|West Coast Trail - Tsusiat Falls|
I have done the trial, err, I mean trail, twice; once in 1997 and again in 2013. It is around 75 kilometers long; it will take the adventurer 5 days to do 15 km per day. That doesn't sound like a lot, does it? I mean, those of you who do 10,000 steps a day do 8 km - and doubling that shouldn't be too difficult. However, you forget that you have 25 kilograms of weight on your back, get to sleep in a tent at night, and have serious vertical obstacles to overcome. Then there are the bugs and the fact that you have to pump your own drinking water to avoid getting giardia (beaver fever). And did I mention the lack of toilets or the risk of torrential rainfall?
The first time I did it we were in a group of about 8 or so. I was a spry young fellow then and felt it would be a walk in the park. Well, it was a walk in the park, but they build parks much tougher than you would guess. My knees were shot, I was covered with mosquito bites, and I developed an impressive case of impetigo. But I was successful and celebrated my victory the way a zombie might rejoice over some obscene conquest.
Not having learned my lesson the first time, 16 years later I decided to try it again. Once again there was a group of us, some from the first quest and a few new ones, including my own son and daughter. Clearly my near demise from that first journey did not cause any alarm - the desire for glory could not be dissuaded. No, the pursuit of valor and honor would go forth.
So the bunch of us headed out to the WCT - woefully cunning trials. The first day saw us do 12 km and we camped at a wonderful beach. It was so great and we were so tired that we decided to hang around a second day to lick our wounds and celebrate our meager success by playing a few rounds of cards. The following day, number three now, took us another 13 km and we finally came to Tsusiat Falls, where I took the above photo. Something was different though from before.
Being 16 years older did not make me any wiser, but it certainly made me more prone to the hazards nature threw at me. It turns out I was not the only one suffering from the trials put upon us by the trail; most of us had felt sudden urge to call a cab and get a ride back to civilization. So, we hung around for another full day and vanquished boredom by throttling fellow hikers at cards. Then we made a decision.
We had just done 25 km of 75, taken 4 days, and had the hardest part of the trail yet to challenge. So we would retreat to where we started. After all it would mean we spent 6 days or so hiking 50 km which in itself was nothing to sneer at. Some of us (my kids mostly) wanted to go on, but that meant breaking up the group. To me the trip was really about being with people - it wasn't the destination that was important, it was the journey - and so we headed out together. Two days later, with lighter packs and hearts, we arrived from where we started. Defeated yet still victorious, we held our heads high as we shuffled off home. We did not complete the West Coast Trail, but we did survive the West Coast Trial, and in the process made some memories that will last forever.