Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 7: 18 miles (108 total)

The campground had been quiet during the night, and I slept hard.

I found the trail at the far end of the car camping area and as I walked into the woods noticed some walk-in spots that looked lovely.

I was on a mission and my legs felt strong. To climb Mt. Troubridge! 4,281’ in 12 miles. Bring it!

I flew up that mountain. Not stopping for long, I wanted to keep pushing on, and I was at the hut, a short distance from the summit before noon.

I ate some left over little smokies, and decided to push on to the summit as there was no water or swimming options here.

I pushed on and look a lovely break and nap all spread out on my sheet of tyvek. No people! I was surprised as it was Saturday… and no people.

I was almost out of water so decided to go to Rainy Lake. The trail went DOWN… so much down. My knees were screaming by now with the thousands of gain and loss. I was going right back down to sea level. Oofta.

But when I picked my way down the steep trail to the lake I was so glad I made the effort. Deep waters right from shore, and not a person in sight! I stripped and and dove in the water, and just like that I wasn’t a sad dirty sack of hikertrash anymore, I was a sleek water nymph in a misty lake.

I filter some water and left for my destination only a few miles away… Fairview Hut on Saltery Bay.

When I got into the hut there were kids and people everywhere. I found a little flat spot in the trees near the water where I could set up, and it wasn’t long before I was in the tent enveloped in total exhaustion.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 6: 15 miles (90 total)

When I woke in the morning I was surprised to see Nemo had set up the tent during the night. Surprised because I hadn’t woken up at all when she set it up. That is how hard I have been sleeping out here.

After coffee and breakfast we started on an uphill climb to Walt Hut. The morning was cooler than the past few and I even started hiking with a jacket on. As we were in the mountains I have my down jacket, fleece, and hat and mittens. I have only worn my fleece, the nights here are quite mild, but for the first time today I felt the hint of fall.

We saw views for almost the first time. A lot of the smoke had blown off and we could really appreciate the dramatic mountains around us rising out from the sea.

We made it to Walt hut and met a few hikers that hadn’t left yet for the morning. They had just made a pancake breakfast and shared some left overs with us. Score!

Nemo had been dealing with some knee problems, the steep climbs and descents were wreaking havoc on her muscles and tendons, and her pain level kept increasing. The first kilometer down from the hut was supposed to be the steepest on the whole trail, and by the time we made it to the bottom and had lunch she didn’t think the knees would hold up for the rest of the trip. We made it a mission to get to our next campsite on Lois Lake by taking easy grades, so I routed us from trail to road, road to trail, whatever looked the easiest walking for her. When she started comparing her knee pain to childbirth I knew she was most likely down for the count. We were meeting Courtney and some of her friends at the campsite tonight for a BBQ, so we could evaluate some options when we got there.

We stumbled in both exhausted. We claimed a campsite and went to the beach. My main mission on this trip was to hang out with Nemo, so I was totally willing to call it with her and take a chill day. Yes, we were two days from finishing the trail, but it didn’t seem as important to finish solo as it did when we would finish together.

Courtney arrived with delicious beer, and her friend Kim and her boyfriend pulled up and had a big spread set up in minutes with hamburgers and sausages on the grill. Impressive!

Nemo broke the news to Courtney that her hike was finished, and suggested I continue and show the Sunshine Coast Trail that it didn’t take both of us down. Well when she put it that way…

Courtney wasn’t able to camp with us, so Nemo started pulling her stuff together. I repacked with the resupply bag I had left at C’s house, and before I knew it they were both pulling away.

That happened so suddenly! I was left with a solo hike where a reunion tour of two old hiking buddies once was. Bummer. But I only had 30ish miles to go and was so close.

One last big climb up Mount Troubridge. I would finish my 22,000’ of elevation gain somehow! I won’t let it take me out too.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 5: 13 miles (75 miles total)

We were so tired that we slept until 7am. We were going to have a slow lazy morning; we deserved some leisure!

