What a perfect day on the trail! When I scheduled the trip, I had high hopes for great weather. But, as the day approached, the forecast took a turn for the worst. We all expected a cold, drizzly day, with wet brush and slippery rock. We were in for a treat!
Seven club members met at Alyard Farm for a car shuffle that allowed some participants the luxury of doing the coast trail without the commitment of following the inland route back to the cars. We started our hike shortly after 8 AM. In the dim light of the morning and in the tall trees, we had no idea what would await us when we got to the coast.
A burning question on everyone’s mind is sure to be, “When is the best time for my child to visit a lighthouse?” It’s a trick question: take them as often as you can! Kim and I have taken Hemingway on numerous backpacking and camping trips, but it recently dawned on me that he had yet to see a lighthouse, so we planned a weekend getaway with the Ramblers to visit Tapaltos Bay and Cape Beale.
The cape and bay are both located in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the same park that hosts Long Beach, West Coast Trail, and Broken Group Islands. It is also home to Keeha Bay, which Hemingway visited last year. I’ve written before about the state of this trail: for years, it’s been in a sorry state of repair. It’s relatively flat and lies between a bog and a lake, which accounts for the copious amount of mud usually on the trail. The Tapaltos Trail, an offshoot of the Keeha Bay Trail, is well-marked and nearly impossible to get lost on. It’s very well routed, but unfortunately it’s in a similar muddy state. I was to carry Hemingway and the heavy gear, and Kim would carry the lighter, bulkier gear – thankfully, it’s a short trail!
Horoizontal Distance: 17.5 km Elevation Gain: 523 m Time: multi day
Ultimately 11 people would arrive at the beach, but our group started smaller. Rick M travelled with my family in our Subaru, and we met up with Rick K in Bamfield. That’s right, a two-Rick affair! We planned to arrive at our destination early enough to set up camp and enjoy the evening on the beach, and we timed it right. After meeting Rick K at The Market, we hit the trail. I was concerned about Kim, so to make things easier for her we cheated; we drove down the logging road which bisects the Keeha Bay Trail, and used this as our starting location. It was the right decision. We managed to keep her pack under 25 pounds, but her growing belly prevented her from using the backpack belt to good purpose. As she is now four months pregnant, the extra weight of the pack took its toll on her.
Minor water crossing
As we walked the Keeha Trail, I was surprised at the significant maintenance. Someone, possibly a group, has been using fallen trees to cut better-than-rudimentary boardwalk. It’s great! Many of the muddy sections have split log planks crossing them, which made for quick travel. Also, keeping out of the mud will allow water to drain, and gives the region the possibility to recover. Our hike in wasn’t all peaches and cream, however; the trail from the Keeha Trail to Tapaltos has seen no rehabilitation.
The route travels over, under, through, around, beside, and over (wait… I think I said that) various features. Hiking this with Hemingway in the backpack was tough, as he isn’t exactly a stable load. He leans left and right, shifts up and down, tries to squirm out of the pack, and sometimes grabs onto branches. To top it all off, my pack was tipping near 60 pounds.
she didn’t even use the rope
For all my complaining, though, I had it easy compared to Kim. Even with her light pack, the twisting, turning, crawling on hands and knees, and occasional jump over mud pit from root to root, was a lot. She is no stranger to backpacking but with work, Hemingway, and her body changing, she struggled. Thank goodness the trail is short – but darned if it isn’t deceiving! At one point, I examined my GPS and discovered we were only 500 metres from the ocean. “Well, that’s going to be quick,” I thought to myself. Nope. The trail took a right-hand turn, and for quite some time we travelled parallel to the shore, and then away from it, before finally turning back. What I expected to take 15 minutes took around 45!
Taken on an earlier trip
The final approach to the beach is spectacular. The route is flat, except for a tall berm right before the beach. As you climb up and over the crest of the hill, you can hear the sounds of the surf crashing against the soft sand, a breeze cools your skin, and the distinct smell of the ocean fills the air. And the view! On a sunny day, the near-turquoise water and light sand glow between the silhouetted trees. It’s a stark contrast from the mud and dense mature forest of the walk. We were all happy to get to the beach with a good amount of light left in the day; the trip had taken just under two hours.
photo by Lisa Hanlon
As we set up camp and collected beach-wood for a small fire, Hemingway played in the sand and explored the multiple fishing buoys strewn about the beach. Before long, we were set up for the weekend, sitting by the fire, and enjoying an evening drink. As evening bloomed into night, the remainder of the troupe trickled in: Michael arrived with two Ramblers’ guests, and Bil, Gord, and Jacob arrived when dark was well upon us.
chill time at the fire
So many tents, lets organize in the futre!
