Friday, June 8, 2012

Juan de Fuca Trail – it’s more than just a hike

Mystic Beach on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Two years ago I experienced an adventure that completely changed the way I looked at life.  It was a simple adventure.  My husband and I, along with our two children, planned to hike a small section of the Juan de Fuca Trail and camp overnight.  The Juan de Fuca Trail is located near Port Renfrew on the west coast of the southern part of Vancouver Island. The trail is 47km in length with multiple access points and camping sites along the way.  This marked our first backpacking experience with Ben and Liv. (5 and 3 years old at the time.)  I walked off the trail after two days with not only muddy boots but a craving for more.  More time connecting with my family, more scenery, more trail to explore, and thinking ok what's next?  The possibilities were endless!  It was a feeling I never wanted to let go of and to this day am still hanging on to.  The Juan de Fuca trail will always be special to me.  It's the place that solidified my love and passion for outdoor adventure, my family, and life.  So what better place to celebrate 11 wonderful years together and our love for family and outdoor adventure than backpacking along another section of the Juan de Fuca Trail? 

Below is the story of our first backpacking experience on the Juan de Fuca trail published in the July 2010 issue of Take 5 Magazine.

Before I had children, my heart was set on tackling the West Coast Trail.  Being able to experience one of the most gruelling treks in North America was a dream I planned on making a reality.  Once we started building a family I had put that part of my heart away for a while, thinking it would be something to tackle once the children were out of the house.  Recently that part of my heart opened up and this time it had company.

Monday evenings in our house usually consist of putting away the past weekend gear while discussing the next weekends activities.  From out of nowhere I mentioned backpacking the Juan de Fuca Trail.  “I think we have everything we need to camp overnight.”  I said confidently.  The rest is a blur.  The next four days consisted of late nights researching the best route, gathering all our gear, and wondering what the heck we were getting ourselves into.  I had envisioned the hike in my head over and over again.  What do we do if we see a bear, what is the trail going to be like?  Will the children be able handle an overnight backpacking trip?  It is something I review in my head every time we go out and the answers never change.  Stay calm, trail will be fine and the kids are ready.  It is what I did not expect that turned out to be the greatest experience of all. 

Planning to pack all the gear required for 4 people overnight made me think about what is really necessary.  Obviously on top of the list is shelter followed by food and water.  Throw 2 tents, 4 sleeping bags and pads, food, water, cooking gear and clothes into two backpacks and there is not room for much more.  But other than the necessities, what else do you need?  For two days and one night we will have each others undivided attention and that is worth more than any iphone, TV program or hot new toy.  Every item that was packed was there for a reason. One pot for boiling water to use for our freeze dried meals.  Using the freeze dried meals meant no bowls were required because you eat out of the bag.  Since only one can eat out of the bag at a time, only one fork is required.  Using one fork meant more time to spend with each other while eating.  The less we packed the more empowered I felt.  Everything became simple.  Having little or no choice in the matter was refreshing leaving more time for other things.  There was no arguing about what pair of pants to wear or debate what was for supper.  The kids accepted it and moved on.  For two days we explored the west coast by crossing over a variety of boardwalk, log and suspension bridges.   

We hiked heavy rooted single track while manoeuvring around puddles of mud.  Even had to walk along a fallen tree notched into stairs to get us down the deep descent to the beach.  Juan de Fuca was definitely not lacking in entertainment.  Neither was Mystic Beach, our destination. Its sandy beach, the hanging waterfall, and cave exploring kept us occupied for hours on end.  One special moment we shared together was hermit crab racing.  We all laughed and cheered hoping our hermit crab of choice would win.  Not sure who’s won but it doesn’t really matter.  I was happy we found an entertaining game that did not require me packing it.

Juan de Fuca was more than just a hike.  Amongst the second growth forest and beautiful scenery was a lesson learned.  It is the quality of time, not quantity, that we spend with our children that really matters and it does not need any accessories.  Sure, we’re back home now and all using our own fork for supper, but I am not concerned with whether it’s silver or not.  As long as I get the food in my mouth and can share some time with the children, I’m a happy gal.  Once again I have put part of my heart away.  I still plan on making my dream of hiking the West Coast Trail a reality.  There is just one little revision to this dream.  The weekend after the kids graduate and move out we are all heading to the West Coast Trail for one last family hike.  You can bet the first item on my list of things to pack will be tissue.

1 comment:

  1. hello! i'm reading all this enthousiastic experience from france, while we are planning our trip to vancouver island this summer. we are a family of 5, 3 girls aged 8, 11, 14, good daily hikers. canada would not be a discovery as we had such a great trip in 2007, in another kind (all up to dawson city, motorhome travelling), well, my questions are essentially basics, we want to go on that trail one or two overnights, about water and gear, would you recommend we carry our french stuff or is it easily available (enveutally cheap second hand) in victoria (tent, sleepings pads, stove...?) we usually travel light, but...? do you find water on the trail or carry?do we need much anticipation ? should we book the entry or is it not so crowed in july? thanks for any help.
    kind regards from bretagne, where we have a great windy day for coastal wednesday walk.
    helene et laurent hemon, in Morlaix