It’s hard to put my West Coast Trail experience into words.
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 latter of which we spent under a canopy of some of the tallest Sitka Spruce, and oldest Western Red Cedars in the world. These trees fascinated me and I often found myself stuck still in my tracks, lingering just to stay a little longer in their presence. I was amazed at their beauty and grandeur, and at the way they adapted and changed. Fallen trees became extensions of those still standing, continuously changing form, changing function, and evolving.
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!