I slept fitfully thanks to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach. The overnight high tide meant that the sea had got to within about 10 metres of our tent. It was loud! Plus I kept dreaming of being inundated by the sea… We stirred around 7am and were treated to another dull, misty morning. After breakfast and packing up, we explored the beach to the south, trying to get a closer look at the waterfall we’d seen on the way in yesterday. Unfortunately the tide was too high, so we ended up just marvelling at a twisted tree which someone had added a rope swing to, and playing in the creek, building dams in the sand and watching them get washed away….
After amusing ourselves for a few minutes, we shouldered our packs and set off, leaving East Sombrio behind and crossing the much busier West Sombrio Beach with the remains of the cabins and settlement from the 90s. (This is also where the day-trippers end up.) The group split at Sombrio Creek, some of us (including me) chose to ford it, the others headed upstream to find a bridge. After some excitement involving Merewyn heading off into the salal and losing the rest of us, they found a log crossing and made their way over to West West Sombrio beach (no, that’s not a typo). The beach changed from gravel to tidal bench, boulders and seaweed-covered rock-pools. This stretch of the trail reminded us of some of the Nootka Trail, where we encountered extra-slippery boulders. Fortunately the boulders were quite easy to walk across – it was the stinky seaweed that made hiking difficult. It had formed thick mats, which mostly covered boulders but it wasn’t always the case, and sometimes a pool waited below. Speaking of rock pools, we peered into a number of them as we passed, looking for interesting wildlife but only encountered limpets and mussels.
The trail then headed up into the forest, and we climbed up steeply away from the beach. After a km or two of occasionally-muddy forest walking we crossed Minute Creek over another suspension bridge (though no one felt compelled to mark it…). Upstream the creek had a couple of nice little waterfalls. Very pretty. Back into the forest, but not for long as the trail descended towards the coast again, this time to a series of sheer cliffs with dramatic views back along the coast to Sombrio Beach. Soon we came to the next camping spot at Little Kuitsche Creek. We hadn’t planned to stop here (our destination was Payzant Creek), and a quick glance made us very glad. The camping sites were hacked out of the salal in an area of dense- scrawny and gloomy second-growth forest. It didn’t not look a remotely appealing place to spend the night.
The next stretch of the trail was perhaps the muddiest we’d yet encountered with a number of boot-sucking wet mud holes which required careful circumnavigation. Andrew misjudged one step, and the only person without gaiters went in up to mid-calf…. A good stretch of the next portion of the trail was through new growth, barely a dozen years old. Suddenly we were out in the open in hot sunshine (the morning fog had long since disappeared), the small trees offering no shade. We pushed on and after a few more ups and downs (including a couple of sections of steps or ladders) we emerged onto a bear-poop-filled old road at Parkinson Creek. Still no sign of the bears themselves, but they were definitely here :-)
We plonked ourselves down in the road for a snack break, glad of a place to sit or lie down for a rest. Moving on, the trail approached the coast again, this time emerging for a short distance onto a rock shelf. It felt good to out in the warm sun and by the sea, though the wind was quite strong. We had a great clear view across the Strait to the Olympic Mountains to the south. All too soon we were forced back into the forest, but before too long we left the scruffy new-growth behind and entered cool, quiet old-growth forest. I felt my mind relax among the old trees. The trail was largely boardwalk or fallen trees (very cool!) artfully pressed into service among the dense undergrowth.
Within half an hour, we crossed Payzant Creek and arrived at our next campground located in a gorgeous setting next to the creek, surrounded by big old trees. Since we were in the forest, camp fires were not allowed, which was a great pity as the air grew damp and chilly as the evening drew on. Despite the beauty of the forest we all felt a bit claustrophobic after the beach camping of our previous nights. Maria and I picked our way down a side-trail to overlook a small bay far below us to catch the last of the light (and warm up with a tot of whisky :-)
Finally as it grew too dark and cool to stay out, we settled in to our tents for a cosy and very comfortable night.