Sunday, August 07, 2005

Blisters and bliss

A lot of people have been asking me how my hike on the West Coast Trail went. The short answer is that I’ve never been so warm, dry, clean and happy on a camping trip in my entire life.

The long answer is, well, longer. I’ve been back in Vancouver since Wednesday and I haven’t been able to write about the experience until now because I’m having a hard time accepting the fact that the trip is over. But then I’ve never been very good at letting go and moving on.

I don’t want to be here, in Vancouver, in my apartment, in front of my computer. I want to be back on the West Coast Trail.

I miss walking barefoot on the beach at sunset. I miss the sand squishing between my toes, the wind in my hair, the scratchy film of salt on my skin. I miss the smell of seaweed rotting in the sun at low tide. I miss sitting around the campfire completely disconnected from the rest of the world. I miss lying in my tent at night listening to the waves crash against the rocks.

The funny thing is most people come back from the West Coast Trail with horror stories about the knee-deep mud, the torrential rain, and the long, hard hiking over slippery roots and rocks. But I can’t think of one thing to complain about. The hiking was easy, the scenery spectacular and the weather hot and sunny.

It was more like Club Med than a true wilderness experience. The trail through the forest is paved with boardwalks, ladders, suspension bridges and cable cars. Walking along the beach is tiring but easy.

A lot of the trail is on First Nations land and a few enterprising locals have cashed in on the hikers passing through. Like Monique, who served up burgers and beer on the beach on our fourth day of hiking. Or the guys who hauled crab and salmon out of the water and threw it on the barbecue before they ferried us across a river. Like I said, Club Med.

Most people do the 77-kilometre hike in five to seven days. We decided to take our time and do the hike in seven days, which meant we only hiked about five hours a day. As soon as we arrived at our campsite, we set up our tents and then spent the rest of the afternoon frolicking on the beach. We bathed under waterfalls, swam in the ocean, read on the beach, napped in our tents, played cards, took long walks at sunset.

It might sound weird but one of my favourite things about the trip was meeting the other hikers. And because there’s not much else in the way of entertainment, we gave them secret nicknames. There was Hansel and Gretel (a young German couple), the Fragrant Bubbas (a divorced dad and his two teenage sons), the Von Trapps (a large family from Lethbridge) and the Hotties (two brothers and their parents from Calgary). We named ourselves Five Fags and a Hag.

I was especially fond of one member of the Hotties and would make up excuses to walk past his campsite. For example, I would dump out full bottles of water at our campsite in order to refill them at the creek near his campsite. Although the fourth time I walked past his campsite in the span of five minutes in order to "get water" his dad busted me by yelling out, "Thirsty?"

Eventually, the cute (and smart and interesting and funny) Alberta boy picked up on my lame attempts at seduction and we went on a couple of long walks together. Which strikes me as strange now. I mean, we had been hiking all day. Why didn’t we just go sit on the beach somewhere instead of walking for hours?

There’s not much else to add. I've probably said too much already. I'd be slightly embarrassed if he googled me and stumbled across this blog. I told him we nicknamed his family the Hotties but I didn't tell him why I was always filling up the water bottles. Unfortunately, they had to leave the trail on the fifth day due to a family emergency.

I’ve skipped a lot of the details of the trip but I don’t want to bore you. I have one more day off work tomorrow so I’m going to head down to the beach with a blanket and a book. If I close my eyes, I can pretend I’m back on the West Coast Trail.

No comments: