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You’re probably thinking that’s a weird title for a blog post. It is kind of.
But that’s what I want. It’s my birthday this weekend. Birthday’s aren’t what they used to be when I was a kid, but they’re still fun. On the other hand, I can ask for bigger things now.
And this birthday I’m asking for a big one. 700km of trail to be exact.
I’ve been helping out the Vancouver Island Spine Trail project recently. They’re building a trail from Victoria to Cape Scott. 700km of awesomeness. I love the idea and I can’t wait until it’s finished but it needs more money to keep moving. It’s completely donation based so far and the more money it gets the faster trail gets built. Can you help out?
I would love to raise $1000 for the Spine Trail for my birthday. Before the end of January donate to the Spine Trail and we can help this awesome project move that much faster.
It’s quick and easy to donate at Canada Helps to the Spine Trail.
Getting outside can be tough. It feels so good when you do it but it just seems like there are so many obstacles in between work and laundry and dishes and cutting the lawn and actually getting out there.
Some days I can get outside without even thinking about it. Some days, I feel like I’m imprisoned inside drowning in a todo list and might be able to see outside if I can just swim through all these pages of items to check off.
The last couple of years have changed getting outside from an optional thing to a required thing for me. It’s not just nice, it’s a must-have. If I’m stuck inside too long I feel like I have cabin-fever. I start going squirrelly. At first I had no idea what was wrong with me. I just happened to feel good the weeks I got outside. But then I wouldn’t feel great the weeks I didn’t and couldn’t figure out why.
Once I figured it out I started planning out every adventure I could. I’d have lists of adventures to do and places to go. I could mountain bike here, trail run there, hike that day and sail on this day. I just replaced my indoor todo list items with outdoor todo list items. Not ideal but it’s better.
I’ve been following the british adventurer Alastair Humphrey’s for a while now. I love his down to earth style with everything, even though he’s been on some huge expeditions. And he’s got a good solution to actually getting outside on a regular basis.
I’m sure many other people have thought of this before but no I’ve seen has written about it so much. Lots of people get out of microadventure all the time, they just don’t call it that.What is a microadventure?
Not a huge adventure but a small one. The best part of the microadventure is that they are intentionally small. They are easy to do because they don’t take much time, can be done anywhere in the world and don’t take much gear. You can go overnight if you want but you don’t have to. Even a couple hours is enough for a microadventure. Trying to plan that huge perfect adventure and failing? Just do a microadventure instead. They fit much better into a busy lifestyle.
He’s running a microadventure challenge right now. Your Year of Microadventure digs into microadventures and challenges you to do more. Go small and go more often.A couple other tips to get outside
I like things on a schedule. I don’t have to think about them as much. If I have a scheduled time and day that I get outside, then it just happens. There are no questions. It doesn’t get pushed around by other things on my calendar. If time is already booked off in the calendar, that’s precious time and never gets bumped.
Make a trigger
Habits start with a trigger. You can make going outside a habit by starting it with a trigger. Days of the week can be a trigger. So if it’s Saturday then you go outside. Or time on the clock. It’s 12pm on a weekday so I go for a microadventure away from the office.
Change your environment
Habits are like elephants and you are the rider. If the elephant is going to sit on the couch and watch TV then you are too, there is no dragging it around. The trick with the elephant is to force it outside with changes in your environment. If you change your routine so that you walk home from work then you’ve forcing the elephant to go outside. If you schedule time with friends outside on a microadventure, then the elephant has no choice, it’s going outside. Don’t let it choose. Force it outside.
What adventures are you going to do this year? Are you going to break out some microadventures?
GPS are becoming so popular these days with avid outdoors people and folks cruising around cities. If you own a smartphone, you already have a gps in your pocket. Knowing which streets to take to an address is great if you’re driving but how do you follow the maze of logging roads and trail networks through the woods to exactly the spot you want to go? Trail GPS and the software that comes with it can help you there. Garmin is one company that makes excellent GPS and they have a great piece of software to help you get the most of that hi-tec little gadget in your pocket.
This is the first post in a series on the features of Garmin Basecamp and how to use them. Follow these and you’ll spend less time fiddling around with Basecamp on the computer and more time outside hiking.What’s Garmin Basecamp?
Garmin’s GPS software is called Basecamp. If you’ve had a Garmin for a while you might remember MapSource, a clunky program for loading maps and tracks onto Garmin GPS.
Anything you want to do with your GPS software you can probably do with Basecamp. There are some limitations and things you’ll need to pay for but if you use your GPS regularly it’s worth it.
