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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Juan de Fuca Trail

Thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes for Neil's speedy recovery. Once he was on the antibiotics he recovered fast, and by Sunday his spotted fever was replaced by cabin fever - action was required.

So early Monday morning we took the ferry to Vancouver Island, and first thing Tuesday we set off on the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island's southwest coast. Less famous than the neighbouring West Coast Trail, it still features beautiful old growth rainforest and short stretches along the island's stunning coast. And although it is very muddy in places, we also liked the fact that unlike its neighbour, there's no $130 trail user fee, $30 ferry crossings, or $150 fee to get to and from the trailheads!

The trail is only 47km (29 miles) long, and as we've been hiking a minimum of 20 miles a day for months, we figured that allowing 2 days to complete the trail would be more than enough. Wrong ... Although none of the ascents and descents were long, they were brutally steep and came in quick succession. Scrambling up and down tree-root ladders, climbing wooden steps, crossing creeks on slippery logs, our knees were complaining bitterly by the time we camped on Chin Beach at the end of Day 1, half way along. We fell asleep to the sound of pounding waves on the pebbly beach, and slept the sleep of the very very tired.

The next day went a little easier, and we camped at the end of the trail at Botanical Beach, before hitching back to Victoria the next day.

So we really enjoyed our hike, but we're looking forward to a lazy time in Lion's Bay before flying home next week.

Suspension bridge over Peter Wolfe Creek

Old growth forest

Trail through old growth forest

Tidal section on Bear Beach

Looking back at Bear Beach

Bear Beach

Bear Beach

Sunset at Chin Beach

Suspension bridge over Minute Creek

Sombrio Point

Easy section near Botanical Beach

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Our final stage...

Something I hadn’t expected with a trail as long as the PCT was the difficulty in assimilating all the things you see and all the things you do as you go along. In the morning you get up, strike camp, eat breakfast and go; the rest of the day is spent hiking, eating, drinking, getting water, taking occasional detours into the bushes, until you’ve done your miles and found somewhere to camp, when you pitch your tent, cook and eat dinner and go to bed. And all the time the experiences are piling up, and the photos are piling up, but you’re not really putting them into any order or perspective in your head because already the next experience is happening, or you’re just too busy thinking about how long until your next rest stop and what you’re going to pull out of your pack to eat, or how much your feet hurt, or how tired you are …

Which is my way of saying I don’t know where to start with describing what’s happened since our last proper blog entry 670 miles ago. So, because our photos are all in date order, unlike my memories, I’ve picked out a few photos from the last part of Oregon and all of Washington which I hope will help to tell the story.

The Fire Detour

Trail closure sign

Mt Jefferson and the fire from near Olallie Lake Resort
We were lucky for a long time – wildfires broke out behind us on the trail (not our doing, honest) and sections of trail were closed, but nothing got in the way of our progress north until we came across this sign near Mount Jefferson. It meant an extra 11 miles of hiking and a 3000 foot descent and re-ascent, but what could we do? The Breitenbush Trail was a hideously steep and rocky descent, there was a long roadwalk split by a night camping in a layby, but the Red Lake Trail which took us back up to the PCT was actually quite scenic. However, when we got to Olallie Lake Resort on the PCT and heard they were about to close the next section of trail and evacuate the resort, we decided to disappear into the woods and head quickly north rather than get taken away by the forestry service and lose the continuity of our hike.


Neil on frosty morning at Junction Lake in south Washington

We’d had cold nights on the trail in the Sierra Nevada in June, but when this photo was taken on the 30th August we really felt that autumn had come. We woke to thick frost on the inside and outside of our single skin tarp-tent. For the first couple of hours of hiking, we were in thermals, fleeces, hats and gloves. We had other cold nights afterwards but none as damply chilly as this.


From northern California to the middle of Washington, we followed a succession of volcanoes which dominated the landscape and provided some of our best views on the trail.

