Tag Archives: Backpacking

50+ Reasons I’m Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

This summer I will be departing on my biggest adventure yet, the Pacific Crest Trail aka PCT. For those that don’t know the PCT is a 2650 mile foot path that runs from the Mexican border near the town of Campo, CA to the Canadian border at Manning Park, BC. On average those that complete the trail do so in about 5 months time with around 90% of people travelling in a Northbound direction. However, I wont be one of those 90%, because I’ve decided to go against the grain and walk southbound. What follows is a list of reasons why I am hiking the Pacific Crest trail in no particular order. I’ve split the list into why I am hiking the PCT, and why I am going southbound specifically.

Frank aka #squawesomefrank, my best friend and adventure dog extraordinaire
Frank aka #squawesomefrank, my best friend and adventure dog extraordinaire

Reasons to Hike the PCT

1. Take Frank for a big walk

2. I love the feeling of moving over land by my own power

3. All the views, vistas, and epic scenery

4. Get lots of fresh air

5. Learn from reading all the signs along the way, seriously I read everything I walk past

6. Get a little leaner

7. Equanimity training

8. Make great memories with Frank

9. Live without keys

10. See lots of neat plants I’ve never seen before

11. Time to process past traumas both emotional and physical

12. Trying to wake up for sunrise somewhere new everyday, trying…

13. See some new insects

14. Not have to drive anywhere, living in a van it gets old…

15. Smell different environments

16. Live in a world where short-shorts are normal

17. Enjoy an extended wilderness immersion

18. Connect to a higher power

19. Hike until I hate hiking, and then keep hiking until I love it again

20. Spend less time on the internet

21. Tanned and toned man thighs, oh yeah dudes in short shorts…

22. Learn from the people I meet along the way

23. Make it up to Frank we had a lazy winter

24. Meet some kick ass people

25. Write everyday with pen and paper

26. Not have to think of what adventures to do all summer

27. Enjoy sleeping outside every night

28. See some cool rocks, I love rocks and studied Geology and Earth & Ocean Sciences in university

29. All the stars

30. Forget who I’ve been told I am

31. Walking lots eases my scoliosis pain

32. Hang out with my tree friends

33. Get a killer sock tan

34. Being able to eat all the chips without penalty

35. Enjoy sunset somewhere new daily

36. I’ve always wanted to go for a really long walk; I don’t even know why, but the time has come

37. To spend long enough living out of a backpack that I can more easily part with the crap in my storage locker, for real.

38. Inspire my friends and family to spend more time being active outside

39. Enjoy watching Frank in his element, that guy is not meant for town

40. Learn to be more efficient at packing my backpack, seriously how am I still so slow after so many years?

41. Learn how to get up and break camp in less than 30 minutes (current time average 2 hours)

42. Become a morning person

Reasons to go SOBO (southbound)

43. Generally safer water crossings, this is important with a dog

44. Cooler desert, this is also important with a dog

45. I can dawdle the last few hundred miles if I feel like it

46. Hopefully less rattle snakes

47. Later start so I can enjoy morel picking season in Canada

48. To be hiking in the desert while Canada is being crapped on with bad weather in the fall/early winter

49. To watch the ecological assemblage change from one I grew up in to one completely foreign.

50. Lower impact hike according to LNT principals and the PCTA

51. Living in Canada it’s just easier to tell people you are walking to Mexico

52. More solitude

53. The added challenge of a shorter weather window

54. Impose my pup on less people

55. Autumn in the Sierra

56. Washington wildflowers

57. Meet the kind of people that do things differently than what ‘everyone does’

If you’ve read this far you may have noticed there are a few typical reasons for hiking that I have not listed such as connecting to nature, learning to hear my own thoughts, breaking out of the rat race, and proving to myself I am capable of more than I realize. It’s not that these aren’t good reasons; they’re great reason, but they’re not MY reasons. My entire life is based on connection with nature, meditating, sovereign living, and challenging myself both physically and mentally, so as a result my reason are more about why I chose this adventure over all the other types of adventure I could be having with my free time.

Needless to say I am incredibly stoked to start this adventure, but in the meantime I’ve challenged myself to camp at least twice a month all winter which I’ve been posting about on Instagram. I’ll also be hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail for my second (and possibly third) time, as well as many other smaller adventures. To follow along on my PCT trek and the adventures that will lead me there you can find me on Instagram @tidelinetoalpine, as well as on Facebook.

