With only a week to go I am busy with all the final details before setting up my solo show at the Atrium Gallery at Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive in Ottawa. Many weeks of work before the holidays involved settling on a standard image size and frame size for the majority of the photos, deciding on frames and mats, and choosing which paper to print the images on. With hundreds of photos to choose from it was difficult to select only 19 to display but I wanted the exhibit to reflect the theme of the show as best as possible. I have also included two text panels to provide some background about the Juan de Fuca Trail and about the journey of adventure and discovery my family took along the Vancouver Island coast. A montage of candid shots is included to show the human side of the trip.
I am posting the two texts here for everyone as well as all the images in the show. Enjoy!
Family adventure on the Juan de Fuca Trail
Adventures provide opportunities for growth. Always interested in new travel experiences, my husband, five sons, one son’s girlfriend and myself decided to try long distance backpacking. Mostly day hikers, this would be a new experience for many of us.
The Juan de Fuca Trail is described as a strenuous 47km multi-day hike. Little did we know what challenges lay ahead over the next five days! Our journey began by shuttle bus in Victoria to the trail head at China Beach. We had the return trip on the West Coast Shuttle booked to pick us up beside the Port Renfrew Hotel. With four bear barrels weighted down with enough food for 8 people, we hit the trail.
After a moderate 9 km hike through scenic BC rainforest, we camped at Bear Beach. A wee nap, then it was picture taking time, dinner and a game of Hearts. I made wonderful use of my wide angle lens for the beach shots. Kids never get tired of exploring the beach…rocks, driftwood, water, mussels. We even saw some whales in the distance.
Day two was our real test. This 11 km portion is rated as most difficult.! It consists of 12 headlands to ascend and descend and approximately 3000ft of elevation gain. There were some switchbacks to ease the pain but also a surprising number of vertical scrambles up the headlands that required grabbing onto tree roots and negotiating quite a lot of mud. After 6km of this we had lunch. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the next campsite. But on the trail, as is often in life, there is no turning back- you have no other option but to continue to move forward. We arrived at remote Chin Beach exhausted and nabbed the last campsite big enough for our group. We ate dinner, made a fire, chatted with other hikers and my son Michael left a small inuksuk on some driftwood as a reminder of our visit.
Fog rolled in the morning of the third day. After a search down the beach, the trailhead into the forest appeared as a rocky outcropping 15-20 ft above the sand. Hmm! Some of us climbed up with our packs on but I opted to send my pack up first and then not very gracefully, clambered up after. There were a few nasty steep bits at the beginning but it was definitely a reprieve from yesterday’s punishment. Scariest of all, at the end of the day before descending, the trail narrowed to a foot wide track skirting the edge of the cliff around picturesque Sombrio Point.
Sombrio Beach is a lovely wide sandy beach, very popular with day-trippers and surfers. It also has an interesting history. Apparently Sombrio was home to a year round community of ‘hippies’ from the 1970′s to the 90′s before the BC government bought the land and turned it into a park. This was our last beach campsite of the trip…soft warm sand, cascading waterfalls, the soothing sound of the surf and a beautiful sunset.
We began our fourth day hiking on a sandy beach, through a boulder field along the water’s edge, back into the forest and then out onto a very different landscape of crusty black slabs of rock stretching out into the sea. We saw lots of fresh bear scat on the trail and a cougar paw print in the mud but none of the big predators themselves.
Later that afternoon we arrived at the Paysant Creek campsites up on a ridge. Filled with tall trees and ferns, it was dark, still and quiet. Now deep in the forest, we could no longer hear the roar of the surf below.
The bear cache at Paysant was two tall poles with a hook and pulley system to hang your food at a distance from the campsites. At about 4 am my husband ducked out behind the tent for a minute. Soon after he returned I heard a metallic clanking noise from the direction of the bear cache…jangle, jangle. I listened again for any other sounds but it seemed our late night visitor had given up and left.
In the morning my oldest son pushed us to get moving early, and hustle on to Botanical Beach’s famous tide pools. After an easy 8 km hike, much of it on boardwalks with some wooden stairs to climb up and down, we arrived at our destination before lunch. Mostly fogged in, Botanical Beach appeared as a vast moonscape with sunken pools of water in warm ochre rock. Lots of purple sea urchins populated the pools alongside the occasional sea anemone and starfish.
