Juan De Fuca Trail is a rugged 47 km wilderness trail along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. The trail is just a couple of hours drive from Pearson College. Thus, it is no surprise that for CAS week this term the wilderness group hiked the trail and camped at campsites along the trail for 5 days and 4 nights. It was a truly amazing adventure.
On the first day, after making sure that all our hiking and camping equipment is complete, Catrin drove us to Port Renfrew, which is where we started our hike. Upon reaching there, we put on all of our gears, paid the campsite fees and started walking for just about 1 km till we reached Botanical Beach, one of the main trailheads. We had lunch there before continuing to hike further.
Roger showing proof that we will be hiking 47 km
After continuing walking for around 15 minutes, to our surprise, we saw 3 black bears just chilling around at the beach. In an attempt to scare it away, we made loud noises so that none of us would be a bear’s supper for that day.
It was quite hard on the first day for us because we were just trying to get used to everything i.e. our heavy backpacks, poles and boots. Plus, the trail was really slippery. Ugolina even fell when she was walking on a log. Luckily, she did not get badly hurt. Her hand just hurt a little because of the impact from the fall but Catherine and Silvia was very quick to help her.
After 7 km of hiking on that day, we finally reached our campsite, the Payzant Creek. It was a wonderful campsite in the forest. Actually, that was the only day that we camped in the forest. On the rest of the days we camped on the beach or in a cabin, more on that later.
Upon reaching the campsite, we put down our heavy backpacks, take off our gators and started setting up the tent. It was a relief getting to take the weight off our shoulders. For supper, Haziq and Roger cooked Mexican rice with curry sauce for everyone. It was a very good supper. Probably because everyone was so hungry and tired. After supper, we made sure that all the food that we have is stored in the bear cache, then we went to bed.
Everyone woke up the next day at around 7.30 am and we started hiking as soon as we had breakfast. We also got some water from the stream to be treated before we started hiking so that we wouldn’t get dehydrated along the way.
We hiked for about 13 km in total on the 2nd day. However, we had to stop quite a number of times because we got really tired and Ploy’s feet was hurting her. Again, Silvia and Catherine came to the rescue and treated her.
At noon, we stopped for lunch to regain all the energy that we have used up so that we can continue hiking to the next campsite, Sombrio Beach East.
As you can see, our boots and gators were really muddy. That shows how muddy the trail was. However, at the end of the day, when we were getting closer to Sombrio, we had to walk along the beach to the campsite. The beach was very rocky and slipper. It might sound like it is better to walk on the beach but god knows how slippery it was and it was so much harder to walk at the beach than in the muddy trail.
When we reached Sombrio, Catrin was there waiting for us. We were so happy to see her that time. That tends to happens when you stay in the forest too much with no one else except the trees and some bears. She brought us some of the things that we need. One of our stove was not working, so we asked her to bring us one. Catherine also need a pair of rain pants because she ripped hers. AJ got a carabiner because he wanted to attach his bottle to his backpack for easy access. Catrin also showered us literally with chocolates since it was close to Halloween that time.
That night, AJ and Ploy cooked supper which was noodles and soup. As always, we always thought the food was delicious because we were so hungry that time. Roger and Ugolina also made campfire. The branches there was quite wet so it was difficult to make a proper campfire but we did make it and it was a good campfire. After supper, we hung out in front of fire drinking hot chocolate, enjoying the warmth, chatting, laughing and enjoying our time in the wild, with good friends from around the world. It was a truly magical experience. Consequently, we went to bed relatively late on the 2nd day compared to the first day.
We started the 3rd day just like the other two days. Wake up, pack our sleeping bags, and the tent, then have breakfast. At this stage, we pretty much felt like it was routine already, which was good! We knew we were only going to hike for 7 km on this day, so we didn’t expect much.
After hiking for quite a while, we were very grateful to be bestowed upon us a flat trail. It was about 3 km of nice flat trail. After hiking up and downhill for quite a while, it was so nice to just walk on flat grounds. We were so happy and we were just flying across the flat trail.
As we were walking, Roger something very interesting. Someone wrote on one of the “Juan De Fuca Trail” signs PC39, 40. We got really excited and like what anyone else would do, we wrote our year there as well (PC41, 42) just to let other people know we’ve been here.
Eventually, the flat trail ran out and we had to hike again. Fortunately, not long after that, we reached a beautiful suspension bridge.
On this day, I mentioned before we that we did not expect much today because it was going to be only 7 km. Well, we were wrong. Apparently, we reached a beach where you cannot cross it when the tide is high. So we had to wait. And so we did. For 3 long hours.
We managed to cross the beach as soon as the tides becomes low. Eventually, we reached Chin Beach. On this day, it was rather interesting because it was not like any other day where right after we reached a campsite, we had to set up our tents etc. Nope, we did not have to do all that on this day because somehow we managed to sleep at a cabin in the woods. Now that may sound scary but it is actually an emergency shelter for well, emergency. We were so lucky to be able to spend the night in there as it was pouring that night. The cabin was a bit small though so all 8 of us had to squeeze in a bit tight in there. Unfortunately, I have no idea why, no graphics are available for this amazing cabin and I do not intend to put images from google here. Google emergency shelter at Chin Beach; that might work.
