Near the end of May, I quit my job and fled to Canada for two and a half weeks. The first week was spent sight-seeing with Erika. The second week involved backpacking down the West Coast Trail. The last few days were spent riding the Amtrak down the coast to L.A. This entry will focus on Week Two.
I fumble around in the twilight. My hand finds the zipper. I squeeze through the tight space between the tent opening and the adjacent rock face and into the cold sand. Before me are the remnants of our failed fire. I stand, squeeze past the tent, and inspect the clothesline. Our quick-dry clothing is still drenched. The air is too damp for anything to dry. Oh well. I exit the cave and step down onto the beach. The rain has ceased for the time being. The sky is still overcast, but the rising Sun is strong enough to illuminate a gray haze. A light mist rolls across my skin. I stare out into the ocean for a bit. It’s cold. My body tends to run warm, except in the morning. No point in lollygagging. The sooner I get moving, the sooner my core temperature will increase. I hike down the beach to a small cove where I stashed my bear canister. Still safe. The bell sits atop it unmolested. Steven slides out of the cave. Time for breakfast. We sit in the sand huddled around my tiny stove and watch the ocean. The world is waking up. Birds fly past, waves roll in, the Sun fights to be seen, and perched on a rock yards away sits a bald eagle. It watches us as we eat our modest breakfast. We laugh. In America, it is Memorial Day. As we share breakfast with a bald eagle, we realize we are having the most patriotic Memorial Day of our lives. We are in Canada. It’s day three on the West Coast Trail.
A few years ago I realized my life wasn’t headed in the direction I wanted. I was coasting. I had become complacent. When I imagined my life had I lived in centuries past, I liked to think I would have been an explorer boldly trekking across newly discovered wild lands. Yet, little in my present life leant credence to that thought. Other than moving across country, struggling to find a living, and taking public transportation around Los Angeles, there hadn’t been much adventure in my life for years. At least not the kind I longed for. I knew I needed to make some big changes and I struggled to decide what those changes should be. Suddenly, fate intervened. My greatest fear came to passâ€”my great grandmother died. She was an old Cuban lady who spoke very little English, yet somehow communicated with everyone. Everyone called her â€˜Mimaâ€™ which essentially means â€˜mother.â€™ It was a very apt name. My family had lost its collective maternal figure. Nothing makes life seem more precious than death. It was time for change and I couldnâ€™t wait any longer. Shortly after, I instituted several changes in my life including ending an eight year relationship with my then girlfriend that was being held together by familiarity and convenience. It was time for big changes and time to evaluate my life. Much changed over the next couple of years. As I became more proactive in my choices, I found myself finding more successes in all aspects of lifeâ€”business and personal. One of the decisions I had made was to integrate adventure back into my life. Hiking, backpacking, climbing, rafting, and other outdoor pursuits became a priority. The more time I spent in nature, the more I learned about myself. It was making me strongerâ€”physically, emotionally, and psychologically. When I read about the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, I knew it was a chance to push myself further.
The West Coast Trail runs 75kmâ€”thatâ€™s roughly 48 milesâ€”down the Western coast of Vancouver Island from Pachena Bay to Port Renfrew. It is known for brutal storms and a history of disastrous shipwrecks. An early version of the trail was known as the “Life-saving Trail.” Its purpose was to give survivors washed ashore a solid chance of making it to civilization alive. Now, it is a week-long backpacking challenge for those who want to experience beauty and hardship in the Canadian wilderness. The descriptions I read of the WCT excited the adventurer inside me: suspension bridges, miles of mud pits, hand-operated cable cars, surging tides, river crossings, dozens of tall ladders, rocky beaches, and unpredictable weather. I knew I wanted in.
The last few years had been going well, but the time for drastic change was coming again. I decided to quit my job and embark on the path of full-time self-employment. But, first, I would go to Canada. What better way to baptize a new path than the West Coast Trail? My friend and coworker, Steven, was also quitting for similar reasons and agreed to meet me in Victoria, Canada. Together we would face the WCT before putting our individual professional lives back together. I knew the trail would be both fun and miserable. I expected both. My secret hope, although, was for an epiphany along the way.