Stay tuned for more PCT related posts like trail preparations, being a solo female hiker, vegan trail food, and thru-hiking with a dog.

Happy Trails!!

Haida Gwaii: East Beach Trail, A Solo Experience

It was a stormy night on Chilkat pass, Frank and I were cozy in the van resting for the next day. We had returned that morning from our first backpacking trip in more than a year, and were preparing to spend some time exploring The Triangle over the next few day. While putting maps to memory for our trek I found myself distracted by a map of Haida Gwaii. I noticed that the smooth coastline of Naikoon Provincial Park had a trail spanning it’s entirety, and with no other information than a 6 inch dotted line representing over 90km I was committed.

Epic skies along Haida Gwaii's East Beach Trail
Epic skies along Haida Gwaii’s East Beach Trail

I’ve wanted to visit Haida Gwaii since childhood, and was craving a long walk, so I decided the East Beach Trail combined with further explorations of the remote archipelago would be a perfect SOG adventure. The next month flew by, new gear arrived, autumn came into full swing in the northlands and I was finally on the road south. Wanting to arrive with few expectations I had hardly done any internet research opting to let the mystery unravel as it’s meant to. I spent my first week on Moresby island where I attended the ‘Wild Harvest Festival’ and summited Mt.Moresby, Haida Gwaii’s tallest peak. After enjoying several days of brilliant weather the forecast was mostly sunny for the week ahead, so I decided it was best not to push my luck and get a move on.

Chilllin' at camp on a much enjoyed rest day
Chilllin’ at camp on a much enjoyed rest day

I was excited, but in a very nervous way. I intended to hike from Tlell, along the length of East Beach (the longest beach in British Columbia), and around the base of Rose spit to Tow Hill, a distance of just over 90km. This was 30kms further than I had ever done on a trip, and more than 50kms longer than anything I had ever done by myself. Of course I wouldn’t really be be myself, I had Frank with me. He carries his own food, keeps bears away, and keeps me grounded. He is indispensable as a wilderness companion and hard to feel alone around with his large presence. Aside from the length I was nervous about leaving my van at one end and hitchhiking to the start of the trail. I was nervous about my first, and rather isolated thru hike, and about the amount of times I was told ‘there’s no fresh water on the route’. I figured these people had never done the route, after all there were several rivers needing to be crossed at low tide and boglands above the beach; how could there be no fresh water? I was also nervous about crossing those rivers with Frank and the supposed 16 km stretch that you need to do on a receding tide so as to not get trapped along the cliffs with no escape. Basically I was a little nervous about all of the limited information I was able to find, but it was more than early explores ever had and I figured the rest would sort itself out.

Food for ~8 day. I found the dried soups deep in my van and used them to season the basic quinoa and lentils. I came out with all the dried peanut butter and almost half the nuts and dried fruit. The eggs went fast.
Food for ~8 day. I found the dried soups deep in my van and used them to season the basic quinoa and lentils. I came out with all the dried peanut butter and almost half the nuts and dried fruit. The eggs went fast.

The night before we started I took nearly 4 hours to get ready, most of which was spent preparing food. I wanted to maximize my nutrient to weight ratio while also minimizing the amount of meals that needed cooking. I was only bringing one fuel bottle, but wanted to save the fuel to boil water in case my filter failed. I intentionally packed more food than needed incase an injury or illness slowed progress. Rescue on Haida Gwaii is hardly an option, so to explore here you must be self sufficient and have the mental fortitude for self rescue if needed. I intended to take only 5 nights/6days, but didn’t really know what I was in for and decided the minimal extra weight of more food was well worth the piece of mind. For Frank I packed 6 days/nights worth of food into dry bags in his own backpack along with his own pack-towel and bowl. I carried everything else we would need including roughy 7-8 days/nights worth of food. It was one of those nights where I could have spend all night preparing and still not feel certain of my endeavour; instead I took Frank to the beach for a walk.

