The most important Knee Knacker map ever.

The stunning new Knee Knacker website features some archival statistics of interest (finishing times, course records, and the like) but sadly omits at least one important historic record of the race:

http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?hl=en&gl=ca&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=113274859280017017078.00046e8dacc1cace5d85f

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Running the North Coast Trail

Running the North Coast Trail

 

Completely posed photo charging upland from Shushartie Bay, about 1K

 

Just opened, this at-times leg-pulverizing trail leads through old growth forests and across countless beaches, with spectacular views of surf, headlands, and mountains

David Crerar

 

May 2008

Four of us ran the new North Coast Trail on Sunday, May 26th.

This account will be brief, and will defer to the excellent blog of Jeff Hunt, who along with Bob Wall, has first-bagger boasting rights, running the trail on its opening day, May 10, 2008: http://trailadventurer.blogspot.com/2008/05/north-coast-trail-run-may-10…

Executive summary

1. the North Coast Trail is an impressive feat of trail building: the builders should be heartily praised for forging access to, and helping preserve this spectacular stretch of west coast rainforest and beach. On a clear day (which we were blessed with), the views of the beach, forest, islands, surf, and coastal mountains are stunning.

2. although shorter (58K) than the West Coast Trail (75K), it is almost as hard, and less runnable due to the rocky beaches and climbing.

3. many of you have run 50K before. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the NCT is just a little longer than the Diez Vista, Kneeknacker, or Chuckanut races, or the Juan de Fuca Trail, and underestimate the challenge of this run.

4. Bob and Jeff hold the current record of 11 hours. That will probably be shaved down to 8.5-9 hours in the next few years. Those future record holders will not feel so good after setting the record, though.

5. transportation: useful to rent a car, and leave a car at the San Josef Bay parking area at the west end of the park, and drive back in the rental car.

6. bring gloves, gators, a headlamp, and a lightweight rain jacket.

7. for most runners, the older part of the Cape Scott Park, from the San Josef Trailhead to Cape Scott Lighthouse, with a side-trip to Nissen Bight and Fisherman Bay, and back (49K), will be a shorter, gentler, and more satisfying trail run.

8. probably not wise to attempt to run it solo: in contrast to the JDFT, it has no mid-trail access/escape routes; in contrast to the WCT, you will likely see few or no other people. If you twist an ankle or impale an eye, you’re on your own.

9. There is very little non-tidal drinking water on the entire trail. Skinner Creek at 7.3K, Irony Creek at 24.3K, and Laura Creek at 36K, are the best sources.

Logistics

On Saturday we took the ferry to Nanaimo and drove up to Port Hardy. The road is greatly improved from my last trip up to Cape Scott almost a decade ago: it is about a 4-5 hour drive. We rented a car and drove in tandem for about 1.5 hours along the Port Holberg logging road to the San Josef Bay trailhead, the western terminus of the trail, and the main trailhead for the Cape Scott area. Take care, as not all rental companies will allow you to take the car on logging roads.

On the logging road trip to San Josef Bay and back to Port Hardy, we saw some ten bears, including a mother and two cubs.

There is ample parking at San Josef Bay. Had my running companions not been wet blankets, I would have squeezed in a short jog to San Josef Bay and Mt. St. Patrick (2.5K and 5K, respectively, from the trailhead) for a seastack-covered beach and a spectacular view of the area.

We stayed at the Quarterdeck Inn: http://www.quarterdeckresort.net/: a perfectly good inn that seemed content with us squeezing four bodies to the room. We picked this inn as it was beside the pier at which our water taxi (http://www.catalacharters.net/) would pick us up the next morning at 6am. Catala Charters is run by Jim and Cathy Witton, both of whom serve on the board of the Northern Vancouver Island Trails Society, which the world can collectively thank for creating this remarkable trail.

There is a logging road that leads to a point above the eastern trailhead, but the forest is dense, and we decided well in advance not to risk a bushwhacking start.