Mt Hood
Mt Adams
Mt St Helens
Mt Rainier
Glacier Peak

Goat Rocks Wilderness

Goat Rocks Wilderness with Mt Rainier in the background

Lower section of Knife Edge Ridge
Quite possibly our favourite section of trail. Spiky mountains, alpine meadows with lovely flowers, ascent of a mountain followed by a dramatic descent of Knife Edge Ridge, packed into a 26 mile day – we found a campsite by a lake just as it was getting dark. A really exhilarating day.


Folks on the trail had warned us about Washington weather – rain and hill fog, no views, wet vegetation slapping around your legs and face … Well, we had 4 weeks of perfect weather except for one night and the following day, when it did this. We had 4 passes of over 6000 feet to go over. At the top of each pass it was snow, in between it was sleet or heavy rain. No matter, Neil loves bad weather, I finally got to use my waterproof jacket which had been serving only as a pillow since a couple of days in southern California, and all went well until we had to hitch a lift out from Stevens Pass to resupply. Would anyone pick up two very wet and cold and somewhat muddy hikers? Thank goodness for Casey in his old banger of a pickup, on his way back from court for a driving offence …

River crossings

Tanya on first river crossing

Neil bum shuffling the second river crossing
Our feet hurt. We knew the old disused PCT route featured two hair-raising log crossings over fast flowing rivers. On the sign at the junction of new and old PCT routes someone had written “No log Xing”. But it would save 8 miles, we could just take a look. Of course we had to give it a go! The first log crossing didn’t look well used but it was OK, we would just have to hope that the second log crossing which would take us across another river in about 4 miles time would also be possible. And it was, though there was no way we were going to walk across it!

Dinner at Stehekin

Our final resupply was at a lake resort called Stehekin – a real oasis with good food, beer, ice creams, a bakery, and free camping. And as it turned out, a whole bunch of trail friends there too. JohnT and Greg were leaving just as we arrived, and we ended up having dinner with (from left to right): Neil, Ken, Hand Poet (foreground), Train, Scalpel, Rabbit, Gourmet (front), Moose, Peru (behind Moose).

The monument

Tanya at the Northern Terminus - mile 2660
The Canadian border at last! An odd and anticlimactic end to a fantastic hike. You come down a hill into a forest, pop out of the trees and there’s this monument in the middle of nowhere. You still have another 9 miles and 1000 feet of ascent to go to the trailhead at Manning Park, the nearest civilisation. There’s nobody else around except for Neil who’s feeling poorly. So you take some photos, drink your bourbon as planned, sign the register and plod on. The beneficial effects of the bourbon last most of the way up the hill but not all the way to Manning Park. By the time you get there, you’re hobbling from your blisters again, Neil’s had to lie down a few times to avoid passing out and looks like a ghost, Manning Park has all the character and charm of a Travelodge, but who cares, we have a bed ….

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back from hospital....

Just to let you know I am now back from the hospital and recovering at our friends John & Sandy's house at  Lion's Bay. I was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially nasty disease, normally spread by ticks.

The doctors have put me on a course of antibiotics for the next week, so hopefully I should make a full recovery. Already feeling much better after starting the treatment.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not so good news

Sorry we haven't posted any photos yet - Neil's in hospital here in Vancouver for observation overnight, with suspected Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I'm confident he's in good hands, and hoping he'll be coming back with me to Lion's Bay tomorrow. Will keep you posted.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We're there!

Tanya at the Northern Terminus - Mile 2660

We've done it! Last Thursday afternoon we finally reached the Canadian border, celebrated with some Canadian bourbon then staggered the last 8 miles to Manning Park Lodge, where we stayed for a couple of days before catching the Greyhound bus to Vancouver. We are now house-sitting in a beautiful area called Lion's Bay, in a lovely house with views across to the Gulf Islands. It's a strange period of readjustment after the intensity of the trail, so we're just enjoying resting up for now, but hope to do a bit more hiking soon.

Huge apologies for the lack of postings through Washington - we couldn't get any internet access on our short time off from the trail. We will be posting some photos and words later today though, so please check back!

Friday, August 17, 2012

2000 miles!!!