Frank healing well 5 days after his accident, keep reading to hear what happened
Frank healing well 5 days after his accident, keep reading to hear what happened

I woke just before sunrise eager to get the hitchhiking part over with. Having only ever hitchhiked once before I was more nervous about it than any of the hike. Starting from the end of a road with little traffic I was half expecting I would have to walk into Masset, but luckily the tides were in my favour, literally. Before I could even eat breakfast I had flagged down the one and one clam digger out for the sunrise lowtide that day. He agreed to take me to town, but on the condition that Frank would have to ride in the box. Frank had never rode in the back of a truck before, but with poor weather rolling in I doubted another ride would come by anytime soon so I took it. I contemplated tying him in, but figured he would be safer without incase he were to come out of the box. Out of consideration for Frank the driver went slower than normal, but Frank was still scared and mostly not sure if I was inside and it seems he decided to jump out. I heard a yelp and the next moment I was out of the truck to check on him. He wasn’t limping or obviously gushing blood so I threw him back in the truck and we were off. This time he stayed laying down instead of standing up and leaning off the edge, it seemed he had learned (unfortunately the hard way), and I made sure to remind him often I was just inside. My ride, Ben, took a detour along south beach, and seemed surprised by my solo nature. It wasn’t until we were let off at the thumb bench in Masset that I noticed the gash on Franks head, road-rash on his head, tail and legs and poop covering his rear end. I felt absolutely horrible that my desire to do a particular hike had lead to Frank being terrified and injured. Frank tried to get me to play fetch, apparently I was more upset than he was. I cleaned his bum off with wet thimbleberry leaves and before long we were both in a warm car being transported directly to the trailhead in Tlell. During this ride I also learned the islands only vet is in Tlell, and while most people would have likely gone there instead Frank seemed to be in good spirits and has a history of healing exceptionally well so I passed. It was just before 10am when we arrived at the trailhead thanks to Andy, the newspaper man in Masset. Feeling bad for Frank, but pleased with the efficient, friendly, and informative nature of our rides I set off with Frank by my side, tails wagging. He a tough dog, but most of all he trusts me as a leaded. I did not fret over his wounds, so neither did he. Instead I cleaned it, applied a yarrow salve I made and continued to remind him that he’s okay, beautiful and strong. Within two weeks he was completely healed with no complications which I attributed to the salve, salt water, and ocean breeze. I was happy to hit the trail knowing my van awaited us at the other end, no more hitchhiking.

The Pesuta shipwreck ran ashore in 1928 and is one of the main attraction along East Beach for those not hiking the entire route.
The Pesuta shipwreck ran ashore in 1928 and is one of the main attraction along East Beach for those not hiking the entire route.

One of the great things about Naikoon Provincial Park, aside from hosting British Columbia’s longest beach and nearly 70,000 sqkm of wilderness, is that there are no user fees or registration necessary. You can just show up whenever you like and hit the ‘trail’ with a high probability that you will not see other park users. There is a long history of the Haida people as well as early homesteaders inhabiting what is now the park. Smallpox drove out the Haida, and the isolated nature and difficult living conditions did in with the homesteaders who abandoned their livestock to rewild for the past several decades. It is recommended to walk from south to north so that the prevailing winds are at your back rather than blowing in your face, and bring a tide table. Even though people had attempted to dissuade my plans I had a very ‘sunshine & rainbows’ mentality about the hike. Before beginning I did not realize how much each day would be dictated by the tides, nor did I think for a second about the difficulties associated with walking in sand for that long. I never thought the solitude could bother me, or the distance tire me. After hitchhiking the doubts, and bad weather began creeping in.

Pitch light waiting out a tide and trying to dry out a bit.
Pitch light waiting out a tide and trying to dry out a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitch light location on day 1
Pitch light location on day 1

Departing from the Tlell river trailhead is a short section of forested trail along the river before arriving at the river mouth, the Pesuta shipwreck in the near distance. Arriving around hight tide with winds and rain coming in sideways made the decaying ship seem even more dramatic. To imagine the power the ocean can unleash is a humbling experience, especially if you’ve ever been hit by a rogue wave as I have. Continuing on we were at the Cape Ball river long before expected, or so I thought that’s where we were. With the river too high to cross I set up our tent pitch-light and discovered that none of my dry bags really worked anymore. Hiding from the wind and rain Frank and I wasted till shortly before low tide to pack up and move across the river making camp in the forest above. The plan was to wait until the tide was going out the following afternoon so we could race past Cape Ball and the White Cliffs before sundown. The late start would allow us lots of energy to cover ground quickly and ensure we did not get cliff’d out, or stuck walking after dark. While cooking dinner I pulled out my waterproof map and realized I was camped across the Mayer river, not the Cape Ball River. The day seemed shorter than I was expecting but it had not dawned on me to check the map sooner. I had missed the existence of this river in my planning and now did not have time to pack up and make it to the next crossing in time for the low tide at sundown. I felt like a fool, and did not want to add an extra day this early leaving me no choice but to get up at 4:30 in the morning and catch the next low tide.