Background materials

o An excellent but not-so-durable fold-out map has just been published. It is $8 and well worth it. Jim Witton was kind enough to sell and mail me a copy.

o Philip Stone’s Coastal Hikes has a detailed write-up of the hike, as well as excellent write-ups of 12 other coastal hikes: http://www.wildisle.ca/

o The Northern Vancouver Island Trails Society website has many photographs of the trail included in its progress reports:http://www.northernvancouverislandtrailssociety.com/index.htm

o Wildcoast Magazine has a number of useful articles, including a two-page map: http://www.wildcoastmagazine.com/NorthCoastTrail4.htm

o John Kimantas’s The Wild Coast, Volume 1 is a superb and encyclopedic survey of every explorable nook and cranny on the north and west coasts of Vancouver Island

The trail

Overall

The map and articles above set out a relative difficulty of sections: these ratings don’t necessarily apply to the trail-runner. For example, the map considers the stretch from Nahwitti River to Irony Creek as the hardest section due to the number of headlands one must ascend by steep slopes assisted by ropes. For a five-day hiker toting an 80litre pack, these would be nasty; for the fast-packing trail-runner, these ascents are not so hard and lead to lovely, spongey, runnable trails. In contrast, the map considers the stretch from Irony Creek to Laura Creek to be of moderate difficulty. But for the trail runner, this unremitting 11K stretch along very rocky beaches that generally slope down to the ocean at a 45 degree angle, is a hellish leg-pounder. If you’ve ever embarked on a long day of power-tourism or running on cobblestone steps, you can contemplate the muscular pulverization that this stretch will subject you to.

The NCT is like the girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead. The parts that are runnable are very very runnable: the perfect spongey, mossy forest floor between Skinner Creek to Cape Sutil, the gorgeous pound-sand beach of Shuttleworth Bight, and the home-stretch from Laura Creek to Nissen Bight offer superlative running. But the rocky beaches, for the most part, are unrunnable due to pea-gravel pebbles that steal half the energy of every stride, or the bowling ball-sized rocks that offer a rock-hard (and, in typical weather, slippery) surface. All in all, only about half of the trail is runnable. Which is not to say that one should not try to run this trail, which will grow in fame. The key is to reconceptualize the trip as a fast-trek power-hike rather than a running adventure in the manner of JDFT and WCT.

Shushartie Bay to Skinner Creek (0k-9k)

After a 45-minute water taxi trip past dining sea otters and jumping porpoises, the water taxi drops you off at a small rocky promontory redolent of the southern trailhead of the WCT. Then you go up, up, up, the trail, for 9K of inland hiking. This is the steepest and newest section of the trail. Fresh new boardwalks carry you over beautiful pocket marshes. There are many development on the trail, although once a summer of hiking boots churns up this section, it will likely become a huge mudbath.

Here be some decent short running spurts once the trail flattens out. The foliage is low-lying, and generally harmless, although all of us emerged with bloodied shins.

Eventually the stunted trees of the bogs give way to huge ancient cedars, salal bushes and salt air that herald the open ocean. You then plunge down to the first beach, the lovely and rocky (but fairly runnable) beach at Skinner Creek. You emerge blinking from the forest, to the beach framed by the Skinner Creek valley forest, and, if the weather is as spectacular as it was on our day, the snow-capped peaks of the Coastal Range, including Mount Waddington in the far distance.

Skinner Creek to Nahwitti River (9k-12k)

This section features a series of short beaches: run to the end of the beach, spot the buoy hanging from a tree, climb up the headland, run ten strides, climb down, enjoy the beach. Due to high cliffs, the beaches are difficult to pass at high tide, and there is a more rough trail running parallel to the beaches.

The Nahwitti River will eventually have a cable car for crossing, but until then, one must ford the river. At low tide, with a gentle current, one can do so up to mid-thigh. Counter-intuitively, the easiest place to do so is not near the sea, but half-way up the beach, above a rocky outcrop that creates a bit of a mini-rapid. The idiot writer of this write-up tried to ford the river below this point, and soon found himself swimming. Only the camera drowned, accounting for the lack of photos from 12K on.

Nahwitti River to Cape Sutil (12k-17k)

You’ll have some moments of doubt as you clamber along the slippery rocks on the west side of the Nahwitti River to find the trail, starting just past the abandoned cabins which once apparently hosted a Teddy Roosevelt hunting party. After about 10 minutes, you’ll find a grassy outcrop, near which is trail flagging.

Considered by the map to be the most difficult stretch of trail, this section is a series of good mini-runs, rope descents, traverses of pocket beaches, and rope ascents. Many of the trail access points were territorially marked by huge piles of bear scat, although we saw no bears during the whole run (apparently it is rare to miss seeing one on this trail). The Cape Sutil beaches offer pleasing views of headlands, the coastal range, and surf pounding against off-shore rocky shoals. The Cape Sutil headland was the former site of Nahwitti, a fortified aboriginal village. Nahwitti was shelled by the HMS Daphne in 1851 after the inhabitants killed three Hudson Bay Company sailors the previous year.