After breakfast on the scenic picnic table, we gathered our things and set off for another day. The terrain was gentle and we spent the morning walking on old logging roads. It was exactly what we needed. Nemo’s knee is bothering her and she was careful not to strain it more, the even walking definitely helped.

100k Taquila

The kilometer markers passed quickly… much faster than yesterday (every kilometer of the 180 kilometers of this trail has a marker on a tree. At first we hated them, but now like them… If they are spaced properly. Think of it though, a section of trail in the middle gets rerouted and the distance changes… Every single marker from there on needs to be moved! We think that is what happened yesterday.)

The morning passed lazily by and we had lunch at March Lake just before a little climb up to the next hut. Wow, this hut was fantastic! Or rather the swimming dock in the lake was fantastic. Elk Lake had two large old trees tied together and cabled to the shore with a wooden platform spanning the logs and a wooden ladder to get in and out of the water. It was so welcomed. We dove in and swam around, feeling the heat leaving our bodies. We basked on the wooden dock for some time before filtering more water, having a snack, and packing up to move on. There were a few people in the hut, we said hello and got a little beta on the next section.

More old road walking and even terrain. Bliss after our two incredibly hard days!

Our destination was Coyote lake, which has a campsite on the north and south end of the little lake. We could hear voices down the trail to the first site, so kept walking to the next one. It was small and perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the lake, but it would do just fine for the night.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 4: 13/16 miles (59/62 miles total)

We were rested after our dark subsurface sleep… kind of. Nemo had been attacked by biting noseeums during the night and was feeling a bit itchy.

We packed and chatted with the trail crew before starting our descent from Confederation hut. Several thousand feet down. And we were feeling pretty good about it all. Our legs felt surprisingly refreshed after yesterday’s punishing miles.

We took a break at the bottom and tanked up on some water for the next long climb up to Tin Hat Hut.

The first half of the climb was pretty smooth. At least from our energy levels. We lunched right in the middle of trail, spreading our tyvek on the ground and lounged around eating olives, hummus and cheese and crackers.

The second half was harder. Up and up. Unrelentlingly up.

Sweat was poring, we were cursing, knees were threatening to blow out and when we finally made it to Tin Hat Hut and saw we had just climbed 3,665’ in 4.2 miles, we felt justified in our groans.

Break time was a delirious whirl of snacks and hobbling up and down the shelter steps. People tell us this hut has an amazing view, but we couldn’t see anything for the thick smoke. Disappointing.

We looked at the miles and data book for the next section and it appeared in just 3 miles we would make it down to our next campsite at Lewis Lake. We started down, it was steep! The climbs are brutally steep to the point where you question your thigh’s ability to power you up one more step, and the descents are so steeps you think your knees will blow.

After an hour we were still high up on the mountain and we started to suspect the miles were off. We started to wonder about an offhand comment Eagle made about the mileage (really Kilometers here in Canada) being off on the way down, and we wished we had asked him more. After an hour and a half of walking we come to the first marker. NO Way have we just spent that amount of time walking 1.5 km. Our normal pace is 4-5km an hour. Booooo!

So now we started questioning everything. How long would it be to camp? We didn’t know. Were there other sneaker extra miles coming up? We didn’t know. Would we still finish when we wanted? We didn’t know.

The last miles were slow, and we finally made it into camp, exhausted. We thought it would be a shorter day, it was not.

Our camp had a nice little picnic bench where we relaxed for a while after our swim.

Sunshine Coast Trail Day 3: 18 miles (46 total)

We woke up and sorted our food for the next leg of the hike. We found a spot in four days time for Courtney to come and camp with us and bring our last two days of food. This was a most excellent turn of events because our next section had some wicked climbs, and even two days of food weight would make a big difference.

We were back walking by 8am and quickly climbed Scout Mountain which gave us a view of her house where we had just been. And then what goes up must come down and we walked all the way down to cross Powell River, stopping to eat black berries that practically burst in our mouths.