Waiting for high tide to start to recede at Cape Ball River to race the cliffs.
Waiting for high tide to start to recede at Cape Ball River to race the cliffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High tide at Cape Ball river. This is why you really need to cross at low tide
High tide at Cape Ball river. This is why you really need to cross at low tide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chillin in the forest above the Cape Ball River waiting on tides
Chillin in the forest above the Cape Ball River waiting on tides

Frank took some serious coaxing to get him up before the first hint of sunlight. How I woke myself up without an alarm I’m not sure, but it must be tied to a subconscious drive for survival. I was doubting myself enough to consider retreating while I could, but I had managed to wake so I continued on. The moon had already set as we started down the black beach. By the time we reached the Cape Ball River the tide was low enough to cross, but not before taking off my boots and pants. The day was overcast and there was no point to wait for the sunrise, so we head into the forest safe from high tide and set up camp for the third time within 24 hours. Feeling sleep deprived from our early start I misjudged my water source. It was low tide and the river seemed to be flowing out rather quickly so I figured it would be fresh. Upon consuming it became repulsively salty, but luckily I had nearly a full bladder left from beginning the trail. The Mayer river at low tide had been decent for cooking, but this river would have required me to walk much further inland even at low tide. We slept through the rest of the morning as the tide rose waking to sunshine an ample time to eat, write and tear down camp before high tide. While marvelling at the difference between high tide and when we arrived in the morning I saw a racoon making it’s way towards me. It didn’t seem to notice me as it moved over driftwood and up the same route I took to get on top of the bank. It was about two meters down the bank when it stopped and stared, then stood up as if to take a closer look. Frank was sleeping so I gently held his scruff in case he noticed, and our fellow creature headed off away from us into the forest. Soon after a young dear came by, but this time I couldn’t stop Frank from enjoying a good chase. With that excitement over the beach was beginning to reappear and we started north committing ourselves fully to the entire distance.

Side by side Frank and I nearing the end of day 2, a long day of early rising and swift walking
Side by side Frank and I nearing the end of day 2, a long day of early rising and swift walking
At my whits end at sundown feeling super alone and vulnerable. Also, slightly incapable of working camera properly after a long day...
At my whits end at sundown feeling super alone and vulnerable. Also, slightly incapable of working camera properly after a long day…
Crazy lumber pile, note the buoys are usually a sign of water or other treasures along the shore
Crazy lumber pile, note the buoys are usually a sign of water or other treasures along the shore

The waves roared to my right with seeping cliffs of mostly unconsolidated sediments trapping me on the left. I would have found this terrifying if not for the knowledge and planning of moving on an outgoing tide. Regardless I couldn’t shake the thought of a roque wave or tsunami, and as a result continually scanned the bank for any possible escape.As I relaxed a little the scanning turned into a fascinated study of the stratigraphy. Of particular note was a band of bivalve shells much higher than current sea level, and my imagination turned from fear of the worst to the long passage of time along this beach. A couple times we came to sections where we had to stop and wait for the tide to recede before we could proceed. For hours we walked, the beach becoming progressively wider and wider, but no fresh water, or end in sight. My goal was to reach the ‘East Beach Lumber Pile’, a star on the backroads map, but Eagle creek would have been acceptable assuming either were possible to camp at. Pace had slowed considerably, and I was becoming dehydrated from the mornings salty intake, and over rationing of water to ensure Frank had plenty. At one point I thought I could smell fresh water. I should have been tipped off by the collection of buoys on a high piece of driftwood, and the break in the bank, but no water crossed the beach so I carried on, too tired to investigate. My second day had become much longer than expected, and I was leaning how tiring sand can become. The beach did not seem safe for camping yet, but upon reaching a massive pile of logs decorated with buoys a trickle of water crossed the beach. This time I was sure I was smelling the fresh water. I dropped my backpack and climbed over the logs to find a small stream the colour of weak coffee coming down the canyon. Eagles soared above while Frank took a long drink. Freshwater. Finally.

