Juan de Fuca

originally published: 2012-08-28

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I may have gotten as much as an hour or so of sleep, but it was 06:00 and time to pack down. We got everything packed down, and the stuff we weren’t taking we put in the Element. The stuff we were taking went in Steven’s car, who had generously offered to give us a lift to the ferry.

We were in time for the 08:10 ferry, and met up with Lornez in the parking lot, who was giving us a ride from the ferry to where the bus would meet us in Courtney.

On the ferry we had breakfast, and were entertained by some of the choir groups who were returning from a national competition.

Once on the Island side, we drove to the palaeontology museum, which was closed, and then went to the mall. I was grateful to spend a bit of time in the bathroom. I wasn’t really hung over, but my guts disagreed with the sheer quantity of mead.

We were dropped off near the bus stop, and checked out the Alberni Outfitters store, and then holed up in the Micky D’s until our shuttle was due. We slept, slumped against each other, for the ride down to Nanaimo.

We changed shuttles in Nanaimo, and had time to use the facilities. For this I was grateful, because for some reason I really had to pee by the time we got there! We even had enough time to do our morning stretching routine, which was valuable considering the awkward positions we’d been sleeping in.

We stayed awake through Ladysmith and, as we were the only passengers, I convinced the driver to drive through Ladysmith’s main street, so Graham could get a glimpse of downtown, as we flashed through.

We both dozed off a bit after that, and woke as we neared Victoria. In Victoria, we found Chapters, the Reef, and the Catholic Cathedral. We went looking for more bookstores before Mass, and wound up in a little Farmer’s Market with tons of samples. I reminded Graham about fasting before Mass.

We found a bookstore called Renaissance Books, which didn’t have the book we were looking for, and then we headed back to the Cathedral. We both used the facilities before Mass, and then attended Mass. As Graham said, it would be his last chance for a while. The Cathedral was beautiful, and interesting for the addition of several prominent pieces of Native art. This included candelabras carved like canoes, and carvings on the altar.

After Mass, we went down to the Reef for dinner. We shared an appie platter with plantain chips, salad, curried chick peas, jerk wings, coconut prawns, taziki and some other type of dip. For Graham’s main he had jerk pork, with rice, slaw and black beans and I had the beef quesadilla, with salsa and sour cream. I’d asked to have it with salad, but got more plantain chips. Then they brought the salad, so we had a lot of sides to share, as well. We split our mains pretty evenly.

After dinner, we were feeling full and happy, and danced briefly with our packs on, revelling in how light they seemed, even at the start of our adventure with a week’s worth of food. We went for a walk around Victoria’s waterfront. I showed Graham Market Square, Chinatown, and Fan Tam alley. At Market Square we met a Paladin guard, whose thinking of transferring to Vancouver. I talked shop with him for a bit.

We found the bus stop for the bus to Sooke, and got on one of the last buses heading West. The far end of its route was a couple of blocks away from something called Erinan Estates. We walked over to the bottom of the drive into the estates, and each took a piss behind their large sign. Graham called the taxi, and we got picked up.

I felt as we rode in the taxi, that we were finally, officially on our way. Everything else had been a lead-in, now there was no turning back. I held Graham’s hand and told him I thought Maria and Jack would be watching this one pretty closely. He squeezed back.

The taxi took us right to the campsite we had reserved, #65, and we stumbled around in the dark for a bit behind it, before settling on a place to camp. Neither of us particularly wanted to camp on the actual gravel pad of the commercial campsite. We set-up, found a place to hang our food, and crashed.

Monday July 9, 2012

In the morning, Graham went to use the outhouse at 06:30, and I decided on a lark to see if I could be packed down before he got back. Somehow this caused confusion, because from a distance, Graham saw me squat to put away my tent stakes, and thought I was squatting for another reason. Eventually I wondered why he was still standing there, trying not to look in my direction. It turned out he wasn’t wearing his glasses, and couldn’t see properly that I’d struck my shelter already.

We broke trail, and had some confusion starting out, but made it from China Beach to 2nd Beach, then back up to the official start of the Juan de Fuca trailhead. We took pictures at the trailhead, and talked to a ranger for a bit.

We continued on to Mystic Beach where we did our morning stretches, had our breakfast of GORP and Biltong, and I went for a brief swim. Graham also dipped in briefly. We both took a rinsing off ‘shower’ under the waterfall, the main feature of Mystic Beach. Before we left the beach, we each took turns on a rope swing, with our packs on.

We continued hiking, for a while synching up with a group of seniors who meet every Monday for some light dayhiking. We dubbed them the, “Monday Meanderers.”

