Hiking the Nootka Trail (1)


Peter B. had proposed a backpacking trip between the time Jan left B.C. for California and before our trip to the Yukon.  He invited his hiking buddy Paul C. to join us on the West Coast Trail from Tofino to Bamfield, but there were no reservations available for that heavily traveled route, so he suggested we do the Nootka Trail, a less known but comparably grand and remote wilderness experience. I agreed, as usual, to follow his lead, and he and Paul together did the research and made the necessary preparations, including getting plane and boat reservations, trailguides and maps.  After it took me almost a full day just to shop for my own provisions and pack for a six-day expedition, I felt grateful for all their legwork.



August 27  South of Third Beach


The sun drops into a rising fog bank above distinctive trapezoidal rocks and a tree-topped headland. The waves’ roar has been unabated since I first heard it deep in the forest on the trail from Louis Lagoon.  White tips are painted on the crests of broken rollers. The thunder of water colliding with stone vibrates in my gut. Thick foam left by turbulence and mashed red-tide algae accumulates on the beach. This is wilderness West Coast.  Nothing but the tiny settlement of Friendly Cove until Tofino, 75 miles to the south and only small towns fifty miles back up the inlets where the mills used to churn.  But before contact with Europeans in the late 18th century, this seacoast was home to hundreds of thousands of people for five thousand years.



We were conveyed here by ferry across the Georgia Strait from Powell River, by Subaru to Gold River, by Nootka Air Seaplane to the Lagoon and by our feet across an isthmus of old growth cedar, hemlock and spruce on a rough trail cut and maintained by volunteers.  It winds through tangles of roots and windfalls obscuring the borders between ground and growth, living and dying. Immense trees, leaning and erect, sprout from fallen nurslings and grizzled snags to reach for sky.  Underfoot, ferns and bunchberry capture spots of sunlight that penetrate the dark canopy.



I walked at a slug’s pace to balance the weight of the pack and spare my knees, and also to gaze at a living world hardly disturbed by humans.  It feeds, aspires, grows, strengthens, procreates, cooperates and competes, weakens and dies as we do, at a different temporal scale and speed.


We found this campsite not indicated in the guidebook. It provides water to try out Peter’s fancy ozone generating purifier kit, which no one likes.  After an aperitif of whiskey from the plastic bottle, we were excited to share our first dinner: sautéed garlic and onion, tiny pasta rings, tomato sauce, fresh pesto I bought from Pat Hanson, and a little bit of sliced cervelatwurst, a guilty pleasure on my cholesterol-free diet.



For a full set of images and slideshow for this day, go here

Hiking the Nootka Trail (2) »

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