Does it Smell Like Propane?

IRONY CREEK, B.C. — There is always a fear when you ignore the fire alarm going off that it may be a real alert. That is how this situation felt, but in the middle of nowhere with no rescue team.

A bear deciding to nap after seeing thirteen hikers march nearby (photo by Blair Ryan)

A bear deciding to nap after seeing thirteen hikers march nearby (photo by Blair Ryan)

Peter presented us with an option to push for the long haul today and make it from Irony Creek to Nels Bight. The first leg to Laura Creek is 12.3km, already longer than any other day. An advantage is that the entire day is going to be along the beach. A disadvantage is that the entire day is going to be along a cobblestone beach with perfectly spherical stones.

This is part 5 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

A light drizzle begins the day. This is what would normally be happening every day. Cape Scott Provincial Park is in the 97th percentile for annual rainfall in the world, according to a late night reading session of the guide book. The old growth trees grow so large because the ecosystem is a temperate rainforest.

Every morning has been sunny and British Columbia is in a drought. So put an asterisk on this entire trip if you are expecting the same experience.

Thanks Peter for helping us with the cable car crossing (Photo by Blair Ryan)

Thanks Peter for helping us with the cable car crossing (Photo by Blair Ryan)

A cable car crossing brightens the morning. Thoughts of Raider of the Lost Ark flash into the back of my mind as the brown tannin water passes below.

Pushing On After a Chemical Burn

"Am I losing my mind or does it smell like propane?" Amanda looks back and asks us. That is when the warning flags go off, in the same way when you hear the fire alarm. We stop briefly and then she decides it is safe to keep marching on.

Amanda drops her bag as if it actually on fire and her eyes fighting back tears like a levee holding a rising river is the clue that it is too late. Propane has leaked from her backpack, soaked into her clothes, and is now causing a chemical burn anywhere it touched.

Everything is stripped from the contaminated backpack. Dry sacs shuffle down the line and are slid into empty spaces or clipped to the outside of packs with carabiners. Peter discovers the loose cap on the container. 

By the time someone from the front of the pack runs back to find out this situation, Amanda is already in new clothes with the determination to keep pushing. All of her gear is being carried by everyone else.

Anyone with diabetes knows what it is like to deal with a sudden shock in life. The resiliency shown in this group and the willingness to lend a helping hand is what makes this community special. No second questions are asked. We are here for each other no matter what.

The group marching in unison after deciding to hike another 10km

The group marching in unison after deciding to hike another 10km

Everyone's backpacks now weigh a little bit more and Amanda is battling a second degree burn. The group sits along driftwood like a Jedi council to discuss the possibility of pushing to Nels Bight or setting up camp for the afternoon.

"I guess we are doing this," as everyone buckles back up. The time is 4 p.m. and 12.8km lies between us and a good night sleep. A reason to push on is to have a rest day tomorrow with a 5km hike to Nelson Bight and the opportunity to visit the lighthouse with packs remaining at the campsite.

Turning my head around I see the group hiking shoulder to shoulder as if on the front lines of battle. There is a little stubbornness in our community to go above and beyond what is normal to prove that we can do anything. 

The team helping out with a chemical burn from propane seeping through Amanda's backpack (Photo by Blair Ryan)

The team helping out with a chemical burn from propane seeping through Amanda's backpack (Photo by Blair Ryan)

How do you get water on the trail?

Water is scarce, although available, on these trails with one or two spots to fill up each day. Our group carries four hand-pump water filters with about half of them working at any given point of time.

A backup is to carry iodine tabs or chlorine tablets to treat the water. Drop a tablet in per liter of water and wait thirty minutes is the general rule (read the instructions).

A teaching moment around the watering hole

As we refill and rest, two fellow west-bound hikers become curious seeing the GrifGrips dinosaur over my continuous glucose monitor and another tube coming out of my abdomen. Sometimes we forget that diabetics look like cyborgs.

A benefit of wearing the continuous glucose monitor, which takes a blood sugar reading every five minutes, is that it is a visual teaching tool to show others. I explain that despite looking healthy we all have an added layer of complexity and concerns being out here in the wilderness.

The woman is marveled by the idea of coming out into the wilderness while having to manage this disease. We then tell her that the plan is hike 20km today and replies simply, "I am not surprised, you are all tough."

Answering questions relating to type 1 diabetes and showing the two hikers the Dexcom continuous glucose graph on my iPhone. The Dexcom graph is the influence behind the DiabetesAbroad logo by graphic artist Annalisa Van Den Bergh

Answering questions relating to type 1 diabetes and showing the two hikers the Dexcom continuous glucose graph on my iPhone. The Dexcom graph is the influence behind the DiabetesAbroad logo by graphic artist Annalisa Van Den Bergh

Along our cobblestone journey awaits a bear. Here comes thirteen loud and clumsy objects and the response is putting it's black furry head down on the log. Can I do the same?

Peter scares away the bear back into the rainforest by shouting, banging hiking poles together, and throwing small stones in the general direction. Eventually, the bear waddles away.

After a short inland section, the group reaches the final resting spot for the night - Nels Bight. A bobbling log in the waves seems to disappear and reappear. Then Blair sprints towards the waves shouting, "Ohhhhh he is so cute!" A sea otter nibbling away on a sea urchin is an adorable sight through a pair of binoculars.

Nels Bight has the water source 1km away from the outhouse. A quick vote declares using the bathroom in the morning as top priority.

I strip off my clothes during dusk and charge directly into the waves. An ice bath is what the doctor prescribed for these shriveled feet.

Tomorrow is a short saunter to Nelson Bight and a casual walk to the lighthouse, if wind blasting sand into your face is 'casual.'

Can you spot the bear? (Photo by Blair Ryan)

Can you spot the bear? (Photo by Blair Ryan)