A little while later, we stopped for our first Random Rosary Rest Stop.

*Note: the initials indicates whose Intention started off, and thus who did the ‘three’ and who did the ‘two’ for each given rosary.

July 9 (GD): Intentions
1) Holly
2) Preservation of beauty of the Island, to have and to share with those who have come before, and will come after
3) Rangers, and park support staff,
4) Slugs, and all creatures of the forest, that they not be harmed by visitors
5) The health and safety of ourselves, and all fellow hikers, especially the “Monday Meanderers” group we met.

We stopped at a stream for lunch, and made our grain porridge with fruit, and played Gin while it was cooking.

By the time we made Bear Beach that night, I think I was getting fairly crashy. I spilled first the pasta, then the sauce, but managed to recover most of both. That night was Tex-Mex. After dinner, I cut my finger while trying to regrease my knife. I had discovered that my Burt’s Bees lip balm actually made awesome grease for my knife.

We hiked a bit past Bear Beach, and stealth camped just above the 11KM trail marker. We started to set-up camp, but I found the headache I’d been having off and on all day, was now settling down as a major tension headache. Suddenly I realized I couldn’t even concentrate on what I was doing. I tried to communicate to Graham, but I was speaking too softly, because it hurt more to talk louder. Graham wasn’t sure what was going on, but said in frustration, “Let me know if you need me, otherwise I’ll be over here.” It took a lot more concentration and effort than it should have to state clearly, “I need you!” “You need me?” He said, still bewildered. He came over, and by degrees we got my meds out, and then he massaged my neck and shoulders, with this adorable little self-conscious hesitation – he really wasn’t sure what he was doing, and was terrified he’d make things worse.

Once I was a little better, Graham wanted to help me set up my shelter, and I told him to just forget about it. I wound up insisting that we have both mats under his poncho, and sleep in the same shelter, in separate sleeping bags. Graham begrudgingly agreed, because it was the most expedient. He continued to nervously organize and fuss for a while, while I set myself up for sleep. Unfortunately, he then put his hand on a bee, which stung him. Then it was my turn to nurse him. I put some of my Benadryl cream on the ball of his thumb, and that stopped the pain. However, he was sure the stinger was still embedded. I gave him my tweezers, and he fished around under the cream, but didn’t find anything. Eventually, he gave up, and we had a somewhat restless night.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Subsequently, we had a bit of a late start the next morning, got both shelters packed down and sorted out, as in the night a lot of our stuff had been shoved together, and needed to be reorganized.

We were also dangerously low on water, and wanted to refill at the first creek we found. Unfortunately, the bridge across the creek spanned a small ravine. I could see a way to clamber down, but I didn’t want Graham to try it.

I left my pack with Graham at the top, and took the water things down with me. The section of creek directly under the bridge had a beautiful pothole, about two feet deep, and I took the opportunity to bathe. Graham had suspected I would, which was part of the reason he consented to having me go down alone. I paddled in the shallow pothole, and refilled our water. On the way out, I discovered someone had tied an old rope to the bridge, and was able to use it to pull myself back up.

We stopped to make brunch at another creek with beautiful potholes, and I managed to convince Graham to dip in for his own bath, by pointing out the ripe salmon berries on the other side of the creek, and only accessible by wading. We ate some GORP and biltong, cooked our porridge, and read some of Dawn Treader while we waited for it to cozy. After lunch, Graham did dip in. As he put it, if it was a matter of honour of fetching berries for his lady, then he’d have to go in. Once he was dressed, we got ready to leave as a big group was settling in around us.

The afternoon was mud, punctuated by a rare sighting of seals far away on some rocks, more mud, and our Random Rosary Rest Stop.

July 10 (MF) Intentions:
1) Those affected by the Tusnami in Japan
2) GD’s family, and for his reunion
3) Holly
4) Pastors, preachers, and teachers
5) The lessening of ours and everyone else’s burden

We made it to the Chin Beach campsite, did an evening cool down stretching session, and made Penne Pesto Passion for dinner. As we worked, the campsite was gradually filled by more and more people, and the large group of women we’d seen at brunch also smoked. The more people filed in, the more uncomfortable I grew. I couldn’t even really place my unease, but I didn’t want to camp in amongst all these strangers, right on a beach, with the wind blowing hard, and the fog setting in.

It grew dark, and I started arguing with Graham. He thought we should stay there, and that the idea of night hiking anywhere to find a new campsite was extremely unwise and dangerous. I just knew I couldn’t stay there any longer.