What’s in the rest of this series?
The rest of the series will include (eventually) everything you can do with Basecamp. They will come out with new versions and (hopefully) more features to make our lives easier. I’ll link to all the posts below when they come out.
Here’s what we’re going to start with:
How to view a track from your GPS
How to create a track in Basecamp and send it to your GPS
How to view photos in Basecamp
How to create waypoints in Basecamp and send to your GPS
How to edit and clean a track from your GPS
How to export GPS tracks from Basecamp
I had one section left to complete the Spruston Road to Christie Falls portion of the Trans Canada Trail near Nanaimo. Naturally I’m a list checker offer and hiking all the portions of a large trail is just a big checklist so I had to do it.
I’ve been north from Haslam Creek before, along the suspension bridge then on to Timberland Lake but I had never made the hike south to connect to Christie Falls near Ladysmith. If you haven’t, you’re not missing much. The hike is all logging road but if you end at Christie Falls then it’s a worthwhile adventure. I got a few photos out of it anyways.
I had to start walking at an orange gate. I drove the truck to this point along the potholed logging road. The dirt road had some deep holes up to this point but it didn’t require a 4×4.
It looks like the road is deactivated and not used much. It’s still a logging road though.
The brush on either side is quite thick and pretty. The sun was trying to shine through when I was out.
Logging road walking.
The sun cut out and left us in the fog.
The first bridge you cross heading south. After the bridge head left to Christie Falls and the final bridge. If you turn right, it heads up to an abandoned mine. I’ll try and post some directions to that one soon.
The final bridge (or first if you are heading north from Christie Falls) has a Trans Canada Trail sign near it. You can see where to go and what else is in the area.
One note on signage, I didn’t see any. The best I could see was at Haslam Creek and then one random trail marker on a fence post heading south from there. That was it until the sign near Christie Falls said that was the Trans Canada Trail. Not sure why the other sections are so well marked and this one isn’t. It makes it a bit confusing. I had to drive in a few circles near the Haslam Creek entrance just to make sure there were no other roads for options to take. I recommend grabbing the GPS track to follow so you don’t get turned around.
If you don’t mind some dirty puddles you can from Haslam Creek and the powerlines south along the dirt road until you hit the orange gate. The woods are pretty around the road south of the powerlines so you could walk these. I just drove as far as I could and then started the hike.
Have you been along this stretch of the Trans Canada Trail? What did you think?
Years ago, I hiked from Haslam Creek up to Timberland Lake, a section of the Trans Canada trail. It was an easy hike, not a ton of interesting trail as most of it was on logging road. Timberland Lake at the end was beautiful. A bit of trash around from offroaders but the sun was out and reflecting off the water just right.
Around the corner from Timberland Lake is the White Pine Trail that continues up to Spruston Road. I left the lake after seeing one of the White Pine Trail signs and that was the last I saw of it.
In searching around for trails to hike next for MapVI, I stumbled on the Trans Canada Trails again. I’ve been coming back from an ankle injury and needed some easy trails to wander. I headed out to check on the White Pine Trail.The White Pine Trail
At the end of Spruston Road (check out the map on the trail page to see where the trail starts) the trail signs start. The road is rough but there’s a bit of a pullout where you can park your car.
The trail starts out beautiful single track through the woods. It’s marked with orange markers on the trees with the odd “Trans Canada Trail” marker that was a bit bigger. Any major forks had a big blue signpost.
I spent most of the hike just taking in all the green around me. I’ve been healing up an ankle injury lately and was just happy to be on the trail at all, nevermind on a nice day like this. It was a bit cold though. Hard to operate the camera too much when you can’t feel your fingers.
The trail pops out onto the logging roads and continues to Timberland Lake.
The trail was well signed. At points the signs were off in the trees. I’m sure they were once very visible but now they’re off in the brush a bit. Any time I needed to know the direction though there was a sign right there. Just need to look.
Timberland Lake was pretty as usual.
I had the feeling we were being watched. Then out popped this little guy from the woods. The funny thing was that Della (my dog) was going crazy at a tree in the other direction because she thought she heard a squirrel. Not so much a hunter. I had plenty of time to capture some shots of the squirrel munching on something sitting on a log.
Would I recommend the White Pine Trail? The south end of the trail just before Timberland Lake is just logging road which isn’t very pretty but the single track on the north end was beautiful. Easy walking over well-maintained trail made for a good hike. The trail was well-signed aside from the few in the trees.The Nanaimo River
I took a quick look down the trail that goes down to the Nanaimo River as well. It’s easy double track to hike. We didn’t get very far though. It turns into rough single track and heads back up into the woods. There were a couple of trail forks that probably head down to the river but I didn’t have time to follow them.
