Your Guide To Trekking The Sulphur Skyline Trail In Jasper, Alberta

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


There are a lot of stunning hiking trails in Jasper National Park, but when it comes to day hikes, the Sulphur Skyline Trail offers the biggest bang for your time and effort.

Yes, waterfalls are beautiful, glaciers are awe-inspiring, and fragrant flower-filled mountain meadows are delightful, but nothing beats a 360-degree view that seems to stretch out forever and makes you feel like you are on top of the world. And, while there are many hikes all over the Rockies that can get you this view, ones that you can do in a day are rare. 

Enjoying the breathtaking view at the Summit

But don't get me wrong, while this is a day hike, it is anything but easy — it's straight up, with a bit of a scramble to get to the summit, and there is nowhere to replenish your water along the way. If you are looking for a nice walk in the woods, this isn't the right trek for you to tackle. 

Before I dive into details about the trek and a gear guide, here are some quick facts

Miette Hot Springs is located at the Sulphur Skyline Trailhead, and is a great place to soak sore muscles after your trek!

  • Starting Point: Trailhead is accessed from the Miette Hotsprings parking lot
  • Hiking Time: Half-day | If you are a more experienced hiker, you can probably do the whole thing in 3-4 hours, an average-to-new hiker should allow 4-6 hours
  • Distance: 10 km round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft or 700 m (this is a pretty quick gain)
  • Elevation at the Top: 6,790 ft or 2,020 m
  • What's It Like In 3 Words: Switchbacks, Steep, Stunning

Getting There

Once you have entered Jasper National park through the East Gate, continue 7 km (4 miles) west along the Yellowhead Highway/Highway 16 until the Miette Hot Springs Road. Turn left onto the road and drive 17 km (11 miles) until the road ends at the Miette Hot Springs Parking Lot. The lot fills up fairly quickly, especially on weekends, so try and arrive early if you want to avoid parking on the road. 

Once you have parked, walk towards the Hot Springs entrance. The trail head is to the right of the entrance and is clearly marked by a large sign (there are other trails that leave from other parts of the parking lot, so make sure you are where you want to be.) 

Where do I pee?

An important question. Driving up a windy road is no fun when you gotta go, and you definitely don't want to start a trek if you need to use the facilities. 

Lucky for you, there are public washrooms located on the outside of the Hot Springs building, they are clearly marked so should be easy enough for you to spot. 

There are NO washrooms along the trail at all, so bring some toilet paper (and some bags to pack it out with) just in case nature calls while you are in the middle of nature. 

Trek Details

The hike begins on a fairly wide, paved pathway — do not be deceived. It switches quickly to an unpaved trail and then you are on a single-track that is muddy (if there is any moisture), rocky, and crisscrossed with tree roots. 

This is the typical terrain you will find for the majority of the trek

It's a steady (read, you will be sweating and breathing hard) climb for about 2.2 km — don't be ashamed to take frequent water and recovery breaks — until you come to the Shuey Pass Junction. Then it becomes a grueling, steep, switchback ascent (did I mention that it's worth it!?)

Stay right when you get to the junction — there are a few other hikes that veer off in other directions. 

The trail is then pretty much just narrow switchbacks, scattered with rocks and roots, running through forest with views of the surrounding valley. 

You emerge from the treeline around the 4 km mark into a grassy clearing with a massive white rock in the middle of it. This meadow is fairly protected from the wind and has pretty incredible views. Many people will stop here to enjoy the views, the sunshine, and have a snack. 

The summit is up a steep, bald rocky face (see image below) that is more like a scramble than anything else. It can also get really windy, so make sure to take your time and watch where you are putting your feet. 

The scramble to the summit is steep and exposed to the elements

The view from the ridge is a breathtaking, 360-degree panorama of several remote valleys and the Fiddle River, Utopia Mountian, and Ashlar Ridge. There are lots of places to perch and enjoy lunch or just soak in the view, but make sure you bring warm layers because it can get pretty chilly up there. 

The trek down goes a lot quicker than up, as it is pretty much downhill the entire way. Though, if you have injuries that make going downhill painful, make sure to allow yourself time to get down safely. 

