The tale of a little beating – Or: How to catch a mouse.

The tale of a little beating.
Or: How to catch a mouse.

Driving down the winding road to our campsite, we contemplated how fortunate we were to embark on the Juan de Fuca trail on such short notice, many others seem to prepare themselves extensively. Clearly, such a popular hike couldn’t be difficult. Little did we know that we were in for a classic type 2 fun experience and a solid beating.

We arrived late at night and settled into camp after a quick beer or two. Our high-functioning-cripple party of four included Clemens Adolphs (recovering from a sprained ankle), Kasia Celler (in need for a relaxing trip after months of editing the Centennial coffee table book), Ross Campbell (recovering from his broken tib-fib last winter), and myself, Jens Vent-Schmidt (chronically out of shape from spending many city-family weekends and building muscles for my upcoming meniscus surgery).

After a gentleman’s start with long breakfast, we drove to the trailhead and started our hike, equipped with our heavy backpacks full of delicious food and Kasia’s small trail map, printed off at work. We decided to hike the trail in three days, which placed our first camp at Chin Beach between the two most difficult sections and which allowed us to catch the afternoon shuttle back home. As we hiked down the moist forest towards the beach we were chanting and talking. Clemens’ Canada Day attire (a Maple-themed plush top hat) attracted many comments which we decided to count and compare to the comments received on my flag. By the end of the trip, Clemens would win that friendly competition outright. We arrived at the water not soon after and decided to take a little rest. Our expectation was that a waterfront hike would have us hiking mostly on the beach. The scenery was amazing, we observed a little otter family, birds, and other wildlife such as happy campers.

A relaxed lunch later, we continued our hike towards the so-called “most difficult section”. Soon, our trail headed up into the forest. We noticed more and more signs that indicated utter exhaustion by previous hikers. One trail sign had carvings that read Juan-De-Fucdis Trail. Not soon after, we adopted that theme. People who came towards us seemed very exhausted and while we were still feeling fresh, the thoughts that we might have underestimated the trail emerged more and more often. Instead of hiking along the beach, we found ourselves zigzagging up and down the forest for what seemed forever. At dusk, we reached our camp, set up camp, and chowed down dinner. We also noticed that all of us had packed for 4 days, because we forgot that our first night was right beside the car and our last day would be car camping yet again. We enjoyed popcorn and other ridiculous desserts that we had carried along. Our day ended with a small fire by the beach and we all had a good night sleep.

The next morning we decided to leave a little earlier to accommodate for a longer-than-planned hike and left around 10 a.m. By that point, most other hikers had left already. The scenery was pristine and we were greeted by much wildlife and flowers. Despite our fatigue, the heavy feet, and the long trail left, we took extended breaks to enjoy the view. That day, we started with another grueling up and down through the forest. Less elevation gain but more mud. We planned to end the day at Sombrio Beach and enjoy the afternoon in the sand. Well, it was a drive-to beach and filled with beer-lugging car campers, so we moved on. The trail was easier now but we were more tired, so our progress was slow. This section was the muddiest and we all had different approaches to tackling the mud-puddles. While mine involved sneaking around gymnastically and jumping through bush head-first, Ross didn’t care and plowed right through to really test his waterproof socks. Owing to a series of less-than-obvious trail markers, we got lost at one point when we tried to stay at the beach. To get out of that cul-de-sac, we had to either backtrack or scramble up a little section and bushwack our way up. Our group split in two, with half of us moving on and half of us back-tracking. A while later we met back on the trail. Having bushwhacked, I had time for a quick nap. After another few hours of hiking, we approached the next campsite which turned out to be very crowded and we knew of several other parties who would arrive after us. Wanting to leave the space for them and also wanting some solitude, we continued towards the end of the trail as there was one more campsite. About 5 km before reaching our campsite, my right knee started acting up (my left knee had the torn meniscus and my right knee was supposed to be fine) and I ended up limping to camp. We arrived at Payzant Creek campsite shortly after dusk, quickly set up camp, and devoured large amounts of dinner. Never had I thought that dried squid in instant noodles would be so delicious. Thanks Ross for being courageous and buying random food packages from some Asian store.

We slept long, had a good breakfast and explored the surroundings of our campsite. This camp was high up in the forest and not on the beach. We discovered a nice viewpoint, saw more wildlife, and decided it was time to head back to civilization. The last leg of our trail was fairly easy. After only two hours, we had lunch at a nice and secluded beach, anticipating crowds at Botanical Bay. We found both, crowds and an impressive and gorgeous bay. After soaking up the natural beauty, we hiked up the road to catch the shuttle. Since it was quite early in the day, we went to the local pub and had a delicious lunch. If you ever find yourself in that pub, I strongly recommend veggie burger topped with bacon. We explored Port Renfrew, which is not a lot larger than a harbor and a few houses and we still had some time left before the shuttle was to arrive. We strategically used that time to walk another kilometer to the local liquor store to stock up on beer for our last night of car camping.

Sure enough, our campsite was full. We drove further towards Victoria, hoping to find a campsite on the way. We found a little regional park not too far down the road and while all official sites were taken, there was no host and we set camp on what looked like a campsite. As we removed our belongings from my car, I notice a little mouse running from underneath Kasia’s beloved canvas bag and disappearing in the crack between the seats. Our attempts to locate the mouse were fruitless but we found many a droppings. Eventually, we decided that the mouse will leave the car once all interesting things are taken out back home and proceeded with the evening. We cooked dinner by the sea, enjoyed our beers, and celebrated Canada Day by singing The Anthem which Ross and I had internalized through our trip. Next morning, we got our stuff assembled and re-packed our packs to minimize faff back in town. As Kasia shoved her hat into her pack, the hat started moving vigorously. She unfolded it and sure enough, our little mousy companion had used Kasia’s dirty underwear to build a little nest. The mouse was clearly dumbfounded to have been discovered, leaped out of Kasia’s hat and ran into the forest. We confirmed that the mouse was exclusively interested in Kasia’s belongings and concluded that it was now successfully removed from the car.

Our 2017 Canada Day adventure ended after a delicious brunch in a random diner, followed by a gorgeous sunny ferry-ride with an Orca presentation by a naturalist. Thanks to everyone for your great company and spirit during all ups and downs of this trip. Also, thank you Clemens for teaching the Canadian Anthem to Ross and me, and Kasia for enduring our continuous butchering of tune and lyrics.

Good times were had by all!

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2 Responses to The tale of a little beating – Or: How to catch a mouse.

  1. Vincent Hanlon says:

    Good to know that the Juan de Fuca isn’t totally trivial! I haven’t done it for years, but that’s where I did my first few independent hiking trips. Chin Beach was particularly mean to us the first time round, when my friend fractured his ankle there so badly he couldn’t walk.

    • Elliott Skierszkan says:

      The Juan de Fuca was my first ”hiking” traverse, back in 2011. China Beach also taught us a lesson when, at 1 AM , we had to re-locate our tent with ocean waves on the rising tide moistening our gear ;). The lesson could have been: “pay close attention to high-tide marks while beach camping”, or it could also have been “do not trust other people’s judgement when deciding where is a safe location to camp; the tides don’t care about safety in numbers.”

      The biggest challenge for me had been to wake up my sleeping ex-girlfriend and convince her we had to move! She was happily snoozing along, while I was tossing and turning, hearing the waves getting closer all night.

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