Cape Scott, B.C.        

Not having done any recent back-packing we bit off a bit much on our first day and hiked the full 17.4 km to Nel's Bight. The trail was first of all wet and second of all fascinating. Most of it was along old corduroy road laid down in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Danes who attempted twice to settle the area. Wet and wild, the road looked like it must have been a major feat. It was originally about 8 feet wide with an 18 inch drainage ditch along one side. All that remained visible during our hike however, was a 2 foot wide section worn by the boots of hikers like ourselves. The rest was already buried under at least 6 inches of rainforest growth! In places it had completely sunk and had been replaced by knee-deep mud holes or board walk installed by park staff. An old park map (no longer published but borrowed from Doug of the San Josef Heritage Park) really helped locate the historical artifacts. Of these there were many as at one point over 200 people lived in the area. Items we found included: dykes, drainage ditches, old style desk legs from the school (the wood had long since rotted away), an old community hall, telegraph wires, broken dishes, old metal buckets, wire bed frame and an old bulldozer from a later settler. The settlement was successful in what it grew but lack of decent roads put it too far from markets to be viable. Huge storms which continuously worked to undo what was done by the settlers and differences of opinion with the government of the day did not help either. Eventually the area was abandoned by all but a very few. It is amazing how fast the rain forest had reasserted itself - we were afraid to stand still.

The hike itself was pretty straightforward stuff. No up and down... the biggest challenge was the mud puddles. A walking stick was imperative as some of the holes looked 2 inches deep but we could literally be over our knees before we found the bottom... ask Carol. The area was wet, wet, wet and we were lucky to see what little sun we did. Three hundred to three hundred and fifty centimeters of rain a year is considered normal. Think about that - that is over your head deep. Actually deeper because you would already be past your ankles in mud! Park staff were actually located in the park in a cabin at Nel's Bight and proved very helpful. They also had many optimistic words for what we called rain. Each morning we awoke with the ground, tent and gear all wet but learned that this was not a true rain but an 'ocean mist' (same results to us) that usually cleared by 1:00 pm! Carol and I also learned that we were quite soft complaining about a few days of on-again-off-again rain. Apparently people hike in during the dead of winter to watch the most violent of storms roll in. They use the internet to see the highs and the lows and when the timing is right, in they hike - to camp in front of them! And here Carol and I are too soft to handle the 'ocean mist'! Beach combing was terrific in the area and we saw all kinds of hermit crabs, sunflower starfish, ochre starfish, sea anemones, sea dollars and the like.

The campgrounds were good and on the coast we could just camp on the beach. In-land, tent platforms were provided but like the whole rain forest, things were on the damp side. Save for a single event in northern Ontario after a freezing rain, this was the most difficult experience I have ever had lighting a fire. Bear caches were provided at all camp sites which was good as we had followed a set of tracks along the trail for quite a distance before Mr. Bear headed into the woods to landscape a section of forest floor while he dug up some grub. While I am glad that we didn't see the bear, the park ranger indicated that because the area is so wet and fertile, Vancouver Island bears have no trouble with food and tend to be 'fat and lazy'. Whether or not this is the case he could not remember any bear/people incidents occurring in his time with the park.

Old pioneer bridge

Arrival at beach

"Nice" weather for the Cape

Pioneer farmer's field

Forgotten bulldozer...

Stephen could spend all day here!

Ochre star fish

Oh the mud!

Time for a break

The old corduroy road

At work in the 'kitchen'

Hermit crab

What am I a relic of?


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