Camp behind the lumber pile, night 2 on the East Beach Trail
Camp behind the lumber pile, night 2 on the East Beach Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The backup option incase water rose to my tent...
The backup option incase water rose to my tent…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank enjoying the sunshine next to camp and the water source before starting day 3.
Frank enjoying the sunshine next to camp and the water source before starting day 3.

For the next hour I went through a series of emotions from relief, to panic and indecision. It was not possible to camp on the beach before the logs for I could see the last tide had come higher. It was nearing spring tide so each high tide was getting higher than the last. Behind the massive jumble of logs were a couple flat spots along the creek, and a driftwood and tarp shelter higher on the bank. Completely unsure of what lie ahead and nearing sundown I finally decided to stay where I was. I had to literally talk myself, out loud, thought the process of setting up camp. I was very unsure about being there, my mind envisioning all the logs afloat, or waking up to water under my tent like once happened to my parents while camping on the beach. I felt extremely vulnerable and alone that night. I was a now a long way from ether end and well aware I had underestimated the wildness of the route. I was no longer okay with not knowing where I was, or being there alone. If I was at Eagle creek, the Lumber Pile, or possibly anywhere else along the coast before or after the end of the cliff section I did not know, and that made me feel very small. Sun down had brought rain so Frank and I retreated to the tent. Through the rain I could hear the stream trickling, I told myself that if the water rose this sound would stop, I assured myself the shelter would be a safe retreat if the water flooded our camp, but occasionally I had to get up to check on the tide. I held Frank tight and hoped for the best as my paranoid mind drifted to sleep.

Waiting for the tide to recede before continuing
Waiting for the tide to recede before continuing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank getting cozy while we wait out the tide as poor weather starts to roll in again
Frank getting cozy while we wait out the tide as poor weather starts to roll in again

The passing of high tide in the night allowed me to finally get some good rest, and despite never being in any real danger I awoke with a renewed appreciation for life. The sun seemed sunnier, the air fresher and the cold breakfast slop taste even more satisfying. When the rain returned I was happy to chill in the tent with Frank, and when the sun came back I packed camp leaving a gift of hair for the Eagles nest. Figuring I could walk on the logs if needed we took off before high tide. After a couple kilometres I noticed the beach closing out ahead, when I turned around I saw a similar image. Investigating the beach above me I noticed wind swept dear tracks. Surely the tracks must have been there longer than the nights high tide, so we settled in to wait. It seemed like a better option than climbing the sand dune behind us, or braving the logs ahead as waves crashed over them. The weather was changing quickly sneaking in from the west, and I was eager to get moving when the tide allowed. Little bit, by little bit we pushed ahead as the tided receded and weather worsened; occasionally making a run for it, and other times having to wait out a several sets for our moment. We had a lot of ground to cover; my goal was the Oeanda River for low tide crossing just after sunset. The rain turned into an outright down pour, my rain gear keeping my sleeping bag and warm night clothes dry I was left to get soaked. Frank and I were drenched, absolutely and completely drenched. I laughed as the wind from the south smashed more rain into me, as if I could possibly get any wetter. It was only through moving I was able to stay warm. I could hardly see through my glasses, but I didn’t need to. Wind at my back I continued North. Once again hours passed as the beach grew wider, my ears filled with the sounds of sirens and waves crashing. Hardly half way and already I was completely fed up with walking on sand and pebbles. Was I also losing my mind? The weight of my backpack had awakened a painful injury in my neck and shoulder making progress painful, clouding my mind and consuming my thoughts. My attitude grew more and more sour as I trudged down the beach being soak by yet another wave of rain just as soon as I had begun to feel dry from the last. Frank followed along in my blind spot, no complaints, his presence my saving grace. I needed to reach water that night, but without him I may not have found the motivation to do so. For him I kept walking. Light was beginning to fade when I caught a strong whiff of fresh water. The last couple hours had crawled past, progress was slow and I perceived I was being mocked by the passing of a truck out for a low tide cruise. I no longer cared if I reached my intended destination, I had packed plenty of food and needed water more than to be on any schedule. After locating the water source, which did not cross the beach above ground, I headed up the dune to make camp in what appeared to be a forested clearing. I felt secure in knowing Frank had plenty of water and the waves could not reach us. The day had been long, I was miserable and eager to hide in the tent, fill my belly and rest my body. Frank crashed shortly after eating both the days meals at once (his choice not mine). It seemed we had both endured a long day, once again.

