We originally had some rather concrete plans on heading to the rockies. Our neighbour friends and ourselves had, on some levels, won the lottery with reservations for The Berg Lake Trail within Mount Robson Provincial Park for four nights. But like many situations in the past, for example climbing Mount Saint Helens (COVID 19), Caribbean sailing (boat repairs) and Middle East tour (blood clot) it would have to be cancelled or put on hold for a bit. This hiking adventure was delayed due to a heat wave that created above average snow melt that would have the rivers blow its banks and destroy numerous paths, campgrounds, facilities and bridges. So what do we do now? Having only a couple days notice of its closure, booked time off work and no reservations in any other location, we had to think fast. This coupled with intense heat of August and an extremely smoky fire season had us thinking of Vancouver Island. With our gear basically loaded, we simply just swapped out a few items and headed west. We made it to Abbotsford the first night for a stop over visit with some friends then continued to the ferry and on past Sooke to the China Beach parking lot and the trailhead of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
After slipping into the last parking spot shortly after 1:00 we efficiently laced up our boots, loaded the packs and headed for the trail. A 0km marker indicated the start and we were excited to anticipate those numbers climbing all the way to 47 in a few days’ time. The trail here is very popular, very. After paying our camping fees the girls started out on foot as we casually made our way down the path. The route was very obvious and rather easy to maneuver through. It was a little bit challenging for our three year olds as there were many large roots exposed from the giant hemlock and cedar trees in the area. This made for some slow moving as the girls picked their way down the line. Just over one kilometre in we came across the first suspension bridge. The little ones quickly wanted to gain some speed and bound their way to the other side. The trail casually undulated up and down a few times from the start then once over the bridge we began our descent of around 100m down to Mystic Beach and the location of our first night on the trail. The 2km section took us around an hour and the twins walked every part of it. We easily found a place to set up the tent and get some snacks on the go.
In previous conversations Shannon and I decided that we wanted our truck waiting for us at the end of the hike so now it was time to relocate. I said my good byes and headed back empty handed to the carpark. The 2kms took only 30 minutes this time around. Once there I hopped in our vehicle and drove the 45 minutes to the parking lot just past Port Renfrew. There is a twice daily shuttle bus that commutes back and forth and I had this as a plan of return. I know it left at 5:45 but was unsure of one crucial detail, from where? I quickly learned that it departed not from the parking lot but actually from Port Renfrew itself. That was some 2.5kms away and it was now 5:10. With some fresh bagels and sunscreen in a plastic shopping back I found myself on a soft jog to reach my pickup point. I was quickly returned back to China beach where I walked my way past kilometre zero marker once again. By now I was already 6.5kms in and still right where I started. Another 30 minutes later I had made my way back to Mystic Beach to be reunited with the rest of my family. As always the girls were excited to greet me at the tent.
We ate some dehydrated meals for dinner and took a little exploratory walk down the beach as the tide was low.
Rain in the area was lacking so this also maked drinking water a bit more challenging to get. Shannon did however find a small trickle that we could use once purified. With most of the day tourists gone by the late afternoon, Mystic beach was left to us to truly enjoy. We saw amazing waterfalls that would fall into the ocean with high tide. There was brightly coloured sandstone cliffs that had been eroded away over the years of weathering and small sea shells that the girls would collect with excitement. As the night crept on us so did the evening mist as we were soon covered in a blanket of fog. This was our sign to stow our food in the bear cache and settle into our tents for the night. China Beach parking lot is kilometre marker 0 and Mystic Beach is kilometre marker 2.
It was a rather warm night and the sound of the ocean was brilliantly soothing and frightening at the same time. We both woke up multiple times in the night hearing the rocks being pulled back into the ocean by the high tide waves. You can’t help but wonder if we pitched our tent on high enough ground.
As morning came we were still surrounded by the dew. By 7:30 we were semi packed and enjoying some porridge and bagels with peanut butter. By 9:00 our bags were fully loaded. The girls were smiling and we were on our way down the beach in search of the path into the rainforest.
Our journey today was short lived on the rocky beach before we headed into the rainforest. When you first step off the sand and into the thick foliage you immediately feel the rise in humidity. Almost like a weight is upon you. As you climb higher in elevation your surroundings change into the openness of the giant forest trees where the ground foliage gets snuffed out. The humidity drops and the roots, mud and technical hiking begins. The girls walking came to an abrupt halt when we must of stirred up a wasp nest in the ground and Lidija was made a victim twice and myself once. For the rest of the day both girls wanted nothing to do with the forest floor.
We have been on a few backcountry camping trips in the past and had always struggled on the best way to carry both our bags and the girls at the same time. We found that the back pack style kid carriers could never have enough storage for everything we need and having the girls in a separate front carrier with a traditional pack always apposed a problem as well. We found that there were too many straps. Having two sets of both shoulder and waist belts overlapping nothing ever fit properly. The constant pull forwards of the front carriers was painful on our shoulders and this made for some not so enjoyable outings. Shannon found a small family company called Trail Magik that had a revolutionary solution so we decided to give it a try. The front carrier would actually clip onto our large overnight bags and shift the girls weight on the pack frame then it would transfer to our hips rather than our shoulders. This was a game changer!
The coastal scenery was much different than our usual mountain hiking we do in the interior and as we were not in any pack pain we had time to enjoy the nature. In some situations you meander to view points with outstanding vistas of the ocean and the rocky coast you are avoiding by being at elevation. There are numerous sections where fallen trees have been modified as paths to keep you out of the mud. Other places where you just have to forge on through it. Throughout the day we would climb up hills and down into often dry creek beds. After 6 of these peeks and valleys it spits you out at the beach. Just before that however, at the 7.5 km mark, you are left with one last obstacle. A mud slide earlier this year wiped out a section of the trail and all the trees and logs that help you with your descent. Now the park crew has anchored an aluminum ladder to the side of the bank for an easier and safer drop down to the rocky Bear Beach shore line.
Todays hike from Mystic Beach to Bear Beach was just over 6km, with a max elevation of 70m and we spent 4 hours on the trail inclusive of all stops and breaks.
After easily locating a place for the tent with close proximity to the washrooms and food storage bins we had a bit of time to relax and enjoy our surroundings. We watched the tide go out, collected rocks with the girls and enjoyed the fresh clean sea air. Not too long after, we saw some familiar faces heading our way. Bexley and Lidija were ecstatic. As planned, our friends that we were to do the Berg Lake Trail with had now caught up to us and we had two little tent pads waiting for them. We have done a few other activities together in the past like the Twin Lakes Hike, some skating at the local pond and loads of neighbourhood gatherings. The three kids are amazing. Ever since our girls were born they have been involved in their lives. Back at home we would often hear a knock on our door asking if the girls were up from their nap yet and if they could come outside and play in the drive way. With all 5 of the littles entertained, us so called grown ups could relax, cook some meals and catch up with some stories.
With another dehydrated meal down and clean up taken care of the evening fog began to drift in once again. Just like the night prior it was time to settle into the comfort of our sleeping bags within our tent, Shannon and I on the outsides with our two littles between us. We all listened to the crashing of the waves as we drifted off to sleep. Mystic Beach is kilometre marker 2 and Bear Beach is kilometre marker 9.
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