Top Tips

  1. Get there early
    Because of the amazing views, its status as a day hike, and its proximity to the hot springs, this is a popular spot. If you want to get a parking spot and have parts of the path to yourself, try and get there as early as you can. 
  2. Pack lots of water and some food
    There is nowhere to get water along the hike, and you are pretty exposed on hot days. I carried 2 liters with me for the round trip, but it never hurts to have too much. Make sure to have snacks/lunch with you as well. Something high in protein that will give you a quick boost of energy is smart — think nut-heavy trail mix, beef jerky, or peanut butter and banana sandwiches. 
  3. Remember that you are gaining elevation quickly
    Like, really quickly. You know how when you're on a plane and your water bottles get sucked in because of the pressurization? That's what mine looked like when I got to the top of the hike. That's pretty extreme — give yourself a break if you feel like you are breathing too hard. You aren't out of shape, you're just climbing at a really quick rate! 
  4. Don't veer off the beaten path
    There are lots of tempting side paths and shortcuts along this trek, but it's really easy to get lost if you take a wrong turn. Try to fight the urge to go a different way. No shortcut is going to make it any less steep. 
  5. Pause and listen every once and awhile 
    It's easy to get caught up in the sound of your footsteps and heavy breathing, but if you take a second to just listen, you can hear the wind moving through the valley and it is a pretty amazing sound. 
  6. Pack warm layers for the top
    The summit is windy, exposed, and can get cold if (like me) you are drenched in sweat by the time you get up there. If you want to spend some time enjoying the view, make sure you have a sweater, windbreaker, and even a hat or something to cover your legs. 

Gear Guide 

Shoes
This hike doesn't require hiking boots (I just wore my super supportive and comfortable running shoes), but there are a lot of rocks to contend with, so your feet are going to end up pretty achy if the soles of your shoes are too soft or not thick enough. Whatever you do, don't try new footwear out on this hike, the elevation makes for some nasty blisters.

Asics Women's GEL Noosa Tri 10 Running Shoes $66.95 - $199.95
Merrell Men's Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot $69.57 - $159.99


Pack
All you need is a small daypack to hold your layers, snacks, and water. Whatever you do, don't overpack. This hike is grueling and if you have too much extra weight you will not be a happy hiker.

The North Face Jester Backpack, TNF Black, One Size $64.95
The North Face Women's Jester Backpack - TNF Black - One Size $61.59

 


Water Bottles
Nalgene bottles are always my go-to. They last forever, are easy to clean and are lightweight so as you empty them during the climb, it lightens your pack too! 

Nalgene BPA Free Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle, 32 Oz, Gray with Black Lid $10.20
Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, Trout Green, 1 Quart $10.99

 

Sunscreen
Even if it's not that hot, the sun can still burn! Make sure any exposed skin is covered. 

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 30, 5 Oz. $7.47
Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, 7 Fl Oz $7.57

 




GUEST POST: Planning a Big Trip? Your Guide To Long-Term Travel

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


This guest post is written by inspiring travel blogger Emma Fell of GoBigEmma. Read more about Emma at the end of the post. All photos in this post were taken or supplied by Emma.

The travelers of this world understand why traveling is addictive. There is this thrill of being in a new place, the sensation of experiencing something that you can only experience in this one exact spot. Sometimes it is the vibe of a Central American beach town or an Asian metropolis that captures your heart, sometimes it is a remote stretch of wilderness that takes your breath away. The exhilaration of travel is enough to make you wonder: What if I could just keep traveling forever?

While “forever” might not be a realistic goal for most, long-term travel is a reality for many passionate travelers. During my own travels, I have met many people who have been traveling for a year or more. It wasn’t until I moved into my 1975 VW bus that I got the chance to see for myself what it was like to travel for “forever”. 

My boyfriend and I intend to drive our bus along the Panamerican Highway from Alaska to Argentina, a popular overlanding route. We’ve been camping and living out of our car for over a year. We’ve done a lot of car repairs, visited many unforgettable places and met even more unforgettable people. Travel has become synonymous with living. On the day that marked our first year on the road, we found ourselves in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. 
 

The dream: Travel as a lifestyle

How did I like traveling for a year? I asked myself. I watched the sweat dripping down my arm in the tropical heat as I pondered the question. The answer I would have given a year ago didn’t apply anymore: Travel is travel, what isn’t there to like? Before this trip, my longest traveling stints had been a meager eight weeks or so. Traveling for a year had been the dream, but what did the reality look like, now that I was there?

Quite different, of course. There are a number of things that we have struggled with along the way that make that answer more complicated.