Home at Hoyagundia among the ancient sand battered Sitka Spruce
Home at Hoyagundia among the ancient sand battered Sitka Spruce

Laying in the tent the next morning I listened to the rain trickling down on us. If I was going to make it (however far that was) to cross the next river at low tide I needed to get up then. Frank was fast asleep, my body ached and my mind was exhausted. I wanted Frank to enjoy the trek, to have fun along the way and I wanted to remember more than just a long walk on the beach, so I switched into rest day mode, cuddled up to Frank, and went back to sleep. After all, this was why I had carried extra food, so I could do it at the pace I needed to for it to be enjoyable and considerate of Frank as well. He could not ask me for a rest day but deep down I knew it was what we needed most, as individuals and as a team. We woke at low tide, the sun breaking, and feeling rested and happy to be there. As I finally got a proper look around I came to realize where we were. There was a little red tent on the map signifying a ancient site titled Hoyagundia. The woman at visitor information had insisted that the map makers had used creative liberty, and that there was nothing there. As I went into ‘what ifs’ she remained adamant that there was absolutely nothing there. I did not believe her, but figured it would be better to find out one way or the other myself rather than to push the topic. Low and behold I had found it without trying, almost institutionally it seemed. My tired, water needy state had lead me right to it, and for once I was certain that I was somewhere I could point to on a map. Not that it ultimately mattered, but I found it calming nonetheless. It was not that I saw anything in particular that told me people had lived there but I could feel their presence. The land had been tailored by man, and I could envision it full of homes and happy people. I was among the largest sitka spruce along the entire beach, the understory and all the small trees completely cleared out. The space between trees was flat and dipped, gentle on bare feet consisting of mossy and grassy sand. As I walked further from my tent I found an old cabin. Tucked away at the back end of the cleared forest, roof blown off, sinking into the sand, shingles growing over with greenery; idyllically rustic as could be. The space I was temporarily calling home had been used more than once before, and suddenly I didn’t feel so isolated from mankind. I could imagine others sharing the relief I felt to find a source of water and safety from the ocean. I could imagine others perching on the edge of the sand dune watching the tide go out and come back in just as I did. I could imagine children collecting agates along the shores and food in the forest behind. I could imagine the wicked storms that were endured at that site, and the strength of the Haida who settled it. Later I learned that there was indeed a village there called Hoyagundla occupied at different timed by both the Raven and Eagle clans. While under occupation of the Raven clan is was home to Great-Foaming-Of-The-Waves, a significant figure in the stories of the Haida people, or so I’ve been told.

Our rest day was off to a great start, and the promise of improvement was strong. The sun was warm enough to strip down, and combined with a gently breeze my soggy gear was quickly drying out. The water as gross as it appeared was quite palatable after filtering and I enjoyed rehydrating and ingesting larger than normal rations. I rarely break to eat during a day hiking, so it becomes vital to pack in as much as I can during down time. Being a sunny weekend day a couple trucks cruised by at low tide, but I did not take it personally this time. Instead I pitied them for the array of experiences they were missing out on by taking only a couple hours rather than a several days to make the voyage. As the tide rose I revelled in knowing no other humans would pass by and I could enjoy the day in my own little bubble, still two days of walking from my van. When rain started early afternoon I was happy to duck into the tent to lay on my back as relaxed as possible. As I heard the tide switch directions, the rain stopped and I was back outside. I then realized I could hear the tide change directions. I could not describe the change in sound with words, but the ocean had become a part of me, I was saturated in it’s energy, tied to it’s cycles. Freeing my feet I ran down the dune to the crashing waves. This time when the beach appeared I wasn’t trying to get anywhere, and I could dance the beachcombers dance. In and out with the waves I gathered agates that glistened in the sun until the retreating water exposed expanses of sand. I played with Frank and his favourite buoy, ran weightlessly across the sand and gained a greater perspective of the value of Earth. They say ‘never turn your back on the ocean’, but if you don’t how else will you see the Earth for what it is? For me the tideline had always been a marvellous place to be; of neither Earth nor Ocean it allows for a greater appreciation of both worlds. I lingered on the beach until the final colours of sunset faded from a dramatic cloud filled sky. This time when night fell Frank and I were tired in a more lighthearted way, spirits nourished and bodies rested. Under starry skies and a rising moon I enjoyed another large supper. I had grown rather fond of my salty, garlic rich and soupy quinoa with red lentils. The seemingly boring meal was designed to be quick cooking, hydrating, help avoid salt deficient cramping and prevent water born illnesses through large doses of garlic. It served it’s purpose and went down easy after full days. Frank already asleep I laid awake imagining the village that once thrived amongst the then not so giant Sitka’s. Knowing that their demise was caused by the same history that later allowed me to visit such a wonderful place only made me want to stay there indefinitely, to abandon the colonized world and forget about my white skin. As I fell asleep I never wanted to leave that wild and wonderful place which felt so familiar.

