OHE September 30, 1998 (d)

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 19:24:22 -1000
From: Grant Oka (goka@ns00.phnsy.navy.mil>

Day 4

This 16 Km (10 mi) trek is our longest day but the trail north of Walbran Creek is supposed to be less difficult than the southern section. Also, the tide would allow us to walk the easier coastal route for almost 9 Km to just before the Carmanah Lighthouse.

We cross Walbran Creek at its mouth near the sea since it was shallow. The coast is awesome. The sandstone shelf and its pools are revealed with all its lifeforms. Reuben finds a limpid very similar to our opihi and many mussels. The seaweed is very unusual, a large bulb and a thick slimy ropelike vine or stem. It this kelp? The shelf, the rocky shore, the large bleached tree trunks strewn about like giant fiddlesticks, the wide expanse of beach with our bootprints, the cold morning fog., the seagull flocks, the heron standing in a tide pool in a misty morning fog, the tracks of a sea otter, the smell of the morning ocean, rusted remnants of some long ago shipwreck, the distant fog horn of Carmanah, the cool salty breeze, this is all the beauty and ambiance I'd anticipated the West Coast Trail to be.

We pass Bonilla Creek where there is a nice campsite on the beach and a small waterfall. As we pass Carmanah Creek, we see the cable car upsteam and an excellent campsite (except for the foghorn) with awesome views. We decide to cross Carmanah near its mouth as it enters the sea. Later I learned that backpackers have drowned at this crossing in the past. There is one section that the water is knee deep and flowing swiftly but a very narrow round log provides a bridge. Joyce is the last to cross and she appears very unstable. As she is about to fall into flowing water beneath her, a girl seemingly just appears out of the fog and steps into the water and holds Joyce's hand and walks her across the log bridge. She is the lighthouse keeper's daughter out for her morning walk (barefoot on the beach). We are very grateful to her. A wet cold Joyce would not be a good thing.

Carmanah Valley is home of some of the world's tallest Sitka Spruce (some 3 M in diameter and more than 700 years old and 32 stories high). As we approach the cliffs below Carmanah lighthouse, we pass Chez Monique''s. Monique's settlement is a rest stop for backpackers with a tarp for shade and some chairs. As far as I can tell, she and her husband live on this small parcel just off the beach. She will sell sodas, beer, campfood, chips, and even cook you up a cheeseburger. We talk story with her for a few minutes. Only Sandy buys a soda. The rest of us remain strong willed although that cheeseburger image stayed with me for the whole day.

We climb the cliffs to the Carmanah lighthouse and take a rest break and enjoy the sun and the awesome views. We see a bunch of large fat sea lions sunning themselves on a large rock offshore. The lighthouse is a oasis of civilization with its bright white and red paint and the lighthouse keeper's home so neat, warm and homey with gardens and flowers and fresh cut lawn.

We regain the trail which still has lots of ladders, bridges, and boardwalks but the trail is not a rough as the southern section. We pass the "Cribs", a natural rocky breakwater along a stretch of beach with literally thousands of seagulls just milling about. As we walk through the mass, the seagulls take off all at once in a loud and squawking display of annoyance at us. A spectacular sight as they swirl around us. No aerial droppings land on us amazingly. We filter water at Cribs Creek to haul to our intended campsite on Dare Beach 4 Km further down the trail. There is no reliable water source at Dare Beach and no fresh water source for the 16 Km between Cribs Creek and Tsuisat Creek.

Dare Beach is nearly deserted expect for one other tent. We set up camp and explore the area to find a homesteader in the woods. He is building a cabin and intends to cater to backpackers and kayakers as a B & B. He encourages us to use his outhouse. We are grateful as the alternative is the intertidal flush - where one does his or her business on the beach between the high and low tide lines so the high tide will "flush" into the sea. Privacy is not possible.

Towards evening, the fog rolls in. The driftwood is too wet to start a campfire. The distance buoy blows its fog horn every couple of minutes. No stars tonight. We all retire early and try to block out the fog horn as it invades our dreams.

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