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Back in about 1995, I started hearing more and more about a trail called the “West Coast Trail” which was in western Canada on Vancouver Island . After much investigation, I learned that it was no ordinary hike, but a spectacular “adventure” that, quite simply, I had to undertake.


That is where it was left until the winter of 1998, when I spoke to Mike about it. He soon became just as enthusiastic as I was, and after a few months we decided we had to attempt it. We booked the trip and began planning, but to our great disappointment we had to cancel several weeks before leaving. I just hadn’t had the time to properly prepare and didn’t feel I was ready. We quickly vowed to do it the next year.


When the spring of 1999 did hit, we were again eager to go and had four others wishing to join the team (Sean, Travis, Marlin and later Erica). So, we booked it again, we had meetings, we took some practice weekend trips, and we prepared - because this time, we were going.





The West Coast Trail is a 75km trek along the beaches and through the rainforests - and rainforest it is: there are over 900 varieties of mosses and 100 varieties of ferns in this area - of Vancouver Island, which is a short ferry ride from the coast of the province of British Columbia in Canada. The trail’s endpoints are the tiny establishments of Bamfield and Port Renfrew.


The creation of the trail began in 1889 as part of a telegraph network, but in 1907 it was improved to provide a much-needed lifeline to the survivors of shipwrecks that occurred along this part of the coast. One of which was the wreck of the SS Valencia just north of the Klanawa River that savagely took the lives of 126 people. Over 50 ships have come to a tragic end in this very rugged area over the past 100 years and it thus has been dubbed the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.


Today the trail is under the protection of the Pacific Rim National Park . The trail is open to hikers from May to October and only 52 are allowed on the trail each day. People have died along this route - most by being plucked from the rocks and carried out to sea while challenging one of the many the dangerous surge channels. There are about 70 emergency evacuations every year.


While hiking the trail, we used a map and tide tables for guidance. Tide tables are necessary, since, when walking along the beach, certain areas are impassable during high tides. If not careful we could have become trapped on the beach against a cliff wall with nowhere to go! Without the tables, you’d better have some rope or scuba gear!

Preparing for the trail began well ahead of time.


And preparations were often gruelling.


The red star is Bamfield, the northern starting point of the trail

Map courtesy the fine folks at mapquest.ca


The entire trail area from Bamfield down to Port Renfrew.

Map courtesy the fine folks at mapquest.ca





Erica “The Warrior Princess” Cutress

Don’t let her quiet demeanor fool you, this girl is a tiger on the trail and put us all in our place with her solid step and pace. On Day 4 when she put war paint on her face, I think she was getting a little cocky, though.


Travis “Shaggy” Friesen

Remember Shaggy fro the old Scooby Doo cartoon? I really don’t see a difference.


Mike “Sandals” Shareski

The second day he lost one of his sandals. Later we luckily found him a replacement that was lost by some other unfortunate hiker. He then proceeded to lose that one as well, then repeatedly found and lost a few more. We lost count, but legend now has it that he found and lost no fewer than 86 sandals over the course of the trip.


Parry “The Pyro” Loeffler

I have this stubborn pride that won’t let me use any aids to help in starting a fire. I succeeded most of the time on this trip, even though one hand was occupied fending off several hungry, grouchy hikers looking to dump a bit of stove fuel or other potentially explosive substance on the struggling flame to speed things up.


Sean “Is anyone’s Map Handy?” McIntosh  

The stereotypical male, he lost his maps within the void of his pack within hours of setting out on the trail. Any future wife will have some work to do.


Marlin “The Savior” Miller  

This guy brought one of the best items of anyone on the trip: about a pound of premium chocolate. You have no idea how amazing this is after a day of slogging through solid muck. He performed several minor miracles when we seemed near death, bringing us back by the offering of a chunk.

... and the team member we WISH we’d had


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Although in creating this site I have tried to make the information as accurate as possible, it is not meant to be a guide, and I accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone using the information.


Backpacking the West Coast Trail

 © 2005 Parry Loeffler