Get directions to on the White Pine Trail page.
I’ve been hiking of the Trans Canada Trail lately. Christie Falls is along the trail just north of Ladysmith. I hiked out there last year but never got the chance to post the photos. Over the next 2 weeks I’ll be posting of the Trans Canada Trail.
For now, here’s Christie Falls from September 2013.
Christie Falls is a great little trail to get outside and see a beautiful set of falls on a mostly sunny day. The forecast called for rain and it threatened all day, even going so far as sending a couple drops our way. We never saw more than a few. The warm sun kept them at bay while we explored the falls.
The first gate was open when we went on a Saturday. There weren’t any posted hours aside from the sign on the gate about it being closed during extreme fire risk.
The smaller second gate on the right.
For a deactivated logging road is was actually pretty nice. I’m assuming it gets maintained because of the Trans Canada trail and the fish hatchery at the end of the road.
Follow the fish hatchery signs.
There’s not much signage on the road for the Trans Canada Trail before the bridge. This section connects to the Haslam Creek Suspension Bridge trail.
The fish hatchery.
Across from the fish hatchery a big clearing leads up to the single track trail leading to the falls.
Small trails up into the single track on the side or end of the clear area.
It’s not flat any more. The single track leads up into the woods beside the stream.
The trail sticks close to the stream, you can see out over the stream at a few points.
You can actually see the stream at a few points.
Not quite jungle but nice single track to walk through.
A slippery log bridge. The stream wasn’t flowing through this section so we just walked through the stream bed. The stream must split above Christie Falls because this section was dry but Christie was flowing.
There was a nice pool below the falls. Not enough to swim in but plenty for a nice picture.
So why can’t you use a windscreen on a canister stove?
Imagine this story.
You’ve just found camp after a long day hiking. The weather is miserable, it’s raining, the wind is blowing it sideways. You’re cold and wet and hungry.
You get camp set up and some food on the stove. You have a canister stove and the wind is blowing all the heat straight out the side. You’ll have to do something about this or the water is going to take forever to boil. It will take hours to make food and waste all of your fuel. What can you do?
You grab the windscreen you have and wrap it around the canister stove blocking the wind. Almost instantly the water starts to heat up.
And then… boom.
The canister heats up and explodes, throwing a fireball 3 metres across into the air and sending shards of metal flying in all directions.
That would suck.
That’s what might happen if you put a heat shield around a canister of gas and heat it up. I actually have no idea how big the explosion would be since I haven’t heated one up myself but all the warnings say don’t do it.
Adding the windscreen around the canister and the stove blocks the wind from the stove but it also traps the heat around the canister and makes it hot. If that gets hot enough, it explodes. Not really what you want to happen on the trail. Or anywhere really.
What can you do?
Wind is a real problem for all stoves. If the wind is blowing all the heat out the side and not up to your pot, then it’s going to take longer to cook anything. You’ll have to wait longer and will waste fuel.
There are 3 options you’ve got, 2 of them require different stoves. I’ll start with the option if you already have a canister stove that attaches directly to the canister.
Build a wind block
Not the same as a wind screen. If you can block the wind from one side of the stove then it won’t get hot and explode. Figure out which way the wind is coming from and then put up some logs, branches, sand or dirt in front of it so the stove is hidden behind your block. Rocks, trees or even your hiking buddy can act as a good wind blocker. Watch your shoes and pants if you are the wind block. Those stoves are hot!
Get a remote canister stove
This is an option if you don’t already have a stove or if you are getting a new one. Some canister stoves have a fuel line to the canister instead of attaching directly to it. Something like the MSR Pocket Rocket attaches directly to the stove whereas the WindPro has a fuel line to the remote canister so it can be kept outside the windscreen. This is good for wind conditions.
Get a liquid fuel stove
Liquid fuel stoves tend to have fuel lines to remote canisters anyways, so they don’t really suffer from this problem. Liquid fuel stoves are great in the winter as well so you might consider just getting one of these.
Best of both worlds?
A new option that’s come out recently is the Whisperlite Universal. It’s got parts for both canister and liquid fuel connections so you can use either. It uses a remote canister system if you’ve got a canister attached so it’s not bothered by this exploding canister windscreen problem.