We never thought we'd get this far. Back in February, when Neil's plantar fasciitis was giving him hell, and I couldn't even walk across the road without spasms of pain down my back, we didn't think we'd make it to mile 100. But - here we are, 2000 miles in, three quarters of the way from Mexico to Canada. Chuffed? Definitely. Smug? No chance, we've still got 660 miles to go, and we daren't count our chickens before they've hatched.

It's been a great week of hiking since Crater Lake. Some easy hiking through forest - gentle gradients, soft underfoot but limited views. But we've also had some stunning panoramas of volcanoes and lava flows. We even went up one of the volcanoes, Mount Thielsen, as a side trip - possibly the pointiest mountain we've ever been up, with a short section of rock climbing at the top which was great fun. Whereas walking across the lava flows was just hard work!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

On the Oregon Trail

At last! After 1700 miles of hiking in California, we have now crossed over into Oregon. The walking is easier so we've been doing good miles - we've covered 100 miles in four days since leaving Ashland. It's taken its toll on our feet though, so today we're aiming for just 10 miles and enjoying the stunning scenery at Crater Lake, an incredibly deep and amazingly blue caldera lake.

Crater Lake

A really great thing which has happened in the last few hundred miles has been hiking with Tom and Greg. Tom is from Liverpool, and we previously met him just as we were all finishing the Pyrenean Haute Route two years ago. We had a very rushed conversation at Banyuls-sur-Mer train station just as Tom was about to catch a train home, and we discovered that he was also planning to do the Pacific Crest Trail. We failed to exchange contact details though, and we did wonder if his plans to do the PCT had come to pass. Then purely by chance, we bumped into him and his hiking partner Greg just after leaving Mount Etna. They're great company, and we're hoping to catch up with them again soon.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nearer to Canada than Mexico

We are very happy to announce: we are now closer to Canada than Mexico! Last Wednesday we passed the half way marker, and right now we have 1506 miles behind us and 1154 to go. (For the pedantically minded, the trail has grown from 2650 to 2660 miles since they erected the half way post.)

I wondered how I would feel being in the middle of so long a trail, with both beginning and end so distant - would it seem depressingly endless, a day-after-day routine of slogging away the miles? In fact I love it, the trail continues to amaze me, and it's always good to meet folks we've got to know on the trail. And the length of time we have to spend hiking - it's a wonderful luxury to have.

The trail has continued to surprise us over the last couple of weeks. We're in the land of volcanoes, and the fumeroles, lava tubes and odd coloured lakes near Mount Lassen were all really interesting. Then there was the 30 mile stretch along Hat Creek Rim with no water sources, followed by the most lushly vegetated forest we've seen yet.

A less pleasant surprise has been the problems we've been having with our feet - me with blisters, Neil with plantar fascitis. The fact is, on a hike this long your feet keep changing. A combination of boots and insoles that worked earlier in the hike may give problems later on. So we came here to Mount Shasta City, took some expert advice, spent some money, rested for two days, and tomorrow we go back on the trail hoping for the best. But taking a good supply of ibuprofen with us just in case!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

After the Goldrush

Hello from Sierra City, an old Californian gold mining town dating from the 1850's. The population is about 225, plus dozens of grateful hikers enjoying the hospitality of Bill and Margaret at the Red Moose Inn. We were only going to stay one night, but it's turned into a full rest day. The combination of burgers, spare ribs, milkshakes and a huge range of Ben and Jerry's ice cream in the local store (and the large spectrum of microbrewery beers at the inn) was too hard to leave behind. So we'll head back to the trail tomorrow morning.

The weather is getting hotter, the terrain becoming rolling hills rather than mountains, and water sources are few and far between - so we'll be carrying more weight in water than we were in the Sierras. We've been getting in some longer days - 22 to 26 miles - but both having  some problems as a result: Tanya with blisters, Neil with foot pain, so we'll cut back down again to a steady 20 miles a day until our new boots arrive 150 miles along the trail.

In the meantime, here are some photos of our last few days of hiking and relaxing.

Neil at Echo Lake

Tanya at Aloha Lake

Neil on Tahoe Rim

Red Moose Inn, Sierra City

Monster Burger, Sierra Country Store