We bundled up with our ponchos as wind breakers and set out along the beach to the next trail access, which turned out to require a small bit of rock climbing to access. There was a rock shelf with a rope dangling down it, and we had to haul ourselves up to the start of the trail.

We walked basically a click in the pitch dark, our headlamps reflecting off the vegetation. I was enchanted by how different everything looked in the dark. We walked through a dense patch of bottle brush, and every needle was picked out with dew. It sparkled and shimmered as we walked through it. Graham was tried and grumpy, and frightened by both my behaviour and being in unknown forest in the dark, and only commented that the dew brushed off onto his clothes and made them damp.

We made two stream crossings in the dark, which I made a mental note of for figuring out how far we had come in the morning.

We came to one of the innumerable log bridges we’d seen on the trail, but in the dark we couldn’t tell if it was just covering a boggy bit of ground, or spanning a vast chasm. Once we crossed it, I said, “Whee, that was fun!” and Graham snapped that, ‘No, Wendy, this is not fun. I’m not having any fun at all.”

Shortly after that, the trail widened out abruptly at the 22KM mark, with a bit of a hollow under a tree. Graham gratefully accepted it as a flat place to make camp. I let him have the majority of the hollow, and squeezed myself into an area that was too small, but I felt that it was my fault for getting us into this mess, and anything I could do to help Graham have a more comfortable night, I would do for him.

Before we passed out, we wound up having another strange argument, this time about whether he had a crush on me. I don’t remember much of the conversation, except his somewhat wailed reply, “I don’t want to have a crush on you, Wendy!” to which he later added, “Besides which, if I did, a trip like this would be quite impossible and too dangerous.”

I let it drop; we slept.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Long Day’s Hike
Marissa Fischer

It’s gonna be a long day’s hike,
But at least we made it through the fog,
It’s gonna be a long day’s hike,
We might get stuck in the bog,

But when I get to my tent,
I know I’ll be all set,
I’m gonna feel alright.

Graham Darling

Squishidy-do-dah! Squishidy-day!
My, oh, my, what a muddying way!
Plenty of more mud, headin’ my way!
Squishidy-do-dah! Squishidy-day!

Shelter has Risen
Marissa Fischer

Building our shelter, like the first shelter.
Making our dinner, like the first meal
Praise for the summer, praise for our shelter,
Praise for our journey, and each step we take.

Deep the creek’s cool pools, spilling from mountains,
Like the first waters, after the swell.
Praise for the deepness, of His fine fountains,
Drawn from darkness, out of one well.

Mine is the woodland, mine is the shelter,
By He who made man, and all that we see.
Praise of thanksgiving, for every shelter,
G-d grant our living, and life to be.

We packed up early, since we were technically lying across the trail, and started off. I asked Graham how much he remembered of the previous evening, and fortunately he only remembered being frightened, and sort of a surreal sense of moving through the forest. I said I had considered checking that log we crossed on, but if he didn’t remember, it was better to drop it. Graham was packing up, and not really paying attention, and started to say, “What log?” I told him I was dropping the conversation, because maybe I’d let him forget all about it, until I wrote it in my journal later.

At the first stream, we stopped to refill our water. On the other side of the creek, there was another rope dangling over a rock ledge. Once I’d gotten above it, I found a path that was really only visible from above. I directed Graham around to it, and then climbed down to leave a note about it for the women. We didn’t see them again, and I wonder if they got the note.

We slogged through a lot of mud, before we got back near the ocean again, and stopped by a little waterfall and stream to clean the mud out of our pant legs and shoes. Watching our shoes bobbing gently in the pool of water, Graham randomly said it reminded him of the image of the shoes washing up on shore, with severed feet in them. I snapped at him for being macabre, and he apologized, and then half-snapped back, “I’ll stop being macabre, if you save telling me about your ‘nocturnal excursions’ until after we get back, or I read it in your journal.” Time slowed for a moment – what was he talking about? “I didn’t…I haven’t…just at Mermaids. What are you talking about?” “I dunno, you were saying something about a log this morning, I tuned you out.” “Um, woah. I was talking about something during our night hike together. I haven’t snuck out of my shelter at night to do anything more than pee since we broke trail together. I told you I did what I did at Mermaids as one last hurrah, to get it out of my system, and that I wouldn’t while camping with you.” He backed off, and apologized for not trusting me. The incident bugged me for a bit – in that sense of getting blamed anyway for something you have actually stopped doing. I wondered if my promises to him seemed so disgenuine.

At Sombrio Beach, there was a protected section of the beach which was warm and shallow, and had much kelp. Graham and I both took baths in the gravelly bottom tidal pools, and then continued to beach walk for a long section. We had lunch near the sign that told us it was 3KM to Little Kushie Creek.

