Monday, August 10, 2015

Hiking the North Coast Trail - Summer 2015

Hiking the North Coast Trail has been on my bucket list for some time so when I heard that 407 Squadron was doing the trek as an Adventure Training Exercise I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the team.

Hauling backpacks, we disembarked from a water taxi at the North Coast Trail head at Shushartie Bay, July 31st around 2 p.m.. Twelve members of 407 Squadron, including, Cpl Caron, MCpl Horwood, MCpl Larouche, Sgt Nadeau, MCpl Proulx, Cpl Smith, Maj Smith, Cpl St-Pierre, 2Lt Tang, Sgt Toth, Cpl Ward, and myself, started off with a great sense of excitement. It was diminished a bit when we found we immediately had a ten metre steep climb by rope into the rain forest.

The first two days of hiking crossed difficult terrain. We averaged a pace of a little over 1km/hour due to the technical challenge of climbing over tree root systems, and slippery rock faces. Though there were some wooden boardwalks and steps built along the first two sections of the “trail” we crossed, it seemed more of an obstacle course than a “trail”.

The first night we camped at Skinner Creek I accidentally burned three of my toes with boiling hot water. The next day, while crossing Cape Sutil, I was stung by four mud wasps within five seconds. Even though I cried out for those ahead of me to “Run!!” it did no good because we were hiking a difficult uphill in close ranks. Later that day I slid down a slimy cliff scraping my elbow. The North Coast Trail was becoming somewhat more of a “trial” to endure than a “trail” to trek. But we all persevered, and by day three we were hiking scenic long stretches of sandy, and pebble stone beaches. For about an hour we were followed by a humpback whale a few hundred metres off shore. The whale would rise to the ocean’s surface and release a blasting spout of mist into the air every few minutes.

While trekking the North Coast Trail you’re stripped of most amenities. With no cellular reception the smart phones become just useful tools to take photos, or for use as and e-readers and pedometers. Our minds focused on more basic things, like finding fresh drinking water, getting shelter, and making fire.

During the inland crossings when I found myself alone, after the sound of the rumbling surf faded, the mossy bogs soaked up the shuffle of my footsteps and my deep breathing as I pressed on lugging my backpack. When I did stop to listen, the silence was dramatic, almost unearthly, like I was standing on some lifeless planet.

By the fifth day we had completed the North Coast Trail section and were able to camp two nights at Nels Bight beach on the Cape Scott Trail. The following day most of the team took a 14-km roundtrip day hike to the Cape Scott lighthouse (I stayed behind to tend to my three burned toes).

Thursday morning greeted us with a rainbow in the sky and more humpback whales feeding offshore. I watched them as I ate a quick breakfast of hot oats and coffee readying myself for the final 19-km hiking leg that would take us near to the Cape Scott Trail head (where the shuttle bus would be picking us up the next day). I couldn’t think of a better way to depart, being able to witness such beauty. It was worth a few wasp stings, and burned toes.

All together throughout the trek we covered around 70-km, and those who went on to the lighthouse completed another 14-km. Overall, I figured we each burned around 21,000 calories. Our total food intake was closer to 10,000 calories each, so we were famished by the time the shuttle bus picked us up at the Cape Scott trail head the final day. A couple of hours later when we stopped at a mall in Port Hardy for lunch I was elated to have an A&W Uncle burger in my grasp. One has never tasted so good.

1 comment:

Raphael said...

Thanks for sharing!