The West Coast Trail, a challenging 77 km (47 mile) hiking delight between Port Renfrew and Bamfield on Vancouver Island, is proving so popular that a reservation system is now in effect! You can call the Super Natural British Columbia travel information line at 1-800-435-5622 (HELLO BC) and reserve your hike up to 3 months in advance of your adventure. A discover camping number at 1-800-689-9025 also provides reservation services at British Columbia parks.
How did this great hiking trail come into such acclaim? It started with a shipwreck back on January 22, 1906. The 253 foot (77 meter) vessel SS Valencia ran aground just north of Klanawa River on Vancouver Island's west coast. The wild and rugged shoreline bordering a temperate rain forest offered no relief whatsoever and the lives of all 126 passengers were lost! This tragic event spurred the government at that time to construct a trail between Port Renfrew and Bamfield in case of future shipwrecks as this section of the Pacific had been the site of more than 60 shipwrecks since 1854! The present West Coast trail generally follows the route of the historic life saving trail. A heavy wet climate has produced a dense forest of cedar, hemlock, fir and spruce. The forest floor is jammed with salmonberry, huckleberry, salal and in places, the heavy spiked stalks of devil's club.
The 47 km (29 mile) section from the trail's northern end at Pachena Bay near Bamfield to Carmanah Point is mainly a wide and clear path. Part of it can be covered on the beach, especially at low tides. One highlight is Tsusiat Falls which cascade almost 50 feet (15 meters) down to the beach. The 29 km (18 mile) section from Carmanah to Port Renfrew is definitely a hiker's challenge, requiring many crossings of streams, gullies, fallen trees, near vertical ladders and narrow log bridges. There are two major river crossings that cannot be forded, the Gordon River in this section and the Nitinat Narrows near mid-point. Members of local Indian bands can be depended on to ferry you across these waterways. At certain points on the trail, you could catch sight of Pacific gray whales, killer whales and sea lions offshore. The sheltered coves abound with bird life and at low tide, all manner of sea life can be spotted in the pure tidal pools. Black bears are still a frequent sight as they roam the shores in early morning and evening looking for a share of the many edibles along these tidal flats.
A hike of the entire trail takes 6 to 10 days so your backpack should include a sleeping bag and a rainproof light weight tent. The annual rainfall in this area is 270 cm (106 inches) so rain gear is essential although there are often periods of sunny days in July and August. Remember, you must be completely self sufficient as supplies cannot be acquired on the trail. Planning your food, the more light weight and spoil proof the better, for each day along the trail is a must! Good preparation will ensure that you can thoroughly enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the world!
Editor's Note: One of our readers has suggested that we toughen up the last paragraph to more adequately warn hikers of the difficulty of the trail. His words were, "the WCT is not to be undertaken lightly, and that this trail is absolutely no place for the casual weekend camper." Thank you Jack!
If you are interested in reading a well written documentary about hiking the trail under very inclement weather conditions by a group of four Alberta hikers, kindly go to the internet site WCT Mudhounds
Your comments are welcome at "dhaaheim at telus dot net"Http://www.tourcanada.com -- Revised: June 19, 2012
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