The place we stopped for lunch was a little campsite carved out of the salmon berries just off the beach. It was dry, warm, and protected from the wind. We said our daily Random Rosary Rest Stop while waiting for our food to cook.

July 11 (GD) Intentions:
1) Holly
2) Blank intention, opening ourselves to listen to G-d
3) Friends
4) Robin
5) Search and Rescue workers

The last 3KM of the day, turned out to be three clicks of pretty much solid mud, but we made it to Little Kushie Creek, which was quite high off the beach. We found a campsite at the far back of the site, which was carved out of the salal bushes. I dubbed it Salal Grotto, and it proved a wonderful little grotto to camp in.

As soon as we arrived, I went and had a massive BM in the outhouse there, and then we did some light laundry down by the creek, set up our shelters, and made dinner. I wrote most of the Shelter Has Risen poem sitting on the creek there. Over the course of the day, we’d both felt pretty lucid and had been filking back and forth to each other.

Dinner was Italian Tomato. We got to read some of Narnia to each other before going to sleep.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We woke up, packed down, and refilled at the creek before leaving. Graham and I both used the outhouses before we left. We stopped at Kushie Creek (Sr.) for lunch. While we were preparing lunch, we both had a bath in the potholes of the creek. I got a bit too near the cliff edge, seeing if there was a way I could climb down the waterfall, and nearly fell. I flung myself backwards, and I think this is how I lost my sunglasses that I was carrying in my shirt pocket at the time.

At the 42KM mark, I had Graham take a picture of me holding my Hello Kitty, the doll Robin gave me on our first Christmas together.

We continued on to Tom Braid Creek. We had been discussing our strategy, and had been feeling most of the Juan de Fuca that we’d been wasting too much time. Part of it was I’d started out the trail sick, and both of us were sleep-deprived from Stranded Mermaid. We both felt we’d never completely, properly caught up. Earlier that day I’d tried to move faster on the flatter stretches where we could maybe make up some of the time, and I’d slipped and fallen, leading to a more serious discussion.

At Tom Braid, we stumbled around through dense brush until we found a clear headland, above the salal dale, and Graham agreed to set up both shelters, while I went back down to the creek’s delta on the beach and started dinner.

The tide was still quite high, and I had to do a bit of rock climbing to get back around to the creek. I started making dinner, and was just finishing, and starting the water for the porridge, when Graham returned. On debriefing, we realized that separating while one set up shelters, and the other did dinner was an idea neither of us were comfortable with in practice – with no way to communicate between us, we had no way of knowing if something had gone wrong, or how late to wait to check.

We ate our second portion of Penne Pesto Passion, but I was finding the rosemary quite strong and it was the only meal I didn’t finish.

After dinner, Graham had to dig a cat hole. I was feeling very crashy, and napped on my driftwood log bench while he was occupied. By the time he got back from that, it was quite dark. We piled our stuff together, and then had a bit of time finding our way back to the shelters. We made it without mishaps.

We got into our beds, and said a short prayer that everything had worked out well, despite the failure of several of our experiments that day.

Friday, July 13

We woke up, packed down, and managed to pick up the old trail to wade out of the salal back onto the main trail. Then it was a short distance to the boundaries of the Botany Bay Botanical Park.

We were walking along, with the ocean to our left, and a hedge of middling height salal separating us from it. Graham was walking behind me, when he suddenly said, “Wait, come here, come here!” I was tired and hot, already, and didn’t really care about what he had to show me. We got into a bit of an argument – basically he had spotted a black bear mother, and at least one cub on the beach, and was trying to point them out to me. Because I’m half a foot shorter than Graham, and there was salal in the way, I hadn’t spotted them. Since I didn’t know there was any actual danger, I hadn’t responded the way Graham thought I should, hence our fight.

We continued forward, and passed the next beach access. Mom went up on her hind legs briefly to see what was happening over the salal, saw me, dropped back down and lumbered off. Graham had gone ahead, and now hissed at me for stopping and staring. I couldn’t convince him that I wasn’t staring at the bear; I was staring at the spot the bear had been.

My overwhelming feeling at the encounter was dread for Graham; he’d been telling me that he’d lain awake some nights imagining that there were ‘bears tiptoeing all around us’, and that he wasn’t able to shake that thought, even though he knew it was silly. So now there really had been a bear, and he wouldn’t sleep again ever! I probably should have been more sympathetic – after all, I have had a brush or two with genuine paranoia. I know what it feels like to have irrational thoughts that you can’t switch off, how it makes you feel like you’re not fully in control of your mind.

