Monday, June 23, 2008


I got back yesterday evening from my two-day hike of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. I managed to hike the entire length in the short amount of time I had, and hiking solo was an interesting adventure.

I started out at the China Beach trailhead at 7:30 am on Saturday. The weather was cloudy but warm and dry, and the trail was in reasonably good shape. Signs warned of the trail closure due to the bridge out at Ivanhoe Creek, but I knew froma previous visit in March that there was a bypass trail. I actually didn't even need the bypass trail, as the water levels were low enough that a log over the creekbed proved enough. By 9:30 I was at Bear Beach where I stopped for second breakfast. I didn't see anybody at Mystic Beach, and only 2 small groups at Bear. One couple at Bear were turning around and heading home due to their 70lb packs. Ouch!

Not the most technically difficult, but definitely the most arduous section of the trail is between Bear Beach and Chin Beach. Roughly 10km of ups and downs take a toll on your legs, and I was feeling pretty worn out by the time I got to Chin. I stopped and had some lunch, but as it was only 1:30 I decided to press on to Sombrio Beach at km 27. I passed a few hikers from Chin on their way to Sombrio, but otherwise the trail was deserted. Being by myself in bear country, I was a little bit nervous, and did a lot of whistling and peering around corners. My hiking poles did double duty as noisemakers, clacking against rocks, tree trunks, and each other.

When I got to Sombrio I was still in pretty good shape, but my legs were ready to give out. I staggared a few more yards down the beach and plopped on the first level spot I came to. Shortly thereafter, one of the fellows from the site next to me came over to say hi, and invite me back to their site. After I relaxed for a while, I joined Stewart and his friends for an evening of wine, fresh mussels, and conversation. Stewart gave me his number so we could meet up to brew some beer, but I appear to have lost his card. If anyone sees it, let me know! The hospitality of this group was amazing, and I went to sleep well past hiker midnight (10:30) and zonked out immediately.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty good, and not too stiff from my previous day's exertion. I lay in bed for a while, as I "only" had 20km of comparatively easy terrain to make today. As long as I was at Botanical Beach by 5:00, when Rebecca would meet me, I'd be fine. I packed up said goodbye to my new friends, and was on the trail around 9:00. Sombrio River was quite low, so I opted to wade through it rather than trek up to the suspension bridge. The sun was shining, so I wasn't too worried about wet feet. After a bit more beach walking, my spidey-sense was tingling. In a field of grey boulders, I saw one furry black boulder that looked out of place. Sure enough, a small bear was eating something, probably a dead seal. Luckily, the tide was out, so I was able to give him a wide berth. I had a chat with him on the way past, and we came to an understanding. I wouldn't eat his dead seal, and he wouldn't eat me. At one point I looked up and there was a bald eagle, a sea otter, and the bear all within my line of sight. I tried to take a picture of all three, but couldn't get the angle right. Rather than dwell on this, I figured it would be prudent to move past the bear and get on with my day.

The rest of the day proved to be quite uneventful. I kept up a good pace, with just a brief stop at Pyzant Creek for water. At around 2:30 I was nearing Botanical Beach, so I stopped at one of my favorite resting areas at Tom Baird Creek. I made myself a big lunch, and stretched out in the sun with my book for a couple of hours. At 4:30, I packed up and headed to Botanical to meet Rebecca and Shadow. I could tell they both wanted to go down to the beach, so I added another couple of miles to my trek and walked down to Botany Bay with them. After that, we went for dinner in Port Renfrew, then made our way home.

I'm glad I was able to meet my two goals: hiking alone, and completing the trail in two days. As for the former, hiking solo has its benefits, I got to get lost in my own thoughts, and not worry about anyone else's pace or fitness level. I did, however, find I was quite jumpy and nervous about bears, which I'm normally not around other people. As for the timeline, I don't know if I'd want to hike that distance regularly, but it was good to know my body is capeable of it, and I'm proud of my accomplishment. I still enjoyed all the scenery and solitude of the wilderness, but spent it hiking rather than sitting at a campsite. What's next.. maybe the West Coast Trail in three days? We'll see :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, again

Tomorrow I'm planning to hike some/most/all of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail again. A couple of things make this different than my usual journeys on this trail: I'm trying to do as much of the trail as I can in two days, and I'm going by myself.

To hike the JDF in 2 days is a bit ambitious, and I'm not going to push to the point of carelessness, and will just hike as far and fast as I'm comfortable doing. I know the trail can be run in 8-10 hours, but that's not for me. The trail is 47km, and while normally this isn't an unreasonable distance to cover in two days (I've done 30km days on the Pacific Crest Trail and at Mt Assiniboine), the terrain is very hard on the body, and my knees have been giving me a bit of trouble lately.

So, I'm leaving my itinerary open, and will take it as it comes. Fortunately, there's not much rain the forecast, so that will help. Nothing slows you down more than mud and slippery boardwalks. I also have my base pack weight down to under 9 pounds, which is half the weight I previously tackled this trail with. Couple that with only 2 days' food instead of 3, a decent amount of training, and my stubborness, and I should be able to cover a lot of ground.

I've been wanting to try a solo hike for some time now. My future plans may involve a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, so I want to make sure I'm comfortable with the solitude now. The JDF is a well travelled trail, an hour rarely goes by where you don't see another hiker. I always bring a book on a hike, but this time I'm also going to bring an MP3 player. I don't like to load up on gadgets, but I did really enjoy music now and then on my last hike. And yes, the mp3 player is included in my 9 pound base weight :)

Check back for photos and trip report next week!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tell It On The Mountain

For a few years, the hiking community has been teased with the release of Tell It On The Mountain, a documentary/reality video about the Pacific Crest Trail.

The latest trailer is here, and for those familiar with the PCT it will definitely peak your interest!

Trailer - Tell it on the Mountain from TellitontheMountain on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


One of the characters I met at ADZPCTKO is Garret Christensen, aka The Onion. When I hung out with him at the kick-off, he seemed quite normal (as normal as any of the other long-distance hikers, anyway...) and it wasn't until I got home until I realized just what this gentleman did in his free time.

Described by his sister as funny, and by himself as the "smartest person in the world," Garret is a mild-mannered (but not too humble) superhero disguised as a backpacker. When not hiking or studying economics, he runs. And boy does he run. 80 mile jaunts up Mt. Diablo, 24 hour ultra-marathons, you name it.

"Adventures in Onionism", The Onion's regularly-updated (more than this one) blog is a fun read, peppered with book reviews, political commentary, hiking potpourri, run reports, and random witticisms. I suggest adding it to your RSS feed!

Oh yeah, Garett was also the first person to Yo-Yo the Continental Divide Trail. Roughly 6,000 miles in one season. He mentioned that this 6 month hike was "good conditioning for ultra-marathons." Your mileage may vary.