Long-term travel involves much more planning and investment than shorter trips. Before, traveling had always been a break from normal life for me. You lock the door, go somewhere fascinating, explore parts of the world you have never explored before. But eventually, you come back, unlock the door, and let your usual life continue. Long-term travel, on the other hand, takes your everyday life with you. There is a simplicity to giving up most of your possessions and not leaving rent or a sublet waiting for you when you return. However, that also means you need to store or take everything else you might want or need with you, which comes with certain complications.
 

Getting from A to B (with all your stuff)

One of the biggest questions is how will you travel? What will be your main mode of transportation? Will you backpack, or overland (travel - and often live in - a vehicle)? Will you travel by bus or by plane? Will you stay in hotels or hostels? Or even a tent? We decided to overland it and live in our vehicle. Old VWs are especially reputable for this. Overlanding did mean, however, that we had spent most of the last year camping. This was fine for us, but it’s not everybody’s thing. Two of the hardest questions traveling in a vehicle - which will apply to all long-term travelers, no matter the mode - was What will we take with us? and Where will we put it all?

If you are a backpacker, this question might sound ridiculous to you - you are more than used to reducing your material possessions to those that you can literally carry on your back. A vehicle is, in the end, no different. You just have more space to work with, but also likely an actual living space — such as a bed — to transport as well. All space is valuable. 

Up in Alaska, we were happy to have brought our winter hats and scarves with us. Now, in southern Mexico, we wonder why they are taking up valuable space. I keep them there, however, because I know I will be wandering through new climates again before I know it. Long-term travel means taking everything you might need with you or spending money multiple times on acquiring it. Packing and climate go hand in hand. Can you fit your winter coat in with your flip flops? Or will you buy your flip flops when you get there?
 

Travel can be cheap, but it isn’t free

Speaking of buying things: Traveling for over a year will cost you money. Making use of great resources like Couchsurfing is helpful, but you will still be paying for transportation costs, food, any activities you want to do, and many other things. For us, we can surely add camping, car repairs, and phone cards (aka mobile Internet access) to that list. Travel can be cheap, but it isn’t free. 

There are two common options to solve this problem: Make enough money before you leave, or be prepared to disrupt your travels to earn some on the way. We did both. Freelance writing, however, can be a competitive field, and working means we need a lot of Internet access and spend a lot of time on the computer. While a cozy beach camp is a much better work space than an office cubicle, it is worth considering to save up money and have your finances taken care of before you leave. Either way, you will need to find a way to make long-term travel sustainable, or it will be over before you even start.

Pick your travel buddies with care

I am fortunate not to be traveling alone. I have never preferred traveling solo and definitely wouldn’t want to do a trip of this scale by myself. Travel partners offer a lot: Company, shared experiences, a second set of problem-solving hands, just to name a few. On the other hand, be prepared to share a very small space - especially if you are traveling in a vehicle. However, travelers of all kinds can appreciate the fact that no matter how you travel, you will be spending a lot of time with your travel buddy.

There will always come situations where you will, at the least, want to scream at each other. At the most, you may want to drive away and leave your partner standing in the dust (the first strategy is recommended!). You will get to know each other intimately, including many habits you may prefer to know nothing about.

If you decide to take someone with you, make sure it is the right someone. Just because you don’t know each other long doesn’t mean you won’t get along in a small space and tight situations. Tessa and Dillon of The Bus and Us (who also traveled the Panamerican highway in a VW bus in 2015) only knew each other for six months before setting off on their travels and continue to travel together today. However, if you are not very familiar with each other, you should ask yourself some questions: Will it matter a lot to you if you realize you have to go your separate ways? And will you be okay doing this in a place that is likely both far away from home and foreign? 

Where are you going?

Speaking of foreign. Although some enjoy complete spontaneity when it comes to travel, most people have at least a general idea of where they want to go. Our goal is to drive from Alaska to Argentina (and the answer to your question is No, we don’t know what we will do after we get there). This means we have a definite start and end destination, and are planning on going through a total of 22 countries on our way. A year into our trip, we have three countries down and 19 left to visit. 

Many people choose international travel simply for practicality’s sake: Unless you only want to explore a huge country like Canada, the USA, Australia, or Russia, you probably don’t want to spend a whole year traveling in a single country. In addition to this, wherever you travel internationally, you will have visa issues to think about. These two reasons are why many people choose a region of the world for long-term travel. Others meander through multiple regions or decide to do an around-the-world type of thing. 

The point is that if you decide to travel long-term, you will probably be traveling internationally. Have you traveled internationally before? If not, this is something to think twice about before deciding to do it for over a year. Don’t get me wrong - international travel is a mind-blowing experience like no other, but it can also often be complicated, annoying, or straight up frustrating. 