After a nice break under the bridge we continued on to walk along the edge of Powell Lake. Now I’ve come to learn that walking along the lakes out here primarily means a rocky/rooty up and down adventure, and this time was no different.

We met up with a road and it wrapped around to a giant log platform that some teenagers were jumping from, Nemo began calling out. Turns out it was Kalen, Courtney’s daughter! We chatted for a few minutes and continued on to another beach. We decided it would be ridiculous to pass on another swimming opportunity even though we hadn’t come very far, so we dropped our packs and dove in.

We walked along the shore again, up and down. Up and down and had lunch at a small beach that we resisted to urge to swim. We had to make miles if we were going to meet Courtney on Friday, but more importantly we needed to make miles to finish in time, make all the ferries, and make the long drive back so Nemo could catch her plane home. Onward!

We climbed up to another lake, Lost Lake, and the trail skirted it and didn’t even meet the water. And then another Lake, Inland Lake came into view and we found a lovely, flat and wide dirt path circling the whole lake. Excellent! Bikes and families were out enjoying the day. And we inched our way along the path until coming to a picnic table where we could take a break. I was struggling. The miles were not coming easy today and we had a giant climb before we could make camp.

Fueled up with cold pizza and salty things we made the push. This was a straight up Appalachian Trail climb. All up and no mercy, We may have whined a little bit, maybe cursed a little bit, but we slowly inched out way up. If there was a sweating world record I surely won a podium spot. Drenched.

Finally the going eased and we came to Confederation Lake. We could see a trail crew had recently been through and there was fresh evidence of new log bridges and lots of loping. We finally made it to the shelter only to find it full with the trail crew.

A full crew of ladies! BadAss! They had been flown up on a sea plane with their tools, but would be hiking out tomorrow. Bummer was there was no flat place to tent. They offered us the crawl space under the cabin, but it looked a little like a coffin, so we were not initially interested.

We had a swim and made dinner before we Nemo realized that the guy on the porch was Eagle, the founder and creator of the Sunshine Coast Trail! We talked his ear off for a few minutes and it was pretty awesome to meet him up here… On the trail no less!

After trying to find a spot to camp we finally relented and went back to the coffin. It was bigger than I had initially thought, and we both climbed in and made our nests for the night.

Tired.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 2: 18 miles (28 total)

We woke to a misty morning and could barely see the water below. Smoke from forest fires or normal mist? We weren’t sure.

We packed up and cleaned the shelter a bit (packing out some large pieces of trash) and started hiking south. Soon we came to an old clear-cut and we spied two juvenile black bears hanging out across the way on an old logging road. They paid us no mind as they wrestled amid the tall fireweed.

The trail once again presents us with lots of climbing and rooty/rocky footing. It’s tiring. We climb straight up for 5 steps, then straight down for 3. Up for 10. Down for 7. It works our legs like nothing else can. Thru-hikers have the most epic and strong legs out there, and we were earning ours with some first-day pain.

We made it to the next hut with hopes of a swim, but the water was surrounded by mud of the kind we didn’t feel like sinking in to. We had lunch and took power naps.

We climbed and descended. Climbed and descended.

Late afternoon we got to Sliammon Lake and had a nice overdue swim. We didn’t linger too long because we were due to meet Courtney in a few hours and hang at her house for the night.

Lake bagging

Tired.

Courtney met us about a mile in and gave us the extra oomph to finish a long day.

Pizza and beer.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 1: 10 miles (repost for formatting)

Nothing gobbled us up during the night, and I woke early to go inside and make coffee.

By 9am we were in Courtney’s car and heading toward Lund and the bakery. We’ve been hearing about the bakery and both of us try not to pass up pastries if we can help it.

We were meeting Erik, Courtney’s friend, who has a boat and had agreed to take us to the start of the trail at Sarah Point. Turns out the logistical challenges don’t just include timing the multiple ferries to get here, but you have to figure out how to get to the start of the trail. A jeep road goes out there, but it’s not well traveled and can be knarly. One option we considered was walking the road (one hiker we met did this). There are water taxis you can hire, and when Nemo inquired and a price of $150 was quoted, we decided to pass on that.