Cape Sutil to Irony Creek (17k-24k)

A similar series of headlands, short runs, and rocky beaches. The pocket beaches each seemed to serve as killing field for separate marine fauna: on one, mussel shells were piled up; on another, piles of coral. Irony Creek, ironically absent in irony, but named for its rusty colour, is the last water source for a long time, so stock up.

Irony Creek marks the eastern end of the most spectacular sandy beach on the NCT extension: Shuttleworth Bight. Running along the beach, with mountains in the distance, roaring surf, and blue skies: just about perfect. We lunched and swam here for about an hour, joined by Fred from Comox who was taking a break from circumnavigating Vancouver Island in a kayak.

Irony Creek to Laura Creek (24k-35k)

After the paradise of Shuttleworth Bight you return to the forest and haul yourself across the Stranby Creek cable car: rope friction makes this a more exhausting exercise than the well-broken-in cable cars of the WCT. After a brief runnable stretch, one returns to the beach.

This is a cruel stretch. Both the Wall Expedition and the Crerar Expedition flagged during this leg-pounding 11K stretch over a variety of rocky beaches. One day it would be good to add a trail slightly inland to the beaches, in the manner of most of the beaches on the WCT and JDFT, but for now, the steep and rocky beaches are the only route. To add to the cruelty, both of our groups fooled ourselves into thinking that we had hiked about 5K more than we actually had; the realization of our actual location, based upon the western topography of the Nahwitti Cone and two bays, instilled despair.

This stretch nonetheless features weird and wonderful sights: sea stacks, rocky limestone shelves teeming with sea life; concentrations of bald eagles soaring overhead; strange thick carpets of dried sea-grass creating a dreamlike womblike running surface for hundreds of metres. Several trees in the adjacent forest feature huge burrs.

Laura Creek to Nissen Bight (35-43k)

The end of the beaches and return to the forest was a great mercy. This home-stretch is very runnable if there is any power left in your legs, and if a recent rain has not turned it into a soggy swamp. This stretch features several WCT-style stairs, boardwalks, and bridges, as well as traces of old roads left by the Danish settlers during the settlement attempts of the 1910s and 1930s. After passing Laughing Loon Lake, and traversing a highland covered in stunted Seussian pine trees, you descend down to the beautiful sandy expanse of Nissen Bight, the end of the NCT extension, and the start of the original Cape Scott Provincial Park.

Nissen Bight to San Josef Bay trailhead and parking lot (43k-58k)

This should be an easy run: this former settlement road is generally flat and straight and except for the occasional sea of mud, covered in boardwalk and corduroy roads. That being said, the final 15K were psychologically grueling, at first hindered, and then abated, by the kilometer markers (the only kilometer markers on the trail).

Side-trails lead to settler graves, Eric Lake, abandoned settler farming dykes, the Cape Scott Lighthouse, and the stunningly beautiful beaches of Nels Bight, and the double-beach peninsula of Experiment Bight and Guise Bay. These areas of outstanding scenic beauty, with their dense European and aboriginal history, are well-documented elsewhere, and would make themselves a superlative one-day trail run or week-long adventure.

Conclusion

As I write this, two days after the run, I am thoroughly pleased that I ran the North Coast Trail. Had you asked us during the run, the answer may have been different. Again, it is all a matter of managing expectations. It is a very challenging trail run, one that would be very difficult were the weather stormy, as it often is. If you had the luxury, it would be best to give yourself a three-day window on which to run it. Had the rocky beaches and boardwalks been slippery, progress would have been considerably more slow and risky, and possibly have required an emergency overnight stay. The bottom line is that the NCT is a testament to the Trail Society that has been working to create this adventure of great natural beauty for almost a decade.

Photographs

http://flickr.com/photos/8661048@N07/sets/72157605492269631/

Running the Flores Island Wild Side Trail

Running the Flores Island Wild Side Trail

Runnable shell-strewn beaches alongside old growth forest and past bloody battlesites

Cow Bay

David Crerar

June 2008

Most of us already know the west coast of Vancouver Island, particularly the Pacific Rim National Park, as a trail-running paradise. On June 3, 2008 I discovered an extension of that paradise, on the 28K out-and-back beachside Wild Side Trail, on the south shore of Flores Island, about one hour northwest of Tofino by water taxi.