Be prepared to be confronted with stereotypes, and practice overcoming them. Expect to learn at least some of a foreign language (no, you cannot only get by with English all over the world, so forget about that now), handle many miscommunications, get lost, and try multiple times before things happen how you think they should. Be prepared to adapt your concept of how you believe things should happen, too. International travel is always full of surprises. It is part of the beauty of it.

But it is not a passion for everybody. You might very well find yourself happy with these experiences in smaller doses, but not with a constant stream of internationality. It all depends on you and your expectations.
 

The guide to long-term travel: Try it for yourself

Is long-term travel for you? There is no guide to long-term travel. You cannot hire a guide to show you the way. The only way to find out is to try it for yourself. It is an experience that can never be accurately reproduced or described by anyone. Your version of long-term travel will not be the same as mine or anybody else’s that you read on the Internet. 

But it will be your version. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You may find that none of my advice applies at all because you are the expert of your experience. 

There is no guide to long-term travel because you don’t need a guide, you just need to be yourself.

The rest will work itself out.

Trust me. 

This is part of a guest post exchange with GoBigEmma. Check out The Anthrotorian's post, "How To Not Kill Your Travel Buddy" on Emma and Sven's blog here!

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Meet The Author

Emma is a writer, adventurer, and language enthusiast. Together with her boyfriend Sven, she is currently traveling the Americas in a VW bus called Big Emma. They document their trip on their blog GoBigEmma and on Instagram.



Travel Quiz: Which Travel Quote Describes You Best?

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


Travel Quiz

Are you the type who is ready for a rugged adventure and content to live out of a backpack for days on end? Or, do you prefer to indulge in luxury and spend your days enjoying the sunshine by the pool? Maybe you're the type that likes to blend in with the crowd and get immersed in the sights and sounds of a foreign culture. 

Whatever your travel style, there's a quote out there that is sure to get you in the mood for your next trip! Take our quiz below to find out which travel quote describes you best! 

 


10 Travel Quotes That Will Inspire You To Explore The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , , ,


There's nothing like a good travel quote to inspire you to pack your bags and take off on an adventure!

I am a sucker for quotes of any kind, and you can usually find me with a pen in hand when I'm reading ready to underline a favourite quote or jot it down to reference later. It's amazing the power that one or two sentences can hold when you need a little inspiration. 

These are 10 of my faves — by authors, writers, and fellow explorers. 

Do you have a favourite quote? Share it with me in the comment section below! 

View of the Tuscan countryside from Cortona, Italy

"I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little."
—Alexander Sattler

Sunset from the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand 

"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you've traveled."
—Mohammed

Rooftops in Rome, Italy

"Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures."
—Lovelle Drachman

Halong Bay, Vietnam at dusk

"So much of who we are is where we have been."
—William Langewiesche

Pink sunset and palm trees on Oahu, Hawaii

"Travel is never a matter of money but of courage."
—Paulo Coelho

View of the Atlantic Ocean from Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada

"The earth has music for those who listen."
—Shakespeare

The red beach on Santorini, Greece

"Do more things that make you forget to check your phone."
—Unknown

Tiled rooftops in Budapest, Hungary 

"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine." 
—Caskie Stinnett

New York City from the top of 30 Rock

"I travel because I become uncomfortable being too comfortable." 
—Carew Papritz

The top of Mt Etna, the active volcano on the island of Sicily, Italy




Start Your Trip Right! 8 Tips For A Seamless Arrival

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


You finally got your suitcase zipped-up, made it to the airport with minutes to spare before check-in closed, managed to get through security without being strip-searched, and had just enough time to buy water, a magazine, and some chocolate (I never fly without chocolate), before it was time to board.

Exhausted, you half-slept through the three movies you watched on your 9 1/2 hour flight, and you're feeling a bit disoriented — but you made it! 

Now what? 

Well, if you do these eight things, you will have a seamless arrival and be ready to get your adventure started! 

Arrive In Daylight

Try and time your flight so that you arrive during the day when business are open and there are lots of people around. It's safer if you are traveling along, and will also make exchanging money, getting to where you're staying, and finding something to eat A LOT easier. 

Make Sure You Can Handle All Your Luggage 

The best way to become a target when leaving the airport is looking like you are struggling with your bags. You don't want to be so focused on trying to lug your huge suitcase around that you forget a piece of luggage or, even worse, get something stolen. This is especially important if you are traveling solo

Keep Your Valuables Close

Make sure your passport, cash, electronics, and any other valuables are well secured. The best time to be targeted by a pickpocket is when your guard is down because you are tired and disoriented from arriving in a new place after a long flight. 

