We awoke to a misty morning, thick fog covering the beach. I could barely make out Andrew picking his way around the tide pools just down the beach, but no further. By the time we set off, the mist was thinning and blue sky was making an appearance. We were all looking forward to today: our shortest hiking day! Only 8 km to Sombrio Beach. However, by the time we were done it was to be not much shorter than the others….
We set off along the beach, soon reaching some interesting rock formations exposed at low tide and, as a result, cheerfully missed the trail into the forest. We passed through a sea arch, explored caves, and hiked along the beach under tall cliffs dripping with maidenhair ferns, flowers and trickles of waterfalls. A handful of surfers were trying their luck with the waves.
After a while we came to a large creek. Oh, oops. A quick check of the map and we realized we had reached Loss Creek and we were supposed to cross it on a suspension bridge further upstream. We briefly contemplated trying to cross here and use a rickety-looking rope ladder to climb up the other side, but soon decided it would be safer to return along the beach and pick up the forest trail again. An extra three km later, we were back on track.
Into the forest we hit our worst patch of mud yet and the first of many like it – a solid morass of thick heavy mud which we had to climb up. Still, they weren’t as bad as I was expecting. We still hadn’t encountered knee-deep mud. Yet. An hour-and-a-half later we came to the suspension bridge. Andrew decided he had something to say to the bridge and duly watered it mid-span…
Further on we came to an old logging road and our pace quickened for a time. Along this old road (in some truly miserable second growth) we reached a turnoff for a trail which apparently led to an overlook of rocks where sea lions regularly hang out. Well, we couldn’t resist the sight of some wildlife (having seen very little so far) and off we went. Some of us dropped our packs near the top; the rest opted to carry them. We quickly began descending on a narrow ridge with steep drops to either side. There was no real trail to speak of and we came to a large area of blowdown which was simply too large and difficult to get over with our packs. Andrew, Gabriela and I decided this was as far as we wanted to go, but Merewyn, John and Maria wanted to continue.
And so they did. An hour later they reappeared, Merewyn first scaring us by telling us she was so glad to see us. We wondered what had happened. It turned out that the trail got even rougher and steeper as it headed down to the sea, ending abruptly in sheer cliffs. Of course there were no sea lions to be seen or heard (despite John’s wind-up attempt), and suddenly I was glad I hadn’t bothered to go any further. We made our way back up to the main trail and sat in the middle of the old road eating a very late lunch. Not exactly the birthday Merewyn had in mind…
We got ourselves under way again, feeling a little demoralized. It was late in the day and we still had some way to go. The next stretch of trail was a short ridge walk, skirting a few fallen trees before a very steep descent to Sombrio Point. More fallen trees made it impossible to follow the original trail and we had to pick our way down a steep bank to reach the trail at the bottom of the hill. Not much further and again we suddenly found ourselves right on the cliff edge. A mistake here would send you into the sea… A little bit nerve-wracking given how slippery the trail was.
But Sombrio Beach was in sight and we were hiking along the edge of unlogged forest again. The trail wound its way round the point and over some rocks with a good view of a waterfall entering the sea. We crossed the creek associated with that waterfall and reached the beach. Unlike the others, this was not pebbly, being much finer. Not quite sandy, but good enough.
We found a great place to pitch our tents all close together and set about finally relaxing! Spectacular waves crashed on to the beach nearby and of course Andrew and Merewyn went in for another swim. Well not so much a swim as a dunking. The sun was shining, John had a camp fire burning and all the trials of the day were forgotten again.
The sky cleared and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset, complete with a lovely crescent moon. Time for bed.