The rain never came. We awoke to heavy mist which peeled back to reveal low, grey cloud. The memories of yesterday’s glorious sun stayed with us, and we didn’t mind dragging ourselves out and beginning the process of packing up our gear once more. We ate breakfast in our dining room and quickly repacked our backpacks, ready to begin the long trek back to the car by about 9:30 am.
We couldn’t resist one last chance to dip our feet in the sea, albeit firmly ensconced in our hiking boots. It was far too cool a morning to contemplate going barefoot! We shouldered our packs, and took one last longing look at the beach and ocean. Time to get moving, and into the cool, quiet forest we went. Knowing what lay ahead we broke up the journey into either two-hour chunks or landmarks about two hours apart. I also began way-marking the kilometre posts, to later see how far apart they actually were, although I didn’t really want to keep track for fear of realizing how far we still had to go.
Forty minutes or so of peaceful walking brought us to the open meadows at Hansen Lagoon, which suddenly seemed so bright by comparison with the dark forest. I explored one of the side-trails just before we broke out of the trees, and it led only to the edge of the meadow. I think it was supposed to show something but we never worked out exactly what. We passed through the meadows and returned to the forest.
Soon we were back into the scrubby bog forest and we hit our first boardwalk of the day. I couldn’t help but stop to take more photos of the king gentian! Such striking flowers. Little more than an hour after setting off, we reached our first landmark, the junction that led to Nissen Bight. We paused to share a Clif bar, and I went off in search of the grave markers of the settlers, finding a trio on one side of the trail, and the granite obelisk marking the grave of the 12-year old son of one of them down a short side path on the other.
We shouldered our packs once more and settled back into a steady rhythm. More boardwalk, more forest, more flowers, more half-eaten corms from skunk cabbage, more farming artefacts. For a trail without much to see, I still found enough to entertain my eyes.
Within an hour we came to Fisherman River for our next landmark. We made use of the facilities and explored the utterly dismal campsite. Truly a campsite of last resort! It looked dull, damp, and buggy; not in the least bit appealing. We rested awhile before getting back underway. Our pace was good while we were moving, but we seemed to be enjoying leisurely breaks! We passed through more of the scrub bog forest, which I really enjoyed because of its familiar scent, and where it drizzled on us again, just as it had done on our hike in!
Occasional flowers and smiley faces torn into fallen salal leaves kept us amused before we plunged into the most tedious section. Again we were glad that it wasn’t as muddy as it could have been, and we plodded on. We reached a point where we decided that we just needed to stop and eat lunch wherever we were, so we threw down our packs against a fallen log and ate up the last of our wraps with honey and cashew butter. It was 2 pm, and we’d covered about 12 of our 17 km.
We set off once more, and soon came to the Eric Lake campground where we paused again to use the outhouse before continuing on. By now I was getting heartily sick of all the boardwalk. My feet hurt from pounding the hard boards, and the tips of my hiking poles invariably found the gaps between the planks, threatening to either break or spring out of my hands. Where the boards were slick or sloping, they were lethal (I almost wiped out on more-slippery-than-teflon section of boardwalk near Fisherman River), requiring considerable care. And then there were the hidden steps. The repeating pattern of planks sometimes lined up either side of a step down, rendering it utterly invisible. Guess who found this out the hard way? That was a hard, jarring experience. Finally, to top it all off, was the corduroy road: uneven boards with irregular spacing, they were a rhythm killer. So you may be able to see that I felt I had good reason to be wishing for some soft, gently mud to squish through by now!
The two-km marker passed by, and then we turned due south, the final section of mixed boardwalk and corduroy road. And it was downhill. We had one final obstacle to overcome: a giant cedar log had fallen across the trail many years ago, and steps had been cut into it to allow hikers to get over it. Except that for us short people, the first step was impossibly high! It took me a couple of attempts to haul myself onto that first little ledge to get across that log!
Finally we passed the 1-km marker and soon made the sharp turn left on the flat gravel path back to the trailhead. We emerged from the trees and blinked. It was just before 4 pm, the car was still there, and after a decade of waiting, we’d done Cape Scott. And we’d thoroughly enjoyed (nearly) every step. it had far exceeded my expectations for a backpacking trip and we were so glad we’d given it the time we had.
Nothing to do now but drop our packs, dig out a change of clothes and set off for Holberg for fish and chips and a well-earned (crappy) beer at the Scarlet Ibis pub. The food was mediocre, but it was good enough, and it felt good to fill up. We got back on the road, stopped at the famous shoe tree for a photo-op, and made our way into Port Hardy for a few nights under clean sheets.
What a great trip that was!