Arrival & Plan: the 4,500 journey, ferry rides, and getting to the start of the North Coast Trail

VANCOUVER AIRPORT, B.C. — You know that this is no longer the United States when "Tim Horton's" is chosen as the meeting point. Canadians ramble off slogans and marketing games from Timmys more frequently than their national anthem. Have you heard of the "rrroll up the rim" game?" 

An epic journey is on the way if you are checking out maps during a ferry ride (photo by Blair Ryan)  shop the look: Revo Crawler sunglasses; Beyond Type 1 OneDrop hat

An epic journey is on the way if you are checking out maps during a ferry ride (photo by Blair Ryan) 

shop the look: Revo Crawler sunglasses; Beyond Type 1 OneDrop hat

This is part 1 of the Connected in Motion's adventure team hike of the North Coast Trail in Vancouver Island. The series covers the story of thirteen hikers with type 1 diabetes coming together from August 10th - 20th, 2017 to complete this challenge and raise $25,000. Contribute by clicking here

I spent 72 days of the summer cycling across America, starting in Virginia, in order to arrive in Vancouver to join the Connected in Motion adventure team for this particular trip. Everyone else took an airplane from New Brunsick, Toronto, or other provinces from Canada...slackers.

How to pack for the North Coast Trail as a diabetic

Jen, one of the leaders, receives a text from me saying that I was packed and on my way to the airport. This is a white lie. 

You begin to feel a bit irresponsible arriving in town two days before everyone else without a packed bag. I am still roaming around this wonderfully outdoorsy city on my bicycle but now it’s time to pick up my backpack.  I previously shipped it to the JDRF Vancouver office, so I head over there.

About 1/3rd of my backpack is left open to hold group gear. MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op), the REI equivalent, generously donated tents, stoves, and other shared gear and this would be added to our packs before hitting the trail.

Gear scatted on the bed of my Warmshower's bed. May have packed a few hours before the trip. Buy the gear (that also came on my bike tour across America): Frio Insulin Cooling Case (red); Thermorest Sleeping Pad; Sigma 10mm-20mm Wide Angle Lens (Nikon) for outdoor photography; External battery charger for iPhone, GoPro, and Dexcom Receiver; Revo Crawler polarized sunglasses; free bottle of champagne from a stranger (priceless).

Gear scatted on the bed of my Warmshower's bed. May have packed a few hours before the trip.

Buy the gear (that also came on my bike tour across America): Frio Insulin Cooling Case (red); Thermorest Sleeping Pad; Sigma 10mm-20mm Wide Angle Lens (Nikon) for outdoor photography; External battery charger for iPhone, GoPro, and Dexcom Receiver; Revo Crawler polarized sunglasses; free bottle of champagne from a stranger (priceless).

Blair Ryan is a bit more organized. Buy the gear: Frio Insulin Cooling Case (blue); RoadID medical alert (for running shoes); Goal Zero Solar Panel wilderness battery charger; Patagonia Women's trail running shorts; the two photographers both choosing to bring sneakers instead of hiking boots (priceless).

Blair Ryan is a bit more organized.

Buy the gear: Frio Insulin Cooling Case (blue); RoadID medical alert (for running shoes); Goal Zero Solar Panel wilderness battery charger; Patagonia Women's trail running shorts; the two photographers both choosing to bring sneakers instead of hiking boots (priceless).

Items that Hikers with Diabetes Cannot Leave Without

Some of my favorite memories comes from being an outdoor orientation leader exploring the woods of Maine. The love of mountains deepened when setting off to New Zealand to go backcountry backpacking with Marty, my childhood best friend.

You can download the hiking packing list for diabetics that comes from these experiences. Click here to get the printable checklist "How to Hike Around the World with Diabetes."

Now that you have that to refer to, lets highlight some of the items brought on the North Coast Trail.

1) The Frio Insulin Cooling Case

Keeping your insulin protected from the heat is one of our biggest concerns. Situations escalate quickly if our medicine becomes vulnerable or goes bad. The Frio Case uses a water-activated gel inside a thick-fabric mesh bag to provide cooling without the use of ice. Let's face it, no one has ice in the wilderness. Frio comes in various sizes for insulin pens, vials, and pump cases.

Click here to buy the Frio Case that I brought along on the North Coast Trail (fits multiple vials, multiple pens, and I use it to hold some syringes).

2) A spare meter + ketone strips

Your doctor says to double all medical supplies when traveling. Is that excessive, realistic, not enough? It depends on the length of your trip.

One item that I truly try to double if not triple is an extra meter. Carry one that has the same brand that you normally use (Contour Next, One Touch, etc.) and preferably one from another brand.

Why carry a meter from a different brand than you use? Because then you expand the options of test strips that a friend or store may be able to offer you. Resiliency is key.

Oh yeah, get some ketone strips and bring those along.

Read the North Coast Trail Series

3) Glucolift and other snacks to treat lows

I had the priviledge of speaking on a panel with Chris Angell, founder of Glucolift, at the JDRF OneNationSummit in New York City. We had a blast chatting about endurance sports and type 1 diabetes.

You know how we all hate the chalky taste of glucose tabs? So did Chris. He started Glucolift to make an all-natural glucose tablet that is actually delicious. I am a Jersey boy so the orange cream flavor reminded me of walking along the boardwalk. 

Disclaimer: They were one of the sponsors for the Connected in Motion Adventure Team. In all honesty though, I am the most stubborn person with glucose tabs and these are actually worth a try.

Buy them here (coming to Canada soon.)

4) RoadID Medical Bracelet

Blair is pretty serious badass athlete with diabetes. She completed a 50 mile trail run before joining the adventure team and has one of the fastest female T1D ironman times (read the interview)

She wears a RoadID on her wrist and another one on her trail shoe. Placing an ID on your shoe avoids having a bracelet bounce up and down while running.

5) What about all those other crucial but small items that I may forget?

Download the "How to Hike the World" checklist to make sure none of those small yet important items are left behind

Getting to the North Coast Trailhead

The team will arrive at Vancouver International Airport, load our gear into our team vans, then board the ferry in Tsawwassen, bound for Nanaimo. We’ll hit highway 19 and head up the coast for Sayward, BC and the Mt H’Kusam View Lodge, our base camp for food and gear prep.

Recommended Lunch Stop at Little Huson Regional Park

The next day will be spent doing all of our final food and gear prep, making sure backpacks are weighted properly, and answering any last minute questions the team has about gear, food, and other concerns. We then travel from Sayward to the North Coast Trail Backpackers Hostel in Port Hardy.

Tomorrow we board the water ferry to arrive at the trailhead. Does this seem remote enough for you?