Sometimes you start hiking a trail having absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like. Or rather the image you had in your head of the trail is completely wrong. That’s the way I started the Alberni Inlet trail. I had assumed I was going to start an double track trail along the flat Port Alberni Inlet. The keyword there being flat. That picture of the trail is far from correct.
Della, my 30-pound formosan mountain dog, and I headed up to Port Alberni and started hiking at around 11am. The heat had already started to creep up. The interwebs had promised 27 degrees, perfect temperature for a hard hike….. I absolutely love hiking when I’m gushing sweat.
The trail starts out as small single-track through lush green forest. A great start. The elevation starts to creep up and in no time, you’re into switchbacks climbing up the steep hill to the first of the viewpoints. My first goal was a viewpoint that overlooks the inlet with 180 degree views of Alberni Inlet.
The trail wound it’s way along the back of the hill on the other side from the inlet, giving views of the lush forest around Port Alberni. Eventually we came up and over the hill to get some views of the water. There’s something about the water that I can’t get enough of. I don’t have to be in it, or even right next to it, but just seeing it from a mountain makes any hike that much better.
The trail pops out on a logging road and then cuts back into the woods. I hope they’re working on getting that trail to 100% single track. Using the logging roads as part of the trail for any more than a crossing is the easy way out. It’s great to get a trail up and running but hopefully they don’t use it for long.
About 3.5 km from the trailhead we hit a fork in the trail. Heading left from this fork leads you up to the great viewpoint overlooking the inlet. Heading right at the fork will lead you down the medium difficulty trail to the water. The kicker here is that if you go to the viewpoint AND want to go to the water, you have to go down a crazy steep section after the viewpoint to get there. I wanted to see what both trails looked like so we headed to the viewpoint and the steep trail.
Just past where the steep trail takes you down to the water, there’s a hard to find side trail from the logging road up to the viewpoint. It’s quite steep but there’s no ropes involved. The viewpoint is well worth it. If you’re only looking for a couple hour hike, going to the viewpoint and then straight back is the way to go. If you’re looking for a much harder hike, go down the steep section to the water.
We headed back to the fork and down the steep trail to the water. The brochures and signs classified this part as difficult and steep. They weren’t kidding. Usually signs are very conservative with their markings but it was steep and difficult. A lot of the dirt was loose and dry and slid easily. I grabbed trees on the way down to slow down. I keep the next tree in sight just in case I started moving faster than I wanted to. Careening down the loose rock bouncing off the trees wasn’t in my plan to get to the water. I like water but I didn’t need to get there that fast.
15 minutes later we hit the fork at the bottom. This steep difficult trail hooks up with the medium trail that comes down from the earlier fork in the trail. It continues on along the inlet for another 25 km to Headquarters Bay. From there it connects to the Runner’s trail which goes all the way to Francis Lake. From what I’ve read, the Runner’s Trail is very rough and not well signed. I’ll be exploring that one soon.
We explored down the trail a bit and along the beach, where a driftwood shack had been built. It looked like a lunch shack for frying up that tasty fish from the inlet.
Satisfied with seeing the first bit of inlet trail, we headed back towards the moderate trail that would take us back up the massive hill we just came down. One viewpoint was left on our list just before starting up the hill, the beach access with a small trail along the water. A large log boom was hooked up to the shore right in front of the beach and one of the mills was right around the corner. The beach trail headed off in that direction but I didn’t really care to see what the mill looked like.
Near the viewpoint was a beautiful set of waterfalls, a mere trickle point with how dry it was. They looked like they could really pour over the falls when the water is coming down. I got a few pictures and had lunch at the bottom of the trickle. I was going to take more photos of the falls but Della got spooked and started barking at something in the woods. I didn’t want to push my luck with any animal encounters so I packed my gear and started up the giant hill.
The moderate trail up the hill wasn’t nearly as steep as the one coming down from the viewpoint but it was still a gut buster to climb. It was about 2:00pm and the heat was still climbing. Della was plodding along slowly behind me. I wasn’t moving very fast either.
30 minutes to the top without any breaks. If you want more breaks, you’ll be longer. I slogged it out and pushed my way to the top.
From the fork at the top, it was an easy flat and downhill back to the car.
Great trail. Good viewpoints. Good slog up from the water.
One of the most useful sources of information when you plan your West Coast Trail hike is trip reports from other hikers.
They usually talk about what gear they brought, what the weather was like, what campsites they slept at, what route they hiked and why they made many other decisions that you’ll have to make on the trail too. It can be a lot of work finding all these trip reports and breaking them down into useful information. I’ve done the first step for your and put together the list below of every trip report I can find on hiking the West Coast Trail.