Despite its location, it is readily and cheaply accessible from Tofino: throughout the day, water taxis scurry back and forth between Marktosis/Ahousaht (the two towns of Flores Island) and Tofino at the bargain price of $16 each way (in contrast to the approximately $100 a head paid the weekend before for a shorter water taxi trip to the North Coast Trail trailhead from Port Hardy; to be fair, the $16 taxis must be significantly subsidized by the Federal Government).

The trail consists of some eight sandy beaches, all of them runnable, interspersed with brief interior trail runs, again, all very runnable. The run culminates in the most spectacular beach of all, Cow Bay. An additional 8K (return) can be added by running up Mt. Flores (860m) from Cow Bay. For ultra-marathon purists looking to round out the additional distance, apparently there are additional trails heading southwest from Cow Bay to Siwash Cove (but be prepared to bushwhack), or various interior logging roads. Or just savour an additional out-and-back along Cow Bay’s spectacular 4K sweep.

The trail is easy, flat, well-groomed, and well-marked. It would lend itself well to a solo run, or an adventure with a non-running significant other. While easily done in a day, a multi-day sojourn would be a very pleasant holiday. You will likely have the entire trail, or at least an entire golden beach, to yourselves.

When I had mentioned to two Tofino locals in the tourist trade that I planned to visit Ahousaht for the trail, their faces visibly blanched and both told me that I shouldn’t go because it was “dangerous” (their words). I am happy to report that while Ahousaht isn’t Kitsilano, all of the townsfolk I met were very friendly, and based on my limited experience, the warnings were wholly unwarranted.

The adventure starts at the Tofino Government Dock at the foot of First Street. The Ahousaht Pride water-taxi departs Tofino daily at 10:30am and 4pm (and back from Marktosis/Ahousaht at 8:30am and 1pm). This schedule would not provide enough time for the run, so I called other Ahousaht water taxis. During school months the Rocky Pass (1-888-726-8427) taxi usually leaves at 7:45am to shuttle teachers to the Island, returning at 3:45pm; this was the option I took. At the end of the day, I arrived back to Marktosis with 45 minutes to spare. The band office kindly radioed various water taxis; we discovered another taxi was heading back early, at 3pm, so I hopped on that one – the point is that despite its semi-remote location, a bit of digging can probably net you a full day on the island, without having to personally charter a boat.

The water taxi (piloted by Bill from Ahousaht : “Laundry bill, phone bill – however you want to remember it”) travels past the volcanic cones on Meares Island and Cat Face Mountain, and past countless coves and rocky islands and promontories, before landing at Marktosis (Maaktushs), the main town of Flores Island, nestled within a cove within Matilda Inlet, at the southeast corner of the island. A few houses south of the main dock is the band office, in a two-story reddish wooden building, where one stops to check in and to buy the $20 trail permit.

The town ends four or five houses to the south. The main road out soon forks: take the smaller, left, road. Soon you come to the “Walk the Wild Side” trail sign, slightly obscured by the scotch broom which lines the first half-kilometre of the trail, at times forming a narrow arch. A heavy storm had soaked Clayoquot sound the night before, and within 10 seconds I was wholly drenched from the foliage. At the trailhead, two large piles of bear scat greeted me (although no further evidence of bruins was seen).

A boardwalk path travels over a boggy section known as 7a7ukwnak (“It has a lake”). A sign indicates was a significant site of the fourteen-year Ahousaht -Otosaht conflict in the early 19th century, during which the Vargas Island-dwelling Ahousaht defeated the Otosaht people resident on Flores. Such signs are found throughout the trail, adding an element of drama and at times chills to the run. In addition to a brief description of the historic significance of each site, they all feature aboriginal designs carved by Stanley Sam Sr., an Ahousaht elder, and painted by his son, Hutch Sam.

The boardwalk in this section is typical of the boardwalks in the trail: cut whimsically in undulating and uneven shapes, in contrast to the Parks Canada standard widths. Despite the constant showers and omnipresent moss, the boardwalks were, surprisingly, not terribly slippery.

The boardwalk leads to a brief forest interlude and the first beach, where legend dictates a giant octopus resides. The receding tide left hundreds of juvenile octopi, looking like little lumps of flesh from a horror movie, strewn over this beach. The beach is also known as Stinking Beach, and it lived up to its name. At this beach I was joined by two local friendly dogs who tagged along for the next 3K or so.