We gathered around the small fire, chatting and building expectations for the next day, and hatched plans for future adventures. It was late into the night – at least by camping standards – when at last we doused the fire and hit the hay.
Day two was relaxed: there was no rush to get anywhere fast. The weather even complied, with the threatening rain presenting only as simple showers. The moist environment and dark sky created an intense saturation of colours as we walked through the forest. I enjoyed the simpler trail: though still very wet and muddy, it lacks the complicated obstacles of the first day. We left Tapaltos around 11:30 am and made it to the mudflats just in time for the tide to allow us passage. The mudflats flood when the tides exceeds 1.8 metres, but as we arrived, the water was just passing the steep boat ramp which opens the way to the winding concrete path up to the lighthouse. Rather than taking the direct approach, Michael led us to the well-used trail to the south, which approaches through the old trees and past many of the promontory’s best features.
and then there is a section of lovely boardwalk
the mudflats, water gone!
We stopped for pictures and explorations of the terrain. Four adventure-seekers travelled down and through the island cavern, until they reached the ocean on the opposite side, clambering over slippery rocks with the roof of the rocky promontory overhead. Our next stops were at the various lookouts, where we took turns posing on the land bridge, enjoying the views, and taking photographs for each other. Lastly, we continued onto the rock and were greeted by the friendly keeper.
Beth rocking the land bridge!
photo by Michael Paskevicius
The lighthouse is high above the water looking north, overlooking the Broken Group Islands. After a good long visit, we said our farewells; many of the Ramblers took the chance for one last look out before heading back to camp. Even with the relaxed visit and time spent gazing, we were back at camp just in time for dinner. Hemingway was ravenous!
As I prepared our meals, Michael and Lisa kindly played with Hemingway at the rocks, exploring the tide pools and other natural features. Hemingway must have fallen in love with the snails, because I caught him with a collection in his hands, about to be put into his pocket (truth be told, he did manage to sneak one in – I found it in the dryer after doing laundry. EEEP!).
Michael and Hemingway exploring
counting his booty!
Day three was lovely, with the sun shining as we packed. Many of us didn’t want to leave, and we stood on the beach talking for a long time, with our bags packed and waiting for us. The slog back to the car was humid, and by the time we arrived I was dying to strip out of my hiking gear and into clean clothes.
Reluctant to depart from each other’s company, we set a rendezvous in Port Alberni: fish and chips at Bare Bones. Hemingway was happy to eat real food, the kind that doesn’t come in a foil Ziploc bag!
Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending. I have to report a death in the family: my Subaru Outback. She was a fine car. I bought her used, and loved her for three good years, though I can’t say that I always treated her the best: I’ve had her in places that no Outback should ever be. But she always came through, even if it was with a few knocks and scrapes. Unfortunately, the Bamfield Road will be her last logging road. A failing transmission, worn brakes, and aging shocks/struts have let the air out of this old car’s tires. I’m letting her go with only 295,000 km on it. You shall be missed, and I will think of you often. Here is a photo of our first day together.
I just realized there is a problem with this post. We didn’t take a photo with the lighthouse. Balls! I’ll have to remember to do that next time.
Twelve of us met at Aylard Farm where we had two taxi-vans meet us and transport us to the trailhead at Pike Road. We started hiking under clear skies, but only 3 of us deemed it warm enough for shorts.
After 20 minutes we came to Iron Mine Bay, and some of us donned more clothing to contend with the cool ocean breeze.
The brisk breeze kept the temperatures perfect for hiking, and we marvelled at the views of the Juan de Fuca Strait. I had only done this hike once previously, and had forgotten how rolling it is; you really have to be careful of your step going up and down the rocks! And the ocean is a long ways down from some of the precipitous cliffs!
East Sooke Regional Park offers 50 kms of trails through forest, marsh and field a Challenging 10 km Coast Trail, Pocket beaches, rocky bays and tide pools for exploring and scuba diving and Spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountains. This would be my third hike following the Coastal Trail from Pike Road to Aylard Farm. We started by making arrangements the day before with Sooke Harbour Taxi to pick us up at the Aylard Farm parking lot and drop us at the Pike Road trail head.
