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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.
It was Bryn’s Birthday. We had to go hiking. He hadn’t seen the Elk River Trail yet and I was more than happy to tag along. I had reservations about the wasps that typically monitor the trail but there should only be one or two nests. After my first run-in with them, I wasn’t totally stoked on going back but we were going to check out Iceberg Lake past Landslide Lake that I hadn’t seen before. Just get past the wasps and it will be a treat after that. We almost did.
Some of the greatest stories in history have been large quests. The kind where the hero goes out and returns months or years later after having battled through epic obstacles. They return triumphant a completely different person with more experience, wisdom and possibly a few scars.
Quests are not only the stuff of epic stories but the material for a deeply satisfying life. Some people have made it their lives to teach others about the outdoors or conquer the highest mountains of the world. But they don’t have to be huge, they can also be right in your back yard. Training for 10k runs or half marathons or finding powder to ski 100 days of the year are perfectly good quests as well. What they all have in common is a big goal and a long road of training and preparation ahead of them.
I’ve just finished reading The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau. I usually post these kind of personal development books on my other site, rockThink.com, I felt this one was well suited to all kinds of adventures, especially physical ones like we do outside.
The Happiness of Pursuit is all about quests. The kind that are long and arduous and require a lot of preparation. Climbing a set of 14,000 foot mountains or running every trail in your city or kayaking to every island in a province are all different kinds of quests. Some are small and some are large.
For those who have never read Chris Guillebeau on his website The Art of Non-conformity, he’s spent the last 10 years visiting every single country in the world, all 193 of them. I’d say that’s a pretty big quest. He visited about 10 countries a year and spent considerable time and money doing it. He runs his business online from his laptop so he’s free to pick up and travel whenever he needs to. He also learned an incredible amount about “travel hacking”, a new discipline of getting as many Frequent Flyer Miles as possible through often crazy methods and using those to fly around the world. He would never have been able to afford all that travel otherwise.
The main premise of the book is that everyone can dream up a quest and start it. Lots of people have before. Some of them fail. Many of them are accomplished. It is hard but it’s also incredibly rewarding to set huge goals and complete them.
The goals can be anything. Some stories from the book were walking across the US or cooking a meal from every country in the world. Our human powered adventure offers an infinite number of different goals to be done. The big classics are climbing the 7 summits around the world or swimming the 7 seas but what you do for your quest can be anything you want. You can hike all the mountains in your state or all the trails in your city. Or you run every race in your region or run to every park in your city. The list is endless.
Chris lists easy steps in the book to get started on a quest. There’s not many and it’s pretty straightforward. You might be choosing a very large goal for your quest but the steps to plan it are step by step and not difficult.What is your goal?
The first step might be the hardest. If you don’t know what you want then you might have trouble figuring something out but there is an easy solution: Think about it more.
Every day think about what you want. Do you want to run or ride or hike or climb? What do you want to do? Where would you like to go? Would you like to do something close to home or something that requires a lot of travel? You will probably want to start with a quest that’s small to see what it’s like. Do you like the format of checking off all those goals or do you like something more freeform?
Remember that you can do anything you want and you can probably do something bigger than you think.Tally It Up
This part is probably the most important advice in the entire book:
“If I broke down the overwhelming project of visiting 193 countries before the age of thirty-five into a long series of small tasks, most of the problems I had to solve because much more manageable. It all started when I first tallied the estimated cost of scaling up from 50 countries to 100 countries. I guessed that it would cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30,000, and that it would take approximately five to seven years to complete. My first thought upon doing the math was: ‘Wow, that’s all?’ “
The whole point of that section was not to impress you with all that money he was spending on travel. In fact he had to live very frugally and travel hack as much as he could to make it work. The point is that he had an exact number to work with. He wasn’t just working with some vague large number and didn’t know any more that. Now he knew exactly how much it was going to cost to do get to every country in the world. Fill in the details. Work out the numbers. Take those little steps.
A quest can be huge to think about at the beginning but when you start breaking things down it because a lot more manageable. Once you know the details you can start to make them happen.
Mount Arrowsmith is hard to miss if you’re driving around on Vancouver Island. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven north of Nanaimo, looked left up to his stony peaks and wondered when I was going to hike up there.
I finally put time and opportunity together and made the trip September 1, 2014.We couldn’t see a thing at the top because of the fog but it was still a great hike. I will be back.
Get directions and other links on the Mount Arrowsmith Trail page.
Here are some photos from the day.
Starting the uphill
All the way back down
If you want to check out directions or other Arrowsmith links on the Mount Arrowsmith Trail page.