What seemed like endless beaches. I can see where I Was two days ago in the far distance.
What seemed like endless beaches. I can see where I Was two days ago in the far distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy stone art to greet the next explorer who finds this amazing location
Happy stone art to greet the next explorer who finds this amazing location

After sorting through my agate collection, and creating an art piece with the ones I wasn’t taking away Frank and I continued our Northward journey. We quickly reached the Oeanda river crossing the many channels at low tide quite easily. Frank had learned to cross ‘in my shadow’ reducing the rivers effect on him, and I was once again happy to have trekking poles in hand. It was our final river crossing, the sun was shining and my pack feeling lighter I even had a bit of bounce in my step. For the first time we were travelling during an incoming tide, the incoming spring tide to be exact. Two days north was the steadily growing Rose Spit. The same currents that are responsible for it’s creation and growth are also forming a series of northward projecting fingers of sand. Trying to walk on the firmest sand lead me down one of these fingers rather than the shore. The tide was still low and I managed to nearly jump across upon my realization. The second time I wandered down a finger the tide was a little higher and the water separating me from shore a little deeper. Luckily there was log to cross saving me from removing my boots. After that I had learned about the forces at work and stayed a little more up the beach studying the path a little further ahead. The ocean seemed to get louder and louder as the tide rose. Hours passed as light steps turned heavy, my pack once again imposing delirium inducing pain. Occasionally I would break out of character and stop to sit, unweight my pack and disappear momentarily. The rising tide hurried me along as the beach grew narrower, sun blazing down on me, a previously broken foot reminding me of another past injury. As ocean covered the the sandy beach I moved onto the logs, but finding it difficult to balance I retreated further to the loose windblown sand at the dune base. I had seen a point coming closer most of the day, my map leading me to believe the Cafe Fife shelter would be right around it. That was where my day would end, and this time nothing was going to stop me. Frank could tell I was suffering and not once asked me to throw the stick when I sat to collect myself. As hard as it was though I managed to keep a smile on my face, even if it was occasionally sprinkled with uncontrollable whimpers. My mind in state of steadfast slogging I nearly didn’t clue in to the almost artistic collection of buoys of the beach. Beyond it I noticed a lagoon, not feeling up to taking more steps than necessary I nearly continued on, but then without debate started inland. A sign. The Cape Fife shelter!

Really glad I payed attention to these buoys...
Really glad I payed attention to these buoys…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank ready for a round of fetch after yet another gruelling day
Frank ready for a round of fetch after yet another gruelling day

Dropping my bag at front door of the longhouse shelter (built in partnership by the Haida Nation and BC Parks ) I was completely ecstatic. Before I could open the rusted latch with the butt of my Seal Team SOG knife Frank had found a suitable ball and requesting to play fetch. Clearly the sand and backpack did not effect him as it did me, and for that I was quite appreciative. The cabin was basic but tidy; two bunk bets able to sleep 6, a picnic table, a couple small shelves, rope to hang food, and a wood stove. Outside a outhouse, fire pit with seating, and a couple fish net hammocks. The walls inside and bunks were littered with writing of past inhabitants, representing the summit register of a coastal shelter. Among the walls and guest books were notes of gratitude, spiritual realizations, warnings of the resident mouse, and tips on the closest water, 1 kilometre south. I stood thirsty and devastated reading the park pamphlet from 1998. In it contained all the information I had previously sought which seemed to have been forgotten by both tourism and parks including distance breakdowns and warning of phenomena such at the fingers. Having just learned there were no water sources north of the shelter I dreaded backtracking when I heard Frank lapping outside the shelter. As quick as I could move I was out the front door and around the shelter to see Frank drinking from barrels of rain water. Squealing with joy I hugged Frank forgetting completely about the gruelling day.