Pack A Paper Map

I know, we all have phones that will allow us to quickly look up our destination, but what happens if you don't have an international phone plan and there's no wifi? Or your phone dies? You should be able to purchase a paper map at your local bookstore or print one off before you leave. 

Have A Place To Crash

I am definitely a fan of spontaneous travel (if I am going to multiple cities or countries during a trip, I often won't book ahead). But, as a rule, I always make sure I've booked a bed on my first night in a new place so that I have somewhere to crash as soon as I get off the plane. 

Know How To Get To Where You Are Staying

Have the address of where you are going written down somewhere that is easily accessible so that you can show it to your cab driver, bus driver, or someone who you are asking for directions. This is especially important if you are visiting a country that has a language you are unfamiliar with. You don't want to mispronounce a street name and end up on the wrong side of the city! 

Exchange Money Or Take Out Cash 

If you didn't exchange money before you left home, make sure to hit the currency exchange or ATM before you leave. It's good to have some cash on-hand to pay a taxi, grab some street food, or whatever else comes up that you might need cash for. It can sometimes be hard to track down somewhere to get money when you leave the airport if you aren't familiar with the area. 

Stop By The Info Booth Before You Leave The Airport

If you have any questions about your destination, find the info booth at the airport. Actually, even if you don't have any questions stop by the info booth at the airport! The people manning them are used to speaking to foreigners so will likely speak English, you'll be able to get a map if you don't have one yet, and there will probably be some other great publications that you can pick up with tips on spots to check out in the city. 

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Your Guide To Trekking The Epic West Coast Trail On Vancouver Island

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


The West Coast Trail will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

I embarked on this epic 75 km trek with a group of fellow trekkers that included my dad, my best friend and her dad, and three of our dads' friends. We had no idea, standing at the trail head in Port Renfrew on our first day, the adventures that would befall us, the amount of mud that would be caked on our clothing, how much our hip bones would hurt every morning, and how absolutely unforgettable every moment would be. 

Before I dive into what to expect on the hike itself, let's start with some history and logistics. 

History 

Construction on the West Coast Trail started in 1889 as part of an international communication system called the Red Route that connected the British Empire in North America to India via an undersea cable. The trail was built by telegraph linesman who had to string up wire along the coast for communication. 

The region became known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific" because more than 50 ships have gone down all along the rocky coast — almost one ship per kilometre! When you are hiking along the beach you can see some of the wrecks at low tide, and there are often anchors, buoys, and other rusted pieces of ships washed up on shore.

In 1907, the trail started to be widened and cleared in order to help rescuers reach the otherwise unreachable stretch of coastline to try and assist shipwreck survivors. Because of how isolated the trail is and how hard it is to get in and out (you literally have to carry everything on your back), there are still rusted tools left along it from this construction that took place more than 100 years ago! 

Maintenance on the trail stopped in 1954 when technology made it obsolete as a life-saving trail and it became overgrown. Then, in 1969, Canadian Parks Services sent a crew in to re-open it in anticipation of adding it into the third phase of the Pacific Rim National Park. 

And the rest, as they say, is history!

Over the years there have been incredible improvements made along the trail (considering the EVERYTHING has to be packed in), including the installation of hundreds of ladders, platforms, landings, and more.

It is now a world-class trek that attracts hikers from all over the world.

But not just anyone can hike the West Coast Trail whenever they want. Oh no, access to the trek is heavily regulated, and that leads me too....

The Reservation System 

You can only hike the West Coast Trail if you have reserved your spot using Parks Canada's reservation system online or through the call centre. In order to prevent overcrowding and cut down on environmental impact, only 75 overnight hikers are allowed on the trail at any time. So, spots are limited and fill up fast. There is a reservation fee of $24.50 per person. 

You can show up at one of the trailheads and register in person on the standby list, but there is no guarantee that you will actually make it on the trail, as it could take days before there is a cancellation or a no-show. 

Trail Facts

LENGTH: 75 km (5-7 trekking days)
OPEN: May 1 – September 30
MAX GROUP SIZE: 10 people
FEES: $127.50 per person (permit) + additional ferry fees to get you to the trailheads
ORIENTATION: It is mandatory for all hikers to attend an orientation session. This can be attended the day before your reservation. You will receive a waterproof map of the trail at the session. 
STARTING POINT: You can start from Pachena Bay (near the town of Bamfield) in the north, or Gordon River (near the town of Port Renfrew) in the South. A mid-access point at Nitinaht has recently been added if you are looking for a smaller, less intense taste of the trail. 

