Every time I sit down to write a blog I struggle a little bit. I struggle to find inspiration, and then to turn that inspiration into something concise and easy to read. Today I am struggling more than ever, but for a different reason. I have so much inspiration that I am at a loss for words.It’s been four days since we completed the final kilometer and returned back to civilization; and those few days have been full of mixed emotions. A sense of comfort in a daily hot shower and comfy queen-size, a sense of overwhelm in crowds, traffic, and technology; a sense of sadness in withdrawing from coastal sunsets and ocean air. Most of all though is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the time I spent amongst the ancient cedars, challenging myself and building lifelong relationships with amazingly courageous and inspiring people.
I have hundreds of memories from our week on the West Coast Trail. Eight of us crossed one hundred and fifty bridges and climbed seventy ladders. We shared twenty-one meals, fifty-some water breaks, seven campfires, and about a thousand laughs. Give or take. No matter how I try I cannot put my memories on paper. But what I can do is translate them all into gratitude.
I’m grateful for the miraculous beauty of Mother Nature; Beauty that was somehow magically heightened deep in the rainforests, and on the shores of the Pacific Rim. I’ve spent my whole life in the mountains. I’ve done hundreds of hikes in hundreds of forests, but I have never seen trees the way I saw them last week.Our hiking terrain was about forty percent coastline and sixty percent forest.
The coastline of the West Coast Trail was named the Graveyard of the Pacific on account of the dozens of shipwrecks that occurred in the straight in the late 18th century. Hiking along this rugged and rocky coastline was similar to no other experience I’ve had. I’ve spent a fair amount of time near the ocean – I’ve lived in Vancouver, I’ve travelled to Mexico, I’ve ferried to the Island – but I’ve never looked at the ocean and seen nothing on the horizon. I’ve never walked across the ocean floor when the tide is out and seen sea urchins and starfish in their little natural aquariums. And I’ve certainly never seen a pod of Killer Whales breach in front of my dinner table.
Watching the sun slip down beneath the horizon, falling asleep on the sand, and waking up to the sound of waves lapping the shore are feelings I will not soon forget.We were lucky enough to share our experience with plenty of local wildlife. We saw Humpback Whales, Orcas and Sea Lions. River Otters, Bald Eagles and Herons, and judging by the fresh tracks we followed, we were in very close range of a Cougar. It was a special feeling watching so many different creatures in their natural habitat, and knowing we were just lucky to be guests in their environment.
Along with the gratitude I feel for the nature of the WCT, I feel equally grateful for the bond I formed with our entire group. There were guests on our trip that I had never met before, who I now feel closer to than some of my oldest friends. On the other hand there was one guest in the group that I have known my entire life, but learned more about in seven days on the trail than I have in nearly 30 years of social gatherings. By spending this time together – away from our everyday routines and normalities – we got to know each other on a whole other level. I realized that when you strip it all down, take away the distractions and the stresses of life, you get to see people for who they truly are. We witnessed one another’s struggles and celebrated our triumphs as a team. We watched our guests share food with hungry travellers, collect driftwood for another group’s fire, and provide assistance to an injured hiker. We came together as a cohesive unit, knowing we were only as strong as our weakest link. We conquered fears together, and at the end of day seven we celebrated a huge accomplishment as a team.
I could not have asked for a better experience on the West Coast Trail and I cannot wait to do it again. The group we hiked with feels like family to me, and I already miss my WCT family dearly.Though they are hard to put into words, my memories are crystal clear in my mind, and there they will stay forever etched with gratitude and fondness. Thank you West Coast Trail for the experience of a lifetime!
As one of 5 Guiding companies certified to guide the West Coast Trail, Irie Adventure Tours gets priority bookings for next season’s trips. By mid October we will have our 2015 West Coast Trail dates secured, so stay tuned at www.IrieAdventures.com, on the Blog, and on Facebook for our announcement in the fall – the dates will fill up fast, don’t miss your chance to See The BC We See on the WCT!
Generally I like to view my pint glass as half full, but I’ll be the first to admit that the overly optimistic ski reports these days aren’t fooling me! There’s no denying it, we’ve had a rough start to winter.
In BC we do the best with what we’ve got. We strap our skis on our backs and hike in our heavy boots for hours, satisfied if our efforts produce five or six good powder turns. We ride chairlifts in the wind just praying it’s about to blow in the next big snow storm. We take chances standing in lineups waiting for untouched terrain to open, or camp out hours early with dreams of first tracks. Some chances pay off and some don’t but at the end of the day a “bad” day skiing…well it’s still pretty much better than any other day.
And I truly believe that. It’s always worth it. Even in less than ideal conditions.
Still, I could use a little dose of honesty in our weather reports.
When a snow report boasts “unlimited visibility” what they really mean is there are absolutely no snowflakes falling from the sky, thus no face shots, no beardcicles, and no snowpacked helmets and goggles. There is absolutely nothing that could possibly obstruct your vision except the glaring brightness of the spring-like sun.
When the resort website says “freshly groomed terrain” what they are trying to tell you is sharpen your edges! It snowed, then it rained, then it froze, and we tried our best to churn it up with our machines but now we’re left with bulletproof frozen corduroy!
When the radio host says “chance of flurries” he’s just saying that. He’s sick of sounding like a broken record “no new snow, no new snow, no new snow”. He’s not lying though… I suppose there’s always a chance of flurries.
There’s one report we can always count on though, that’s the chalkboard sign outside the local après ski bar that says “we have beer”. So after we earn a few turns, carve up some groomers, and race a little slalom through the exposed rocks and branches, we head down for a beer and celebrate another day in the mountains. Because I think we all agree that even a tough day skiing still deserves a celebration!
We’ve been through this before. More than once we’ve struggled through June-esque climate in the middle of January, only to be unexpectedly ravaged by an April snow storm as we advantageously begin to plant our spring gardens. But we are not dusting off our leaf blowers just yet! We know winter will come when he’s good and ready. We just hope he’s almost ready.
So we’ll continue to make the best of it, mountian biking in January and sitting on sunny patios until Mother Nature lets her Old Man Winter out to play.
One thing’s for sure, this spring like weather is getting us excited for our 3 West Coast Trail Hiking trips this summer! We still have a couple spaces open so head over to www.IrieAdventureTours.com to claim your spot!