Hiking the West Coast Trail – Vancouver Island

After writing a couple of long and challenging posts about the Spice Islands of Indonesia, I thought it would be a pleasant relief to write something rather more short and simple – something that might take only 15 minutes to write (well, in reality, no post actually takes that amount of time). As with writing though, sometimes the most spontaneous and least planned trips can be the most fun…

The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island certainly fitted into this category. I’d never planned to walk this route. However, backpacking around Western Canada one year and staying in a youth hostel in Victoria (the Island’s capital) I unexpectedly bumped into a German guy who was off to walk the Trail with a local Canadian radio presenter. They were heading off the very next morning: so throwing caution to the wind and without thinking too long about it, I decided to join them. I already had all the gear I needed with me, except for some essential provisions to bring along.

The 75-kilometre West Coast Trail from Pachena Bay to Gordon River in the south western part of Vancouver Island in British Columbia follows an ancient trail which was used for travel by First Nations people such as the Huuay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht. The first European sailing ships started to arrive along the coast over 200 years ago. Over time, the coastline became notorious for shipwrecks and drownings and became known as “the Graveyard of the Pacific.” The trail was also constructed and used for the rescue of shipwrecked sailors – this was fortunate indeed for us, as the coastline is also one of incredible beauty for hiking.

We had to get to the start of the trail at Pachena Bay through using a combination of local buses and hitch hiking. On the way, merchants of gloom and doom, told us that the weather in September would probably be stormy and unsettled – we would surely live to regret it (if we lived at all that is !).

As things worked out though, it was a wonderful few days of perfect, settled weather. We hiked along empty stretches of wild coastline, through magnificent tangled forests of towering cedar trees, camped on empty, unspoiled beaches and watched fiery Pacific sunsets whilst sitting around driftwood fires. Out to sea there were frequent sightings of orcas, dolphins and seals.  For such a randomly and hastily assembled group, everyone got along just fine – it was a great few days. The photos I think speak for themselves:

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