NELSON BIGHT, B.C. — Flecks of sand stick into the rims of our sunglasses. From above, Peter slides down the edge of a sand dune the height of a small building and enters the wind vortex. Is this the path towards the lighthouse?
The long haul push is worth the squeeze. Our reward for the day is a short 5km hike along only moderately muddy inland trails to bring us from Nelson Bight to Nels Bight.
This is part 6 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
We voted yesterday, despite the chemical burn Amanda suffered, to go twice the distance of a normal day. The carrot at the end of the stick is today we get to set up camp early and take a day trip out to the light house without our packs.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a bottle of Mount Gay Rum sitting on the table in front of two Australian looking guys. They are probably Canadian; there is no 'stereotypical' stereotype of what a Canadian looks like.
We strike up a conversation around their campsite while their kids remained tucked into sleep bags late in a hiker's morning. Wearing the Grif Grip dinosaur around the continuous glucose sight always is the first topic to cover. Jay knows more than average about type 1 diabetes since his niece has it as well.
He insists on getting a photo with us to show her what is possible as an insulin-dependent diabetic. This begins with capturing the dinosaur and Medtronic pump. Soon, the entire Connected in Motion adventure team is standing with their arms around each other and Jay on the wing.
Type 1 diabetes is often what separates us from most of society. Yet, in these moments, this same disease is the bonding thread that weaves together so many stories.
So we wave goodbye and push on towards Nels Bight.
Camp popped up quickly along the border of the beach and jungle with the water looking farther away than ever. Seaweed marked the high tide point being relatively close to us. The gentle slope of Nels Bight made the waves at low tide splash about 1km away. Semi joking, but not really.
Like a pot of boiling water left to cool, the steam of our group waned from arriving early into the late afternoon. "OK, 15 minutes and the light house adventure team departs at 3:30 sharp."
The most northern tip had already checked off a bit before Christensen Point. Zooming out on the offline map of Pocket Earth let us declare that this light house looked like the most western point on Vancouver Island. Time to rally, let's go!
The Most Adventurous Casual Walk
The lighthouse is 7km each way from Nels Bight. A huge advantage is that only snacks and water have to be packed in our bags. A nifty piece of gear is that Nick's brain, the most top part of a hiking backpack, detaches and has two straps to turn into a backpack.
Departure time is 3:30 PM. Return is estimated to be 8:30 PM with dinner ready and waiting by those deciding to stay behind.
I start off declaring the light house adventure to the camera with Gamble and fall directly into a river. Perfect, wet sneakers for the next five hours.
The inland stretch has a nice wide path and could even be enough for some trail running. Poking out to the first beach reveals fog rolling in. Some slip on their rain jackets while others ignore the weather.
Some fellow hikers tell us about "pocket beaches" and to ignore the inland trail and follow the sandy footsteps during low tides. Peter deduces that pocket beaches are a reference to hopping on the beach for a moment, then in the trees, then back on the beach.
Mist off the curling waves of Experiment Bight whip back towards the ocean from the breeze. Cape Scott and the North Coast Trail talks about sand dunes and I have been complaining that none are present on the actual trail. Finally, on this stretch we get to see some dunes.
Seagulls fly with aviation glasses on like Maverick in Top Gun as the wind whips them north over the dunes. Peter, followed by the rest of the group, poke our heads to see the dunes. Gamble sprints to catch her red and white hat as it tumbles towards the waves. We step down towards the beach and keep marching forward.
A cliff stands in our way. Consulting the map, it appears that heading straight into this wind vortex is the only way to reach the trail.
The sand dunes connect the north coast of the ocean and cut across to a southern facing beach. Breaching towards Guise Bay reveals white capped waves crashing towards us. Tall grasses whip with a stomped down section going towards the light house. In a nook behind one of the hills are two tents. Apparently sea kayakers have been trapped in the bay and decided to set up camp.
Popping back inland protects us from the hurricane like conditions and makes it feel like those last fifteen minutes never happened. The hike is relatively easy until the light house is spotted.
A Canadian flag flaps red and white flashes. An anemometer, reads wind velocity, spins fast enough that it could generate electricity. A greenhouse catches my eye as a warm shelter with three large white and red houses perched a bit higher.
The lighthouse may be more accurately described as a fire tower that happens to have a light and fog horn on it. This could be a disappointment to fellow east coasters who are used to iconic structures pictured in pages of calendars.
After capturing the necessary photo to prove we made it, the group shuffles down the ladder to head back towards camp.
A nice reward for making it this far is visiting sea stacks along a side trail of the western coast. This is roughly half a kilometer away from the light house, at the bottom of the hill. Sea stacks are large pillars of rock that stand isolated as the stubborn rock marks where a cliff or ledge once existed.
Geneva uses her binoculars to spot the adventure team returning to camp. A large tarp sculpture has been erected while we were gone to keep us dry from the approaching rainstorm. Hank dug an arm's length hole for every log beam used as part of this beautiful shelter. Well done, sir.
Jen made warm beef soup and vegetarian soup by simply heating up water and adding the packets from Briden Solutions. The simple happiness brought by a warm cup resonates on everyone's face.
Around 10:30 PM I cut off from all conversations and charge right into bed. That was one adventurous rest day. At least tomorrow is a family trail to the parking lot, should be easy enough to do it in Crocs. Right?