HOW to survive the West Coast Trail

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

After hiking the West Coast Trail twice in 2021, I put together a video playlist with two goals:

1. WHY the West Coast Trail is our #1 hike in the world.

2. HOW to survive. It’s dangerous and challenging.

Below are all 7 videos. If they help, bookmark them and/or subscribe on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch the Introduction on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Bamfield to Michigan Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Michigan Creek to Tsusiat Falls on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Tsusiat Fall to Cribs Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Cribs Creek to Cullite Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Cullite to Port Renfrew on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Nitinat Option on YouTube.

Giant BANANA SLUG in my Tent

On finishing my first West Coast Trail hike 1999 I threw my backpack into the trunk. Drove directly to my parents home hours away.

Two days later I unpacked. Found 2 banana slugs inside.

I’m more careful now to keep pot, mug and cutlery clean and packed away at night.

My tent zipped.

Yet I still had a banana slug in my tent this year. 😐

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Dientes de Navarino, Chilean Patagonia

One of the #BestHikes in the world.

Suzie Dundas posted a terrific trip report for Outside magazine:

Dientes de Navarino is a trek of superlatives.

It starts from the southernmost town in the world—Puerto Williams, on the 55th parallel. …

Our upcoming trek would cover anywhere from 35 to 45 miles, depending on what route we chose and how accurately our trackers would monitor our steps through mud and snow.

First trekked in the late 1990s but only officially (and partially) marked in 2016, around 200 people attempted the trail annually before its blazing. Since then, the number has gone up to between 1,000 and 1,500 per year. …

A Trek to the Edge of the World

How to tackle Chilean Patagonia’s Dientes de Navarino, considered the most unpredictable trek in the world

related – our failed attempt at Dientes de Navarino

How Hikers can FALL More Safely

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

The first time I hiked the West Coast Trail I fell 7 times in 7 days.

No injury.

June 2021 I fell only twice in 6 days. An improvement. But broke a camera on the first. And badly bruised my thigh on the second. 😕

About one in a hundred hikers are evacuated on the very challenging West Coast Trail.

MANY are carrying more weight than they can comfortably balance.

As a Gymnastics coach, I teach kids the safest ways to land and fall. In this video I’ve applied those same techniques for hikers. Absorb IMPACT FORCES over time and surface area.

BEST strategy is to pull in your arms (dropping poles). Take the first impact landing on your backpack.

Having things dangling can complicate. Keep your pack as compact as possible. Fragile equipment protected inside.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

BEFORE you hike — practice falling deliberately on to your pack (filled with pillows).

When it happens for real on the trail, it’s often FEELS in slow motion. Do not flail. Pulling in your arms should be highest priority.

Hiking Laguna 69 in Peru

YouTube superstar Kraig Adams headed for Peru to do the fantastic Huayhuash Circuit.

Unfortunately it was June 2021. Peru had become the nation with the highest COVID related death rate.

As a result, Kraig needed to switch to famed Laguna 69 out of Huaraz, one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world.

As always, his video is fantastic. By far the best I’ve seen on Laguna 69.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Day 6 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 14, 2021
Km 65 to Port Renfrew

I awoke in the morning wondering whether my injured leg could get me out in time for the 3:30 ferry across the Gordon river.

I had ALL DAY to make 10km.

My leg felt no worse. And no better. Every step hurt but it seemed full strength.

Two choices, both challenging:

  1. Inland trail (mud scramble)
  2. Owen Point (most difficult section of the WCT)

I headed for the shelf.

First challenge — many surge channels.

Happily, the tide was very low. Waves almost non-existent.

Best weather of the week.

I was able to jump or walk around all surge channels without trouble.

Plan worked. I reached Owen Point at exactly lowest tide.

A highlight of the West Coast Trail.

Next challenge: HUGE boulders and log walking.

As a former gymnast, I enjoy scrambles. No problems.

I arrived Thrasher Cove before Noon.

From here my guidebook estimated 4 hours for 6km all inland. It could’t possibly take me that long, even injured. 🤫 Could it?

The Thrash is a steep, switchbacking scramble from the beach up to the high inland trail.

It seemed to take forever to reach the famed Donkey Engine.

I started to worry about time. There is some gorgeous easy trail walking on the final 5km, as well. Nobody understands WHY this section takes so long.

Donkey engines were used to pull huge logs, back in the day.