Slowing down for the evening and enjoying natures art on the beach at Cape Fife
Slowing down for the evening and enjoying natures art on the beach at Cape Fife

Settled in and feeling much lighter I made several trips to the beach for fire wood before sinking into the hammock unleashing a sign of relief and satisfaction. I was now only one day from my van with two options to get there: take the boggy forest trail, or the much longer route along the beach as I originally planned. The purpose of my trip was to take a long walk and with ample water supplies I had no had intention to shortcut on the Cape Fife trail. I wanted badly to be done with the trail but figured a potentially muddy trail with tree route obstacles would harder than taking the beach even if it was less than half the distance.. Knowing there was a shorter option if needed in the morning I headed down to the beach to play with Frank and enjoy sunset. As the cotton candy colours faded I returned to the shelter to get a fire going. The cabin warmed as Frank slept, and the same soupy dinner cooked while I ready through the cabin logs. Cuddling in with Frank we slept sound, not a hint of the mouse.

Into the mist on day 6
Into the mist on day 6

There was no hurry the next morning and I considered staying another day. I had yet to interact with a single human being in more than 5 days. Wanting to stay in my bubble I choose to carry on taking the beach. It was a misty morning, the kind of weather Haida Gwaii is known for. After walking for days with endless beach in sight beyond and behind I welcomed the limited visibility. The pain set in rather early that day and it was better I didn’t see how far there was to go. I moved quickly, a mild limp to compensate for my foot, completely focused on a reservoir of strength within. The trees on the bank disappeared from view with no sign of the path across the tow of Rose Spit and before I knew it I was out at the weather station with the ‘end of the world’ within sight. I had walked further than necessary adding several kilometres to a already big day but I couldn’t bother to care. After a small snack we continued on following the access road towards north beach. The road was lined with salal, ripe berries lingering, the sugar rush heavenly. Eventually the road lead us out to the beach Tow Hill in sight. The end was finally in sight. Three hours of complete trudgery and determination later I finally dropped my bag next to the van, removing Frank’s pack and my boots.

Happy Frank enjoying sunset at Cape Fife at the end of day 5 on the beach
Happy Frank enjoying sunset at Cape Fife at the end of day 5 on the beach

The entire journey Frank showed no signs of exhaustion, even asking me to play fetch at the end of each day. Upon reaching the van he ate only a small portion of his dinner choosing to go straight to bed where he stayed asleep until sunrise the following morning, 15 hours later. Myself I set to work unpacking my gear now dried from the warmth of the shelter the night before. Meanwhile a massive, greasy stir fry was sizzling on the trusty whisperlite. A meal for two; after which I set to work on devouring every type of snack food my van contained. I was tired in a way I rarely experience, but felt no need to sleep. My body felt completely beaten now that I was off the trail and no longer needed to turn the pain off to survive. My mind was racing from the experience, 6 days in the wild, nearly 100km underfoot in shifting sand, and not a single human interaction. Bliss.

Feeling like a new, much stronger person after 5 days on the beach
Feeling like a new, much stronger person after 5 days on the beach

After a rollercoaster week I had a collection of photos that I enjoyed, and a story to tell. I had followed through on yet another dream, expanding my perceived realm of possibility and adding to my list of apparent achievements. Just writing that feels irrelevant when I know that the true value in such an experience does not come from pictures and ticks; social validation or success. It is neither in the doing, remembering, or sharing of such an endeavour that drives me. It is in the learning, the re-wilding, and the attuning to the unknown that I find motivation. It is an instinctual quest to increase my self-reliance, and self-knowledge that I can’t bear to resist. It is what I would do whether or not I ever had anyone to tell, or a way to tell them what I was doing. It it a way of training virtuous behaviour and building mental fortitude. Creating reservoirs of strength for future hard times, and entering the mystical realms of infinite space, time, and life. It is by passing the bounds of our comfort zone that we find the seeds of personal growth, and in taking the journey in solitude we allow for the greatest fruition of each seed. It is a way to see in mind the doorway to freedom, a way to truth.

Frank watching me from the tower I climbed at the Rose Spit weather station.
Frank watching me from the tower I climbed at the Rose Spit weather station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huge gratitude to my sponsor SOG knives for making this trip possible, allowing me to create my own adventure, and supplying me with great gear.

Thank you to Wild & Roaming for the killer fern pants that were so cozy hiking all day