We departed Parksville at7:00am Saturday in the darkness of the early morning not knowing what type of weather we would encounter today. When we were about 20 minutes from the Aylard parking lot we contacted the dispatcher for Sooke Harbour Taxi to confirm that we would be ready at our pre-arranged time for pickup.
The day started out cool and overcast with a blanket of fog over the ocean blocking our view of the Olympic Mountains. The trail is fairly easy to follow with a well trodden path through the forested sections and reflective markers over the rocky areas, recently they have added colour trail maps at the major trail junctions as well as the existing wooden directional signs.
We stopped for lunch at the Cabin Point Trap Shack, normally I would sit on the rocks and enjoy watching the waves move in and out over the tidal pools, but today we sat under the protection of the trap shack roof overhang from the light drizzle that had started about an hour earlier. This area is were you will usually start to see people on the trail. Along they way to our next stop at Beechy Head the sun decided to come out. From Beechy Head we continued past the Petroglyphs at Alldridge Point and to our final stop at Creyke Point to enjoy watching the sunlight start to diminish over the ocean before returning to the parking lot at Aylard Farm.
Along the trail we enjoyed the rugged coastal terrain views of Vancouver Island, multiple Heron sighting, a few Seals having a nap on the rocks, numerous Sea Gulls and a very vocal Squirrel. The trail is well maintained with lots of ups and downs, but no major elevation gain, also there are a few spots along the way that drop down to sea level. In total we hiked 13.5 km and took 7 hours with lunch and a few picture breaks.
Victoria Day, May long weekend, or May-long, no matter which you call it it’s one of the best weekends for camping! It hardly matters if it rains or shines, its a symbol of transition out of the long wet winter and spring to the long awaited summer. The past few years I have marked this transition by hitting the beaches of Vancouver Island, hiking the plethora of coastal hikes available to us.
This year, I led a a group of Island Mountain Ramblers and my family, nine people in total to the aggregate sand beach of Keeha Bay. Located in the Pacific Rim National Park. Keeha Bay is near to the northern trailhead for the West Coast Trail, close to Pacheena Bay. Unlike the West Coast Trail, the Keeha Bay Trail receives very little official maintenance, has very little elevation gain and is one of the shortest trail hikes to the gorgeous beach, which is not often visited. Sounds pretty amazing right!? Wrong! In actual fact the trail is the muddiest I’ve ever hiked and has a large number of technical challenges that make the short distance a lengthy to hike.
March Break, 2014 marked our trip to Flores’ Wild Side Trail, was exactly as the name suggests wild. We started our trip on Saturday morning from the First Street dock. The passenger ferry was bumpy trip, the seas were not smooth, easily swelling 5′ in the highest places and the driving rain. Regardless the captain brought to Ahousaht Village, safe and sound. Tara, from the Wild Side Trail management team, met us at the dock and escorted us through the village to the office where we recorded our itinerary and paid our trail fee.
taken on the trip out, hence the nice looking sky
Our intent was to hike the whole trail from the village to Cow Bay, mother nature demanded other plans. By the time we reached the first river the tide was high and we needed to take the inland route to the bridge. The trail for the bypass was rough, mostly because of the amount of water, sections were entirely puddles. By the time we made the full bypass both Michael and I had soaked boots. At this point the rain let up slightly to a light drizzle and we took a quick break to enjoy the foggy view and take stock of our wetness. It is at this point we made the decision to seek out the emergency shelter (AKA Don Macdonald’s Cabin).
they smell even worse!
Fortune would have it that the walks along side the cabin, taking no effort to locate. We made our home for two nights at the cabin, using it as a home base for cooking, sleeping and excursions. The first day we ventured to reach Cow Bay but the water on the trails for the headlands slowed our progress so much that we feared not being able to return to the cabin if we continued across the final headland. However, the next day the conditions were much better and most of the water on the trails drained off and progress through headlands was significantly easier. Throughout the day the wild Pacific raged onto the shore, rollers as high as 10′ were evident on the not too distant rocks and close to shore. Making it to Cow Bay was easy but we failed to find the route to Mt. Flores and truthfully it was bathed in fog and cloud and the promise of no view at all (because it is treed at the top) was not enticing us to look as hard as we may have.
It wasn’t until after dinner on the second night that the first signs of something other than rain became visible, at first just a single blue patch of sky and later a beautiful sunset combined with low tides permitted us a late evening walk on the beach and ample time to explore an islet that is normally cut off from the beach.