A brief forest interlude features more whimsical boardwalks and a sign recognizing the trail construction by members of the Ahousaht Band and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, before exiting onto the first beach of Whitesand Cove. In the sand dunes above the beach, there is a wolf-warning sign and an outhouse. As is typical of all beaches on the trail, the headlands extend into the sea as chains of small islands. Bald eagles soar overhead. Sandpipers skitter along the shore, pecking for food. The beaches are strewn with giant Washington clams, impressive Lewis’s Moonsnails, and countless other shells.

A trail located halfway down Whitesand Bay leads to the town of Ahousaht, by way of the Ahousaht warm spring, at the southern tip of Matilda Inlet. There is apparently a concrete pool for bathing in these tepid springs.

At 5K the trail proper continues inland, along the “Trail of Tears”, again a site of bloody encounters during the Ahousaht-Otosaht war. If the tides permit, it is better to avoid this boggy stretch and stick to the beach which, like the other beaches, offers beautiful runnable sand. The best part of the Trail of Tears is the sign at the start of this stretch, under a giant cedar, marking “Katkwuuwis”, which apparently translates as “Cut People’s Heads Off”, again, a historical reference to the war. As I ran the trail, bowing down to avoid windfall and bushes, I occasionally thought that I’d look up to become the next decapitated victim.

A wide creek exits at about 6K, to the west of Kutcous Point. A rough trail travels through the forest on the east side of the creek. Alternatively, it is possible to scramble along the creek shore. Both routes end at a metal bridge which marks the end of the Trail of Tears section.

On the west side of the bridge the loud drone of a hummingbird flitting among the salal punctured the air. This creek crossing was the site of the fiercest battle of the Ahousaht-Otosaht war, with many deaths at this spot. A sign proclaims that at this site “Keltsomaht war chief Tl’ihisim, a man named Wiittlaakinish and a man named 7aya7aktl’, wounded an Otsosaht sharpshooter ‘Tlihuumalhni’”. Alternative routes go southwest around the peninsula or northwest over land. The northwest route immediately takes you through a rooty tree cave and as I passed through I hoped that I would not meet the vengeful spirit of the Otsosaht sharpshooter.

At the next beach, again beautiful, is a shelter that appeared to be inhabited. At this point I made the mistake of skipping the beach trail exit halfway down the beach, as marked by hanging buoys. Instead, I scrambled along the headlands, resulting in the discovery of a two beautiful tiny coves between the headlands, but leading to an hour-long scramble over the oft-slippery rocks with a few bushwhacks along bear trails. Eventually I punched out at a creek at the east terminus of the spectacular Cow Bay. The proper trail, as I discovered on the return, is a pleasant forest trail crossing the creek over a felled sitka spruce log bridge.

The Cow Bay waters are clear, the surf loud, and the views stunning. The cove is dotted with rocky islands. Cow Bay is apparently an important feeding ground for gray whales, although I saw none. Here I saw the only other people on the trail, who had decided to camp for a few days at this paradise, just west of the wooden hull of a shipwrecked boat.

The run along the perfectly-curved bay, over sand of perfect consistency, was euphoric. At the end a short trail travels up a narrow gully through the headland, leading to another lovely beach. At the end of that beach the trail continues up Mt. Flores. That trail, like the Wild Side Trail, is at first well marked, with flagging and blazes. Unfortunately, the twisting trail, coupled with deadfall, and the thick spring undergrowth, eventually made that trail impossible to follow. With an eye to the time of the return water-taxi, and the fact that the clouds made views impossible from Mt. Flores, I pulled the plug at about 18K, at a log covered in tempting oyster mushrooms. No sooner had I done so, but I lost the trail again, leading to a half-hour bushwhack in which my legs were slashed by the undergrowth. Before hitting the beach again, I lost the trail a second time. Let my haplessness forewarn you that a GPS would be advised for this section (although it is not necessary for the Wild Side Trail proper).

Massive old-growth cedars and hemlocks festoon the Mt. Flores hike, along with the entire Wild Side Trail (particularly along the Kutcous Point Creek).

Given a conservative allotment of time, I was able to walk back for much of the return trip, savouring the beauty of the beaches, and the ingenuity of the trail-builders. Out of nowhere, the sun came up, recasting the grey of the beaches on the out-run into a golden return.