Packing Tips

Parks Canada has a great packing list on their website, but I thought I'd include a few tips from my own experience for you too. 

  • The weight of your pack should only be about 25-30% of your body weight at the beginning of the trip. And that includes full bottles of water. The load will lighten throughout the day as you drink water, and throughout the trip, as you eat your food and the fuel for your stove gets used up. My pack started out at about 40 pounds and ended at about 35. 
  • Bring all of the blister combating things you can think of.... ALL OF THEM (and on that note, make sure your hiking boots have been extremely worn in before using them on this trek)
  • Also, consider the other areas of your body that will rub. The skin on my collar bones, hips, and lower back was rubbed raw by the end of the trip from the waist belt and shoulder staps on my pack. 
  • Rain gear — including a waterproof pack cover — is your friend. The weather can change in an instant, and you can't slow down for it. 
  • Gaiters are probably the one must-pack-don't-forget-invest-in-really-good-ones item I would recommend. The terrain is crazy out there — sandy beaches, rocky shore, mud (SO much mud, see photo above), and you want to keep all of that out of your shoes and off of your legs. 
  • You may go an entire day without finding a water source, so you will have to carry enough water to get you through it. There are water sources at all recommended camping sites along the trail, but these could take you 13 hours of hiking to get to. Make sure you have enough water bottles with you to keep you hydrated and don't forget to bring a water pump and filter. 
  • You'll need rope to hang your food at night to keep the cougars and black bears away. 
  • Toilet paper (and a ziplock bag to pack it out) is a necessity — there are no bathrooms in the wilderness! 
  • A warm change of clothing and comfortable shoes for the end of the day. You will need to take your sweaty, dirty hiking clothes off when you stop for the night and give your feet a rest from your hiking boots.
  • You will need to have, and know how to read, tide tables. Some of the trail runs along the shoreline and you don't want to get trapped. 

A Brief Overview of What My Trek Looked Like 

My group of seven began our hike from Gordon River in the South. We arrived in Port Renfrew a day early to complete our orientation and make sure that we could get an early start on our first day. 

DAY 1
13 km to Camper's Creek

The men in our group about to board the water taxi that took us to the trailhead. 

I started full of energy and felt like nothing could slow me down — and then I hiked for 5 km straight up and felt like there was no way I was going to make it. Okay, it wasn't straight up, but with that 40-pound pack on my back, it sure felt like it was. 

There was knee-deep mud in spots (thank god for gaiters), but the scenery was gorgeous — old growth forest, ferns, moss, and the intoxicating smell of cedar. We crossed narrow bridges (basically just giant tree trunks) laid over ravines and shallow gorges and climbed up and down ladders bolted to rock faces. 

The view of Camper's Creek from the cable car — after a 13-hour grueling day, this was the most beautlful view I had ever seen in my life. 

We reached Thrasher's Cove at about 1 pm and decided (though Park's Canada recommends stopping here on your first day) to press on the 8km more to Camper's Creek. This stretch was full of wooden boardwalks, ladders, and fallen-tree-bridges, and then finally the human-powered cable car that would deliver us to the creek and beach that we would camp at for the night. 


DAY 2
9 km to Walbran Creek

These log bridges were really slippery when wet, and though the ravines below weren't especially deep, they still would have caused a lot of damage if we fell into them. 

The rain had turned the trail into a mud pit, but it didn't dampen our moods. We were hiking through the forest again, and there were more boardwalks, a cable car, a huge series of ladders bolted to cliff faces (some had more than 60 rungs!) and a long and slightly scary suspension bridge. 

It was one ladder after another at some points on the trail (note how they seem to stretch forever in the background) — not an easy feat with a heavy pack on your back (but kind of fun at the same time...). 

This boardwalk ran through an area that had been recently burned in a wildfire. It made for a beautifully eerie bit of trekking. 

Our campsite for the night. The waves echoed off the cliffs behind us which made it sound like we were surrounded by the ocean while we were sleeping. 

The last hour of this day almost killed me. Everything ached — everything. But, the reward was a sunny evening at our campsite, which happened to be nestled amongst driftwood on the beach overlooking the ocean. 


DAY 3
15 km to Dare Point

Most mornings started off misty or with a light rain — hence the reason rain gear is one of my packing suggestions. 