It’s broken up by year so that you can start with the most recent trip reports. They will probably be the closest to what you will experience with the trail. Trip reports from 30 years ago probably won’t be as accurate as you need them to be.
If you find a trip report that isn’t on here or want to write a new one, please let us know!West Coast Trail Trip Reports2014
May 31, 2014, over 80 people found their way into a room at the Kingfisher resort in Courtney, BC. They were there for the first of an event that Vancouver Island had never seen before, the Vancouver Island Trails Network Conference hosted by VISTA.What was this Trails Network Conference for?
The Vancouver Island Trails Network Conference was put together to kickstart the networking and community building between members of any and all groups on Vancouver Island that want to help build of the Vancouver Island Spine Trail and related trails. That’s a mouthful. Basically the organizers wanted to bring everyone together and talk about trails on Vancouver Island, and a bit more specifically, the Spine Trail.Who is VISTA?
The focus of the conference always came back around to the Spine Trail, the soon-to-be baby of the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association, who are based out of Victoria. The association was started by Gil Parker and is currently chaired by Andrew Pape-Salmon with the sole purpose of bringing to Spine Trail to life. One side-project within that goal has been to connect communities, adventurers and trail builders across the island. A 700km trail does not exist in isolation, it will require a huge amount of volunteer work to be completed and will connect communities that have stood separate for ages.What was the conference about?
The main goal of the conference was to bring together trail builders, sport and hiking groups, communities, government members and leaders from other organizations and get them talking, to start the conversation around the Spine Trail.
“How do we build a 700km trail?”
“What can we learn from other large trail projects across the province and Canada?”
“Instead of a struggling pet project, inching it’s way up the island, how can we make this a resounding success?”
The conversation has obviously already started as the association as existed for years now and the south end of the trail is nearly complete.Who was there?
Speaking at the conference were all sorts of folks from mayors and government employees to trail builders and hikers.
Trisha Kaplan is the Trail Development Manager for Western and Northern Canada for the Trans Canada Trail. Building a trail across Canada is no easy feat and she had lots to say about the issues they’ve encountered while building the TCT. One highlight was how different every region and province were in what they thought would benefit them most. Communities in the rockies who like to hike and run are not the same as communities in the prairies that like to snowmobile.
Philip Stone is an adventurer and guidebook writer from Vancouver Island. He’s written great books like [book 1] and [book 2]. He’s been hiking, climbing, kayaking and sailing in the most remote regions of Vancouver Island for the last 25 years. Few know the backcountry here like Philip. He spoke to the challenge of running a trail through the middle of the island and also some history behind the spine or “backbone” idea of the trail.
Ken Melamed was the major of Whistler during the Olympics. He talked about the success of their trail system and the economic benefits it brought to his City.
Other names rounded out the list and provided interesting stories related to trails
Amanda Ridgeway is a director of the Mountain Bike Tourism Association in Cumberland. She calls herself an “amenity migrant”, meaning she moves from place to place because of the amenities there. For her it’s always been the mountain bike trails. She’s moved from Australia to England to Fernie and finally to Cumberland in search of good trails. Many people are doing this these days. Trails can be a huge attraction for people of any ages looking for fun activities where they are going to live.
John Hawkings is the Manager of trails with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. He talked about provisions in sections 56 and 57 of the Forest and Range Practices Act. Section 56 deals with the establishment of public trails and 57 with the legal authority for them. Having section 56 status means that the Province provides public liability insurance.What’s going to happen next, going forward?
By the end of the day there was a buzz in the crowd with excitement about new trails on Vancouver Island. There was also some skepticism as well. Other groups have tried in the past to bring groups together only to fade away.
The crew from VISTA committed to keeping in touch with email newsletters about new developments and to arrange for another conference in about 2 years time.
I thought the conference went extremely well and brought together some great voices that can put a serious dent in the work that’s left on the Spine Trail as well as all the other trails on the island. No trails are built or maintained without good people and lots of sweat.How do you connect and help VISTA with the trail?
If you want to know more about the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association and the Spine Trail and keep in touch, visit their website at http://www.vispine.ca/ and at the conference website http://letsbuild.vanisletrails.org/
Day 2 on the Elk River Trail. See Day 1 here.
We followed the trail along the river up to Landslide Lake. Not to be satisfied with just one beautiful lake, we took the rough trail around Landslide to Iceberg. There are actually icebergs in Iceberg Lake. So cool.
Get directions to the trailhead and other links on the Elk River Trail page.