – no bear issues
  • Cribs Creek is full of water
  • At Chewat River there is a spring on the right side just past the bridge
  • The boat at Nitinat operates more or less 9 to 5
  • At Km 30 on the north side of the falls is a camp site – the south side is where the trail is
  • There are grey whales off Darling
  • Sea lions at km 8.5
  • We also had a discussion about black bears, mountain lions (don’t go for water alone, and when 2 go, stand back to back when getting water
  • There was also a short discussion on tsunamis and what to do if we saw the water going out faster than normal.  Drop your packs and head for the nearest ladder and continue to climb until you reach the safe height as identified on the markers
  • Have fun, stay safe and don’t rush

After orientation, we received our overnight use permits and each paid $32.00 to cover the cost of the two ferries.   We need to have the Permits with us at each crossing, or we will not get on the boats.   We also met a guy from one of the local hotels who said we could park our car in the morning in his lot, and he would return us to the spot where the ferry leaves.

We returned to our campsite and had supper (steak, potatoes and corn), sat around the fire and turned in at 9 pm.

A good first day.

About trailsandtrips

I am a consultant in the forestry and environmental fields and spend my recreational time in a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
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