The cabin is actually situated on top of a hill, and just below the hill, there is a huge flat rocky place that is suitable for us to make a campfire and have supper. That night, like every other night, it was an amazing night. Good food (Vaafoulay and Catherine cooked on this night), good weather, good friends, good conversations, everything was just perfect. We were very happy to be there on that beautiful night just resting on the rock while looking at the stars.
In the morning, there was the usual drill, pack the tent, breakfast etc. Then we started walking. On this day, we walked from Chin Beach to Bear Beach. And it was a very long walk. The longest in fact. It was 13 km and it was not an easy 13 km either. On the Juan De Fuca trail, there are difficulty levels assigned to every portion of the whole trail. From Chin Beach to Bear Beach, the difficulty level given was difficult. There were a lot of uphill climbs and some stairs too. However, since it was already our fourth day. We did the 13 km quite well as we were already started to get used to our poles, the heavy backpacks and just hiking in general. Our pace were really good on that day. A bit of hiking 101, it is always better to have a steady slow pace rather than having a quick pace, then stopping a lot of times along the way.
As were approaching Bear Beach, the last 2 km was all rocky beach. As mentioned before, walking on rocky beach can be a lot harder than walking on the trail. However, we can’t really complain; we just want to get to the next campsite as soon as possible.
After walking for awhile, we finally reached Bear Beach. We actually had a problem finding the actual campsite on Bear Beach as they were many and Bear Beach is huge. We found a cool guy camping alone at one of the campsites and we asked him for directions. In the end, we decided to camp at the furthest campsite so that we would have less distance to cover to the last day tomorrow.
That night, it was horrendous a night. We had very good weather on every other night, except on this night. It was raining cats and dogs plus other household pets like hamsters and rabbits (you get the idea how heavy it rained). On the bright side, that night, we had the best dinner ever. Silvia and Ugolina cooked pasta. We also had a side dish: bugs. Why bugs you ask? Because that night we actually reached the campsite quite late and it was already dark. So we had to use our headlamps in order to see what we were cooking and eating. But using the headlamps attracted bugs and the bugs just kept jumping into our bowls and into the pasta. Maybe they just want some of that good pasta. It was really good pasta though honestly Silvia and Ugolina did a good job at that. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we just switched off our headlamps and just eat whatever it is that is inside our bowl. We tend to care less when we are desperately hungry. Bugs are scientifically proven to be a good source of protein too.
After dinner, as always, we just hang out and chat with each other but since it was raining, everyone was eager to get into the tent and not get wet. We were very lucky that it had only rained on the final day. Talking about final day, we actually went to bed quite late that night. After we got into our respective tents, we just continue on chatting and laughing. Also, using the TOK reflection model, we reflected upon the lessons that we have learnt along the hike. We realized how close we are to nature, and having been on the trail for about 4 days already, we realized how we were actually getting used to this. No doubt we were exhausted mentally and physically, and we were stinky too considering we have not showered for about 4 days. That time, we were so ready to get out of the forest, have a long unsustainable warm shower, and sleep on a soft comfy bed. However, quite ironically I might add, we also felt that we are going to miss this place. We are going to miss this wonderful trail. We owe this tail so much, we have learnt a lot from this trail and as the wilderness group, this trail has helped us to bond stronger and taught us how to cooperate with each other in the wild. All in all, it was a very melancholic yet blissful night.
This is it, the final day, the day we are going to finish this trail. Only 9 km left. We were very excited that morning. After we wake up and get everything sorted out, we started walking straight away. 0 km sign, here we come!
Nothing interesting really happened when we walking on the trail on this day. Because we have used all of our food, our packs has become considerably lighter. That makes it a lot easier to go uphill and downhill. We were really flying on this day. Our pace was just perfect. At this stage, we felt that we could still go on for another 47 km. Well, maybe not.
After walking for about 4 km, again, we got to a beach and we had to walk on it for awhile before we get to Mystic Beach. We have already been to Mystic Beach before, so it was familiar territory. At the time, we felt like once we reach Mystic Beach, we’re home. Catrin were waiting for us at China Beach parking lot, which is only 2 km from Mystic Beach.
We made it to Mystic Beach!
Now there’s only 2 km left till we get to China Beach parking lot. We have done that trail before. We did the trail when it was our first time going out hiking together as the wilderness group. The trail was fairly flat so it was a very easy 2 km.
Then, as we were walking happily in the forest, suddenly, a human jumped in front of us and screamed at us. We thought she looked very familiar. As if we’ve seen her before. Oh and then we realized. It was Catrin Brown! Ah how relieved we are to see her. Apparently she was in the forest looking for some mushrooms for supper. Regardless, we were very happy to see her. From that point onwards, Catrin joined us to the hike back to the parking lot.
And then, we found this.
The 1 km sign!
Not long after that, we found this.
This is it, the zero kilometer mark. After 47 km, we finally made it. After all the pain and hardships we went through, we are finally here. We have walked all the way from the other end of this trail, we have slept in tents, we have slept in a cabin, we have seen bears, we have walked on mud, we have been covered in mud, we have walked on the rocky beach, we have bruises on our hips and shoulders, we were smelly, we were tired, we were exhausted, and we have eaten bugs. But all of that does not matter anymore. Because we did it. We did the Juan De Fuca trail.
It is very hard to express in words how we felt when we first saw the zero kilometer sign. It felt very surreal. We could not believe we actually did it. It takes quite a bit of a loading time to accept the fact that it’s over. This journey is over. Will we ever do the Juan De Fuca again? Well, maybe not. Off to the next one.