but (but!), i was absolutely fine, the hike was certainly challenging at parts and there was a lot of elevation gain over the course of the 4 days, but listening to the ocean and camping at some gorgeous sites made all those heart rate rising hills worth it.
this was my itinerary (because this is what i wanted to know before i did it):
day 1 - botanical beach to little kuitche creek campground (14km)
- this day was by far, the toughest for me. it was 14km to the campsite and i felt like i had to have a little chat with my legs each time i wanted them to take a big step up a rock. there are a lot of boardwalks and fun bridges made out of the trees, but man, some of them are BIG steps for short legs.
- i also had a bit of a shriek when we came across a garter snake that didn't even have the courtesy to get out of my way when i nearly stepped on it, eek.
day 2 - little kuitche creek to chin beach (12km)
- this day was more challenging, but i didn't feel like i had to motivate my legs to keep moving, they just did. camping at the beach was stunning and my hiking partner was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day (and with a sore knee after a fall on the slippery rocks) so we spent our evening sitting in the gorgeous evening sun, watching the water and staying out of the wind by sitting amongst the driftwood.
- and we saw sea lions! and they were cute! and rather awkward when trying to move along the rocks.
- it was so nice to wake up in the morning and take our time making coffee and breakfast over the stove before strapping our backpacks on and heading out along the beach.
day 3 - chin beach to bear beach (12km)
- listed on the government issued map as 'most difficult,' there were a lot of switchbacks and hills as you dance along the coastline, but again, i felt strong and capable of the cardiovascular and muscular fitness even though i was fretting about how difficult 'very difficult' would be.
- i have to say, we were both thrilled to see the sign for 'bear beach' when it appeared and we knew there were no more switchbacks in our future, yippee.
- out campsite on bear beach was beautiful and quite secluded, which was great. we named our site doreen after a buoy that had washed up nearby and had a campfire as we sat by the ocean.
day 4 - bear beach to china beach (9km)
- back to 'moderate' difficulty, this day was a breeze and i felt a little disappointed when we reached the final kilometre marker. it was the only day when we saw a lot of others, mostly day hikers, but i felt proud that we were carrying all of our gear and had the filth and dirt to go along with 4 straight days of hiking. and we managed to reach the west coast trail bus pick up point with a few hours to spare and time to eat the remaining food that we had. but i must say that i packed well and estimated the right amount of food.
a few other thoughts on this hike. i wouldn't want to do it without the absolutely perfect weather that we had. i suppose even if you couldn't have the benefit of the beautiful sunny skies that dry weather would be a minimum to make it really enjoyable. i had hoped to see more sunsets, but we were often on the side of a point that blocked the sun setting over the water. and besides, we were in bed before 9 each night!
there are lots of streams to collect drinking and cooking water and campsites were not over crowded and apart from one bear cache malfunction and many tries before successfully hanging out food, we had almost no issues. a few minor blisters that 2nd skin took care of and some taped toes and we were good to go!
it was so nice to be out in the middle of 'nowhere' without mobile phone reception and not a care in the world past finding drinking water and estimating how much fuel we had left in the stove. being sweaty, dirty, and without a shower for 4 days on end was just what i needed to gain some clarity and confidence and i am thrilled that i did this hike and can't wait for an opportunity to do something like this again.