Unfortunately, at the time, I was just frustrated with Graham, I think mostly because I felt he should have told me about not being able to sleep earlier, so that maybe we could have worked together. Woken me up to pray, or keep watch for him, or whatever.

Graham, for his part, got into an argument with me about the proper responses to bears, and responding to his signals. It took me a bit to convince him that an excited, “Come here!” doesn’t mean a whole lot when a dozen times a day you’re stopping me to look at an interesting leaf, or bug, or slug, or tree, or view or… “OK, OK,” Graham finally said, “So what can I do instead? I could swear. I rarely swear, so that maybe if I do swear you’ll know it’s serious.” A short while later, he reversed that, “Is there something I can say instead that wouldn’t be swearing?” I eventually got him to agree on the SCA accepted, “Hold!” Hold works. If I hear “Hold!” I’ll first of all stop moving forward, and then you can elaborate on whether I should retreat or what.

By this time we were actually at Botany Bay. We both used the outhouse at the entrance to the beach, and then walked out on the beach, being careful not to step on anything but bare rock, as the sign instructed. We walked all the way around the little headland, peeking in tidal pools. There was sadly less wildlife in the tidal pools than we’d been hoping, though plenty of giant green anemones.

We stopped on the beach to each Brunch, and say some Hebrew Hymns.

While there, we were somewhat disgusted by a family that had a dog, off leash, tearing up the beach, and the kid pulling along a section of bull kelp. Clearly not everyone believed in preserving the park as much as we did.

After lunch, we took the remainder of the Botany Bay loop trail back up to the parking lot. Graham used the outhouse, while I climbed a tree.

In the parking lot, we stopped to rest for a while. I was feeling dizzy and sick, and spent a while trying to use the outhouse with limited success. We got someone to take our pictures by the Juan de Fuca sign, and the same people later gave us a ride into Port Renfrew town, saving us quite a long hike. Despite the lift, by the time we got through the general store, and recovered the 10KG of food I’d shipped to the Post Office, we were running late for the Orientation session at the West Coast Trailhead office. We phoned in, and she told us not to worry about it. Unfortunately, we later learned this meant our start would be delayed until the next day.

We walked along the road up to the Orientation office, with me carrying our quite heavy food box all by myself, all that way. We stopped for a nice rest part way, by some salmon berry bushes.

We finally got to the office, and checked in. We’d missed the last orientation session we could take that day to get us onto the trail that evening. I organized all of our food supplies while waiting, and then Graham and I went to the campground next door to use the facilities. While there, I quickly wanted to arrange a campsite to spend the night. Judging from the line-up of cars, it was going to be full pretty soon, and the other campground was full already.

Graham got annoyed with me delaying getting back to the Orientation session, and as a result I didn’t wind up going to the bathroom until afterwards. As it was, we ended up starting the session late, as the other two-person group of young men were delayed because one had mislaid his wallet.

After the orientation session, which was pretty good, we went back to the campground, pitched our shelter, each took a shower, and caught the little not-taxi service into town. He recommended dinner at the Costal Kitchen Café, and we enjoyed ourselves. I had their homemade wonton soup, a Ceaser salad, and a lamb burger. I also had a glass of red wine, for Shabbat. We had chocolate cake for dessert. I reflexively ordered a camomile tea, after noting their selection of teas on the way back to the table from the bathroom. The tea came while Graham was in the bathroom, and he returned to find me crying. I had remember that Maria used to give me camomile with honey every night, and it was just sort of overwhelming, being at the mid-point of our hike, on the Island that was very near and dear to her.

We walked back to the campground, stopping to look at the little multi-denominational church, and the playground. I put out my hip again climbing over the little plastic fake rock wall.

On the walk down the road, we did a Random Walking Rosary.

July 13 (MF) Intentions
1) Holly
2) Port Renfrew community and citizens
3) Maria, Jack and Jacques
4) Claire Darling
5) Us, and the continuance of our journey

While we were saying the rosary, we saw a stag alongside the road. After we finished, we found the entrance to something called the San Juan Burial Park, which we gathered was a private cemetery. In the centre was a very old graveyard, with more tombstones in the lawn around it. There was a bench, also, so we stopped to rest in the peace and quiet in the dusk.

We took one of the lanes back to the campground, and approached our campsite from the other direction. Then we walked back up to the main office to try wifi on my cell (which didn’t work) and use the facilities and refill our water bottles.

Once back at the campsite, we lit the shabbos candles, and climbed into bed. We read from Narnia and went to sleep.

– M is for Monday Meanderers

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