Hiking the Juan De Fuca Trail

Wind, Water and Women

There is something about the crisp air off the coast and the tides crashing against barnacled rocks that ignites my spirits. The briny taste of the ocean spray that coolly kisses my face as I lean to take a closer look at the sea creatures below. The whir of the wind as it caresses branches before dodging between the pine needles of Hemlocks and Firs.

It’s wild. It’s wet. It’s the west coast. It’s my home.

As a born and raised Victorian and an avid hiker, I felt disconcerted when admitting to have never hiked the Juan de Fuca Trail every time I was asked — until now. At the end of April, I packed my tent and my camping supplies and joined three of my friends for a west coast adventure. It was a bold move to schedule a coastal hike during shoulder season (read: rainy and muddy), but when you are juggling a condensed university program and varied schedules you take what you can get.

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Textbooks lay untouched on my bedside table, clothes were strewn on the floor, and sticky notes listing “to-dos” spanned my bedroom wall as I packed for the weekend. Sleeping bag, buck knife, bear spray? Check. The assignment due upon return? Monday’s problem. I was neglecting responsibilities and playing the “bad student” card, but the only thing that mattered was the journey on the horizon.

This was a particularly special trip for me because it was with three wonderful women who I met in Professional Communications classes, the program I am taking at Royal Roads. Three days of hiking, sharing a tent, and meal preparation with people you have known for less than a year is enough to make, or break, a solid friendship. Fortunately for us, it only bonded us further.

As you slip into delusion derived from fatigue, interesting conversations occur: childhood stories are uprooted, nicknames are given, and “shade” is thrown.

When you cannot lift your leg high enough to avoid the root that trips you, and you just went knee-deep into a pile of mud, often your best bet is to make light of the situation at hand and keep trucking along. Needless to say, sarcasm and humour aided us in our journey on many occasions.

As we transitioned from moderate trails with navigable, albeit sloppy, paths to very difficult trails with switchbacks, rocks to rappel, and river crossings, we shared moments of exhaustion and exhilaration. Moments we wanted to stay in our tent to wait out the morning rain and rest our tired
bodies. Moments we completed 21 kilometres of hiking with the weight of a five year old on our backs, as the sunset painted the sky with colours and we dipped our tired feet into the Pacific Ocean. Macaroni and “weenie tidbits” never tasted so good, and the words, “Pass me the Fireball!” had never crossed my lips so fluidly — since I was a teenager, anyway. And, in this case, it was solely to warm myself from the inside out.

This weekend was about the simple things in life: a refreshing break from an otherwise chaotic world buzzing with stimuli and consumerism.