Most mornings started off misty or with a light rain — hence the reason rain gear is one of my packing suggestions. 

The hike on day three was a total switch because the majority of it took place on the beach! There was varied terrain — sand (not so fun with an additional 40 pounds on your back), flat sandstone (definitely easier), and large rocks (so much more delightful).

I definitely got distracted by the tidal pools that were full of starfish, purple sea urchins, and colourful sea anemones. 

We made much better time along the beach than we did in the forest, and it wasn't long before we had come upon the Carmanah Point Lighthouse and the Hamburger Hut that was located on the part of the trail that is a Native American Reserve. You can bet that we shelled out some serious cash for that over-priced burger and it was the most amazing thing I have ever tasted! 

We had to climb off the beach at kilometre 37 because that area is impassable — makes for a fantastic view though! 

We had to climb off the beach at kilometre 37 because that area is impassable — makes for a fantastic view though! 

After a brief rest, we continued along the beach, encountering a light mist at Cribs Creek that gave the coastline an air of mystery, crossed surge channels, and climbed a ladder to the kilometre 37 marker and then back down to Dare Point Beach. The beach was our home for the night and had some of the softest sand that I have ever felt in my life. 


DAY 4
13 km to Tsusiat Falls

Yet another breathtaking view along the West Coast Tral. We actually saw whales just off the coast from this viewpoint. 

Yet another breathtaking view along the West Coast Tral. We actually saw whales just off the coast from this viewpoint. 

Maybe I was just getting used to long, grueling daily hikes, but this one felt like it went pretty fast. The first part of the hike took us through the forest again and over boardwalks, up ladders, and on a ferry crossing at Nitinat Narrows (the Narrows must be crossed by boat — there's no way around it). 

After taking in the view from some pretty impressive cliffs, we found ourselves back on the beach. After about an hour of trekking, we made it to our destination for the night — Tsusiat Falls. 

Nature's most breathtaking shower — Tsusiat Falls. 

This absolutely stunning waterfall falls from a cliff right onto the beach and is one of the busiest camping areas on the trail. The best part is that it is the perfect natural shower (make sure to pack your biodegradable soap!) and there was nothing like the feeling of rinsing off four days of sweat and mud while standing under that stunning natural wonder.


DAY 5
8 km to Tsocowis Creek

With a coastline like that, you can see why it would be so hard to approach the shore by boat!

We had a slow start to the morning, enjoying the falls, the beach, and some whale watching. The hike started off inland on boardwalks, through some mud pits, and high above the ocean with amazing views. Part of the hike took us back onto the beach as well, and when we had made it to Tsocowis Creek in the early afternoon, we decided to call it a day and enjoy the sunshine. 

There's nothing better then spending a day on a stunning, sunny beach, and the coastline atTsocowis Creek did not disappoint! 

We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, swimming, and exploring the tide pools. Who needs Hawaii when you have the West Coast Trail?!


DAY 6
17 km to Pachena Bay

We started the day on the beach, which was a bit treacherous because the rocks were wet (I only fell once). Once we had hit Michigan Creek, we headed back into the woods, pausing to visit the lighthouse at Pachena Point. They were selling fudge and I couldn't buy it fast enough — it was a much-needed sugar rush. 

My dad and I just minutes away from finishing this epic trek! 

From there it felt like a walk in the park after the five days that we had just had! A very deceiving start for people beginning from the Pachena Bay/Bamfield end of the trail. But, it was a nice way to end the epic six days that we had spent together. 

Is It Really That Hard? 

The short answer? Yes.

It is a grueling trek that you should not attempt unless you are in shape to do it. You are truly isolated, and if you get hurt it can take up to 24-hours for help to come (if they can reach you at all). You are contending with wild, rough, and unpredictable terrain that can force you to move painstakingly slow (the first day we moved about 1 km every hour). Plus, you are carrying a heavy pack for long hours on multiple days with tired, sore muscles. 

This is a quote from my WCT bible Blisters and Bliss: A Trekker's Guide To The West Coast Trail:

Remember that, despite trail improvements, once you step off the boardwalk, the West Coast Trail is still the same grueling trek that [has always been]. It is an isolated, prolonged and strenuous trek, that is physically challenging and potentially hazardous.

But, if you are well-prepared and ready to take on any obstacle that is thrown in your path, you will have an epic adventure that you will remember forever.

In other words, it is SO worth the pain. 

Resources

Ready to plan your trip? Awesome!! 