Our final stop before hiking out to Port Renfrew was Botany Bay. My husband and I sat on the beach while the kids explored yet more tide pools. A family of six stopped to chat. They were just about to start out on the West Coast Trail and noticed our packs on the beach. Were we just starting our hike or finishing? How did it go?
It went well.
With only a few bruises and blisters, we had made it. Everyone pitched in to help cook, wash up and pump water for drinking. When my pack was too heavy with camera gear and a tent, my 18 year old son carried the tent for me. The older boys made sure that my husband’s bear barrel was the lightest…they have young legs and backs! The younger boys, 12 and 14, did remarkably well carrying 27-30lbs on their backs. And my son’s girlfriend wasn’t scared off after roughing it for 5 days on the trail with his entire family
We celebrated with lunch on the deck at the Port Renfrew Hotel. It was a wonderful feast of calamari and halibut washed down with a few glasses of beer. Riding home on the shuttle with the other hikers, we shared our stories.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Emerson
The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
In 1889 a telegraph line was hacked out of the wilderness along the west coast of Vancouver Island connecting Victoria to Bamfield. Later it was used as a lifesaving trail for survivors of the many shipwrecks that plagued the rough coast. In the 1960’s Sierra Club members began to hike the rugged trail and lobbied the government to preserve the area for recreational use. The West Coast Trail was established as part of the Pacific Rim National Park in 1993. A southern extension, the 47km Juan de Fuca Marine Trail was added in 1995 in response to the increased demand for wilderness hiking opportunities.
The Juan de Fuca Trail connects China Beach, about an hour up the coast from Victoria, to Botanical Beach just outside of Port Renfrew. Not as remote as the WCT, some of the beaches, Sombrio and Botanical, attract day-trippers while others, Chin and Bear, are inaccessible from the highway. Wilderness campsites, pit toilets and bear caches are provided for hikers, but all food must be packed in and fresh water pumped or treated. Botanical Beach is widely appreciated for its tide pools caused by erosion in the sandstone, conglomerate and shale rock. Anemones, coralline algae, sea urchins and starfish populate the potholes and concretions. Sombrio Beach attracts surfers to its wide sandy expanse. The portion between Bear Beach and Chin Beach is the most difficult with many changes in elevation up over the headlands.
On the trail hikers may see Gray whales, orcas, seal lions, harbour seals, Steller sea lions and a variety of shellfish like mussels and crab. Deer, black bears, cougars, squirrels, raccoons and mink roam the forest. Eagles, loons, mergansers, gulls and marbled murrelets may also be seen. The area is a temperate rainforest with soaring Douglas fir, western hemlock, western red cedar and Sitka spruce, along with some deciduous trees like red alder and maple. The forest floor is thick with salal, salmonberry, huckleberry, thimbleberry, wild blackberry, ferns, and mosses. Sea palm, a type of seaweed, can be seen washed up along the shore.
The southwest coast of Vancouver Island is the traditional home to four first nations peoples; the Pacheenaht, the Ditidaht, the Huu-Ay-Aht and the T’souke. They are part of the Nuu-chah-nulth language group and have reserve lands along the trail.
Every year more than 10,000 people are drawn to Vancouver Island’s west coast trails to enjoy the wilderness experience. This adventure tourism contributes to the economies of Port Renfrew, Port Alberni and Bamfield. But there is still an ongoing struggle to balance logging demands with the need for conservation, recreation and sacred places. These photos document the varied coastline along the trail- mist, tall trees, eroded cliffs, boulders, stones, sand and water for miles. There is a feeling of both isolation and wonder when standing ‘at the edge of the world’.
Leadem , Tim. The West Coast Trail and Other Great Hikes. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 1998
These photos document the varied coastline along the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island-a journey to Lands End where the crust of the earth meets the ocean.
Botanical Beach 3
Bear Beach 3
Camping on the beach
Cliff along China beach
Driftwood on Bear Beach
Sombrio to Payzant
Port Renfrew Wharf
Sunset on Sombrio Beach
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