I’ve written about the Vancouver Island Spine Trail before but they were mostly status updates on how the project was currently going. I wanted an introductory page that explained the trail and will like to all the future posts about it. So here it is!
If you already know what the Spine Trail is you can skip to the bottom to catch up on updates. If not, read on.
The Spine Trail is a 700km long trail stretching from the southern tip of Vancouver Island to Cape Scott at the northern end.
It’s going to start at kilometre zero of the Trans Canada Trail in Victoria and wind it’s way up the backbone or “spine” of the island all the way to the tip of Cape Scott at the North End.
The Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association, or VISTA, is running the whole show out of Victoria (with many trips up island) and hopes to have it complete by 2017. Canada’s 150th birthday is that year as well.
They will be using as many existing sections of trail as they can to limit trailbuilding. See this post on the VISTA website to see where the proposed route is going to go.
The trail from Victoria to Port Alberni is nearly complete. There are some small sections from Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni that need to be connected and a small section on the Malahat that needs to be pushed through.
Once the trail to Port Alberni is complete, it will be matter of focusing on the north island the complete the sections there.
The trail will be for non-motorized transportation only, hiking, biking and running. Some sections will be open for equestrian use as well.Help the Spine Trail
You can help by volunteering or donating on their website. They often run trail building trips or trail recon trips so you can put your hiking and digging skills to good use.
While you’re out in the woods on a hike, you don’t want to be carrying more weight than you absolutely have to. Your stove is one thing where you can save some weight by buying a lighter one. Out of the two popular types of stoves, canister and liquid fuel, canisters tend to be lighter. So if you always want the lightest weight why would you take a liquid fuel stove? Well there are trade-offs to that light weight. Read on to see why you would want a liquid fuel stove instead.
What is a liquid fuel stove?
Liquid fuel stoves are stoves that have a fuel bottle with fuel in it instead of a canister with compressed gas. When you attach the fuel bottle, you pump it up to pressurize the fuel inside. This forces the gas out when you open nozzle and fuel comes shooting out.
They’re a little finicky to light because the fuel in the bottle is liquid, it needs to be vapourized before it can be lit. To do that, you put a tiny bit of fuel in a little bowl on the stove. You light the liquid fuel and, after letting the (sometimes large) fireball die down, open the nozzle to let more fuel out. Lighting the fireball first heats up the hose the fuel goes through vaporizing it and letting it go through the stove and ignite.
You don’t need to know the exact details but just know they are a little harder to light than canister stoves. Practice in your backyard to get just enough fuel in the little bowl to light but still save your eyebrows on the trail.
So if they are hard to light, why would you want a liquid gas stove?
Well, they do have some redeeming features.
Liquid fuel stove advantages
Good in the cold - Liquid fuel stoves are good in the cold. You manually pump to keep the pressure up so you are not relying on the pressure in the canister. The stove itself is vaporizing the fuel so it burns. Canisters have issues in cold weather when the gas turns to liquid in the canisters and loses pressure. Running the canisters upside down has helped run them in cold temperatures but liquid fuel still takes the prize on these ones.
Refillable - Just open the lid and pour more in. Liquid fuel bottles are easy to refill.
Easy to see how much fuel you have - Open up the lid and take a look. Canisters are just a guess to figure out how much is left. Liquid fuel, you just open it up.
Multi-Fuel (they can travel well) - Some of the liquid fuel models are able to take many different kinds of fuel. White gas (also called naptha) is the best and burns the cleanest but it may not be available where you are. Some models will burn kerosene, jet fuel or even unleaded gasoline which is nice for travelling. There is a downside though. Dirty fuel means cleaning clogs more often.Liquid fuel stove disadvantages
Liquid fuel stoves aren’t all rainbows and unicorns. They still do have some downsides to keep in mind.
Heavy - The stoves and liquid fuel are heavier than the canister equivalents. If you are going for fast and light, liquid fuel may not be the way to go.
Can be messy - Don’t spill the fuel. It’s messy, flammable and smells terrible. Watch out for this when you are connecting your stove or refilling the fuel bottles. You never have to worry about this with canisters.
Hard to light - Try to keep your eyebrows when you light your stove. Use just enough fuel to get it hot and going. It’s an art to lighting these things and takes some practice. Definitely more work than the canister stoves which are just turn on, light, done.
Have to pump - The fuel bottles aren’t pressurized to begin with so you have to pump it up. This means you can take the lids on and off which leads to the advantages of being able to refill it and see how much is left. On the flip side you have to pump it once in a while.
Liquid fuel stove examples
These are some quick examples of liquid fuel stoves from a couple popular manufacturers