Erik owns a tour boat (and is also part owner in the food cart and fishing boat we visited last night) he is part of the Tla’amin nation and serves on the volunteer fire department with Courtney. The boat ride is short, so we were grateful for the help…and we could save our $$ for things like pizza and pastries. We bought Erik a few goodies from the bakery and then hopped on the boat and we were on the way!

Starting a trail by water is pretty darn cool, but it gets cooler. Erik is a Cultural Resource Manager for the area and has done extensive archeological surveys of the islands we were passing. He showed us a petroglyph of a porpoise which historically indicated good hunting grounds, and pointed out spots where they found burial spots from thousands of years ago.

30 minutes later we were at Sarah Point and Erik explained with the low tide we would have to walk to the front of the boat, climb on the other side of the rail, and jump onto the rocks. What?? Come again??? Jump off the boat?? Hell yes! Again, coolest start to a trail ever!!!! We carefully held onto the side of the boat and had to make it onto some wet rocks covered with sharp razor clams… No blood was lost and we didn’t fall into the water. Success!!

We watched Courtney and Erik motor away and we climbed up the rocks looking for the trail. He brought us right to it, and we found a sign that marked the start of our 110 mile trail.

Bring it on!!

After photos and shots of tequila (we don’t mess around), we started walking.

The trail went up, and down. The grades were short and steep and was primarily tree bound. The terrain was lush and covered in mosses and ferns. It reminded me of hiking in the Oregon coastal range.

We hiked and took breaks. The best break came at Wednesday Lake where we stripped down and jumped into a cool and refreshing lake. It was perfect. The air was much more humid than I usually experience, and had been sweating up a storm. The water felt devine.

We went on a few more miles and decided to call it a day at the Manzanita Hut with vast views over to Vancouver Island all the islands and water in between. So beautiful.

There was a hiker here who had started a few days before us. Riar, had walked the jeep road to the start, and we talked around the picnic tables. This was his first solo trip and first time sleeping out alone, so seems stoked to have others around. Interesting guy, from Sesquatchawan, was from India and served in the Indian Army, but had been living in Canada for four years and was heading to engineering school in the fall.

The horizon looks hazy and may be a little smoky, but the sky above us looks clearer, maybe clear enough to see some of the percid meteor shower tonight! But my eyes feel so heavy…

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day -1 (repost for formatting)

We set our alarms for 5:30am since we wanted to get on the first ferry out of Vancouver, but we were both up before that and hit the road in the dark. (sleep is hard when excitement is high)

Playing the ferry game was going to be one of the more challenging aspects of getting to the start of a trail. Nemo had been able to reserve us a spot on a noon ferry, but we were hoping to switch that to the 7:30am boat…. We had another one to catch after this one! We lucked out and parked our car at the end of the line at the terminal (an impressive feat of logistics and crowd management) . Coffee shops and bathrooms were all over the place for the hundreds of people waiting to cross. We killed about an hour outside my car, oooing and awing as the day lightened up enough to see the water and mountains around us.

We drove onto the first ferry (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale), parked, and proceeded to explore… A gift shop! Cafe! Sundeck! We were totally the tourists with the dinner plate eyes walking around in glee.

We got in line for breakfast and by the time we were sitting down with our eggs and bacon, the ferry was docking. Throwing the leftovers in a take-out box, we got back in the car and drive off the first boat. We then had to drive about an hour to our next ferry at Earl’s Bay.

We cruised in a long line of cars that were loaded up with bikes and boats and coolers…. August on the Sunshine Coast was high tourist season and we were in the middle of it. The day was cool and overcast, which was a great relief to everyone we had met so far. The summer had been hot, much hotter than usual, and fires were all around up here too. Climate change was changing things rapidly, even on the cool and watery coast of BC.

