SHUSHARTIE BAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA - A yellow water taxi reverses into the bay leaving you on a rocky coast with a hand forced to grab hold of a thick rope and begin climbing up a cliff. Welcome to the North Coast Trail.
Following the North Coast Trail from east to west begins with the hardest section and gradually becomes easier; maybe 'less difficult' is a better term to use.
Note: the water taxi from Port Hardy must be booked in advanced. It does not leave daily.
The 10km stretch from Shushartie Bay to Skinner Creek campsite is the longest inland portion. Old growth trees tower over the muddy trail that immediately takes places you on the boardwalk of the upland bogs.
This is part 2 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
Taking a knee on the boardwalk and getting a ground view of the vegetation living in the bog will reveal an ecosystem of plants that survive off acidic water. Sphagnum moss matts the area like a giant sponge, while also being part of the reason the stagnate pond underneath turns acidic (World's shortest biology lesson: it releases H+ ions).
You may be able to spot carnivorous plants like pitcher or sundew plants that absorb nutrients from insects lured into a trap by the sweet nectar.
The group leaves with strong legs and marches in a swift pace despite the heavy bags - approximately 50lbs. Nick Reed, one of my teammates, is skeptical that I have chosen to wear New Balance sneakers instead of the recommended hiker boots and gaiters.
Reading the description of the trail made me nervous enough to stop by MEC, Mountain Equipment Co-op, pay the $5 life-time membership fee, and pick up shin high gaiters. These offer basic protection against mud, tall brush, and keep some rocks and sand out of your shoes.
To my surprise, Blair also decided to wear running shoes. (Read this article for some reasons to skip out on hiking shoes)
Skinner Creek campsite offers a wide beach to pitch our tents and cook dinner. There is a fallen old growth tree across the creek to connect the path between home for the night and the bathroom.
Looking down ten feet over moving water while rushing to the toilet is a good way to overcome any fear of heights.
My training program for this hike was three months of cycling every single day. So how am I doing on the trail? Look around to see who is napping...