I didn’t reach the final ladder down to the Gordon river until 3:25pm, 5 minutes before the (supposed) deadline to cross.

Whew.

As required, I waltzed into the West Coast Trail office to check off the trail. Relieved.

I had a second permit to start the next day BACK to Bamfield. A WCT yoyo. But had to cancel due to injury.

Easiest was to simply change the reservation. Out of the blue, I decided on July 3rd out of Nitinat.

Once the excitement of finishing ebbed, my leg really started hurting on the slow plod 5km into Port Renfrew town.

Just before I got to the hiker’s hut I had booked, 3 friends from the trail stopped to ask me if I wanted a ride to Nanaimo.

Sweet.

That was exactly what I wanted to do.

I collected my resupply. Cancelled my reservation at the hiker’s hut.

Got home before 9pm.

And I’m already looking forward to another West Coast Trail week in July.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 5 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 13, 2021
Culite to Km 65

Wow. What a fantastic campsite.

Protected from the rain by the cliff, I had my own personal kitchen.

Here’s the impassable headland at Cullite.

Therefore everyone heads up the the ladders. Those at Cullite highest of all.

Top of the stairs is a quagmire of mud and trippy roots.

But the inland trail can be beautiful.

Wild and weird mushrooms.

One of the most interesting creatures is the Banana slug.

If you could eat them, you’d never starve. And they have been eaten by humans — but are not appetizing. Remove the slime first.

DAMN. I slipped in a mud pit — face first — badly bruising my thigh on a hidden root.

The leg seemed to work … but was painful. I limped on with the logic of walking it off.

Expect MUD on the WCT.

I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Our plan had been to camp on the beach Km 65 . Cross Owen Point at low tide next morning. And out to Port Renfrew.

Km 65 is only 8km from Cullite — but the short day sounded good since I was now injured and moving slowly.

Unfortunately there was no place to set up a tent near Km 65. 😕

I decided to camp right on the trail. A good spot, actually.

I was able to secure my food because I’d carried it in an Ursack.

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

No campfire.

Went to bed early hoping the leg wouldn’t hematoma.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

West Coast Trail 2021 Trip Report PREVIEW

by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Click PLAY or watch a short preview on YouTube.

I’d planned to YOYO in celebration of our #1 hike in the world reopening after the pandemic:

June 10 starting SE from Bamfield.

June 15 starting NW from Port Renfrew.

As happens so often on the WCT, plans changed.

I broke my main camera on day 3 of a planned 12 day adventure. Then bruised my thigh badly 😩 on day 5 — landing hard on a root in a mud bog.

I felt forced to reschedule my second West Coast Trail to start July 3, 2021.

I’ll put together detailed info-tainment videos for the WCT once I’ve done it twice. 😇

RESERVATIONS

Reservations opened April 30, 2021. Open only to Canadians.

Due to computer system glitches, I wasn’t able to start day 1 ~ June 4, 2021.

The earliest I could reserve was June 10th out of Bamfield.

TRANSPORTATION

As the ferry Port Alberni to Bamfield was still closed to hikers, I booked by phone on the West Coast Trail Express.

CAD $125 Nanaimo to Bamfield one way. I was the only passenger.

Excellent service. I recommend them.

These (hiking) Shoes Are Killing Me

Highest priority for hikers is foot care.

Know that your feet expand while hiking — especially in hot weather — so many of us buy walking shoes a size larger than what we wear in the city.

I loved Christopher Mcdougall’s book

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

That said, I’ve never hiked barefoot or with minimal shoes. Raised in cold Canada, my feet are wimpy.

If you have time, go back to the beginning. Listen to an audiocast about the history of footwear.

471. Mayor Pete and Elaine Chao Hit the Road Freakonomics Radio

While other countries seem to build spectacular bridges, dams, and even entire cities with ease, the U.S. is stuck in pothole-fixing mode. We speak with an array of transportation nerds — including the secretary of transportation and his immediate predecessor — to see if a massive federal infrastructure package can put America back in the driver’s seat.
  1. 471. Mayor Pete and Elaine Chao Hit the Road
  2. Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet (Ep. 346 Rebroadcast)
  3. 470. The Pros and Cons of America’s (Extreme) Individualism
  4. 469. The U.S. Is Just Different — So Let’s Stop Pretending We’re Not
  5. 468. Nap Time for Everyone!