We saw a man hitching, so pulled over and offered him a ride to the next town. He was a first nation’s member and explained he was on the way to pick up his fish. The tribes have fishing rights off the coast, but the runs had been low or non-existent for the past few years. This year was different, and the salmon had come back. There were enough fish from the tribe’s catch this year to allocate each family 50 large fish…a true bounty that would fill their freezers and bellies for months to come.

After dropping off our new friend we continued on the windy road to the next ferry at Earl’s Landing. We were toward the end of the line and crossed our fingers that we’d make it on the boat and not have to wait another 2 hours for the next one. Lucky girls! We were one of the last ones to drive onto the ferry and high fived each other…. Almost there! For this ferry ride we sat at the front of the boat on the sun deck and watched the world go by as we floated to Saltery Bay.

We passed parts of the Sunshine Coast Trail that clung to the side of the steep coastal mountains, and now knew why there were 22,000’ of elevation gain…. It was rugged and achingly beautiful, and it was obvious that there wasn’t much flat ground on these mountains.

We finally drove into Powell River about 30 minutes later, and found Nemo’s friend Courtney’s place. Turns out Courtney lives a short walk from the trail! We figured we’d walk into her place on the evening of day 2, and could leave our resupply with her. So fantastic!

The rest of the day the two old friends caught up, we packed up our food, bought some last minute items, wolfed down an excellent fish dinner at her friend’s food truck, and walked the beach at nearby Tee sho som. Courtney worked as a volunteer firefighter in the community and also taught preschool there. We visited the firehouse and Nemo explored another career path.

We pitched our tent in her yard and before going to sleep had a bear walk through the yard. Hello nature!! We would need to be careful of bears on this trip, but it is prime berry season, so we hope the main tenants of this peninsula will be otherwise occupied and not interested in some dirty smelly she-hikers.

Tomorrow, the trail.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day -2 (repost for formatting)

I was up at 5am for some last minute packing. Nemo was flying into the Portland Airport at 10am…a 3+ hour drive from home in Bend. We had been sending an increasing number of messages to the effect: “almost back together again!!!!”

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Nemo knit me a birthday She-ra hat on the PCT

Nemo and I met while hiking the PCT 12 years ago, and we got along so fabulously that we hiked well over half of that trail together, and have continued to hike every few years: the Northville Placid Trail, a few hundred miles of the Arizona Trail, and many trips to her local mountains in NY’s Adirondacks. We had been planning a hike together for over a year…and the day was here!!

Originally we had talked about going back to the Wind River Range which had featured prominently in both of our CDT thru-hikes (Nemo is a triple crown hiker too), but then she came up with the idea to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail. It just so happened that her high-school friend lived in Powell River, a stop along the trail, in a very hard to reach spot on the watery and rugged British Columbia coast. So we looked into it more: 180 kilometers or 110 miles, several ferry rides and/or water taxi rides to the start, Canada’s longest hut to hut trail, and 22,000’ of elevation gain. What!?!?? It sounded AWESOME.

I ordered a guidebook and soon put together one of the most useful documents of any long trail: a data book. There was one of sorts in the back of the guidebook, but it was all in kilometers and I wanted miles for my feeble American brain.

Nemo worked on logistics, figuring out the ferries and things. It turned out we would be passing through Vancouver BC and right by the place of another friend of ours from the PCT: Peppie. Peppie had married another thru-hiker from 2006, Ben, and they now had 2 children. They had just moved to Vancouver from Seattle and were currently at her folk’s house in North Vancouver.

On my way over Mt Hood to Portland this morning I saw a woman hitching at Frog Lake where the PCT crosses the highway. I pulled over and offered her a ride to Government Camp, a resupply stop 15 miles down the road. “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” (or Carmen for short… that’s one of the longer trail names I’ve heard of) was thru-hiking and in fact had tried to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail in the past! She was from Ontario, Canada and had to get off when she stepped on a hornets nest and was badly stung. I shivered when she told me… I was very allergic to wasps. Regardless I thought it was a good sign as most people I had been talking to about the trail had never heard of it.

