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Nootka Island Hike 2016 (18)

I spent five days hiking the Nootka Island coastal trail in July this year. This 40 kilometre hike is only accessible by boat or seaplane and offers a remote coastal experience featuring beautiful sandy beaches, wild old growth forests, endless waterfalls spilling into the ocean, sea caves, and fantastic history. It is said to be the place of first contact between the First Nations and Europeans on the west coast of Canada.

We took a water taxi to Nootka which launched out of Tahsis. After spending the first night camping in Tahsis the boat dropped us off early in the morning at Tongue Point. Our first sight was the wreak of an old tanker which is now completely broken up and rusting on the beach at Tongue Point. I can only the imagine the forces at work which broke this massive vessel up and deposited it here on the shore.

We moved through thick forest as we made our way on this day. Many hikers begin the Nootka trail after being dropped off by seaplane in Louie Bay, so this part of the trail is less often traveled. We did successfully find Third Beach and made our camp for the night on this beautiful stretch of white sandy beach.

One thing quite unique about this trip was that we shared communal dinners. Each hiker was paired up and the team was responsible for either providing an appetizer and dessert or dinner on one of the nights. I was quite concerned about this, as I usually pack dehydrated store bought camping meals and had never cooked for a group of ten outdoors!  In the end the communal meals worked out really well, many creative and delicious dishes were shared and all were well fed each night. From the pasta with fennel sausage on the first night, rice noodles with bacon, kale, and sundried tomatoes on the second night, chicken’ish fajitas on the third night, and couscous with coconut vegetable and pork dish on the final night. We had hummus, cheese, and sausages for appetizers and puddings, cookies, two tiramisu dishes, and a pie for dessert!

On day two we set off with good conditions south of Third Beach. Not long after setting out one of our hikers Mo, suffered an injury crossing rough terrain on a small beach. Her ancle was quite badly injured and after trying unsuccessfully to put some weight on it, we knew her hike was over. Our group had multiple emergency alert devices and two Spot devices were activated which send an alert to the Spot headquarters who then routes the GPS and owner data to local search and rescue. Once the devices are activated all you can really do is wait for a response, there is no way to communicate using the device. After only two hours we spotted a helicopter headed our way which was able to easily land on the headland where we were located. Two RCMP officers had been picked up in Gold River by the helicopter which came from Comox. The officers assisted the injured hiker, collected some information for their report, and returned to the skies to shuttle Mo to medical assistance. It was sad to lose one of our group so early on, but as I understand it Mo is now making a good recovery.

We all continued on with more careful footing. The coastline changed from headlands and beaches to a rocky shelf protruding into the surf. We walked a good distance this day, arriving at Calvin Falls in the early evening. Here we made camp at the surf shack nestled within the trees, enjoyed a good meal, fire, and well deserved rest.

On day three we broke camp, crossed the flow of Calvin Falls and continued south along the rocky shelf. We experienced some solid rain on this day as we hiked, crossing rivers, and making our way along the coast. We eventually reached Beano Creek were we made camp for the night. Our last obstacle before making camp was Beano Creek itself, and we needed to cross while the low tide was allowing the best conditions. This still required removing your boots unless you wanted a soaked boot. I went at it barefoot. The floor of Beano at the low tide mark is karst rock which was quite tough on my feet!

Reaching the other side, we discovered two guys enjoying a sweat lodge on the beach, heating stones by fire and bringing them into a tarped enclosure. It was all pretty surreal as we crossed the river, wind and rain pelting down off the pacific, and discovered these two guys just living it up in the middle of nowhere! As it turned out, we were able to recycle their fire to build our own and keep warm and dry as the rain continued.

Day four we woke to better conditions and hiked up into headlands south or Beano Creek. Much of the hiking this day was up on a headland through the beautiful and lush old growth forest. Eventually the sun peaked through and we enjoyed Maquinna Point in full sun. Our final campsite was a tiny beach surrounded by cliffs, with a waterfall cascading down which provided a refreshing (and bone chilling) shower.

On day five we made out way along the last stretch of pebble beaches to Yuquot. We had completed the 40 kilometre journey from Tongue Point to Yuquot.

All in all, a great hike. Be prepared for anything out here. Also take note that their are frequent river crossings, and planning to cross at low tides is advisable. I am grateful that we had the wisdom of the Island Mountain Ramblers hiking club to guide us through these crossings at the best possible times.

Thanks to John Young for leading such a wonderful hike, you can check out his trip report here.

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