Here are some great resources to get you started: 
Parks Canada West Coast Trail Guide
Blisters and Bliss: A Trekker's Guide To The West Coast Trail (this book was my bible)
Hiking on The Edge

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3 Amazing New York City Restaurants You Must Experience

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


One of the most important things about traveling is eating — and not just because your travel buddy gets grumpy when she's hungry. A city's food and the ambiance in the places it is served can end up being some of your favorite, most memorable experiences.  

These are three spots that I tried on my last visit to NYC that are definitely not to be missed.

Conveniently, they are also the perfect places for brunch, a late lunch, and a light dinner with cocktails — the perfect dining day! 

Cafe Lalo

Location: 201 West 83rd St., Upper West Side, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Thu 9 am – 1 am; Fri – Sat 9 am – 3 am; Sun 9 am – 1 am
Nearby attractions: Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Children's Museum of Manhatten

Made famous by its appearance in the movie You've Got Mail (1998) featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan — it's the cafe where they decide to meet and he realizes that it's her when he sees her through the window with the red rose... 

This spot in Manhattan's Upper West Side is located on a quiet street near Central Park and is frequented by locals in the evenings who are in search of a decadent dessert or a great coffee after a night of theater. 

It is the perfect Parisian cafe outside of Paris, with bistro tables, huge windows, and deliciously flaky pastries. The cafe is also open for brunch during the week and on weekends and has the widest selection of eggs that I have ever seen or tasted (seriously, I dream about the eggs). If you go for nothing else, go for the Fresh Herb eggs! 

Visit for the ambiance as much as for the amazing food — during the day it's bright and sunny, while in the evening it's romantically lit with tiny twinkly lights — there is usually live Jazz in the evenings as well if you are interested! 

Petrie Court Café

Location: Next to the European Sculpture Court inside The Met on Fifth — 1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhatten
Open daily: 11:30 am – 4 pm (Afternoon tea available from 2 pm – 4 pm)
Nearby attractions: Neue Galerie New York, Guggenheim Museum, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

I'm not one to dine at the restaurants in museums. The food is usually either cheap and terrible or WAY out of my price range. But the Petrie Court Cafe in The Met has completely charmed me. Located next to the stunning sculpture gallery (if you saw recent photos from the Met Gala, it's the area that is all white pillars and sculptures with red brick walls), and overlooking Central Park (a seriously amazing view), it is a simple, posh space that is the perfect place to indulge when your feet need a break from exploring the giant museum. 

The menu is small but well curated with a French flare, and the dishes are delicious. You can eat off the menu or choose a fixed price two-course or three-course meal (I went with three for $36 — SO WORTH IT). And I highly recommend indulging in a glass of wine (or two) or a cocktail (or two) as well. I picked Cleopatra’s Needle made with Gin, Elderflower, Lemon Juice, and Prosecco (anything with prosecco has my vote), and it was the perfect accompaniment to the marble floors, the gorgeous view, and the delicious flavors in front of me!  

The Carnegie Club

Location: 156 West 56th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Midtown, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Fri 2 pm – 2 am; Sat 4 pm – 2 am; Sun 4 pm – 1 am
Dress code: Business casual
Nearby Attractions: Carnegie Hall, MoMA, The Plaza  

This Don Draper-style club may be one of the last places that you can smoke indoors in North America (okay, that's not true at all, but it sounds more dramatic). I am not now, nor have I ever been a smoker, but I just couldn't help but visit this absolutely iconic cigar and cocktail bar while in New York City. Located right near (you guessed it) Carnegie Hall, this bar is where the great performers (think icons like Frank Sinatra) have grabbed a drink after their show. 

The place has the feel of an old gentleman's club with dark, hand-carved bookcases packed with leather bound books, a huge stone fireplace, an ornate bar, and plush furnishings that create private pockets of seating. 

You can, of course, purchase cigars to smoke (and there is a huge and expensive selection if that's what you are looking for), plus there are some fantastic craft cocktails that pack a wallop. It is by no means a full-service restaurant, but they do offer some small plates if you feel nibbly. 

The bar features a Frank Sinatra show with an 11 string orchestra on Saturday nights (reservations required), but the night I went there was an incredible Billie Holiday-like singer belting out some tunes as a perfect backdrop. 

I will admit that the smoke was a bit much at first, but after a few drinks and a few hours in my wingback chair, I hardly noticed it anymore! (Let's just say it took a few washes to get the smell out of my clothes, but it was SO worth it.)

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