We’re taking a different approach to our latest blog post here at BRBdoingstuff because writing a conventional article about an unconventional activity doesn’t make sense. Also, revisiting the Great Hike of 2016 gives us some serious PTSD flashbacks. So get ready for our most honest, straightforward post to date. (That’s why it’s a little late… we’ve been putting off writing this because it is equal parts humbling and emotional)!
Spoiler alert: don’t try this at home!
As mentioned in previous articles, I’m a West Coast Trail junkie. I’ve hiked the trail four times (2003, 2013, 2014, 2015) and wanted to round out that number with a fifth — perhaps it’s my OCD tendencies, or my insatiable appetite for pushing physical boundaries? Either way I found myself back at the trail-head again this year… solo.
Below is the unabridged text from my journal that can only be summarized as a concerning unraveling stream of consciousness over the following 72 hours.
I’m not going to lie, even I am horrified with my own language! Warning: proceed with $#&@!%ing caution!
Day 1: Bus to the trail-head
- Embarrassed by Dad. Dropped me off at the bus and loudly told the bus driver to take care of his daughter. Waved for minutes straight before departure. Endearing, but feel like I’m being dropped off at my first day of school.
- Bus from Lake Cowichan to Bamfield.
- Cool prehistoric ferns everywhere!
- Made a friend on the bus from Washington State who gave me suggestions for local hikes (Three Sisters) and recommended reading History of the Human Body.
- Super excited to get there!
Day 1: Hiking
- Skipped orientation and started hiking at 1 p.m.
- Walked 16.5 km, arrived at Tsocowis at 5:15 p.m.
- Km 11 sucks balls, but still fast moving.
- Singing OMG by Usher and almost stepped on a snake, jumped into bushes.
- Great pace, feeling strong, sore knee but nothing like the Big Bend knee issue.
- Sang the Thong Song but changed the lyrics from ‘thong’ to ‘bear’. Should do the trick.
- Solid trail conditions.
- Last 1.5 km before camp came across three piles of bear scat.
- Camping all alone, no one there. Kind of spooky, but discovered spectacular hidden waterfall.
- Looking forward to a great sleep and enjoying the quiet.
- Saw a Bald Eagle carrying a large mammal against the world’s richest sunset.
- Got drunk on Fireball, feeling content and warm.
- Enjoying my new Alex Honnold book Alone on the Wall (by my celebrity crush), but concerned that sunset is past my bedtime. – 9:17 p.m.
- Nature is awesome.
Day 2: Hiking
- Horrid sleep, up worried about a bear attack all night.
- Slept clinging to bear spray and cougar knife. Worried I would stab or spray myself so didn’t roll over.
- Alarm wake-up after mosquito attack.
- Tired, grumpy but got energy after breakfast.
- Departed at 8:10 a.m.
- Combo day of beach and inland.
- European hikers caught me peeing on the trail. Everyone screamed.
- Overcame biggest obstacle – cable car solo ride!
- Jesus balls what a fucking long day.
- Need to decide pacing for the day. Today’s progress is make or break for getting back in two more days. That would be quite the route march.
- Felt drained, worried with knee and ankle pain before Nitnat.
- Rested 25 minutes, refueled with baked potato, butter and Diet Coke.
- Next 9 kms sucked although fast in spots with new boardwalk.
- Km 32 and 37 are lies. Bullshit. Fuck you.
- Self doubt, thinking about Honnold — channel his adventure spirit!
- Wrong way on Dare Corner. 1.5 km. Oops.
- Lovely spot at Cribs, arrived at 6 p.m. 26 kms took 10 horrid, despicable hours.
Day 3: Hiking
- Feeling legitimately lucky to be alive.
- Have never been so worn out or tired. Cross between being beaten up and hungover.
- Is my body going to make it?
- Shit sleep #2. Very sleepy all day which affected my energy.
- WHAT THE FUCK ARE MY MOTIVATIONS???
- Reminder: talk to shrink when home. Why must I prove these things to myself?
- Left Cribs @ 7:30 a.m., arrived Campers at 6 p.m. (10.5 hour route march).
- Edmonton couple with 10 year old boy fell from missing 15th rung at Adrenaline.
- Ran over, comforted him, removed pack and assessed vitals until mom came. Terrifying and unnecessary. Definitely thought he was dead. Must secure more alcohol provisions.
- Trying to shake the kid’s fall by singing Disney and 90s hip hop. Sprained ankle during Mo Money Mo Problems.
- Psychologically, emotionally and physically exhausted.
- Mustering energy to get water for food… ugh.
- Acquired second large fireball.
- Drinking commencing.
- Km 58 – 62.5 are the worst on the trail.
Day 4: Hiking
- Woke at 4 a.m. to rain.
- Note: buy new hammock with fly and mesh.
- Left at 6:50 a.m., arrived end of trail at noon.
- Started shocking strong but spooky, misty, and was first on trail.
- Duct tape reduced foot pain.
- Finished the trail feeling relieved, not accomplished.
- Knee murder last 3k.
- Ate fish sandwich at the local pub 🙂
A-buh? What happened?
Well, I went from “super excited!”‘ to “WHAT THE FUCK ARE MY MOTIVATIONS?” quite quickly — just shy of 72 hours, to be exact.
During a visit to Vancouver a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Laura asked me why I’m getting up to all of this adventure-type stuff. At the heart of it I think she wanted to make sure that I’m doing it for the right reasons.
The WCT this year gave room for pause and was a great opportunity to re-calibrate and check-in to ensure that I’m staying true to myself in how I spend my time and the activities I choose to do. I realized that part of trying new things isn’t just about accomplishment and success, but also pushing boundaries to learn limits. When things become no fun for too long, or you aren’t getting a return on your risk and/or time investments, you learn from that and apply it going forward.
Alone on the WCT I realized, to steal Christopher McCandless’ Into the Wild quote, that ‘happiness is only real when shared‘. I was so set on challenging myself physically, emotionally and mentally that I completely lost sight of why I was there in the first place — to enjoy nature and embrace time off the grid. My love of WCT comes from not only nature and adventure, but also the beautiful souls I’ve trekked with in the past. Our experiences and stories keep me returning year-after-year.
McCandless also captured how I felt on the trail, and how a wildly powerful sense of purpose (albeit misguided) takes a hold of you:
‘A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence—the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes—all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.’
Of course I wasn’t in the Alaskan wilderness harvesting berries and hoping to survive until the spring thaw (so it’s not apples to apples here), but I deeply identify with his thoughts.
You’re probably wondering when I came to the realization that I put myself on a one-way ill-advised route march — lucky for you I have the answer!
In all honesty, I covered such long distances in a short amount of time because I didn’t pee. Yes, you heard me right — no bathroom breaks. I’m usually a pee more often than the average granny type, however the paralyzing fear (I somehow manufactured in record time) of getting eaten by a bear or cougar while squatting to pee simply wasn’t worth the risk. I mean, what a humiliating way to go. I would rather have peed my pants and passed out in my own urine than take a bathroom break or a nap.
And that’s called bottoming out.
I went, I learned, I will do things differently next time — now onto the next adventure! I will post more often now that this one is behind me!
BRB just doing stuff for a bit k?