I made it to the Portland Airport just as her flight was arriving, and we jumped in the car for a LONG day of driving. I5 through Seattle was stop and go traffic even though it was the middle of the day. The drive took longer than we expected, and we made it through the border crossing about 5pm. The border agent asked us how we knew each other, and I thought: “do you want the long version or the short version?” We gave him just the bare minimum and passed through with flying colors. We got to Peppie’s folks place just as dinner was ready and proceeded to spend the evening drinking good wine and catching up under the Vancouver skyline (it was an amazing house with an incredible view).

Sleep was sweet.

Sunshine Coast Trail – Day 1: 10 miles

Nothing gobbled us up during the night, and I woke early to go inside and make coffee.

By 9am we were in Courtney’s car and heading toward Lund and the bakery. We’ve been hearing about the bakery and both of us try not to pass up pastries if we can help it.

We were meeting Erik, Courtney’s friend, who has a boat and had agreed to take us to the start of the trail at Sarah Point. Turns out the logistical challenges don’t just include timing the multiple ferries to get here, but you have to figure out how to get to the start of the trail. A jeep road goes out there, but it’s not well traveled and can be knarly. One option we considered was walking the road (one hiker we met did this). There are water taxis you can hire, and when Nemo inquired and a price of $150 was quoted, we decided to pass on that.

Erik owns a tour boat (and is also part owner in the food cart and fishing boat we visited last night) he is part of the Tla’amin nation and serves on the volunteer fire department with Courtney. The boat ride is short, so we were grateful for the help…and we could save our $$ for things like pizza and pastries. We bought Erik a few goodies from the bakery and then hopped on the boat and we were on the way!

Starting a trail by water is pretty darn cool, but it gets cooler. Erik is a Cultural Resource Manager for the area and has done extensive archeological surveys of the islands we were passing. He showed us a petroglyph of a porpoise which historically indicated good hunting grounds, and pointed out spots where they found burial spots from thousands of years ago.

30 minutes later we were at Sarah Point and Erik explained with the low tide we would have to walk to the front of the boat, climb on the other side of the rail, and jump onto the rocks. What?? Come again??? Jump off the boat?? Hell yes! Again, coolest start to a trail ever!!!! We carefully held onto the side of the boat and had to make it onto some wet rocks covered with sharp razor clams… No blood was lost and we didn’t fall into the water. Success!!

We watched Courtney and Erik motor away and we climbed up the rocks looking for the trail. He brought us right to it, and we found a sign that marked the start of our 110 mile trail.

We watched Courtney and Erik motor away and we climbed up the rocks looking for the trail. He brought us right to it, and we found a sign that marked the start of our 110 mile trail.

Bring it on!!

After photos and shots of tequila (we don’t mess around), we started walking.

The trail went up, and down. The grades were short and steep and was primarily tree bound. The terrain was lush and covered in mosses and ferns. It reminded me of hiking in the Oregon coastal range.

We hiked and took breaks. The best break came at Wednesday Lake where we stripped down and jumped into a cool and refreshing lake. It was perfect. The air was much more humid than I usually experience, and had been sweating up a storm. The water felt devine.

We went on a few more miles and decided to call it a day at the Manzanita Hut with vast views over to Vancouver Island all the islands and water in between. So beautiful.

There was a hiker here who had started a few days before us. Riar, had walked the jeep road to the start, and we talked around the picnic tables. This was his first solo trip and first time sleeping out alone, so seems stoked to have others around. Interesting guy, from Sesquatchawan, was from India and served in the Indian Army, but had been living in Canada for four years and was heading to engineering school in the fall.

The horizon looks hazy and may be a little smoky, but the sky above us looks clearer, maybe clear enough to see some of the percid meteor shower tonight! But my eyes feel so heavy…