Background materials

o Philip Stone’s Coastal Hikes has a detailed write-up of the hike, as well as excellent write-ups of 12 other coastal hikes: http://www.wildisle.ca/

o Stanley Sam Jr., Ahousaht Wild Side Heritage Trail Guidebook (Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 1997; out of print)

o John Kimantas’s The Wild Coast, Volume 1 is a superb and encyclopedic survey of every explorable nook and cranny on the north and west coasts of Vancouver Island

Photographs

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8661048@N07/sets/72157605505672737/

Running the West Coast Trail in One Day

 

Attachment past the bottom of this post is my article in the February 2006  North West Runner.  It may be useful for anybody planning a run or a speed-hike on the West Coast Trail, in one day or otherwise.

 

2011 UPDATE

Our team of adventurers has just returned from a glorious one-day run of the WCT, myself for a second time. A few more thoughts on the run to add to the article below.

How to cross the Gordon River?

1. Pay Butch Jack, who has a Parks Canada-annointed monopoly over the river crossing, a(n expensive) premium for a special late pick-up. You will have a very difficult time persuading anyone else in Port Renfrew to stir up local trouble by agreeing to ferry you across, or rent you a boat, especially in advance via telephone.

2. Swim across. The water is a little cold, and there may be some minor boat traffic. Google images of Gordon River to get a sense of the 150 metre-odd distance.  We crossed at low tide in August, when the river was low and calm, with no problem.  If the tides or weather or currents are not as perfect, you will have to use your judgment. Photos of the crossing here and here, and an account of some swimmers here.

Swimming hints:

  • empty out your hydrapack running bladder. Then inflate the bladder through the hose. Instant flotation assistance!
  • Bladder also doubles as a wet-bag to keep items dry (although I’d recommend getting a dedicated wet-bag for high-risk items like your camera and smart phone).

3. Have a non-running friend ferry you across in a two-man kayak or canoe.

4. Bring a non-running friend along. The day before your run, take the last Butch Jack ferry across the Gordon River. Hike in and camp overnight at Thrasher Cove or on the trail above it. In the morning, you run the trail north to Bamfield, and the friend takes the camping supplies and the ferry back to Port Renfrew. A group of female runners did this recently.

5. Best and simplest method, which we thought of too late:

a. run south (Port Renfrew)  to north (Bamfield).
b. buy and bring a cheap $30-$99 2- or 3- man inflatable boat.
c. cross Gordon River at 5AM-ish (access via the trailer park beach)
d. leave boat at south trailhead with a sign marked “free”. Some happy hiker who misses the last Butch Jack ferry of the day will appreciate it.
e. running S to N has the added advantage that the last 12K (Michigan Creek to Bamfield) is the easiest, and least scenic portion of the trail, so better to do in the night if you need to.

Orientation

Parks Canada confirms that the orientation powerpoint presentation is now mandatory: it used to be optional for anyone who had hiked the trail before. This rule is annoying and inconvenient, as the orientation is only offered at certain hours (e.g. 3:30 pm), and as anyone who is learning for the first time in the orientation session the information provided (e.g. do not feed bear cubs) should not be on the trail in the first place.

That being said, runners should not endanger the ability of future others to run the trail by making a fuss: just catch an earlier ferry.

Permits and reservations

Day-runners are required to buy the $127 “overnight pass” even though they are not overnighting.

The good news: runners do not need an advance reservation.

Again, do not argue or make a fuss: the fees are in theory for a good cause (trail maintenance) and you don’t want to deprive future runners of the ability to run the trail by being a jerk.

You also need to buy passes for the ferry boats ($16 each). For those tempted to roll the dice, the ferryman DOES check the passes and you would be most bitter to be turned back halfway through, at Nitinat Narrows. Swimming is not an option at Nitinat Narrows, where crazy currents drown men and scuttle boats.

Must-dos

1. instead of the West Coast Express Bus (which is otherwise a perfectly fine service), take Brian Gisborne’s water taxi back from the end of the hike to the beginning. He took us to see much wildlife: about 30 killer whales; 5 grey whales; 2 humpback whales; hundreds of sea lions; jumping porpoises, etc. Stunning. $135: only $40 or so more than the bus.

2. Contrary to what you read elsewhere, do the Owen Point ocean route if tides at all permit: cavessea lion island, rock climbing, waterfalls, sea stacks, surge channels, sandstone shelves from Mars: one of the most gorgeous stretches of this gorgeous trail.

 

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